I often joke that my biggest issue with horses and training is that we have too many horses and not enough butts to put the rides in on them. It’s true. I have three horses that I keep in training and three ponies that are only getting a few maintenance drives at the moment. I have two donkeys that I want to train under saddle and also train to drive, plus another pony mare that will begin driving training once her foal is weaned. Finally, I have Tater Tot that is coming on three, and is just at the point where she needs some ground work basics to prepare her for driving training next year. That’s ten total equine that I’m delusional enough to think I can train, compete, and just generally take on adventures while maintaining my day job. That number doesn’t include the donkey yearling or Darling Husband’s two mustangs that, by the way, also belong in full time work. Dressage Queen has told me multiple times, that after watching me at shows dragging more than one horse to the show with the expectation of showing both is more work than she enjoys. Occasionally, I actually drag three horses to shows by myself and attempt to successfully compete two of them while getting the third used to the show atmosphere.
When Darling Husband and I planned a horseback vacation in Tennessee, the most difficult part of planning for the trip was deciding which horses would be going. I was more than a little bummed I couldn’t take all three of my horses plus four of the ponies, but alas, Darling Husband wanted to squeeze at least one of his horses in the trailer for the trip. A friend that I don’t get to ride with nearly enough, after inquiring about my horses and ponies one day, asked me “Why do you have so many?” after my response to her previous questions. That got me thinking. The short and easiest answer is, they needed me. Every single animal on our property with the exception of three babies (two mini’s and a donkey) born here was a combination of starving, neglected, losing their home because the owners could no longer afford to care for them, or part of a government round-up due to lack of food and water resources. That doesn’t fully explain why we didn’t downsize the herd or send some off to new loving homes after we rescued them and got them back on their feet, hooves though.
The explanation to why have we continued to keep them all despite reaching max capacity of the farm’s acreage is a much harder question. When I stop to think about, which ones I would part with if, god forbid, we were ever in the situation where it was impossible to care for them all, I struggle to rank them. I made promises early on and often to Odessa, due to the situation we rescued her from, and Beau Pony, due to his age, that they would remain with me forever. They are the standouts. Odessa is my heart horse. Climbing on her back is comfortable, like home. Beau Pony is more like my spirit animal. Short, feisty, difficult, and extra even when the situation doesn’t call for it. And, while I fully intend for every single one of our current equine to remain with us until they cross the rainbow bridge, making that commitment to a horse entails much more than the same sentiment toward a dog or cat. Livestock type animals require a different level of care and an exponentially larger financial commitment.
The personalities and qualities of each of my animals varies greatly, but each has traits (good and bad) that none of the others have and I seriously don’t have a favorite. Beau Pony is my flashy show off! He’s like a miniature Shire with four white feathered stockings and he totally flaunts his stuff in proportion to the size of his audience when we’re out. He seriously demands attention. Apple Jack is my laid back uncomplicated beauty. If you want a leisurely drive and you’re not in a hurry to be anywhere, I couldn’t ask for a better pony. Apple Jack is the epitome of every little girl’s dream pony with her thick, past her shoulders, flowing blonde mane. Moonshine is my powerhouse. She’s brave, no nonsense, and large enough to cart Offspring and I on some seriously long drives. Seven miles in the dark, wearing sleigh bells through flashing Christmas light displays with steep inclines on the route, is no problem for that girl. Moonshine’s spotted little booty is my favorite view of my drivers. Those are just the driving ponies. Ask me to pick between riding and driving. I can’t. While completely different experiences, they both offer something that the other can’t.
It gets even more difficult when I start to compare my riding horses. All three of my full size horses are stunning in the color department. They stand out wherever I take them. Odessa is my go to for anything cowy or western, but Johnny Cash may pick up some of that slack the more comfortable I become with him. Odessa is my current hands down favorite for dressage even though she lacks the flash of my other two. She’s also an uncomplicated, consistent ride over fences, and a solid parade horse that doesn’t let anything bother her. Comanche is flash, flare, and speed. Comanche is Spacex. Rocketing over a cross country course. He’s naturally hot and extremely sensitive, but a thrilling ride over fences. Comanche is a level of fit I’ve never been able to get any other horse to, and has a natural endurance that will go hard all day and be ready to do it all over again the next day and the next. You want to scale and run down mountains Man from Snowy River style, he’s the horse to do it on. Just don’t ask him to slow down or stop, because he won’t. Johnny Cash’s best points are still yet to be determined, but he’s flashy and a fun ride in ways the other two are not. He has the best canter of the bunch. He’s still green, but I’m hoping in the end, once he’s more adjusted to this domesticated life that he’ll prove brave enough to event with the other two.
They say if you are riding a horse you love, that you are truly blessed. I’m beyond blessed to have six working animals that I love beyond measure, and another five in various levels of training that I’m sure will bring something new to the table that makes choosing a favorite even more difficult.
Horses , as their people very quickly learn, count this way: One Horse, Two Horses, One Herd (of many horses).