Dissy and Freak
We have quickly realized that facing difficult decisions is a common occurrence on the homestead. And so it goes... we are currently facing one.
We got pretty lucky finding this homestead. We had a dream of purchasing a home with a few acres and building or morphing it into a homestead. That was not really necessary with this place, as it came with everything we needed and more. A chicken coop, fenced in pastures, a garden, an outdoor cold smoker, a barn and sheds, just to name a few things. But our homestead came with two extra "items" that do not typically come with the purchase of a home, nor that we were really expecting: an enormous Belgian draft horse and a goat.
Dissy, our horse, was born on this property about five years ago.
Her mother’s name was Rose, and the former owner of our property said Dissy’s name came from the fact that she was “born in disaray.” Eventually he gave Dissy’s mother away to a trail-riding farm nearby, but he was not ready to give Dissy up. She was particularly special to him and his wife because she was born here, and they were there to witness it. After giving Rose away, Dissy needed a companion so he purchased an older male goat and named him Freak.
When we first visited the property and he was giving us the tour, I inquired where the name came from. His response: “He’s wild.” And after living here over a year, and only recently getting Freak to come within an arm’s reach of us, we’ve realized that that statement and his name are both pretty accurate.
Despite his timidness, Freak LOVES Dissy. Everywhere Dissy walks, Freak is trailing behind. If she’s visiting us (AKA begging for snacks) at the gate, Freak is usually weaving around her back legs, rubbing his head on them like a cat. We have even caught them playing together. Dissy will walk through the field, and Freak will run ahead of her and leap and twirl in front of her. Sometimes Dissy will roll around on the ground as well (which is sort of crazy to watch a 2,000 pound draft horse do). They definitely bring a certain beautiful, cute and entertaining aura to the farm.
However, after caring for them and growing more attached to them for over a year, one fact still remains: we were not anticipating the cost of caring for a draft horse, nor do we have any idea what we are doing.
The former owner of our home is also our neighbor. He built his own log cabin (which is pretty damn impressive) right up the road and moved there. One thing he didn’t include on his new property was an enclosure for farm animals. When he expressed to us that he wasn’t sure what he would do with Dissy and Freak when he moved, we quickly agreed that if he still paid for their feed and other needs, we would be happy to keep and care for them at our place when we moved in. I guess living up the road and seeing your animals much less often makes it easier to give them up, because after one winter of paying for their feed, “His animals live here and we care for them, but he pays for their food,” quickly became, “we sort of inherited a horse and a goat with our homestead.”
We thought we could deal with the cost of feeding them (Dissy mostly...that girl eats like a damn horse) if we could figure out a way to use her on the farm. Logan even had a dream one night before we moved about “giving the horse a chance.” “Maybe she could plow the garden! We can ride her, or even get her to pull a sleigh at Christmas-time!” It all sounded good in theory, but one big problem stood in the way: Dissy has had practically zero training. We tried leading her around the yard numerous times, but this girl is STUBBORN. Let me tell you, if a 2,000 pound horse does not want to move, you are NOT going to get it to, at least if you don’t know what you’re doing, like us. We even had a couple horse experts come and pay her a free visit. Both essentially said the same thing: she’s a beautiful horse; she has potential, but she’s intimidating and needs professional training. Unfortunately, we were just not ready to drop that kind of money on a horse that was essentially dropped on us. But we also weren’t ready to give her up.
So in her field she has stayed. She has plenty of space, food and water and we try to visit her once a day and talk to her and pet her a little. But as the months have passed, and we’ve continued to look at her out in that field, with no other horses and nothing to do, we have realized that this cannot be the place where she can be the happiest. She needs a job, or at least someone who knows how to give her the proper stimulation to make her happy.
So after over a year of deliberating, we have finally come to the conclusion that finding Dissy and Freak a new home will be the best thing for both them and us.
One major goal we have with our farm is to adopt more and more permaculture principles. One of the major aspects of permaculture is that everything (and everyone) on your farm must contribute in some way. Unfortunately, despite her beauty, a horse that simply stands out in the field and eats does not contribute anything we need to our homestead.
And she cannot realize her full happiness simply standing out in a field and eating either. Someone else can make her much happier.
Giving these two away does not mean we do not love them. They will NOT be going to just anyone. The fit has to be right. Whoever adopts Dissy MUST also take Freak. I could never imagine separating these two companions. We would also like the new owner to already own and have experience with horses (and possibly goats). And we really hope that whoever takes them will allow us to visit, because despite realizing this is the best option for everyone, we will still be sad to see them go.
A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law suggested that I should write a childrens’ book about Dissy and Freak and my sister should do the illustrations. I am hoping the ending can go something like “Finally Dissy and Freak found a home with many other horses and goats, where everything was just right and Dissy’s life was no longer in disaray.”