“If nothing changed, there would be no butterflies.” – Unknown
Magnificent Carnaval…where to begin?! I’ve been lucky enough to know this handsome devil for a while, and in a few different capacities. I’ve also been lucky enough to know his devoted owner, Katherine. Together they have accomplished measurable and immeasurable feats. For one example, check out this article about the amazing pair, and prepare to be impressed!
I’ve wanted to write about Val for quite some time, and for several reasons. He is a big Lusitano who typifies the breed in many extraordinarily beautiful ways. That said, like all of us, his body harbors its own unique quirks…like tension in his neck and poll, reactivity in the superficial levels of his skin and fascia, inconsequential splints, and residual effects of an EPM infection in his right hind leg. He also has a very sensitive gastrointestinal tract.
In one moment, he can quite literally make a face like he’s just sucked on a lemon…and in the next, he’s a perky, cherubic stuffed animal of a horse. He makes me giggle a LOT. He keeps me very honest in my work. He is serious and silly, wise and innocent, strong and delicate. Like all of us, he is all things at once, and he is perfect exactly as he is.
But what I’d like to write about today has to do with something else: relocation. Val's owner (and greatest love) Katherine has moved out-of-state, and he will soon be joining her. Transitions are hard for anyone, but they can be particularly tricky for horses. Why? Well, to begin, horses are prey animals that rely on their herd for survival in the wild. Even domesticated horses that live in adjoining paddocks or stalls form strong bonds based on dominance, submission, camaraderie, and respect. They thrive on predictable routine, and they anticipate certain freedoms. When a horse finds himself in a new location, he will feel extremely vulnerable…despite whatever the human-crafted reality may be.
We’ve all been the “new kid on the block” at some point in our lives. Multiply that feeling by a thousand, and *maybe* we can imagine what it’s like to be a prey animal in a new environment! Horses in this situation will naturally be more reactive than usual, because the nervous system is doing exactly what it was designed to do: allowing the body to avoid danger (by either fighting or fleeing). We should expect and prepare for this by planning carefully and preserving as much of a horse’s routine as possible, like: type and times of feed, turn-out schedule, exercise regimen, etc. It’s always a good idea to minimize variables, in any walk of life!!
For a very basic, printable relocation checklist, click here.
Every horse is an individual, and the way one might handle change can be completely different from the next.
If changes need to be made, which is often the case when moving from one facility to the next, they should be implemented with care. Taking safety precautions like pulling horses’ hind shoes when they are first turned out together, measuring vital signs, recording intake and output of hay and manure, having banamine or other medications on-hand, and of course…touching their bodies from ears to tail on a daily basis…can inform our decision-making, keep everyone safe, and expedite the adjustment phase of any transition.
Patience and empathy are our greatest and most reliable tools, as always. Luckily for Val, he has and will always be surrounded by people that love him unconditionally. It’s not hard to do, that’s for sure!! Katherine has provided him with a charmed and bountiful life, and we are ALL so lucky to know him. Please keep him in your hearts as he embarks on his next adventure!! We love you so much, Val!