A young man stood in the entrance way to the stable trying to understand the connection with horses that his girlfriend seem obsessed with. As we chatted he hesitated for a moment before asking the question. “Why do you keep all these old horses?” he said. “They aren’t being used anymore, why don’t you take them to auction like other stables do?” he added. I smiled and looked out to the south. Trying to explain it isn’t always about economics, I began my sermon.
“The ribbons may be faded, the applause silenced, but the memories of good rides and victory passes never leave.” He cracked a smile as I went on. “Some of these horses I’ve bred, raised and trained. Many I have purchased. Some have been donated back to farm by their owners when they could no longer ride them. All have worked hard; all have trusted me with their welfare.” I smiled back at him and then continued. “They are in fact an extension of myself. I care for them as I would like to be cared for.” I went on. “Just because our bones are aged and some of us don’t stride as easily or gracefully as our younger counterparts, we are wise.” My visitor strained his ears to listen for more. “When they have aches and pains, I treat them. When they are tired, I rest them. And when I can no longer ease suffering, they are laid to rest by my veterinarian.” I looked to the gravesite as I went on. “You see this horse business is an emotional business. It is unlike any other job you will have. These horses are a gift that are lent to us for a short time. We have a duty to care for them and not betray them. They have a history with humankind and I don’t mean being displayed on a dinner plate.” I continued with my sermon sadly acknowledging that the kill pen is the last stop for many unfortunate horses. “When you take on a horse, you take on a financial responsibility. It shouldn’t be an impulsive purchase. You can never tire of it and throw the horse away when you are done with it.” My visitor’s face was softening as I pointed to a headstone. “I have a conscience that makes me at ease in my heart knowing my old friends have lived and passed on the lands they freely roamed and enjoyed. I gave them dignity in life and death and loved them all.” As I turned back to face the young man, I noticed a small tear roll down his cheek. I think he got my message.