A post caught my eye this morning while I was scrolling and trolling through my morning news feed and for better or worse I feel compelled to comment on it. I’m pretty sure that my opinion will resonate with some of you and repel others, but that’s the nature of all things and my fear of retribution isn’t a good enough reason for me to remain silent.
The source of my discontent was a posting that announced the retirement of a school master lesson horse. We’ll call him Mr. Nibs. I had no problem with Mr. Nibs retiring; truly I couldn’t be happier for him. At first glance this post requesting former students to make a financial contribution to Mr. Nibs retirement via one of those Fund Me sites seemed innocent enough. But, the more I thought about it the more bothered I got. Why? Well, there are a couple of reasons.
I guess I have always thought of the riding community as having two equally important but distinctly separate sides. On one side, we have individual horse owners. People that keep and care for any number of horses in a private, these are mine get your own, kind of way. These people keep horses for pleasure and treat them much like they would their children or spouses. They have horses because they’re entertaining and fun, but they understand that mostly they’re things to put money into. Money you know you’ll never expect to see again, but money you were happy to spend either way. These owners also understand that it’s their responsibility to cover a wide range of horse-related situations encompassing the good, the bad, and anything in between, until by death or sale do they part.
Sitting on the other side of the fence, we have people who make a living off the backs of their horses. If your livelihood in any way depends on services rendered by horses, you fall into this category. For these folks, horses are an asset, a valuable part of their daily operation or business. For all intents and proposes your horses become your first real employees. I’m not implying that your affection for them is in any way diminished or changed, or that you don’t still love them, I’m simply pointing out that they are now intrinsically linked to your financial bottom line and that fact changes everything!
Let’s say I run a business and I am depending on Mr. Nibs to show up each and every day for work. It’s Mr. Nibs’ responsibility to serve my clients’ needs and generate a profit for my business. In exchange for his services, it’s my responsibility to compensate him for his contribution to my profit and my businesses success. Mr. Nibs is a good employee and he doesn’t ask for much. I provide his room and board, and I cover the occasional medical expense. It seems an agreeable enough situation for both of us while Mr. Nibs is chugging along and the money truck is rolling in. But, what happens when it’s time for Mr.Nibs to retire and I suddenly realize that his income producing years are far shorter than his lifespan! If I haven’t properly prepared for his future, retirement can radically change the lifestyle to which Mr. Nibs has become accustomed!
Facility owners know all too well that keeping horses is hugely expensive and it seems there’s never enough money to go around. Unfortunately, as a hobby based industry It’s imperative that facilities keep their lesson prices within the reach of their clients disposable incomes or there won’t be any clients. But it’s just as imperative that facilities charge enough to cover their long term expenses. Expenses like RRSP’s (Ridinghorse Retirement Savings Plans) need to be included and above all facilities need to be aware of the cost associated with their aged lesson horses.
Like most requests for money, I am sure the intention of this post was innocent and pure. I’m also sure that anyone connected to this wonderful lesson master will happily and generously contribute anything they can to give him the best retirement possible. People, especially horse people, have a deep and abiding love for their animals and that is especially true for a trusted lesson horse that helped to shape so many young riders experiences.
I am fully aware that most owners do try to plan for their horses’ futures and that often circumstances change making even the best intentions impossible. No one’s future is ever completely secure and horses are no exception to that rule. I guess, I was bothered by the realization that there are so many Mr. Nibs out there who, after years of valuable service must rely on the generosity of others to ensure they may remain in the manner to which they are accustomed. I wish (yes, I’m THAT person) that after years of valuable service all the Mr. Nibs’ of the world could retire knowing that their futures were not an afterthought, but were instead considered and planned for by their employers.
Enjoy your retirement Mr. Nibs!