You don’t go into the horse business to get rich. This is very true. Yes there are the elite few who do make money in the horse industry but for the majority of us equestrians we usually eek by with paying our bills, often filing our barn stores before filling our own fridge. Many of us work one or more other jobs to make ends meet and inevitably the emergency fund is being tapped for yet another vet visit. I’m blessed that my regular job can support my horsey habit and offer me ample time to enjoy my ponies. I applaud all of those who feed before and after your twelve hour shift and sneak in a weekend ride.
I recently spent time with my boyfriends mom on her ranch in southern New Mexico. With the passing of her husband and her boys gone, she works the near 4,000 acres on her own. Back in its prime they supported 60 head of horses and twice as many cattle. As we drove around that day looking for early calves we chatted about livestock and her days training race horses. “I had few years where I was making really good money at it,” she said. “But it takes a long time to make a living at it.” I thought a lot about that as we bumped along. In a world where so many people are focused on making money, horses give us a way of life. For those of us who have stayed up with a foaling mare, walked for hours with a colicing gelding, or finished feeding before making our own dinner, we know that these moments aren’t done just for a paycheck but for a passion that runs deep inside the horseman. It’s a way of living that only those who get up at dawn and end at dusk can understand.
Now the ranch only run a few cattle, chores are done in a Mule, and horses no longer grace their barn. Yet the halter that still hangs on a fence and old tubes of wormer sitting in the medicine cabinet linger like spirits of a time gone by. “I still love horses,” she said as we pulled through the last gate, “but I just don’t have time for them any more.” No this rancher woman sitting next to me may not have gotten rich on horses but they have definitely enriched her life. Two generations of horsewomen sat there together enjoying the warm, quiet morning without saying a word but fully understanding each other.