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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

One or Many?

Here's a draft post from a LONG time ago. I never posted it because I didn't really reach a conclusion. To help me try and clarify, I posted the question "One or horse or many?" on the yahoo group new100milers. For as many people who preferred one horse, there were those that couldn't imagine not having their backup, and each side had excellent points. Now, almost 6 months from when I wrote the draft, I STILL have one foot on either side of the fence. However, it's raining (in JUNE!), I obviously don't have enough vit D to function, and something from the draft archives must do for today!

The question is: One horse or many?


Yesterday I slept until noon (easy to do when it’s rainy, cold, dark and there was a xmas party the night before). My plans for the day had started off rather grand. I would trailer to Del Valle and do an easy and relaxed 20 miles. As I biked to the stable I revised my plan to: I would saddle up and go for a nice hack on the canal bank. It started to rain and be a bit windy. New plan! I would trim her feet and then go for a 2-3 mile hand walk.

After arriving at the stable, I saw the posting for the farrier to come out this Thursday. I decided I was feeling much too lazy to do her feet this week and added Farley’s name to the list.

So what did I actually end up doing? I groomed her. We went on a short walk outside of the boarding stable boundary and I let her graze while I laid across her back, bareback, and listened to my ipod. After 20 minutes I hopped off and led her back to the stable. Then I biked home.

At some point I think every horse owner contemplates getting another horse. Time and resources are definitely something to consider when making the decision, but so is something more intangible – your relationship with the existing horse.

If I had two horses right now, I would have never been able to spend yesterday like I did – essentially a wasted riding day.

Minx was my only horse for 1-1/2 years. I rode a lot, but I also spent a lot of time NOT riding. I would groom her just because, and spent afternoons reading in her paddock and watching her. It was a one horse-one girl relationship and it was everything the story books say. Then I got Farley and it changed. I didn’t want it to change, but it did out of the necessity of giving attention and time to two horses. I didn’t spend time with unnecessary grooming because there was another horse waiting for me. There was always a horse that needed riding – I couldn’t afford to just “hang out” any more. There was never a point where everything was “done” enough that I could put off tomorrow what should be done today.

After Minx died, my first instinct was to run out and get another horse. After all, I had the time and resources. Each of my horses got ridden and more attention than many “single horse families”. But then I thought back to my one-on-one relationship with Minx and decided to see if that sort of relationship would reemerge with Farley as a single horse.

With a backup mount, I can ride more miles and have a mount for family and friends to ride. I can give each horse time off without taking time off for myself. With multiple horse’s I can play to each horse’s strengths – 50 milers, 100’s, cavalry competitions, arena work. However, it also makes it easier for me to ignore issues. When I only have one horse, I am forced to work through issues as they arise, so that I can still do what I want to do on horse back.


As I reread through the post I still think I have a good argument for one horse. However, I have also come to realize that I love endurance and if I need to give up the one horse/one girl relationship to get another horse because Farley needs to do something different, I probably will. Assuming that Farley is competition sound in a year (and she should be) there's an argument that getting a younger horse as my "up and coming" mount BEFORE Farley needs to be retired makes sense too. When I did have 2 horses, I was trying to compete both of them, so perhaps having a second horse after retiring the first still fosters that deeper more intimate relationship like when it's a single horse?

As a horse person it's hard only having one horse - like having them around! But balancing the quality of the relationship and the quality of MY life (stress levels etc.) makes it a tricky balance.


  1. I have sometimes wished that I could afford to have two horses...but seriously, I could ride Hana whenever I want, and I don't. I pretty much ride Fiddle whenever I can, and ride Hana only when I NEED to ride and CAN'T ride Fee. And there will always be a horse around that I can borrow for days like this....

    Now, if I could hit the lotto and quit my job, it would be a totally different story.

  2. I hear you! I have multiple horses already, but only one ready for endurance...and I've recently decided that I love the sport too much to limit my options to one mount. Time to get a backup horse ready!

  3. We have many. My excuse is that horses are herd animals and don't like living alone. :)

  4. Oh I read you completely on this one! I had Arwen for two years and it was another story-book relationship (I had her in my garden too!), she followed me wherever I went - more like a canine than an equine. It was perfect! I got a second mare (Sahara) because I wanted to be able to ride out with friends, and I thought it would make Arwen happy to have some company. To my surprise, Arwen never liked a second horse, and still, she is more solo than any other. Sahara however, who is now my friend's horse, LOVES having a herd, so these days I let Arwen be on one side of the garden with the humans and let the other horses who like to be together be on the other side where they are free to disturb each other as much as they like! I too often get caught in "which horse needs the ride the most" and sometimes I find myself wishing it was just me and Arwen... then I would have time to groom, braid her tail (that's been ages!), sit and read with her or just hug. I love when I do something in the garden and she comes up behind me and smells my hair and my neck, then starts to lick my arms and rub herself against my back...


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