Friday, July 30, 2010

Respect and the horse

I realise this is old news however I still wanted to post this specific article for those who may have missed it:

You can run but you can't ride

Maybe this is just me being cynical, because there was a huge public outcry in regards to MM's behaviour, but while MM's reaction to his horse's refusal was despicable IMO, it really is nothing new to the horse industry. Just check out your local show where some brat, on her $25,000 horse that mommy and daddy bought her, is beating on her horse. With her parents' and coach's permission, sometimes even with their encouragement. Or what about the general disrespect we are allowing our youth to show their horses? Or that we ourselves, as adults, show our horses?

The barn I currently reside at is mostly western - in fact, there are only two other serious english riders at the barn and I am the only dressage/show jumper. Several times a week however I often end up riding alongside one WP instructor and her students, usually whilst my primary gelding and I do dressage. Her students ride their horses off of their draw reins (the reins from the bit will be around the horn, they actually ride off the draw reins), all ride in huge curb bits and/or twisted wire mouthpieces regardless of the riders' (shitty) hands, most ride with spurs, and it is all about forcing the horse. They do not understand the horse needs to be worked from back to front and thus are constantly forcing these horses to carry themselves in false frames the horses cannot support, riding front to back. When the horse resists - which really is inevitable considering the pain or discomfort they will be in at various times, the horse is punished. Rather than teaching these students to respect their horse and to work with their horse, these riders are told to 'make the horse do what you wish'. Without regard to the horse itself. Go to any show in the area and you will see young and old riders alike treating their horses in the same manner - 'I pay the bills, I am riding you, therefore you will do what I want'. My instructor has countless stories of the youth riders she teaches or works around having no regard for their horses and even some she has had to physically pull off their horses for poor treatment to their mounts (ie. physically beating their horses).

There was a massive outcry towards Morrissey's behaviour, and rightfully so, however was what he did all that different from what many of us see every day, all around us? Was it that much of an extension to hit a horse 13 times to get it over a jump, versus the yank and crank or the other 'abuses' we see day-to-day? Maybe it is time for an industry overhaul and Morrissey was only the beginning?

On a related note, I find it interesting that the same youth I see 'abusing' their horses are the very same who are mouthing off disrespectfully to their parents. They have little social conscience and are disrespectful to those around them - this follows for adult riders as well and how they interact with others. I strongly do feel there is a corrolation between how we treat each other and how we regard our fellow partners and horses. Perhaps it is time for an attitude adjustment for us all?

If you do not think it is possible to consider what your horse wants and how your horse feels - to have the utmost respect for your partner and their dignity, and to regard their needs and wants, while still achieving success (whether it be in the show ring or elsewhere), I can assure you that is not the case. I personally do not want horses who are not happy to work with me in partnership, who are not happy to do as I ask because they want to, because in return I offer them the same respect they provide me. I should be able to take the bridle off of my horse and still be able to jump a course - not because they have been robotically trained, but because my horse is tuned in to me and because he wants to do what I ask, because I don't need a bit in his mouth to keep him with me. I think a lot of riders do have a healthy level of respect for their horse and do have strong bonds with their horses, but take a step back and see if you cannot even further improve your partnership between you and your horse - it should be a continuous progression and goal!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post. I see this all the time at the low level shows I ride at. Snotty kids (but as a parent I must say they've been raised this way) with abusive trainers and neither parent nor child seem to care how stressed their horse is from their riding and training methods.
Oh, and those WP riders with their reins up by their ears in the warm up arena! Drives me nuts.