Sunday, March 9, 2008

people and their pets

what part of this image is horse, and what part is human?

We have had pets die before, and I've buried two other horses, but our recent experience has raised a question: Why is the (anticipated) loss of our horse(s) so much more traumatic than any other pet/companion animal?

Eric's dog Jasmine lives with us now. She's eleven, has had several near-death experiences, helped raise all three children, is so infirm now that she sleeps inside by the fire, and offers unconditional love to the whole family. She has guarded the hen house, chased away the bogeyman, been sympathetic to anyone in despair, and always been enthusiastic with her affection. Even been the occasional hunting companion and partner in crime (just being in the vehicle makes you an accomplice). And yet, discussing the recent death of Woody, Eric knew that losing his horse would be a harder blow than losing Jasmine.

Perhaps it is only a matter of perspective, Jasmine has gradually aged with us and so prepared us for her passing. On the other hand, I have gradually aged next to Tammie, and am not at all more prepared for her passing.

Perhaps it is in the level and frequency of the risks we share with our horses.

We must trust them to obey our commands and keep their footing in difficult settings. We trust them to avoid killing us, though they easily could, while handling their feet. And on their part, they must set aside those innate instincts which have served their wild ancestors so well, and trust US to guide them and protect them. The very act of riding, as the photo shows, blurs the line between companion and master. We use them for work... but horse and rider both may crave this outing... more blurring.

I think we have come to expect that companion animals, such as dogs and cats, will love us and comfort us and choose to live with us. Horses, even domestic breeds, are however considered wild. This willing submission of a free, wild being to another is what I suspect sets the relationship apart. (And perhaps gives us a glimpse of why God would cherish the love and companionship of such silly creatures as us).

Tell me what you think.


  1. I think it sounds like deep down inside you really do love horses! So beautifully put, Mark. You have a picturesque way with words. Losing a pet is never easy, though we find comfort knowing that we cared and nurtured her/him throughout their lives and had the great pleasure of their companionship. After a while our hearts mend enough to get another one to help us forget the loss. Unlike when we lose a person close to us, we tend remain alone and cling to their memory in the hopes that we won't forget their place in our hearts. just some ponderings.

  2. I have not had that relationship with a horse yet. I am always taking the pictures and watching the children. Hmm. I'm going to have to run this by Max. I do look forward to having that bond with a horse. I know it must be something special.

    Sorry, again, for my post the other day. I feel so bad that you two read it the day your friend's horse had to be put down.

  3. It was a strange coincidence, but no need to apologize. It was a very good and uplifting post. Really! We think it was interesting too, that your post yesterday countered this one as well. Clearly, Skid Boots owner will deeply mourn his loss.


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