Friday, March 13, 2009

Half-Assing It

I went to the local equine fair and trade show today to browse the tack vendors. It was considerably smaller this year than it has been the past few times I’ve come; I imagine the sorry state of the economy played a big role in the drop in attendance and sellers’ booths alike. After being disappointed that I couldn’t find anything worth wasting money on, I headed out to the barns to see the horseflesh. And was extremely disheartened.

It seems that several local breeders thought that this would be a golden opportunity to unload the previous year’s youngstock. Rather than presenting their colts properly, they pulled their poor, nasty, skinny, wormy babies straight out of the pasture and stuck them in tiny exhibitors’ stalls with a $500 price tag. Quite frankly, most of the ones I saw weren’t even worth that. Nearly all of the animals were poor specimens of their breed in the conformation and pedigree departments, and that’s already a big strike against them. I’m a huge proponent of responsible breeding: a quality animal is much more likely to fetch a high price, be talented at a job, get a good home, and avoid a double-decker trailer with a one-way ticket to a Mexican slaughterhouse. Presentation is all-important, too. These colts were almost unfailingly skinny, with ribs and hipbones hiding underneath their remarkably rough, puffy, shaggy coats which hadn’t seen a curry in months, if ever. Their feet were long, cracked, and jagged. Their eyes were white and spooked. They had little or no bedding in their stalls—just chipped asphalt soiled with their own shit…their owners must really care about their comfort. Not to mention that this set-up certainly wasn’t one that would make me want to buy a horse.

See, the school I come from says that if you’re going to do something, do it right or don’t do it at all. If you’re not passionate about it, it’s just going to bring you heartache. Better to quit than to half-ass it and do a shoddy job. If these people are truly in the horse business because they love it, why wouldn’t they put forth the requisite effort into their stock? Better yet, if they’re in the business to make money (and aren't most people?), then why aren’t they doing everything in their power to ensure a high price for their product? The logic escapes me.

Beyond that, it’s about responsibility, too. When you take a life into your hands (by choosing to have a child or purchase an animal), you become the sole provider for that being. It depends on you for its very life. How can anyone find it acceptable to abuse or neglect a living creature, man or beast? If you can’t—or won’t—care for it, pass it on to someone who will…please.

In addition, I’ve found that if you really invest yourself into a project, you’ll often receive a ripe reward. Let’s go back to the horse example: some of the fillies there were fairly close relatives of my mare, Bones (their sire shares her daddy). One of them was a three-year-old, greenbroke to ride and kinda cute in an ugly-headed sort of way. She was decked out in old, cheap, poorly-fitted tack, however, which wasn’t very becoming. Her coat was as long and thick as a sheepdog’s, and she was thin and unshod besides. In short, even I wasn’t tempted to buy her, despite her relationship to my excellent mare. I was reminded, however, of the circumstances under which I acquired Bones. She, too, was skinny, ugly, and untrained. She was probably a few owners away from the killer, herself. I overpaid for what she was, but even at that she was quite cheap. Some feed and training completely turned her around, however, and I could probably increase my money tenfold if I so chose…but I’d rather keep her, ride her, win on her, and appreciate her. She’s one talented mare—and because I put forth the necessary care and effort, she is being allowed to exhibit her full potential.

But Bones isn’t an anomaly. There are countless others out there—horses and humans alike—who fall through the cracks daily. If only someone would put forth the effort to help them shine. “Good enough,” after all, usually isn’t.

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