COLUMN: Horses vs. kids: Know when to say silent

Farm Forum

Recently I was on a tour bus in New York, where we stopped at a horse sanctuary. Although the tour was very interesting and eye-opening, it led to a few discoveries about me.

It was a first for me: I had to walk away from a conversation knowing that I could not express the ideas and opinions in my head. It wasn’t because I wasn’t sure what to say, or how to word it, it was because I knew that we were too far apart in the conversation. We would never see eye-to-eye and neither of us would be able to be rational in our discussion.

When the conversation turned to horse slaughter, and comments were being made that equated the horses in the rescue to children, I knew that our views were not compatible. So I decided to walk away. Sometimes in life you need to know “when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em,” and this was one of those moments.

The woman leading the tour was determined to make connections that I could never make. At no point in my life could I ever equate the life of an animal to that of one of my children. No matter what the case may be.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our pets and our stock, but there is a great difference between caring for our black labs, and taking care of my children. Although I have a responsibility to both, one is far more reaching than the other. A rat is not a dog is not a boy — no matter what catchy authors may say.

So, why did I walk away?

Well, the answer is rather simple. It was the right thing to do. We were on a tour, I was a guest on a farm and I had no business criticizing her decisions on her home turf. It would have been rude, impolite and unacceptable. But it doesn’t change how I feel, and it most certainly didn’t change my opinion.

Now, had she asked me directly my opinion, or invited dissenting conversation, well, that would have been another situation all together. And as much as I would have been not completely prepared for that type of situation, I would have enjoyed the ability to engage someone on that level. It can be a great practice of your ability to keep your calm and responding properly.

But I did learn a lesson on how to walk away, and exercising control. It wasn’t easy, and it took a few deep-breathing exercises, but it was a learning tool.

My tongue will heal from biting it, my brain is spinning from the information and I was motivated to break out my blog. So it was a great experience.

At the end of the tour, the lady in charge asked for donations from anyone so moved to open their checkbooks. But I will admit that I did not leave anything in the donation box. That was as loud of a statement that I could make.

Val Wagner loves raising her four boys on the farm in Dickey County, along with her husband, Mark. Catch her blog, Wag’n Tales, at, or follow one of their cows on Twitter at Cows_Life. Contact her at