“Years ago hunting was great. Years ago horses were made to last, they didn’t have so many issues. They don’t breed horses like they used to.” How many times have I heard these sayings? A good few, which got me wondering, do we fuss too much nowadays?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and it’s a discussion I would like to get out there. In the 33 years I’ve been with horses, I grew up in the ’80s when horses had only 1 new Zealand rug with a surcingle and front strap, if it was fancy it had leather leg straps which no one knew how to attach right anyway. The horse only got a rug put on when it got clipped and the options were, a low/high trace or hunter clip. And we all fed our horses beet pulp, alfalfa, and course mix. No matter what kind of work they were doing, they only got fed in winter when grass was scarce (Yes our horses stayed out 24/7, shock horror to a lot of people these days).
On Christmas day we gave them a can of Guinness, my da said it was to keep them warm and the iron would give them strength 😄. I thought it was hilarious anyway. Imagining my pony running sideways down the field drunk to the other horse friends in his communal field. But he just wandered off straight enough after his dinner, looking for more grass or what was left of the hay we put out that evening. No horse was ever too fat or too skinny. We rode up and down mountains, on roads, and hacked to the beach and back. Nearly a 3-hour round trip. The only reason you didn’t ride is when you had 2 shoes off. 1 you could get away with.. ssshh, don’t tell the farrier.. he knew anyway and gave us a bollocking…
We wormed our horses twice a year, got the farrier when clinches were risen or shoes got loose (ringing him on the dial-up house phone), rode even when it was dark, but then again we had street lights along our roads and wore our high viz also, so it was safe enough. Our horses were well used to cars and buses too. Your horse more than likely had one splint, Was rarely lame(tg) and rode over all terrain. We didn’t have any arenas.
Fast forward to now.. horses kept in nearly 24/7.. wrapped and rugged, fed so well you could eat them for 4 Christmas dinners, have all the ailments in the world according to Google, and most would never see a bit of rough terrain. We give them Comfort gut, joint supplements, oils, calmers, seaweed, turmeric and garlic, you name it, we feed it! We watch to see if their ears twitch the wrong way to call the vet. Look for lameness that isn’t even there. These horses are kept better than a lot of people!
Now don’t get me wrong, before you start thinking oh it should be done this way or that, we all want the best care for our animals and some people’s knowledge is better than others. As a person once said to me, “sure aren’t we just trying to keep them alive”. I couldn’t agree more. And sometimes we nearly put ourselves into an early grave minding these feckers, but this is where I’d like to ask you the questions…
Has the horse itself gotten bred to be softer? Are they soft from the way we breed them or the pampering they receive? Have we just got more knowledge about the anatomy and problems of horses now? Are we minding them too much? Are we not minding them enough? Is it because we had less knowledge back then and didn’t realise half the ailments horses had compared to now? Do they need more work to harden/strengthen up their tendons and ligaments, or less so they don’t break..??
Minefield is the word I use… So many questions, opinions and statements. One vet overthrowing another, one farrier saying totally different to the next… seriously could we have picked a harder career or hobby to do.. I should have just bought a bike! 😅
What is your opinion on this? 🤔..