Unheeded horse-care advice
I generally don’t like to tell my barn friends that I’m a writer and editor for EQUUS. My hesitancy stems from a generally reserved personality, but mostly a fear of being asked my opinion on equine injuries or illnesses; I’m not a veterinarian and never want to be considered a substitute for one.
A few people do know what I do, though, and occasionally an in-the-know friend will ask me what I’m currently writing about. This happened recently. As we cleaned adjacent stalls early one morning, the conversation floated over the wall between us.
“So, what are you working on this afternoon?”
“I’m in the middle of editing an article about weighing hay.”
“Weighing hay. You know, how to make sure you’re feeding the right amount of hay by weighing it.”
“With a scale?”
“Uh, yeah…with a scale. You have to do some calculations based on your horse’s weight first, though, to know how much to feed.”
My friend’s voice took on an incredulous tone: “You’re telling people to do math, then weigh their hay before they feed it? You know no one is going to do that, right? Who is going to do that?”
I sighed. This is something I’d often struggled with over the two decades I’ve been with EQUUS. There are things that we, as equine caretakers, know are preferred practices. And you’ll find them discussed in EQUUS, with its mission of helping people take the best care possible of their horses. Whether it’s weighing hay or doing fecal egg counts before deworming or disinfecting grooming tools every season—yes, we are supposed to do these things, but are we honestly going to?
Realistically, we can’t do everything “by the book” for our horses. Lack of time, strained resources and logistic challenges can put optimum scenarios out of reach. And if it’s not impossible, it just may be very difficult. I get it. I’m a realist…and a little lazy. So was I a hypocrite for writing about things that I myself might not even be able or willing to do?
I stopped mucking and stared at the half-cleaned stall as I spiraled with self-doubt and professional uncertainty.
An unexpected comment
Then, another voice floated from the other side of the stall.
“I’ve weighed hay.”
It was a boarder, dropping off supplements for her horse. We hadn’t seen her, but she’d heard our conversation and decided to chime in.
“You’ve actually weighed hay?” I asked.
“Yes. Last winter when Willow was losing weight and we didn’t know why. The veterinarian recommended weighing her hay to make sure she was getting enough. I was really worried and had to figure out how to do that on my own. An article actually would have been helpful.”
I stopped, stepped into the aisle and for the next half- hour had a great brainstorming session with an owner who had lived exactly the scenario I was writing about: What was difficult? What could have made that easier? What advice would she pass on to others in the same situation?
By the time I went back to mucking, my editorial spirits were lifted. Yes, there are some people who will never weigh hay before they feed it—or do numerous other optimal horse-keeping tasks that I might write about. And that’s okay. We all make choices and prioritize our horse-keeping efforts based on time and resources.
But when a task is important enough—like weighing hay was when a mare was losing weight—an owner will find a way to make it happen. And EQUUS will be here to help.
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