Sunday, December 27, 2009

a horseman's duties to his horse

This is what I'm thinking about today, regarding new year's resolutions and horses and our commitments to them. Sadly I see many of these responsibilities being ignored on a daily basis.

I try to keep them in mind for myself and the horses, pony, and two handsome miniature donkeys who live with me.

And being bold and somewhat outspoken, I would add to this list:

10. Spread the word about your commitment to these duties through example, and by upholding them even when other horsepeople don't. Speak out for other horses when you need to, clearly and with respect, but most importantly with conviction.

From the German National Equestrian Federation books:


1. Anyone who takes charge of a horse assumes responsibility for the living creature entrusted to his care.

2. The horse's management should reflect its inherent needs.

3. Whatever the horse is used for, the utmost importance should be attached to its physical and mental well-being.

4. Every horse should be treated with the same consideration, irrespective of its race, age and gender, or whether it is used for breeding, leisure or competition.

5. Our understanding of the horse's history and lifestyle, and our knowledge of handling and dealing with horses are part of our cultural heritage. They should be safeguarded and passed on, and handed down to future generations.

6. Contact with horses makes a lasting impression and has a character forming effect especially on young people. The positive effects should be encouraged and built on.

7. The rider, who is the horse's partner, must submit both himself and the horse in charge to a program of training. The aim of this training is the greatest possible harmony between man and horse.

8. The use of the horse for competition or leisure riding, driving or vaulting must be in keeping with its type, its ability, its training and its level of fitness. Trying to improve the horse's performance through the use of drugs or unhorsemanlike practices is unacceptable.

9. The horseman's responsibility for the animal entrusted to him continues until the end of its life. The decisions made must always be based on what is best for the horse.


Grey Horse Matters said...

We are committed to the horses we have for the rest of their lives. I'm not implying that we are perfect, but our horses and each horses specific needs comes first and are taken care of every day. We feel that once you take a horse into your care you are responsible for that horse for the rest of it's life.

I would wish for all the horses in the world to find good and caring partners to take their responsibilities more seriously. I've seen too much abuse and indifference in years past. I think one of the most important things that you said is that we should all teach by example. The generation of riders and trainers coming up should be more educated in their dealings with horses. Education is the key in my opinion and doing what's right should be taught from a young age.

If only everyone would follow the rules set down here I think the horse world would be a wonderful place for everyone concerned.

Have a wonderful Happy Healthy New Year with your family and critters.

billie said...

Arlene, you and j are wonderful examples of horsewomen who do indeed make lifetime commitments to your horses.

Teaching by example is the key, I think, to guiding the younger horsefolk to a higher level of compassion and commitment.

I try to be level-headed when I come across narcissistic and unenlightened use and treatment of horses, especially when the perpetrators are considered the "professionals."

It's both interesting and complex - I personally believe that a life with horses has the potential to make us infinitely better people, but it also seems to attract and bring out some of the worst of our kind.

Happiest of new years to you and yours!

Michelle said...

Billie, you hit the nail on the head with your comment "a life with horses has the potential to make us infinitely better people, but it also seems to attract and bring out some of the worst of our kind."

I do hope that 2010 continues the trend of awareness that started rolling this past year. We all need to be ambassadors for these animals that we love so much that don't have a voice.

billie said...

I hope so too, Michelle. The horses deserve it. We as humans need to grow.

Anonymous said...

I found this post immensely challenging...especially about speaking out regarding trends. I often find myself carefully trying to be non-critical, especially as there are many areas that are personal preference, and the line is one of degree. That makes me doubt whether I have the right to opinionate on a topic, and in fact, I find myself crafting my posts recounting what works for me, rather than dismissing another's path...however, in instances like Rolkur, and some other things I feel that maybe I have avoided tackling due to 1) not wanting to show my ignorance - meaning that sometimes I've said, "I'll never do that" not necessarily horse related, only to find that under certain circumstances I actually would/did.
And 2)not wanting to seem like I'm using controversy to generate hits and comments; pressure which stems from starting in the horse business. And finally 3)certain that my lack of years of experience make me an easy target to dismiss, unlike those who have been established in the equestrian world.

I find myself trying to discern when my opinion might be helpful for someone making a decision about how to approach their horse, or if I'm hiding my opinions in order to be unoffensive. Great post, and as I said, personally challengine. :)

billie said...

Wendy, thanks for a provocative and thoughtful comment!

I understand all of your hesitations and they crop up for me at times as well. However, I am personally willing to risk showing my ignorance when it comes to the welfare of both animals and children, and always have been, for whatever odd reason. (even as a child, when I was terribly shy, I would speak out on behalf of an animal or a person I saw being wronged)

I got a lot better at it when I finished grad school and had child clients who were being victimized by the people in their lives they should have been able to trust, as well as the systems that were supposedly there to protect them. I think those years of advocacy made me realize that many times even when things are wrong, because they are the "norm" and because the "experts" don't always speak out, they continue to be done and accepted.

Sometimes a few people have to really jump up and down and yell to get everyone to wake up and at least look at what is happening. That's my goal here.

I am not really motivated by hits and comments, although it is fun to get visitors and intriguing to see which posts generate the most activity here.

As far as experience and being dismissed, I have to say I don't really think about that much. I figure I have about the same right to an opinion as anyone else, and being a writer I also feel very strongly that many voices are better than only a few in terms of perspectives and offering new ones.

The thing is, in my experience, sometimes speaking out negatively is necessary for change to happen.

I'm willing to be the one to yell, if I believe in something.

Anonymous said...

I knew I would find answers to my self puzzlement if I posted these things here! I think I've been swinging so hard back and forth from my edgy-say-anything-chip-on-the-shoulder way that I used to be, without empathy or even much thought to a different way of being that is more centered and grounded, thoughtful and careful, that I completely tried to leave behind the voice of anger.

I know that there are many times people want to silence anger, such a powerful and motivating force, as it is often misused, but not using the voice of anger and umbrage when it's warrented is just as much a crime. It's just I didn't realize my own silence and motivations for it regarding horses for what it was until I read this post and puzzled over it for a while.

For me, I often doubt my own motivations, and look at myself suspiciously and tend to avoid tackling the controversy in case the greedy part of me has made a grab for hits and stats - one of the reasons I enjoy your blog is the authenticity of your posts, and I guess I feel I'm so used to living behind the facade, that I worry that I've just created a new facade, and that there's no authenticity to found.

Even so, my worries about myself are no reason to avoid speaking least that's what I've concluded. How much, in what way, and what that will look like, I have no idea, but I suppose I'll find out the next time I get riled up about something.

billie said...

Wendy, my experience with people is that when someone is as thoughtful and careful and willing to look at one's interior self as you are, it is highly unlikely there is any lack of authenticity!

Speaking out by example (which I think you do regularly on your blog) is as powerful as jumping up and down.

In the case of horses, I feel that the voice of the "regular horse people" - i.e. those that live with horses, care for them on a daily basis, and aren't based in the competition world - is what needs to be heard loud and clear right now.

As an example: I had a request for info today from someone very "visible" in the dressage world. I don't know the motives behind the request, but it was in response to one of my "negative" posts about an upper level rider. It was a moment when I realized that there's at least the possibility that someone is questioning something perhaps previously taken for granted.

I don't know. In my mind it's the thoughtful, authentic seekers in the world I most want to hear from about things - even when they aren't necessarily the "experts" on a topic.

At this point I'm off on my own tangent, but thanks for leading me there!