Welcome to Fern Valley

Here in central Alberta prime farm country,my husband Martin and I work together raising beef cattle and Appaloosa horses. Fern valley appaloosas have long been known for their quality of temperament conformation and color.I have recently rediscovered a love of writing and have published 2 collections of poetry. "Telling Tails" and Tails Trails and Campfire stories" . I look forward to a future spreading my wings as an author and as a horse woman .

Monday, 21 November 2011

When do you wave the little white flag?

Hang on friends ! this is one of those "thinking posts" and I am not sure where it is going ,or if at the end you won't be shaking your heads!

As I said , I have been thinking . About horses, and other animals . And when , we decide to let them go . Either sell or re home horses that we cannot manage . Or in the sad situation of a horse or a pet who has reached a level of age or disease that it is no longer feasible to maintain them .

Part of what has brought this thought process on is the team of Morgans we own . They are beautiful horses and a snappy team , but they are hot! Dad quite enjoyed driving them when we first got them , but time gets away on us , and they didn't get a lot of use . Add to that dad is having a rough time with his hip, it is not likely that he will drive a team again anytime soon. And certainly not a team of pistols! And to be brutally honest ,I don't want to drive a team. I drove Sunshine single for several years , and loved it , but have no particular interest in going further. maybe someday again I will want to drive a single horse, but as far as teams go? I am happy to bundle up with some fortified hot chocolate and sit in someone else's sleigh !

I made a deal ,last year to trade my fancy gelding Badger , for some "refresher training" on the blacks. Badger was another "hotter than a pistol" guy that I had ridden , but who needed a full time job. We have a young friend who took him on and I am pleased to report ,he LOVES him. He is using him outfitting , and also on community pasture work . Told me "it doesn't matter what you rope ,Ole Badge will get it to where you need it ! He has no bottom , and loves to work!" I couldn't be happier about that ,I loved the horse, but was feeling like he was wasted here. And he was quite simply too good a horse to let that happen to. SO he is one that I chose to ,in effect raise a white flag, concede if not defeat ,at least that I was over matched and sent him on to bigger and better things .

Bug also was one who turned out to be too much horse for her owner and we sold her this summer .

I was talking to dad about the blacks last night , and also the fellow working with them , and we have come to the conclusion that they too will need to move on from here . The trick with that is to find ,just the right fit for them .

I am finding just also of late I am reducing the numbers in a way, keeping only the type of horse I really enjoy working with . Quiet steady , sane .The ones I raise . Now I sell some of them too, but that is part of the business , but the ones I sell with my farm name attached (as in I bred them here, they all sell in my name I am not hiding it ) are consistently quiet easy to manage using horses I am too old and arthritic to manage the pistols anymore .

As to the older ,infirm , ill or injured animals , that can be as hard or harder to wave that white flag and quit . Many more things come into play , costs, time , emotions etc .

My old housecat Diesel is getting a bit stiff and sore, she looks less like a tough mean "queen of the house" and is starting to look a little frail. No forgive me , but at her advanced age, I am not going to likely take her in for intense diagnostics, I will keep her as comfortable as possible and when it is no longer possible to ensure her quality of life I will have he put down . Plain and simple. There are a few things I can likely do to mitigate some of her pain ,but that is a conversation that needs to happen with the vet ,cats are funny and quite sensitive to some meds , and I don't want to trade one problem for another (ie ,pain management for severe GI upset ) Its easier with a cat or dog, in some ways because you can keep them indoors and warm and safe. A Horse on the other hand, becomes a larger issue .

