So you wanna be in the horse business?
Unless you’re dealing with Mr. Ed, your horse can’t talk.Which is why body language is so important. “It would be great if horses came with an owner’s manual. Then owners would know when to change the oil and rotate the tires,” said local veterinarian Dr. Courtney Diehl.Yes, horses are wonderful and Ronald Reagan was mostly right when he said the best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse.But owning horses is also a business and lifestyle decision, said local 4H leader Wendy Parker, who’s helping coordinate this weekend’s Equine Educational Extravaganza at the Eagle County Fairgrounds.Local 4H leaders started the Equine Educational Extravaganza three years ago. The event’s main goal is to educate owners and potential owners.”Kids whose first word is ‘horse’ probably have the deep-seated passion. They stick with it,” Parker said. “Those kids who think horses are pretty and think they might like to have one probably need a little more knowledge before they take the plunge.”The day includes veterinarians, farriers, CSU nutrition experts, a local feed store owner, a saddle maker, a bit fitter and some knowledgeable 4Hers. About 50 hearty horse owners showed up that first year, braving a spring snowstorm. The next year 200 horse enthusiasts showed up.
You go to the Internet and scour Consumer Reports before you buy a flat screen television. If you do the same before you buy a horse you can save a lot of heartbreak for both you and the animal.”People do buy the horses without finding out how much work it is. They don’t realize the responsibility and the cost,” Parker said. “It’s a privilege to own a horse. But it’s work. It’s a huge commitment.”People like Parker, Dr. Diehl and Amy Davel of Eagle Valley Horse Rescue constantly see the worst of horse ownership. They were at horse auction facility last week. At least four horses in the slaughter pen had their manes trimmed to accommodate a bridle and were wearing shoes.”These horses had obviously belonged to someone,” Parker said. “It’s a shame.”Vail, ColoradoMore than 150,000 horses are slaughtered in the U.S. each year, Davel said.Scenarios to avoidRight now, Parker and a few others are caring for a little horse that was under weight and bucked when anyone tried to ride it. It wasn’t the horse’s fault – it’s almost never the horse’s fault.A horse’s teeth have to be worked on by a veterinarian at least once a year. This 4-year-old horse’s teeth had never been touched so it’s mouth was so sore it couldn’t eat. Hooves have to be trimmed about every four to six weeks. This horse’s feet hadn’t been touched in months and shoes it was wearing no longer fit.”We pulled off its shoes and you could almost hear it sigh with relief,” Parker said. “I’d get a little cranky, too, if my feet and teeth and back all hurt all the time.”Pony Club has a six-week program in which people are taken to horse boarding facilities where they help care for the animals, and are also introduced to everything else that goes with owning a horse. Parker said about 70 percent or more drop out when they realize what they’re getting into.”You want people to know all the facts before they get involved,” Parker said. “There needs to be a lot more education before parents pull out their checkbooks.”