Monday, April 12, 2010

A Shame

Lately there has been all this stuff in the news about the American woman who sent her adopted Russian child back to his native country by loading him up on a plane and driving away. Every time I encounter this story I feel an uncomfortable twitch of guilt. The reason for my guilt is we don't have Sham anymore.

I don't think anyone in the world would try to claim that sending a horse back to the person you bought it from is anywhere near the same transgression as sending an unaccompanied minor back to a country that is no longer its home. Still, as I consider the chain of events that started late last week and ended on Sunday, I am still caught in a loop of regret, trying to make sense of it all.

On one hand, the story is simple. One afternoon the girl who takes dinner to the horses in the feed lot (only Steen and Sham at that point) walked into the pasture just like usual. The horses greeted her with anticipation for their dinners, just like usual, and she shooed them off, just like usual. What wasn't usual is instead of leaving, Sham turned, pointed his butt at her and kicked out with both his rear feet.

Thankfully, she saw the kick coming and avoided it, but she was very rattled. So were we when we heard of this turn of events. We were even more rattled than we might have been otherwise because we knew Sham had done the same thing once before, soon after we got him, when Cathi was trying to move the herd into the airlock to bring in new bales. The first time, we wrote it off to 'settling in' and moved on. But when horses do something twice, it is a real problem. Kicking out towards a person is arguably the most dangerous habit a horse can have, and given the fact that we are currently in a position that we cannot keep horses on our own land, to have a horse that does this means we are constantly putting other people in danger.

So, after a long discussion with Brian and Cathi, I contacted the guys we bought Sham from. They agreed to take him back and try to find us a different horse. So, on Sunday Brian and I drove out to the barn and haltered Sham for the last time. He followed me into the trailer without a fuss.

Brian and I have both spent the last several days in a state of pseudo shock. We had Sham for just long enough to get really used to thinking about him as part of lives. Sure, it wasn't the easiest start ever, but we were working and moving forward. I have never before been in the position where I simply had to get rid of a horse, fast, to keep other people from possible injury. I can't stop vaguely wondering if this was just two bad coincidences that cropped up at unluckily close intervals, or if he really was habituated to doing this regularly. Unfortunately, it's a question I'll never be able to answer for certain.

The sad truth about buying adult horses is they come with a whole invisible history. Sham can't tell us why he kicked. But given that horses are not aggressive by nature, we can only assume he has a good reason for thinking he needs to protect himself sometimes.

These last few days have passed, and we are slowly getting used to temporarily being a one-horse family again. Having abandoned Sham to his fate, I can't stop wishing our chapter in his life could have ended differently. Now I can only hope his story continues more happily from here.


  1. That's unfortunate that don't have Sham any longer. It did seem like you guys were starting to see improvements. It is often difficult to figure out why horses do what they do, even when you have had them a long time. Given what you've blogged about Sham, it sounds more like an "attitude" thing than a fear thing to me. (I was once double kicked by my old mare, also at dinner time. I'm pretty sure it was old-mare attitude, possibly mixed with being picked on by the dominant mare. She caught me in the bicep. I consider myself lucky.)

    I agree that it's also a lot more difficult to deal with problem behavior while boarding. You either have to get everyone "on board" to fix the problem, or the inconsistencies are likely to make things worse.

    But, perhaps he was not really the right horse for you guys. If it wasn't working out, and you weren't comfortable with the situation, it's probably better that this way.

  2. It is quite probable Sham wasn't exactly the right horse for us now. Whether he could have become the right horse over time is impossible to say. He was definitely a bit of a tough horse by any standards, and sometimes the 'why' really doesn't matter much. I suppose the most tiring thing is just how long it takes to get to know a horse. Being back at square one is a bit discouraging. But, that's horses sometimes!

  3. I'm really sorry to hear that. It doesn't matter if it IS the right or best thing to do... critters so quickly become a part of the family that giving them up is like tearing out a piece of your heart. :-(

  4. You made a choice based on what you believe is right. It costs just the same to keep a good horse as one that is perhaps not so good. But its never easy. I had a horse rear up and flip over on me. I moved him down the road rather quickly after that. I still liked him & I am sure I would have eventually rode him again - but why take the chance.

    Good luck in your search. The right one will show up.


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