The Burden of Hoof

Posted by Sharon Labels:

"Horses have a way of keeping us young… and mostly broke” a friend of mine commented on Facebook last week.

“You’re right about keeping us broke,” I answered, “But I’m not sure about keeping me young!”

Her comment triggered a train of thought though, one I've travelled on many times - why do we, people in the horse business,  choose a career that demands much and pays little (notice I didn't say "offer little")? Horse trainers and breeders work long hours seven days a week; they rise early and go to bed late; they administer to sick and injured animals, often in the middle of the night; they freeze their hands thawing out water lines and sunburn their faces picking up bales in the field; they rub liniment on over-worked muscles and sometimes eat dinner at 10:00 PM (or not at all!). We drag ouselves to the barn when we are sick; we drag ourselves to the barn too soon after surgery; we drag ourselves to the barn when it’s blistering hot or bone-chilling cold. Why have we signed up for a lifetime of never-ending work and sometimes unbearable heartbreak? And why have we shouldered so much responsibility? The answer is . . . because most of the time we don’t drag ourselves to the barn – we stride to the barn with anticipation, spirit and joy! And that joy makes the  inevitable times of heart-wrenching pain (Beam me up, Scotty!) bearable.

A Time of Joy
There has to be a reason why we do what we do. It’s not the money and the prestige is fleeting at best and almost non-existent at worst. It has to be about the animal - the horse.

A Time of Caution

A Time of Commitment
Last week isn’t the only time I marveled at the tenacity and commitment of people in the horse business. For some reason, it seems obvious to me why I chose horse training for my career but harder to understand why others do. Not sure why that is. Maybe I believe that most people want more - more money, more toys, more holidays . . . and less responsibility. They won't get that if the horse business is their business. So… when someone tells me how lucky I am to do what I do and asks me about becoming a horse trainer, I give it to them straight.

“Yes, I am lucky," I admit, "But I this is my job and some days, when I feel like a day off, it's still my job - rain or shine, summer and winter. If you want to be a horse trainer, you must be willing to work much longer days than an office job for seven days a week for a very small paycheck. Horse shows will be your holidays and there probably won’t be a boat parked in your yard, just a horse trailer. You must accept the responsibility that comes with caring for horses in your care and be willing to attend to their needs ahead of your own. On the other hand, there is not much in this world that can compare to the soft nickers that will greet you when you go out to feed in the morning. If you can live with that, you have what it takes to be a horse trainer.”

A Time of Peace
Maybe my Facebook friend is right after all. Maybe horses do keep us young - at least in our hearts and heads, if not our bodies. As far as keeping us broke, they're worth it.


  1. Verna

    I'm not a horse trainer, as you know, but do love my horse(s). You, however, are living proof that they are indeed "worth the effort"! We were up to check critters at the Facca pasture this afternoon, and stopped at Johnny and Yvonne's on the way home...a double whammy, a good ride and coffee with friends!