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Dear Bob,

I'm a novice horse person of two years, and I know of a four-year-old that has been confined to a stall for three years of his life. He may get out at times in a round pen, but spends 90% of his time being stalled up. The people who own this quarter horse are in their seventies, and have another 30 head. They raise horses as a hobby and are wonderful people, but it really concerns me to see this wonderful animal penned up. Will he be okay?

I would purchase this guy, but school tuition for our two children comes first. Boarding costs prohibit me from owning a horse at this time.

Thanks for listening, and have a great day.


- R. B.

P.S. To curb my need to be around horses, I volunteer at a therapeutic riding center in Shelbyville, Kentucky. It's great!


Will he suffer a serious physical problem from being kept in a stall most of the time? Probably not. Or at least not very much. During the horse-and-buggy era, a lot of horses in the cities were kept in stables smaller than a one-car garage and rarely got outside except for a short trip to the store or church. They lived through it.

Will he suffer mentally or emotionally? I'd guess it's fairly likely. A horse is a grazing, herd-oriented animal. A stall may give him a sense of comfort and security, but he won't develop the normal horse behavior patterns. Basically, he'll likely become like the dispirited plugs we associate with the horse-and-buggy age.

The biggest problem, from my point of view, doesn't relate to any of the above. I'd be most concerned about the simple fact that this worthwhile animal is simply going to waste. He doesn't serve any purpose while he's just standing in a stall.

I sense that you have a similar feeling.

So, where do we stand?

1) A couple of "wonderful," experienced horse people, well along in years, aren't getting the most value out of their animals.

2) You love to be around horses, but don't have the cash to own horses of your own.

It may take a bit of your time, but why not offer to help your friends with their horses in exchange for the experience and mentoring your older friends can provide. You don't mention if your kids are still at home, but working with horses can also be a valuable learning and recreational activity for kids. If they do a good job of caring for those horses, it can also give them good work experience - and a reference to put on a job application later on.

Your friends seem to have something of a surplus of horses on their hands, so here's another option to consider: would they be willing to "pay" you for your work by letting you have some of the stock? A sound, well-trained horse could sell for enough to take a sizeable dent out of your kids' tuition. You, your friends, and your kids would all win by such an arrangement. (Reducing the size of the herd might also reduce the financial burden on your friends.)

It's something to think about.

In the meantime, I applaud your work with the therapeutic riding center. they really have a big impact in the lives of the handicapped riders. We have one in our neck of the woods, and it's so valuable that our tiny church even underwrites a "scholarship" there so that some needy kid can experience the benefit of it.

Happy Riding!

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