We’ve all had first loves, whether they be human or animal. My first loves were horses and dogs. Reading books such as Black Beauty and Ladd, A Dog, cultivated a deep love for both horses and dogs along with an intense desire to learn as much as I could about them. Dogs shared their lives with me in my childhood years and, now, both horses and dogs share their lives with me in my adult years.
I think back to my first dog, Chum, who was my best friend in my childhood years. Part Cocker Spaniel and Irish Setter, he was to play a pivotal role in teaching me how to work with dogs. As an eager ten-year old girl, who didn’t have a clue in dog training, he rewarded my clumsy efforts to teach him to sit, stay and heel with mostly compliant behavior. As he sat there wagging his tail, I gleefully rewarded him with saltine crackers; we basked in the sunshine of our friendship. We progressed not only in our friendship, but also in the skill level of our training. He soon progressed to being able to successfully climb ladders under my careful tutelage. He then applied his new-found skills to climbing over the fence, much to my parent’s dismay.
Undeterred, I continued teaching my dog new tricks. We went flying thru the neighborhood as he pulled me on my skateboard with the leash attached to his harness. I reveled in the feeling of freedom as the wind whistled thru my hair and the sun warmed my face.
I rode my bicycle to the outskirts of town and fed someone’s horse carrots every day. I called him “Amigo”. I don’t know who owned “Amigo”, all’s I know is that he knew the sound of my bicycle and faithfully greeted me every day. He knew that I had carrots in the pocket of my zippered coat. One day, he reached out and grabbed the coat – with me still in it – and began chomping on the carrots thru the pocket. I was frantically trying to get out of the coat as he pulled me against the barbed wire fence. I then experienced the power of a horse. From then on, I made sure to have the jacket unzipped – for a quick escape. My love of horses was undiminished.
Time progressed and I found myself the recipient of a free horse, an unstarted two-year-old Arabian gelding. What could be better? We could learn together! And learn we did! I soon learned the definition of “unstarted”. It means the horse has not been taught to carry a saddle or a rider — and he didn’t! I also learned that there is no such thing as a “free” horse. Vet bills, farrier bills, having him started under saddle professionally, riding lessons, boarding fees, feed and supplements soon put the theory of “free” horse to rest.
Now I am older, and, perhaps a bit more wiser? I wear a helmet now and wear my jackets unzipped when I ride. The halcyon days of youth are behind me and I find myself as steward to dogs and horses who depend on me for good care and educated decision making that is in their best interest. Being entrusted with the care of those who do not have voices that are readily heard amongst the clamor and tumult of human voices, is a heavy responsibility.
I’ve learned the importance of reaching out to those who know more than I do. Namely, my veterinarian, farrier, and experienced horse men and women who have been more than kind in sharing their knowledge and wisdom with me. Don’t ever hesitate to reach out to those who know more than you. One thing, I’ve come to realize is that learning is an ongoing process; you never know all there is to know … and if you think you do, you’re probably in more trouble than you realize …
This blog is a labor of love and something that brings me immense joy as I continue to learn more about the sentient beings we call Horse and Dog. It is my hope that the information contained will contribute to your joyfully caring for your animal companions.