Admitting Defeat: When A Homestead Animal Doesn’t Work Out
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We meant well…
We really did.
A couple of years ago, a friend gave us an older pony, thinking she’d be great with the kids. Now like all of our animal friends, this pony had a back story: 18 years ago, Diamond’s mother had refused to accept her at birth and she had been bottle raised by my former 4-H leader, Jane. Diamond rode to work with her every day on the seat of the truck. Foals who are not raised by their mothers sometimes don’t learn proper horsey manners early on, and they can be a little…pushy. Get in your personal space. They might play a little too rough with their human friends.
Diamond, it turned out, by the age of 16, was no exception. She bit. She kicked. She struck out with her front hooves. She ran at the children. She TERRIFIED our big old Boer buck. Attacked our dogs without provocation. When the big strapping farrier came to trim her hooves, she literally threw him on the ground.
It wasn’t pretty.
We decided Diamond could not stay. She could certainly be worked with by a knowledgeable person, because she’s very smart, and just cute as a button, but she was just too much of a danger to the children, current and future. We had a foster child visit, and over the summer, we were working towards adopting a wonderful young man with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Not only is my time limited, but the danger factor to the children was just too high.
Still, I’ve been a horse lover all my life. And I knew Diamond’s chances at finding a good home, even ANY home, with her (cough) personality and lack of training were slim, at best, in our area. THIS WAS HEARTBREAKING. And honestly, I felt like a failure. I had failed Diamond, and I knew it.
But adulting, and parenting, especially, calls for hard choices sometimes. And sometimes, it’s OK to fail, because we learn from those failures, don’t we?
Spoiler Alert: The Fairytale Ending! (That almost never happens)
I got in touch with Jane, and she had moved and was totally willing to come get her. (PRAISE GOD!)
Jane was my 4-H leader growing up. And I doubt there’s ever been a better one, but I *could* be biased! Diamond’s whole personality changed when Jane took the lead. Jane is her person.
The hardest part of living with animals is accepting that you will have to say goodbye, one way or another. This time, it all ended well. Diamond is home with Jane, back to her birthplace, actually, in knee-high grass, with a livestock guardian dog and more goats to chase. I hope her next 18 years will be peaceful and happy!!
If you live a homesteading lifestyle and have reached a place with some of your animals that you will have to make some hard decisions, believe me, I do understand. We were so blessed that this worked out as well as it did.
Here are some suggestions to keep this from happening on your homestead:
- Research, research, research. We accepted Diamond without asking a lot of questions. Research everything you can, both in general about the species or breed, but also about the individual. Animals are a huge responsibility, obviously.
- Consider everyone in the family and your other livestock. I assumed that I would be able to handle her, because I am experienced with horses. While that may be true, I am in a different season of life now and our children are certainly not able to handle an animal with any aggressive tendencies.
- Do you have a budget? Have you checked to see if you can really afford this? This is HUGE.
- Have your facilities – thing like pens, shelters, fencing, hay and feed handling equipment, manure management plan, watering system, even emergency evacuation plans – ready BEFORE your animals come home. What if you have to separate a sick animal from the others? Are you prepared for that?
- If this species or breed is new to you, can you visit someone who has these same critters? Some of us are just a better fit for some breeds than others.
Even those of us who SHOULD know better, sometimes forget these things.
Until later, wishing you health, happiness, and peace in your journey!
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