Friday, March 15, 2013

Do horses make fools of us? Or do we do that just fine by ourselves?

I commented on a blog yesterday that horses do what they do. We humans are really good at making fools of ourselves, like in the video shown of a girl hitting her horse with a crop after she fell off over a jump.

I'll state it more strongly here: horses do not make fools of us. They live under the thumb of our care, our idea of horse management, the training we put them through, and the rides we give them. For most horses in the world, they don't get a say in any of the above.

They eat what we feed them, live in the conditions we create, get training based on the "knowledge" of whatever trainer we hire or our own, and endure ride after ride in which we sit on them and expect them to carry us around arenas, over jumps, on trails, without doing any of the instinctual responses they carry in their very DNA.

If we come off over a jump, if we come off during a spook, if we don't win the blue ribbon, if the horse doesn't go forward, if the horse chews something we value, if the horse kicks in a stall door, if the horse develops vices due to being bored our of his mind, or kept in perpetual pain due to untreated injuries/conditions - whatever the horse does or does not do, our response to that is in fact OUR RESPONSIBILITY.

And if we choose to act like fools, then guess what? We are fools.

The horse has nothing to do with it.

There is no excuse for going after a horse with a crop or whip or any other object. NONE.

I've smacked rumps and necks and shoulders with the palm of my hand, and I'm not proud of that. There are better ways to deal with issues, mostly boundary issues, that come up between horses and riders. I've tossed an empty water bucket at the pony's butt when he whirled it at me one time and I'm not proud of that either.

But I have never, ever, nor can I imagine doing it, taken a whip or a crop and gone at a horse with it. If  your anger gets to that point you need to step way back and take a good hard look at your own anger issue, because you do have one.

Pretending this kind of outburst is a one-time thing simply perpetuates the behavior. We who ride horses, live with horses, love the things that our horses allow us to do, like enter shows and win ribbons and trophies, have a responsibility to report the behavior of fools when we see it.

Show the horror you feel. Speak out to the rider. "Stop hitting that horse" is simple and direct, and even if you aren't prepared to intervene further, it lets everyone in the area know that what you are seeing is not okay. Report to the show manager. Nothing is gained by walking past and hoping it's a one-time thing.

The truth about horses is that they teach us about ourselves. They teach many of us that we too have the capacity to act like fools. They teach some that they have deep and underlying issues that need to be addressed with a mental health professional.

If we take responsibility for the times we act like fools, we become better people. And that's a gift our horses give to us. We should treat them like princesses and kings. We should throw the whip away and say THANK YOU. Thank you for helping me learn who I am and who I want to become.


Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Val has certainly educated me about anger management. (specifically addressing frustration before it intensifies to anger) ;D

That said, around here it's more often neglect rather than abuse that needs to be confronted. Still not excusable.

Anonymous said...

That's the main reason I stopped showing or going to shows - there was too much of that kind of stuff going on - some people seem to think everything is the horse's fault, which means they understand very little about horses and horsemanship. I think demonstrating good horsemanship and treatment of horses and understanding that horses have good horse reasons for everything they do (and aren't "out to get us") does sometime change minds - I know that's how I learned that lesson.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I will never agree with anyone who takes a whip or crop to a horse in anger. There simply isn't a good reason to treat any animal like that, they don't deserve the abuse. It's almost always the riders fault when something goes wrong and it's up to us to figure it out.

That said Dusty can be the most frustrating horse in the world I've ever dealt with and there have been a few times I had to step off and just hand walk her before things escalated. There's always tomorrow. Horses and children have taught me patience and looking for reasonable solutions to a problem.

And I agree that if Gwen see abuse we should speak up for the abused.

billie said...

C, thanks for sharing your experience.

billie said...

Kate, thanks for the comment.

billie said...

A, the "difficult" ones teach us the most, I think!