Doing the Best We Can
As horse owners, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the advice out there regarding horse management. Chances are, you hear it from many sources–online articles, horse friends, well-known competitors, and maybe even family. They say things like, you need to do x, y, and z, with your horse. If you don’t, he’s bound to suffer.
I know one thing– the more I’ve learned about horse health, the more pressure I’ve felt to “do things right”. But one can only do so much, right? Sometimes, we just have to step back and realize that we’re very likely doing the best we can. In fact, I often think of this quote by Theodore Roosevelt:
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
It’s so true. We don’t all have perfect facilities for our horses. Most of us have to make do with what we’ve got. For example, when my husband and I bought our 30 acres nearly twenty years ago, it seemed like the perfect place for my horses. But as I learned more about the dangers of grass (which we have more than our fair share of), I began to fret. I worried about pasture-associated laminitis (which hasn’t happened, thankfully, and I now believe other factors are often involved, as you can read here.)
But over the years, I’ve attempted several tactics to reduce my horses’ grass intake–a dry lot, stalls and pens part-time, a track system, and grazing muzzles. None seemed like the perfect solution for my horses (though the last two definitely have value). I even opened the gate between my two pastures (which amount to about 12 acres, total), thinking my horses would move more if they had access to both at the same time. Nope. They just ate more. I’ve since gone back to using one pasture at a time.
Am I perfectly happy with my horses on grass full-time? No. My gelding, Hershey looks great, but my mares could stand to lose some weight. However, I’ve accepted that grass is what I have to deal with here, and since I haven’t had any major issues thus far, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. I do believe my horses are quite satisfied with their current situation, so that makes things somewhat easier.
I’m doing what I can, with what I have, where I am.
Would I love to have one of those “California” pastures with desert terrain where the horses all have great feet and don’t eat grass 24/7? Sure! But that’s not happening any time soon. So for now, I’ll deal with what I’ve got.
Of course, I have made some changes over the years that have improved my horses’ welfare (in my opinion). A while back, I stopped separating them into two pastures and allowed them to live all together as a herd. I now rotate my little herd between pastures, using the smaller, shadier pasture for spring and summer, and the larger, sunnier one for fall and winter. It seems to be working out well (so long as I make the transition between pastures slowly). I’ve planted several herbs, to add more variety in their summer pasture. And as you probably know, my horses are all barefoot, and I trim their feet myself now.
Sometimes, it’s easy to look at other people’s situations and think, “I should be doing that.” But you have to ask yourself: is it a realistic goal for you, personally? I’m all for learning more and making improvements when we can, but sometimes, I think we just stress ourselves out trying to do too much.
Sure, there are people who need to make some major improvements in how they keep their horses, but if you’re reading this blog, I’m betting you’re not one of them. So take a deep breath and relax. Like me, I’m sure you’re doing the best you can.