The horse's pasture to the East...

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Horses! Tall, small, wide, short, thin, old, young, silly, serious, wild... I love them however they come. I'm obsessed! I love them after they've rolled in mud. I love them in their long, shaggy Winter coats or in their lovely, brand new shiny Summer coats. I love the ugly ones, the beautiful ones, roman noses, arab noses...short tails, long, bushy tails, every last single one of them. 

I am fascinated with their spiritual aspects and amazed at how complicated they are physically and emotionally. The information that is out there about horses is never ending. I could spend the rest of my life learning and never come close to knowing even a half of what I need to know.  

But one thing disturbs me. There are a number of folks out there who purport to be experts on the subject of horses. They have no certification, no degrees, only a few years of experience (in other words, rank green newbies!) and they hang a shingle out, either here on the Net or in the real world and call themselves experts. Working with horses is complicated and tricky at best and can be very dangerous at worst. 

Am I an expert? NO, absolutely not. I'm just barely moving out of the "Rank Green" stage and into the "Intermediate" stage and I've been living with, working with, learning about them for ten years. I do have enough information, now, to realize that I've barely scraped the surface, only just begun. The more I know, the more I realize I need to know. When someone asks my opinion I'm very careful to tell them what my background is first before I offer any information. Then I give them my resources to boot! And I caution them to get a second and third opinion too. 

My Lucky is lame again, in his left front hoof. He hasn't been balanced for a couple of years. I've tried to discuss my concerns with my farrier, talked to three different Vets and more than a few friends who have more experience than I do. So, I came to the not too startling conclusion that I needed to fire my farrier and find a new one. 

The one I've been working with is, sometimes, spot on with what has to be done. But the past year or so his work has been sloppy and inconsistent.When I asked him why he was doing what he was doing, he was prickly and defensive, avoiding giving me any good answers. That should have been a big red flag for me, but I'm a softy and like to give people a chance to prove themselves, to improve. Who knows what's going on in their personal lives that might be affecting their performance? 

Today I had to call the Vet out to check Lucky for me, to find out what was wrong. Why was this happening...again? It's the second time in two months and I've known for a year that he wasn't moving as gracefully. I had to pay for an exam, xrays ... the full monty, as well as the farm call fee to have an expert confirm what I already knew. The trims we've been getting have been sloppy when they're good and really crappy when they're bad. Poor horses! They've been paying for my inability to say "Enough is enough! I'm moving on to a farrier with better qualifications and reputation. You're fired!"

Whew. I've had to fire people before and I never, NEVER like doing it. But in this case my horses were suffering for it. Apache's hooves are flared. Willow's are way too long. Lucky's are uneven, toe in and he's in pain. They suffered for my inability to say "No!". It's a hard lesson for me to learn. 

When the Vet was here, lovely, straight forward, opinionated person that he is, he said "Nancy, when was the last time you had them trimmed? Their hooves look terrible!" After I blushed and gulped, I told him it had been only four weeks. When he asked who was doing the work, I told him. He said, " Well, if I were you I'd look around for another farrier. He's ruining your horses." I told him I'd already found someone and they were coming out on Monday. sigh.... Kind of slow on the uptake, aren't I? 

I've put up with shoddy work for two years while I waited for this person to better himself because I didn't want to have to say "NO!" It's a hard lesson to learn. I seem to need to bonk myself in the head more often than not while I learn to defend my territory...and equines!...while I work up my courage to say no.

Lucky will be getting Epsom salt soaks and Bute while we wait for him to get better. He's the one who's paid for my timidity.

The important part of this story, though, is that I've at last learned enough to understand this person isn't any good at his craft! Part of that is my fault. But the rest of it is his for not making his kind of good, better and his better best!

So this then becomes a cautionary tale for you readers. Make sure your so called experts are real experts. Get more than a few opinions. Read, read, read. Watch, watch, watch. Go to clinics. Auditing is not expensive and will give you a much better idea of whether or not you want to work with that instructor. Talk to other people who've used their services. Ask questions! If you don't get the answers you need, ask other people. And, whatever you do, DON'T BE AFRAID TO SAY NO. Being the nice guy will do nothing but protect your feelings, your ego when it's your job to be there for your horse. They can't talk or protect themselves from this "humansville" they're now forced to live in.

Lucky will, thankfully, recover from this but it's going to hurt for a while. I've caused my horse pain he probably never should have had to deal with. Is my lesson learned? I hope so. I plan to remind myself on a regular basis of what this has cost both of us. 

NO is a very effective word. 

I am, ever yours, a very chagrined Nancy, shaking my head at the way things go...and smiling anyway!

PS. I am constantly amazed at what they will forgive us for. Another reason to love them!

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