Thoughts on Writing – Life & Times of a Horse Owner
by Kelly Brainerd
Seems not so formal of a thing right? Fun stuff. I just got home to get some food, I'm on foot now, the truck is in the shop. I'm so lucky to be able to see my horses from here. The walk isn't strenuous, the deep snow is.
As I walk I ponder becoming a staff writer at Catskill Horse magazine. I'm going to write something, I have to learn to take the time, but I've thought of nothing else since this came my way. I could write lots of things, I've practiced many concepts of horse management; I've had to treat all kinds of things with the herd of five horses with huge hands on experience (with 100% positive results in the end, according to the vet). I have positive references from a few respected vets in the area as well as my current team of professionals.
Their references speak of my patience & diligence. Like many horse owners my experiences have been varied and I’ve learned a lot along the way.
I’ve spent the last ten years managing a blind horse. I hope relaying what I’ve learned will help someone caring for the blind horse. This will be my first formal article. Because of another particular horse I had to dive into a compromised hoof issue, pancake feet basically, I will write more on that later as I had to manage the horse for four years as a back yard occasional trail horse. I’ve treated Lyme disease with antibiotics as well as homeopathic remedies; worked on rehabilitation for a horse with a severely injured wrecked stifle twisted back; as well as my pride and joy, Lucy, a broken down, seven year old, Off Track Thoroughbred mare (OTTB) mare, mean as a junk yard dog & looked like one too, resurrected to life.
Now at age seventeen Lucy struggles with missing teeth amongst other mental issues but because of the bond we share stays strong and healthy, she tells me what she needs, it’s easier that way. I call her my “people hater lover”, my mentor, my friend. She has been beside me helping excel in knowledge as we kept the herd of five together. Lucy has a story to share all by herself. Perhaps I should contemplate a whole book.
I had a young Quarter horse who regularly came up lame. Many tests and much research indicated she was metabolically challenged, another management issue. Along with the basic physical horse injuries, lacerations, bumps & bruises, all routine in the world of the horse. With a small herd of five horses, each with their different issues came a huge amount of research and micro management. It also came with a huge amount of questions.
There is so much to learn with horses. They humble us. I often asked myself why were these horses not able to cope with life? They were being affected by everything from the weather to insect bites. There has to be a better way is all I kept saying. In 2010 I was introduced to a different concept of thinking about the horse. I will share my thoughts and what I have learned in future articles.
It’s these questions and lots of continued research that leads me down the path of my current horse management system; the best I can describe is making sure my horse is a whole horse, asking myself are they happy in mind, body and soul? This can be a huge juggling act. You’ll be the first to know when something isn’t right. What I have learned: What works for some people/horses may not work for others. Because of the horse being an individual and there are too many variables there is nothing set in stone. You have to listen to your horse and create a management system around what’s best for him. I have become very proactive in my management practices.
I could go on and on but in starting my career as a writer for Catskill Horse, I thought it best to try to introduce to our readers some facts about myself and my experiences in the horse world. How and where do I fit in the horse world? I’ve had to work for the horse instead of work with the horse.
occasionalI have experience in management of a small facility. It was me and only me, everyday. I know this is true for so many horse owners. So after endless chores I would start on the horses if the sun was still up, if not, we had lights. There is a huge amount of time, labor and commitment surrounding these animals, any animals I would imagine but I am only familiar with the horse. There’s never nothing to do.
The purpose of the herd I managed was occasionally long. I say long because when the owner did show up to ride it was at least four hours. These were trail rides through the beautiful Catskill Mountains where I grew up and a place I love. It was also my job to keep these horses physically fit in order to withstand a long trail ride through this terrain. This was always the hardest challenge. When you’re the labor as well as the trainer, there is never enough time. Doing the best I could I survived seven years and trying to find a better way to manage horses with this kind of job. During that time I was able to practice what I used to call “the wrong way” and started a journey with positive results on learning what I used to call “the right way”.
I’m still asking myself where do I fit in in the horse world. I’m not a competition rider, I never was or had the desire. When I step into a horse’s space that’s when all competition ends and carefully building on mutual trust and respect starts. I am currently continuing to learn how to keep two thoroughbreds; their bodys, minds and souls healthy and happy on a shoe-string budget. The budget: Horses get 95%, I get what’s left over.
I love to see talented riders and talented horses having wicked fun together, that’s a sight that always takes my breath away. I have no experience in managing a show barn and can only imagine the twenty-four hour labor of love it is. From what I see it would have to be. I thank each and every show barn manager for doing what you do. By visiting local horse establishments I have figured out this is where the love of horses is introduced and cultivated.
Some kids aren’t fortunate enough to have a pony of their own as I was. I am an avid rider with very little professional training. This is where I can’t deny I’ve fallen short; to this day it’s my dream to be under the watchful eye of a good trainer. I love dressage and I love to jump. My love for horses did start at a very young age and at the time it was driven by wanting to ride the pony 24/7. I had a passion to be on that animals back no matter what it took. I didn’t start out with a very nice pony and my father refused to get me a saddle until age twelve. I rode my first seven years bareback without a saddle. Being the watchful parent my Dad was he always worried I would get my foot caught in the stirrup and be dragged. I bought that, “Thanks Dad”. Sure enough there were many trips to the hospital but not by that scenario. Learning to ride did come with costs. I have no idea how my parents afforded all those emergency room visits.
It didn’t take long for my pony to become my best friend. The everyday affair of getting even with me bouncing all over his back or dumping me on my butt, started to subside as he endured my learning and treated me with patience. He taught me how to ride and not be a burden on his back. He taught me how to jump as I set up anything I could find to jump over. I learned to stay out of his way and he would take me where ever I wanted to go all day long. I was a seven day a week rider and it was never for just an hour. I recommend every little girl grow up with a pony. I feel this is where I got what has been called by instructors as a “natural seat”. You must learn feel.
In the seven years on the farm I was able to ride a horse a day sometimes two or three horses if no emergencies came up, nobody had a pulled shoe or was lame. My days of riding are on a temporary hold right now because Lucy isn’t up for a rider at this point in her life and my four year old hasn’t been trained under saddle. I am working with an untrained, unraced four year old thoroughbred gelding. He came to Lucy & I in May 2013. He behaves like a big lap puppy chewing on everything he can get in his mouth. As I have no experience with a horse of this background, this has already been a huge learning experience on many levels. I will be writing about his progress.
I am so excited to begin writing for Catskill Horse and to sharing what I’ve learned with you all. I will be exploring with you, people of the horse, “where do I fit in”? I hope by relaying my experience’s I can help others. One thing is for certain, owning a horse is an expensive commitment. Some of the research I’ve compiled and practiced has actually helped me in the long run on expenses. Yet another article idea. So much to share.
Thanks to the staff of The Merry Band of Catskill Horse for inviting me to join in. May everyone get to touch a horse with kindness today.