Sunday, June 26, 2011

What is our job?

This video of Andreas Helgstrand at the WEG2006 Freestyle Final recently resurfaced and it both inspires and depresses me.

This horse--Blu Horse Matine--is magnificent. She is enjoying the entire exercise, dancing in time with the music and playing the whole time.

Not long after this, she was retired to become a brood mare--not unreasonable all things considered--and the world lost her. She died, in foal, after a paddock accident in which she broke her right front knee.

[UPDATE: WendyU sent me this link to a story explaining Blu Horse Matine's retirement was due to an injury that wouldn't heal, not just to make cute baby Blu's.]

So I ask you all, what is more important? Breeding the next champion or giving the existing horse a job they love?

There is no easy answer, and no right or wrong--certainly no black and white.

In the human species, some are meant to be brood mares and some are not. Are horses really so different?

I understand the economics. This mare was the potential broodmare to several champions. I know that the foal Zenyatta carries is worth millions.

But part of me cries out that it doesn't matter when the champion herself hasn't finished, that relegating her to the breeding pen takes away the fire we all admire--the fire that gives her a reason to exist. A job, as the plebeian among us might say.

I know. More human emotions being assigned to horses. But then again... horses are beings of extreme emotion, curiosity, play, and intelligence.

What we tell them, what works for us, is: "Thanks, you've done great working every day, interacting with your trainer and other humans, plus learning new things! Now go off and wander around in a pasture, be retired, and make babies!"

But does it really work for them? And is it fair? We've bred and raised them to compete, so how does the transition work for them and could we make it better? Could we perhaps take that ex-racehorse for a gentle ride even if we do have her in foal to a multi-million dollar stud? If she's happier, won't the foal be happier? And by happier, I of course mean healthier.

I admit this is a bit of a rant. I just think we (the collective horse-owning we) owe it to our horse buddies to give this a little bit of thought.

It certainly can't hurt.


Wendy said...

I'm fairly certain Blu Horse Matine was retired from competition because of a lameness issue. They couldn't get her sound so she became a broodmare. Here's an article about it:

So sad to have lost her. She was amazing.

Unknown said...

She was beautiful and certainly had her moment in the light. A shame she could stay sound.

I do think horses need a job. Lily, my humble QH mare was not exactly thrilled to have a foal (good mom, but not particularly thrilled with the experience), but she absolutely has to have a job to do.

Don't we all.

Daisy said...

I admit - I always consider what my horses enjoy. Not just what I enjoy doing with them. If she was my mare and clearly enjoying the "dance"/competition, I don't know that I would have retired her yet. But then, it's so easy for me to suppose when I am outside the situation.
Good post. Wonderful/honest food for thought!

Dom said...

Beautifully written.

Jessica Boyd said...

Thanks for the correction, Wendy! I'll do a follow up post about why she was really retired.

Still a sad loss. She was indeed amazing!

Dave (aka Buckskins Rule) said...

While her loss is sad, I respect that her owners had the presence of mind to retire her when she was injured. Would it be that more people would realize when a horse is too old, unsound, injured, etc. and has earned a peaceful retirement in the pasture.

Clinton Anderson recently retired his beloved mare, Mindy. As he put it "she doesn't owe me a thing."