Zed is a field ornament these days.
A week after I bought him back into work he started to feel unsound on his left hind so I turned him away with a plan to reevaluate from month to month.
At first I felt pretty frustrated, but as the weeks have passed, so has the annoyance.
Now I enjoy my daily pilgrimage to his field to give him a scratch and count his legs. Sometimes I only stay for a couple of minutes, sometimes much longer. It depends what mood he's in. When he's busy eating and socialising, I keep it short. But some days he wants me to stay, and puts his head on my arm. I talk to him and fuss him and he yawns and pulls faces.
Today he was asleep in the warm sun, flat out, with his friends, so I sat and scratched his neck till he fell asleep again.
That frustration from the early days of his semi-retirement came from a stew of complicated beliefs: that a horse should earn his keep, that a horse standing in the field is a waste of money, that sitting around waiting for him to mend was somehow making a mug of me.
And below all that, the belief that animals are here for us to be used as we please, and that their existence hangs in the balance of whether we deem them valuable.
Every now and again something horrific pops up on my FB timeline about what happens when humans treat animals as things. Usually slaughter methods verging on the psychopathic. When that happens my stomach turns and I usually cry and dwell on it for a long time: how can we do the things we do?
But maybe these horrific acts are just at the far end of a spectrum that I myself am part of, when I think about my horse, and deduce that his value is less because he can't currently do what I want him to do?
Pretty sobering stuff! To forget that every living thing has its own validity, totally independent of our reckoning.
And I think it's pretty limited for me to say Zed is only useful if he's in work. If we love horses because of the qualities they encourage, then an injured horse actually has a lot to offer.
Patience, stoicism, generosity, and the chance to step back and think what really matters - these are all things I can dwell on while I watch my horse peacefully eating with his friends.