WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #115
BY SUE M. COPELAND
DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT to me, one of the hardest parts of this
horse life is the never-ending series of decisions. They can seem
like little ones, but I know from experience they can have big
For instance, we recently had an arctic blast drop temperatures
from 70 degrees to below 30 (that's epic cold in South Texas). I
had our 27-year-old Miniature Horse, Charmin, tucked in the barn,
along with her donkey buddy, Mac; Izzy was on a trailer to my
trainer's from a winter circuit in balmy south Florida.
At first, the decisions were easy: We had high wind, frigid
temps, and rain. That's my "no brainer" trifecta - when those
three elements collide, I leave my horses in. Case closed.
The do-I-or-don't-I decisions came when the rain stopped.
We still had windchills below freezing. Charmin has a history of
colic with radical weather changes. But she was miserable being
locked in her stall. And was complaining. Loudly. My subconscious
kept up the debate. "The last time I turned her out in cold wind,
she colicked.... But her gut's better off if she's out moving
I finally turned her out, bundled in her windproof blankie. Was
it the right decision? I dunno. To hedge my bets, I gave her a
dose of medication to help keep colic at bay. Then I crossed my
fingers and kept a watchful eye on her.
Izzy arrived at my trainer's barn the same day. Snow was forecast
for later (a rarity here). More decisions: Should I tackle the
three-hour-plus roundtrip to get him? Or let him chill
(literally!) a day or two at that barn, then fetch him when
the weather cleared? I opted for the latter, but only after much
thought. I knew Izzy would rather be home. But I also figured
that having just stepped off a big rig, it might not hurt him to
rest where he was. Was that right for him? I dunno.
Color me silly, but I guess I've lived through enough decisions
gone wrong that I now sweat the small stuff.
One time I debated turning out the horses because we'd had rain
the night before. The ground was a tad slick, plus it was cool
and breezy, inviting play. But, I'd turned them out hundreds of
times before in such conditions. So I did. And they played. Then
my Quarter Horse gelding, Dude, came up three-legged lame. That
resulted in my "One Bad Step" column (February '03) - he'd blown
out a tendon; it was a career-ending injury. Wet ground still
makes me nervous.
Another time I'd debated the wisdom of putting cavalletti in my
round pen. A trainer had told me working horses over them in a
60-foot-diameter pen would be fine. Still, my'noid voice was
talking. "Would it really be safe?" I chose to ignore the voice
and worked my homebred gelding, Zee, over the raised poles. All
went well ... until it didn't.
He tripped, got entangled in a pole, then panicked and tried to
launch out of the pen. His trajectory was stopped by a steel gate
upright, which fractured his skull. That column was entitled,
"Because He's a Horse" (August '04). Zee ended up fine. My
confidence remains a bit fractured.
Simpler day-to-day decisions include trying to interpret
(often-wrong) weather forecasts to figure out which blankets
should go on what horse, when. Whether that leg boo-boo requires
my vet's attention, or is something I can handle. Or perhaps if
we should allow dear Charmin a few minutes without her grazing
muzzle, so she can enjoy the grass she craves ... the same stuff
that's caused her so many problems. (That column is entitled "The
Grass Paradox," July'10.)
What about you? Do you have chronic decision-itis? What do you
fret about in your horse life? I'd love to hear. You can reach me
at the contact info below. In the meantime, I'll be debating some
of the constant decisions in mine. But first, I'd best go check
You can reach H&R Contributing Editor Sue M. Copeland at
HORSE AND RIDER APRIL 2011
To be continued from time to time