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“Husband Horses” and the Feminization of the Horse Industry

Oakley Originals
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Feelings are just fine when it comes to horses. But what about respect?

On social media, one midwestern horsewoman tells me that “respect” is “outdated.” To her way of thinking, respect somehow means force. (I don’t know a single relationship that survives without respect, but what do I know? I’ve only been married to one woman for 40 years and did Biblical counseling for 25.)

Another woman says all horses are born good and it’s only the manner in starting them that causes the few to go bad. Horses, it seems, escaped original sin. Odd, I hear a similar argument from many environmentalists. Nature is pure. Only Man is bad.

All this reminds me of my hippy hitchhiking days. Hindus here. Buddhists there. And over there, under the fog of marijuana, incest and patchouli, enlightened New Agers from the planet Kalifornia.

Fortunately, I don’t have to work with them, but two of my closest friends do.

One is a college equine instructor whose classes are mostly women. To their benefit, some are planning futures in equine therapy programs; others may work for breeders; and some are learning for personal benefit; but if it is all so dandy why is he often going nuts? It’s those few, the ones with the precious pets that’ve never learned respect.

My other friend is a clinician. For professional reasons he’s reluctant to talk about the fairer sex and their equines. Because of his west coast location he serves ladies from the suburb and city who are prone to buying young horses, even stallions, and bribing them with affection and feed.  When the bribes fail to produce cooperation — let alone, obedience — they drag the animals to him.

He tries to show them their horses lack respect.

Last summer I purchased a gentle-acting five-year-old gelding from a sweet, 18-year-old girl. The horse had been used on wilderness elk hunts and had never bucked or caused a problem.

My mother liked to say that a horse that wrung his tail hated his job and would eventually go on strike. Though bred for performance, this tail-wringer detested labor. But, I reasoned, he’d prove his worth in my autumn elk hunt.  Within minutes of hitting a wilderness trail the horse stepped on the edge of a branch which snapped up and jabbed him behind my right stirrup. He exploded. I did a complete flip in the air and came down on my back on a mountainside trail, my feet uphill from my head.

The horse didn’t run off. I told myself it was a freak incident. I lunged him and led him and remounted. This time he drove my shoulder into the ground with the force of John Henry’s steel-driving hammer. That night I rode eight miles in the dark on a different horse, leading my proud purchase, and then spent a freezing week on an army cot in a drafty wall tent with a dislocated shoulder, torn labrum, and enough stretched, sprained, and bruised body parts to fill a nursing manual. And did I mention a couple cracked ribs?

Whose fault? Mine. All mine. I was keen on a packed-in elk hunt and ignored the signs of this horse being “pushy.”He wanted to be fed, led, rubbed, and rode quietly down trails with a buddy beside him. When the girl’s family heard I’d been hurt they offered to buy the horse back. I’m sure they’ll get along famously. Seriously. At least, I hope and pray they do.

When I considered buying another gelding I balked knowing the owner was a female, but we met anyway at a little bar and restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Without my asking she quickly informed me her life’s passion was horses but she didn’t treat them like pets. Slaughter plants needed to reopen, she said, and most of the West’s feral horses should go there.

I nearly spilled my coffee. She was so feisty she could’ve been my mother.

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