Like many people, I’ve dreamed of having a horse all my life. I collected Breyer Horses and remember playing with them often. Occasionally I would ride a friend’s horse when I had the opportunity, and being young and fearless, I didn’t even mind the occasional fall. They say you bounce when you’re young.
When I first moved to the gulf coast of Mississippi, I had no idea I had moved to an area with such a large horse community. I soon discovered south Mississippi is home to many arenas, horse ranches, and equestrian activities including the annual 7-week long Gulf Coast Winter Classic competition at the Harrison County Equestrian Center in Gulfport.
At first I leased a horse at a small local barn. Food and water were taken care of by the barn owner. There are lots of positives to keeping a horse where you don’t have to tend to daily horse duties. I highly suggest it if you like to travel. I’ve also met many wonderful people and made new friends at the barn. You’re rarely alone and always have friends to ride with.
I always had dreams of keeping a horse on my own property. I loved the idea of waking up and looking out my window to see all the animals.
I didn’t want my horse, a herd animal, to be alone. Pretty soon with the addition of Charley the minihorse and MayBelle the donkey, our herd grew to three.
I learned quickly that keeping large animals is a lot more work than I thought it would be. I had imagined spending all day riding and working with my horse. What I found out quickly is the majority of my “horse” time is spent on the ground not in the saddle.
There are water buckets to keep clean and fill and manure to remove from stalls and paddocks. Pastures have to be maintained and animals groomed. If you have an arena area, the footing has to be maintained also. There’s always something to clean or fix.
One of the ongoing costs with horses and donkeys is maintaining their health. There are vaccinations and farrier costs and deworming. All this to say that it is a full time commitment. There are really no days off when it comes to horse-keeping.
But for most horse lovers it’s a labor of love. Having my horse on my property has taught me so much and made me a better caregiver.
There is nothing like the moment you find your horse peeking in a window to look for you or following you around while you clean up. Knowing that this animal weighing half a ton could at any moment have the power to injure or worse. But instead, by mutual respect, we seek out each other’s companionship.
“There are things that the horse did for me that a human couldn’t have done.”
— Buck Brannaman