Last week, my daughter and I had the pleasure of spending a week in my beloved home state of Colorado. We were visiting my dad and step-mom, two incredible people who own and operate Ruby Ranch Horse Rescue, a non-profit dedicated to bettering the lives of horses in and around El-Paso county. It’s a beautiful ranch, nestled within the rolling hills of the Eastern Colorado plains, where countless horses have been lovingly cared for and nursed back to health after falling victim to circumstances beyond their control.
Being there I am always amazed by the peaceful resiliency of animal spirit, and it has been a true joy to witness the rehabilitation of so many wonderful creatures over the years. Watching these horses transform from shadows of themselves, to full-bodied, full-spirited, whole animals time and time again is nothing short of miraculous. It is also why I can say with 100% certainty, I will never get my daughter a pony.
Don’t get me wrong, I love horses. They are elegant, engaging, smart and kind. They are personable and powerful, quirky and fun. Looking deep into their glossy brown eyes, their velvety muzzle tickling my palm for cookies, I can’t help but feel grounded by the pull of their serene nature. I want this experience for my daughter, I really do. But I will not facilitate it at the cost of another creature’s wellbeing.
Does that sound dramatic? It should. All too often, horses -and other animals, though that is another soap-box for another time- fall victim to uneducated peoples good intentions. Kid wants a pony? No problem. Until a few years down the road you discover the pony has a ligament problem, or a tooth problem, or an attitude problem. Or maybe the kid goes to school, or decides they like ice skating instead. Then what happens to pony? Does pony sit in a stall, day after day, waiting for someone to let her out? Does pony stay in a paddock somewhere, longing for the company of another horse? Do you give pony to someone who also doesn’t know how to treat pony’s ligament problem, further delaying necessary treatment to keep pony comfortable? Or do you sell pony at auction, where she is shipped to Mexico to spend her last days on the floor of a slaughter-house?
If this seems unrealistic, let me assure you it isn’t. All day, every day, Ruby Ranch receives phone call after phone call from people looking to unload their once treasured pets. Some reasons are understandable- a death in the family, or an illness that has left someone unable to care for their horse. Others seem to fall under what I will kindly call the “accidentally uneducated” category, which is what leads me to this rant.
It is inexcusable to knowingly take on the responsibility of another creatures life, without fully understanding the ins and outs of their day-to-day needs.
It’s that simple. I love horses, but I don’t know how to take care of them. Bringing a horse into our family, regardless of how good our intentions are, would ultimately be terrible for the horse. Love, as it turns out, isn’t enough to keep anything healthy and happy forever.
I’ll be the first to admit, I have a bit of a biased perspective on this. Ruby Ranch, being a horse rescue, more often than not sees the worst of the worst. Horses literally starved to death, or so poorly cared for they require humane euthanasia after a vet visit, and a chance to fill up their empty stomachs. To see this level of abuse with the frequency they do absolutely breaks your heart. But I also know that for every starved, neglected horse out there, there are any number of horses being loved and cared for properly by people of all ages. These people get it. They have made a commitment of their time, money, energy and love, and do their part in creating a proper home for their horse.
Until my daughter can fully grasp this concept and make that commitment, we will remain a horse-free family. In the mean time, to get her horse fix she can volunteer at a stable, or take lessons to learn about how to care for a horse, and use those experiences to decide if she does really want to take on that kind of responsibility further on down the road. And there’s always Papa and Gramma’s ranch, though if she’s anything like me this may just lead her to love them from afar.