Chips (mentioned in the honorable mention from last week) when he became ill ,suffered from congestive heart failure. I was offered the option of medicating him to extend his life, but it would have been severely limited, he would have been in a stall (which he hated) and it would only have extended his life a short time . Rather than do that I chose to euthanize him , maintaining his (or my perception of ) his dignity . My greatest fear, living here in the snowy north is to wait too long , and have one of my beloved horse go down in the cold and be unable to get back up. My old mare Togy did just that as a result of a fall , and I have never really forgiven myself for not finding her in time (it was a matter of minutes to an hour but... )

My friend deb, chose to put her sweet Blue down at a much younger age than most 16 but he was in debilitating pain, and we were no longer able to adequately manage it . Yes he could still stand and walk, but it was clearly painful for him , and again side effects of long term pain management in the form of medications do take their toll .

So the choices are difficult. I am not against diagnostic testing, in fact in a animal who is young with a reasonable quality of life and health I am all for it , that said , I cannot , and will not spend the "grocery " money for my herd and family on one horse .But I will do something! One thing I hate to see is  the attitude "I don't know what to do so I will do nothing! As stewards of these animals it is our job to care for them and maintain their qality of life ,and if not to end it . There is never a good reason to just let them suffer while we think about it !

It is a tough business to be in and can be truly heartbreaking to make those difficult choices. If all problems could be fixed by throwing money at them...

Sometimes no amount of money, time or love will change the outcome, and sometimes we need to be strong enough to simply hold up that little white flag and say, I surrender!

Balance all that with the years of poor joy we get form those horse, and or pets that are truly the right fit for us, and I think it is still more than worth it .

SOP forgive the ramble friends, I do have these flights of fancy now and then.

Stay safe, and warm!


Reddunappy said...

I totall agree with you! Its hard, but you have to be able to step up and get it done when something happens. I have had to have three dogs put down, and one old pony, it never wil get easier, but it has to be done.
My thought is that, an animal does not understand life saving heroics. All they know is that they are in pain. I dont think its fair to try to prolong their lives because of HUMAN emotions.
Good thoughts.

Reddunappy said...

Oh and finding another home for the blacks is probably a good thing. They will bring joy to another!!

Sorry your Dad isnt able to work them anymore.

Leah said...

Good post - we have done this same thing in the past - the horses that didn't fit in are best to be moved on - usually they just need fulltime jobs (a full time job is not what they get here) - and our older friends that is another very hard decision...but in our hearts we know what is best when the time comes.

Crystal said...

Interesting post, I think leaving an animal to suffer is not excusable, if you cant afford it or ther is no treatment, the kindest thing to do is put them down.

That mare I have boarded at my house is kinda in a bad situation too, she had a cyst in her nose and they did sergury on in a couple years ago and now its back and vets said no point doing sergury again it wont work, but she is young (9) and healthy but on the same token she is dying. But until she starts suffering we are gonna make her life as enjoyable as we can.

Sorry so long...so much to say.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

"There is never a good reason to just let them suffer while we think about it !"

But sometimes, just like a Vet will do, it's better to have a wait and see approach about certain symptoms that aren't life threatening or painful.
Like you, though, I also won't focus all of my money on an animal when their situation doesn't bode well for a long and healthy future. I have 3 kids to take care of and they always have to come first. Even though I love my animals and will do what I can to provide a great life for them, that's just the way it is.

Sounds like you've got the best interest of the blacks at heart, too. They will go to a new home where they can feel useful again. Plus, someone can truly enjoy them on a daily basis for the type of horses they are. I bet they look so dashing pulling a carriage!

It was difficult for me to wave the white flag with my mare Baby Doll, but I do know it was the best thing for her and for I.
I still miss her sometimes, though.


Mikey said...

It's tough isn't it? Tough decision to make when you care about your animals. I'm glad you have such a big heart and care that they get into new homes that are a good fit.
We're sort of doing the same thing. I've got a big hot horse here that I love to ride, but he's a lot. He should move on to someone who'll do more, but then I worry, what if... ya know? What if he gets passed around to a crappy home? What if my good horse gets hurt and I need my backup? Therefore, I do nothing on that end.
But when it comes to the old ones... sigh. It's just knowing when the time is right. Been watching my old donkey going downhill for years, slowly going blind, toothless... but with mash, still bucking around, playing and ornery.
It's just tough. I don't envy your decisions upcoming, but I have every bit of faith that you'll do things right. Cause that's how you are :)

Mama Mess said...

