A Duty of Care

I have owned lots of horses in my lifetime, probably more than I would willingly admit. A few are personal horses that I fully intend to stay with me forever. Most are projects, those diamonds in the rough that I enjoy polishing and perfecting, and then allowing someone else to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Some are the result of my bleeding heart, horses in dire need of a soft place to land or a second chance, who I knew better than to take on but couldn’t say no to.

But no matter how many horses have at some point called me Mom, or the circumstances under which I took them on, they all have one thing in common. I owe each of them something – a duty of care.

A duty of care is the responsibility of a person to do the right thing to the best of their abilities, and to do whatever they can to avoid causing harm. When I take on a horse, whether for myself, for a profit, or for no good reason at all, there is an unwritten rule that I will care for that animal to the best of my abilities no matter what.

Take Doneraile Lass for example – this former broodmare found her way to me because she had lacerated her cervix and her owner was ready to put her down. In one of those moments where you can almost hear Sarah McLachlan playing “Angel” in the background, I agreed to take her. Having no soundness issues, I fully expected Tully to be a quick project and had only planned to give her some skills to succeed in life as a sport horse and then find her a home shortly after.

Tully had other ideas and decided that she wanted to stay.. and stay.. and stay. No matter how wonderful and laid back she was for me, she gave a resounding “NO” to every person that came to look at her.

What was supposed to be a few short months with this sweet lady turned into nearly half a year. We eventually found her the right situation – one that she agreed with and allowed me to let her go. But as months and months flew by with Tully still on the payroll, I never once thought about not doing right by her, by taking a shortcut or the easy way out. She was my horse and I owed that to her.

The thing about horses is they don’t know our man-made timelines, they don’t understand our goals or financial situations. When we bring them into our lives we silently agree to care for them and to do right by them.

Or at least we should. 

I see so many horse owners that don’t uphold their duty of care. I see people who do choose the easy way out, who fail to do right by the horses they agreed to take on. Day in and day out I watch people try to pawn horses onto others, see photos of horses withering away because no one is caring for them, observe as horses suffer because they don’t rise to standards they had no part in setting.

When you take on a horse, whether purchased for $50,000, adopted for $500 or just taken on for free, you must be ready and willing to provide for that horse (or be able to find someone who can) for any length of time and in any situation that may arise.

If you can’t uphold your end of the bargain, if you can’t offer each horse you own a duty of care, don’t get a horse.


One thought on “A Duty of Care

  1. Ugh – I totally know what you mean with this one. How many times have we seen someone asking what they should do about their lame, sick, whatever horse? Call the vet… If no answer found, find a better vet… then, actually follow the vet’s rehab protocols (or complete lifestyle changes if necessary). You don’t get to get rid of a horse just because something is inconvenient (or even better, lie about the condition for money). It’s a sad reality, but one we should never stop talking about.


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