Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What I really meant to say was...

Recently I have come under fire for daring to suggest that you should not get a horse you can't afford.

Let me clarify this. What I really meant to say was...

You should not get a horse you can't afford.

Honestly, I don't know what is so controversial about this. You shouldn't buy a house you can't afford, a car you can't afford, or even go on a shopping spree you can't afford. So why would someone even think it is okay to get an animal you can't afford?

A horse is a huge financial commitment. They generally cost a tidy sum up front, but realistically the $2,000 or whatever it costs to buy your basic horse is only a fraction of what it will cost to care for the animal over its lifetime. Hay for one horse costs $70 to $100 a month in my area. Even if you have a prodigious amount of land and can afford to graze your horse during the warmer months, for at least half of the year that is the absolute minimum it will cost you per horse.

And then you have the rest of the expenses: boarding, if you live in the city; regular vet bills for shots, dental care, etc.; and then the amount you have to have on hand in case of a medical emergency, which can rack up vet bills quite quickly.

The biggest problem is, whereas a house can be foreclosed on and a car can be repossessed when you stop paying the bills, neglected horses are often overlooked. And even if by some miracle someone sits up and takes notice, it typically takes a lot of legal crap to get the horses out of there and into a place where they are well cared for again.

And the kicker is, the horse suffers through all of this.

Now I think it should be pretty obvious that I am not talking about people who can usually afford their horses, but go through some temporary hard times (the key word here being temporary). But I also think that these people are generally reasonable enough (since they have already demonstrated their ability to limit their animals to only the ones they can afford) to realize that they either need to make some sacrifices so that the horse's care doesn't deteriorate, or they need to sell the horse.

No, I'm talking about the kinds of people who get horses (and other animals, often) without regard to the ongoing expense. The kind of people who really do seem to think it's okay to make their horses go without hay whenever they can't afford it.

When you get an animal, any animal, you are making a commitment to provide for, at minimum, its basic needs. I believe that before anyone buys a horse, they ought to consider the ongoing financial obligations, and make an honest decision as to whether they can afford to care for this animal over the long term!

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