1. We are dealing with an animal – they cannot talk.
2. Horses have no interest in how much money you have or how much of it you spend on them.
3. They have no loyalty to their genetics or the aspirations you have for their future.
4. If something bad is going to happen, it always happens to the best one.
Granted, this is a pretty “glass is half empty” way of looking at things, but deal with horses long enough and I think you will agree. I say this not to disparage the horse of how God created them. Horses are, by far, one of the most amazing animals on the planet that have played a vital role in every phase in the history of mankind. They have excelled at everything from the most basic agricultural applications to being a vehicle for military campaigns. They have served as the backbone for industrial production, and now to the days where they are (for the most part) a source of recreation and enjoyment. This ability to become integral to every phase of our development is what maintains the horse at the forefront of our culture. So, to see such a great animal have a mind and will of their own is where many of us learn patience and humility.
Patience and humility are often two very difficult lessons to learn and horses are well suited to teach them. We spend days and weeks planning their breeding. We spend months and years waiting for the first saddling, then even more time watching the development process to see if what we have hoped for will materialize. It is a fun process and something that cannot be supplanted by anything other than the life of your horse. There is an economic, emotional and time investment that is unique to the horse. So, when the pieces all fit together and your horse returns to you the investment you have so carefully planned and performed, it is a sense of accomplishment like no other. On the other hand, when you do all the right things, the right way, with best of intentions and tragedy strikes – there is a sense of disillusionment and frustration like no other.
Over the years, I have met some genuinely good people in the horse industry. Humble, quiet, tolerant people that are exceedingly good at what they do. Be it train show horses, care for foals and broodmares, or shoe ranch geldings, these folks had the commonality of patience and humility. I have, conversely, met some very arrogant, elitist, and self-centered people who do the same jobs, and quite a few of them have been equine veterinarians.
This is where you separate the sheep from the goats. I cannot imagine living and working with horses on a daily basis and not somehow accept the fact that many of the aspects we try so hard to control are out of our hands. This doesn’t mean we will feel less disappointment or not wonder why only the best horse in the barn dies when the others don’t, but it sure goes a long way in keeping perspective on where we fit in the grand scheme of things.