There's a discussion in process on a horse forum I read having to do with the issue of making a lifetime commitment to the horses we own/ride. The original poster asked for thoughts on this, with her own perspective being that we owe it to our animals to provide that level of commitment. The question wasn't posed in a judgmental way. It was simply asking for discussion on the issue.
I'm sure you can guess where the discussion is going.
A number of folks feel that yes, making a lifetime commitment is a value they hold true. A few more agree, but make the concession that sometimes things happen and we can't live up to our commitments, so we do the best we can finding new, good homes for our horses.
There are a few who point out that horses need jobs and thus need to be sold/traded/given away in order to keep them "happy."
And a few others who feel the rider needs the freedom to own new horses more suited to the rider's increasing skill level and thus can't be expected to "collect" and pay for all the horses ridden and owned at the lower levels.
The most interesting part of the discussion to me (from a psychological point of view, mostly) is that the people responding most vehemently are those who have sold/given away/rehomed horses and feel they are being judged for that.
By my reading of the various comments, no one has judged them. I actually went so far in my own response to state that everyone has different values and perspectives and while I don't agree with the practice of trading horses regularly, I can't project my values onto everyone else.
Several people commented they would keep horses if they owned their own property. Since they don't, they can't. And I made the point that we BOUGHT our property BECAUSE of our feelings about the horses who share our lives. We could never afford to board them for the rest of their lives, so we chose to give up things like family vacations, new furniture, and expensive clothing and cars in order to create a situation that fits our values.
It's fascinating to me that when people are not secure in their own behaviors, and someone else discusses, in a neutral non-judgmental way, their differing practices, the insecure folks turn it into judgment.
Being a psychotherapist, I can't help but think: hey, wait a minute! You're the one judging your very own self! If you feel judged, maybe it's because your actions don't match up with your inner feelings.
Own that and move on.
It's difficult for me to read all the advertisements for "free to a good home" horses. If someone has fallen on hard times and are doing the best they can to relocate their horses, I feel badly for them. On the other hand, if someone has ridden a horse into the ground showing and competing and now the senior horse needs medication, special care, and they want someone else to do that for them, I get angry.
But I come from a viewpoint of seeing the horse as a partner, a family member, and a sentient being who deserves my lifetime commitment.
It's completely alien to me to view a horse as a vehicle for sport or even pleasure, but certainly if used to that end, I'd feel I owed them a loving retirement home, with me. If the horse was such a wonderful partner, how could I part with him?
My husband tells me I should just stay off the forums.
I get some good information on various forums. I also get reminded of how complex and sometimes downright irrational we humans can be.
And then, I get a comment from Sheaffer on my "june" post, that prompts me to go back through my own archives for a quote:
Just for fun, my family invented a religion like the Shakers we called Stillwater. I'm eldress, and we have a big celebration on Midsummer's Eve. It's really a state of mind. Stillwater connotes something very peaceful, you see, life without stress. Nowadays, people are so jeezled up. If they took some chamomile tea and spent more time rocking on the porch in the evening listening to the song of the hermit thrush, they might enjoy life more.
Stillwater believers are very hedonistic. Life is to be enjoyed, not saddled with. Do you know that lovely quotation from Fra Giovanni? He was an old monk from away back who wrote to his patron, 'The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy.' That's the first commandment of the Stillwater religion. Joy is there for the taking.
-Tasha Tudor, from The Private World of Tasha Tudor
I think that's my solution to reading the forums. :)