This is a beautiful post and so true. I say ALL the time.......there are much much worse things that can happen to a horse than being humanely put down. As I mentioned in my blog a few days ago, if the day comes I can no longer keep Champ, I'll put him down. He is 24 and in good health, but I'll put him down rather than risk him being in pain, or hungry, or anything else. Bless you for being strong enough to do what needs doing, when so many others aren't. I've known folks who've sold horses when they developed a problem, simply because they didn't want to be the one to put them down. That my friend is a level of cowardice I cannot fathom....

sally said...

Well this is one flight of fancy that I enjoyed reading ....I have raised the white flag on a couple of hot horses in past years. I am in regular contact with their new owners and I must say they are all doing well with braver people than I. Sometimes to make such choices means we are better off as are the animals.
Stay safe and warm

Anonymous said...

I like your "rambles" - very good thoughts for us all to consider and keep close to heart. I think it's important to know when it's time to make a change, both for the horses in our care and for ourselves.

Cut-N-Jump said...

Wish I couldn't say I have been in this same spot more than a few times. Mo, Pi & Dooley, then Tess, Abby and I'm sure that the day will come for each one out in the barn... Never easy but you gotta suck it up and do what is best for them.

greymare said...

Great Post, how I wish more and more people had your vision. Our life at the SPCA's would be so much easier. We get so many situations where "I didn't know what else to do","I can't afford them anymore". "I never thought they could get hurt or get ill". "they're just an animal. nature will ook after them". These are just some of the lame excuses we hear all the time. I could go on but I won't. People need to conside the whole picture when they take on a pet or livestock. Shit happens and we have to be able to deal with it.

C-ingspots said...

So glad to hear you speak from the heart, and relay your honest opinions and feelings about these situations that, whether we want to or not, we will eventually have to face as owners/caretakers of animals. Nobody ever said that life was going to be easy. And, unfortunately, (in this world anyway) death is part of our lives. I agree with everything you said, Sherry. I've been there and have had to face this issue with so many beautiful animals that I have been blessed to share my life with. I have to say that it's NEVER been easy, and has ALWAYS hurt. It doesn't get easier with experience either...it just SUCKS!! But, when you truly love an animal, it is imperative that you have the guts and the strength to put your emotions aside and do what's right for them. Grieve for their loss, but give them one last act of kindness and let them go, when it's in their best interest. If they could, they would thank you. Of that, I'm certain. Animals have an uncanny sense of "knowing" when you're doing something to help them. For many people, they cannot face being there when their friend dies, but personally, I have no choice, I have to be there holding them and reassuring them. It's the least I can do, to have enough courage to hold them and offer that last bit of love and reassurance when they breathe their last. It hurts and I always feel like I too, might die from the pain sometimes, but I don't. And, I'm always glad later that I was strong enough to be with them and offer what comfort I could. I look forward to the day when death no longer exists, and I truly believe that I'll see my animals in heaven someday. Can't wait!!

Linda said...

Great post and some excellent comments. I must say that I agree with your thinking too.

Janice said...

OK that's it Sherry....I need you to get out of my head....can't you think of a better place to hang out:) Great post.

GoLightly said...

What else can I add? Brilliant, girl, just so. 'zactly right. If you can't give them a job, horses need to find someone who will. Even if that job is a pasture ornament.
But with your business, and all that you do, it's not quite fair to YOU, to keep horses around only because you can, and you count the most! Only so many hours in a day!
That made no sense.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

You are wise, and this is a good post for all of us to think about...determining the right time is not easy, but when you do let go, you cant look back - always move forward, just like in riding :) because thats how you get through those tough spots...

hugs to you (((FernApp!)))