The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Signs of Harmony

Here are some recent signs of teamwork and fellowship in the horse (and human) tribe:

* All four horses can often now be seen standing together in the shed - even Chloe,
   who stands nearest the exit, has all four feet squarely inside. Originally, George took
   solitary possession of the shed. As time went by, Rose and Bridget started to join him,
   while Chloe still stood outside. Now there is room for Chloe too.

* The other day as I was returning Chloe to the pasture, Rose was blocking the path.
   George came over and - fairly politely - told Rose to budge out of the way. They
   both moved far enough that Chloe was willing to enter the gate.

* There has been an increase in mutual grooming. Rose even started to groom me the
   other day, which was a little unnerving, as she's not used to grooming humans and has
   Big Teeth.

* Team RoseGeorge split up this morning, leaving George and Bridget dozing together in
   the shed, while Rose and Chloe (an unusual combination) came over to camp out by
   the trough for a while, Chloe taking advantage of Rose's tail to keep the flies off her

* George finally wandered over as I was talking to Rose over the fence, but she didn't
   move away, and he didn't make faces, and they stood together peacefully.

It has taken a full year for the horses, living together 24/7, to reach this level of comfort with each other. Many horses are not given the opportunity to forge long-term relationships like this - pasture mates are shuffled and re-shuffled according to the convenience of the barn owners, and friendships are not always taken into account when assigning turnout.

I feel I must guarantee these horses' physical and psychological welfare for the rest of their natural lives. How do I do this? Can I take out a life insurance policy which would ensure that they will be taken care of, no matter what happens to me? Are there horse retirement homes where they could go if, say, I die when they too are old? Could I make such a place the beneficiary of a life insurance policy payout, to cover their care indefinitely? Or if my children take over their care, could I keep funds in trust for the horses so that the money could not be spent for other purposes?

Does anyone have any experience or suggestions about this kind of thing?

p.s. My grandfather, who was a doctor, had a hobby farm. One of his patients left provision in his will for his carriage horses to be cared for at my grandfather's farm until their death. The old man's children were a bit put out at such a substantial portion of their father's estate being set aside for this purpose, and they kept circling like vultures, hoping for the horses' early demise. My grandfather took great pleasure in providing first-class care and veterinary attention for these horses. Legend does not relate how long they lived, but I have seen home movies of these horses galloping round the pasture, looking very sprightly.


  1. They say it takes at least a year for a human to form a real partnership with a horse (unless of course your name is Hempfling). I wonder is it the same with horses? Or is it so only in the human world, where they have so often been moved around that they become more wary of relaxing into each others' company.

    I can empathise with you thoughts of their future.

  2. Oh, I LOVE that story about the horses at the end of this post!

    I was a huge fan of the James Herriot books growing up, and I keenly remember the story about the old man with the old horses that he provided with a life of ease after all their hard work together.

    I am always amazed at the number of stories I run into online about how horse owners have to worry so much about their horses getting along with others at turnout. Mine all live together 24/7, and although I get annoyed at the way my old mare will position herself in the doorway of the shed (preventing egress/ingress of the younger two horses) I also appreciate all the guidance she gives the younger horses--I believe with my whole heart that her "lessons" have made them better mares.

  3. Hi, Fetlock - thanks for stopping by!

    Do you think horses often have problems at turnout because they never have a chance to get to know each other, due to barn management practices? Also, probably being together 24/7, like yours and mine are, must help with togetherness.

    I do agree that horses learn by example - as with your old mare. I think they also copy the humans' behavior, so that if the humans are polite to the horses, the horses will learn to be that way with each other.