“Our quality of work is their quality of life”

This is a common quote in animal and human care related jobs. It’s vital we remember this key point. It’s easy to get lost in our daily life, letting our mood or distractions reduce our quality of work. This is fairly typical in all jobs, especially when we are an employee or volunteer in a care position, it’s easy to say “it’s just a job/volunteer, it doesn’t have to be perfect”. In most jobs we need to remember a healthy work/life balance and not let our job overwhelm us or take over our lives, it’s just a job! But in a care position it takes a little more than that. The thing is, it’s not just a job when you are a caretaker – it is our animal’s whole life.

Our animals spend their lives at the mercy of our care, if we don’t feel like cleaning, if we are too busy to toss some extra hay, if we just aren’t up for cleaning and refilling their water – our horses go hungry, live in filth, or even become ill. They can’t just go get food elsewhere or refill their own water buckets. While there are some tools and ways to set up the animal’s environment for greater ease, but even with the best set up and nicest tools, everything still needs care. The tools need to be maintained, food needs to be dished out, items need to be cleaned, and waste needs to be removed.

We are blessed with a wonderful herd of volunteers of all ages who really recognize that the quality of their work is the quality of the horse’s life. We use pellet bedding for easy cleaning, so much less waste, easier storage (we can hold about 250 bags in our shed, shavings take much more space). But our old Belgian at 33y.o and 2000lbs he had begun to get pressure sores, no matter how thickly we bedded his stall. Taina’s feet hurt when they get cold, so while it’s more expensive, more work, and super inconvenient for us, we have added plenty of fluffy shavings to give them a soft, warm place to sleep. Inconvenience or extra work for us is the difference between spending their nights in pain or in comfort, getting good rest or suffering. To us, this isn’t even a question. Our volunteers go the extra mile to ensure our horses aren’t just cared for well, but also have plenty of enrichment, training, and fun. I couldn’t be more proud and grateful for our crew.

While their care is often rewarded by lots of fun time spent with the horses, doing agility, training new skills, and just being awesome snuggle buddies – sometimes the work is just alot. We get burnt out. Caretaking is an exhausting job, physically and emotionally. When the work is hard, our bodies struggle to keep up, and in rescue, sometimes even if we do the best we can, we can’t fix everything. Sometimes our horses struggle with health or pain issues, sometimes they don’t appear very grateful for our hard work, sometimes even with everything we do, they still pass away. This can be a very defeating and draining job. It takes great inner strength for these volunteers to chose to continue to provide care and love, money and labor, even when the personal cost outweighs the benefits. When our animals pass, when we know we are fighting against inevitable loss and personal suffering, when we know we are going to lose the battle – it takes a special person to continue to chose to do what’s right.

It’s important to take care of ourselves, remain grateful for our supporters, and to support each other throughout the hard times. We are in this fight together with the same goal of providing a great life for animals who otherwise wouldn’t.

Leave a Reply