It seems my `weekend’ turned out to be a bit on the longish side. These things happen in horse world it seems. Upon getting home our neighbor had a crisis resulting in the emergency evacuation of more than 50 horses and we have spent the last few days moving them around, settling them and trying to keep track of who went where and who did what. Everybody is back home and happy now, but this writer feels like she has been run over by a truck. I’m sure many of our PSA pals wish that was true! Sorry PSAs, I’m back and I still think you’re all a bunch of ignorant asshats. Probably more so than ever having spent the last few days seeing a lot of actual horsemen set their egos aside and come together for nothing more than the sake of doing the right thing and the welfare of any and all horses. They really are out there! When the dust settled yesterday, it got me to thinking about the myth of the work driven horse and I thought we’d talk about that today.
As far as I can tell, the `work driven’ horse is a mythical creature that is mostly owned by PSAs. He may or may not be a distant relation to the `bad horse’ that so many of them have as well. There is a theory that the `bad horse’ is actually just a regular horse that failed to achieve `work driven’ status by its PSA owner. At any rate, having the misfortune of being a `work driven’ horse, means that the owner can justify any form of douchebaggery they visit upon the poor animal. This covers everything from riding the hide off the animal, whether it has an injury or not, to slaughtering it when it can no longer stand up to their demands. They slaughter or kill these horses off young because the `work driven’ horse can never slow down or be retired otherwise it will die of sadness. Another thing I have learned about their `work driven’ horses is that they are only happy when they are ridden into a lather and treated like equipment. It would seem work driven horses don’t appreciate proper grooming or niceties like making sure they are comfortable and put away properly. Apparently they only thrive on being used as hard as possible and life isn’t worth living to them when they can no longer be abused.
I have searched far and wide for a work driven horse to study in person. I have yet to find one. Don’t get me wrong, I have had countless horses under my care that more than earned their keep. I’ve had racehorses that absolutely LOVED their job. They were 100% into being racehorses and it would be hard to imagine them every being anything else. This includes one of my personal horses that raced for 7 years. He was the consummate professional racehorse and lived and breathed his job. He didn’t qualify under the PSA `work driven’ status because he also enjoyed being pampered and fussed over. I wish I had a dollar for every hour I spent sitting on a tub hosing that horse’s legs or grooming him. When it was time for him to go to the track, either in the morning or for race time, this horse would drag you there if you weren’t moving fast enough. As he got older, he wasn’t able to compete at the same level so rather than taking a risk losing him in a claiming race, we decided to retire him. He’d done enough for us. Because he was my personal pet, I decided to see if he would make a pony horse. Not because he was work driven, but because with my nomadic lifestyle, I wanted to keep him near me. I’m sure had I kicked him out in a field or slammed a western saddle on him the day after we decided to retire him, he would have gone to pieces and I could have claimed he was work driven, therefore unhappy in retirement and had him put down with a clear conscience. Instead, we took the winter to let him down easy from his race life and transition him into his new `job’. You know what? He loved retirement. He loved becoming an elder statesman that accompanied the racehorses to the starting gate and he didn’t worry himself to death or pine for his former life. He stayed with us as a pony horse until age eventually caught up with him and it was time to actually retire. He accepted that with the same class he did everything else. He was able to do that because at each stage, we transitioned him carefully.
PSAs often talk about their work driven horses. I’ve seen them talk about having to put horses down because they would pine away in a field. I’ve seen them excuse their bizarre and borderline abusive practices by saying the horses was `work driven’ and that is what made them happy. Because my end of the industry has a fairly high turnover rate as far as horses being able to perform at their peak, I’ve retired more than my fair share. The majority of them have gone onto other careers, but there have been a few, due to injury or other things, that have had to retire outright. There is a way to retire a horse so that they can let down and transition. Taking one from full work and just booting his ass out in a field probably isn’t going to end well for the horse. Feed needs to be changed, routines adjusted etc. There is almost no horse that won’t retire happily with a little bit of effort. The mythical work driven horse is a PSA fabrication to excuse their ignorance. Nothing more. That isn’t to say that horses don’t enjoy their jobs and thrive at the peak of their performance careers. They do. I just know that they can also adjust to a slower lifestyle quite happily. I’m going to leave you with a couple of links to another blog. These people could be considered authorities on retiring horses and have seen it all; from high performance horses that have been injured at the peak of their careers, to horses that have just become elderly and need to slow down. The writer talks about the concerns about horses not adjusting to retirement and being unhappy. I guess I’m not alone in thinking that any horse can be transitioned into a slower lifestyle or happy retirement. Goodness knows I still have a few of the lazy bastards on my feed bill right now that make me smile every single day.