One Year With Valentine

Well, here we are, one year (and then some) after Valentine came into our lives. I can tell you, he has changed our lives in ways I couldn’t even imagine.

When we first thought about moving to Tennessee and we were looking at properties, we were only looking for a quieter, simpler life. When we saw this place, it just clicked for all of us: me, Bill, Mom and Dad (if you are new to this blog, or just haven’t read all the way back to the beginning – this place is my parents’ retirement home as well as our home. They’re just not here yet). I’m not really sure what everyone else liked about the property, but for me it was the barn. I love that barn. As soon as I saw it, I dreamed of long afternoons spent up there…doing heaven-knows-what because I’d never actually owned a horse. We planned to get horses after we got here, but for me it still seemed kind of like a dream still.

Apparently, for Bill it was a dream that needed fulfilling. Again, if you haven’t read all the way back, Bill surprised me with Valentine on Valentine’s Day 2006 (hence his name). A couple of months later, Bill couldn’t stand his horseless state any more, and Moonshine joined us. Now, a full year of horse ownership later, I can share some of the things we’ve learned.

Some things were not all that surprising. Horses are big; they require care every day; they poop a lot. They eat hay and oats; they neigh; they like carrots and apples. They require a lot of equipment. You can’t just plop them in your barn and forget about them. Their manes and tails are fun to brush (at least for me, but I’m a girl). Oh, and they look really cool in that barn I loved so much.

Now, some surprising things:

  • They require a lot more equipment than a newbie could bargain for. Halter, lead rope, and grooming supplies to start. Feed bucket, hay feeder, water bucket and feed storage for the barn (luckily, these were left by the previous owner). Water trough for pasture and preferably a hay feeder for out there too (not left by previous owner). Saddle, cinch, saddle pad, bridle, bit and reins for riding. A supply of first aid items for emergencies. Fly control of various types.
  • They require a lot more time than we bargained for, too. We knew we’d have to keep them fed and watered, and keep their stalls clean. Those things alone took more time than we’d guessed, but there were a lot of other things we hadn’t even considered. That list is surprisingly long. The biggest thing is the maintenance of all the horse accoutrements, such as fence maintenance, pasture maintenance, barn cleaning, bucket scrubbing and leather care. The other is the time it takes to keep your horse trained and obedient. You really can’t just keep the horse in the pasture and see him twice a day for food and water. You need to work with him, from little things like making sure he respects your space when you’re around him, to spending time with him on a longe line several times a week. We haven’t been doing that, and consequently our horses are not currently safe for us to ride. Now that the weather’s nice again, we will work on that, but it will be more work since we’ve let it go.
  • It’s a really good idea to have a friend nearby who knows all about horses. In fact, I would say that if you’re thinking about getting a horse, make sure you get some “horsey” friends too, if you don’t have them already. You can’t keep bugging your vet and your farrier for stupid little questions. And it’s always better to have a friend amused by your antics rather than a professional or a perfect stranger. Then again…
  • Horses can get into more trouble than you could ever guess. I always thought of horses as kind of harmless, grazing creatures that wander around a field, eating grass and ignoring anything that’s not a threat. That’s true, for the most part, but they have an alter ego – and it’s kind of the equine equivalent of Curious George. Ours, at least, cannot resist checking out anything new or remotely interesting: from sticking their noses into piles of debris (hello! We have poisonous snakes here!) to trying to taste my new boots, to risking green noses by “helping” us paint our gate. In fact, whenever we plan a project in the pasture, we also plan to leave Nosy and Nosyette in the barn.

But the biggest surprise, for me at least, is how much I enjoy having a horse. We haven’t ridden them in months; we spend hundreds of dollars a year paying for their upkeep; we can’t travel anywhere without making elaborate plans for their care in our absence; and we shovel their poo every day – rain or shine, hot or cold, sick or well. It doesn’t sound like a very good bargain, when you look at it that way. But I just love watching them gallop across the pasture. I love petting their velvety coats. I love their horsey smell. I love the sounds they make, from Moonshine’s neigh of frustration when she’s in the barn and Valentine’s out, to the soft little nickers they use to greet me. I love the way Valentine takes a big old drink of water and holds it in his mouth until I walk too close, then drops it all over me.

Yep, they’re a lot of work. They’re the most expensive “pets” I’ve ever owned. But they are also one of the most wonderful gifts God gave us, and we are so grateful to have them. Love ya, Valentine!

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