Essays of an Equestrian

Since the dawn of the time wherever there appeared the footsteps of man, the hoof prints of the horse were beside. Since time immemorial, horses and other equines have been there for us in multiple capacities.

First, we hunted and ate them. Some of us still eat them now. We have used them to pull our wagons, carts and coaches. We have put them into wartime use and untold millions of them have thus suffered, left in bloody messes on some battlefield to die. They have mined coal for us and journeyed across deserts and over mountains where only goats should travel.

They have pioneered the wilderness for us, and delivered our mail. They’ve earned us income and have fed our families through this income.

We have raced them, throwing them away when they couldn’t race to our satisfaction any more. We have whipped them, spurred them, cranked and yanked them. We have starved them and we have abandoned them leaving them to die. We have used them for medical research and have farmed medications and anti-venoms through them.

They have given us status, so much so that Kings and Emperors have ridden them for tribute and parade. We’ve shot them from helicopters and we’ve transported them in cramped quarters to their final demise. We’ve roped them and tripped them, and captured them sending a bullet across their withers. We’ve taken away their land and culled them cruelly offering excuses in the same breath as we issue a commemorative stamp.

We bring cold inhumane treatment, maiming and killing for the creature who would work for us until they drop.

And yet somehow, they still seem to like us, and we proclaim to like them too. We humans have a strange way of showing it.

Throughout history and continuing on to this day, we have used them up and spit them out, discarding them. They have been both essential and they have been expendable.

As far as partnerships go, they have been a far better friend to us than we have been to them. No other animal has so affected the history of mankind as the horse and perhaps no other animal has paid so heavy a price.

But now the time of our soiled betrayal of the horse must come to an end.

Now, given the fact that we consider ourselves civilized we are compelled to begin to act civilized, and so shall no longer forego the best interest of the horse for our own ego and profit.

This requires us to become mobilized and self aware. We must look outward and at the same time inward.

A serious reevaluation of all our practices, in every discipline is in order.

I ask all equestrians to now sit back and think of their day to day practices. Think of how you ride your horse and the cues and equipment that you use. Consider the bit you use and when you jerk on the reins the discomfort that bit will cause. Consider when you use the spur into a horses belly if you’ve used that spur sparingly or impatiently.

Consider if you as a rider could accomplish the same goal with your horse, but in a new manner, one brought forth with education, and with technique instead of force.  Consider if you’ve hired a professional to ride and train your horse if perhaps your horse’s soul and spirit is the better or worse for it. Reevaluate every professional and watch what they do, and how the horse reacts.

For not only is each horse a living, breathing, feeling noble creature, it is a soul. And in our dealings with each of these souls we should consider if we are doing our partnership and friendship justice. We must consider if perhaps another path is the one bettered followed.

We must be self aware.

It is with like thinking that 41,000 horsemen have signed the petition to ban rolkur and hyperflexion from warm up arenas. So what does the FEI, the international body charged with equine preservation do? They say instead that abuse, in small doses, is fine.

Some would see FEI’s actions as a positive yet small start. I do not see it that way. It is beyond my comprehension that there are influencing pressures driven by money, prestige and greed that would override the FEI’s promise of commitment of preserving the best interest of the horses that compete in their events. The FEI must uphold their own rules.

Yet rather than upholding their very own rules (Article 401) which define and ban abuses such as rolkur and hyperflexion, the FEI has in effect determined that abuse for short periods of time is permissible, in the name of more dramatic and exaggerated horse movement.

This is insufficient.

We must continue to make our voices heard and speak for the horse who cannot speak for itself. We, as a civilized society, must finally act civilized.

I would also ask of you something further. In addition to examining the actions of the FEI I would ask you to go even further and examine your own practices and every aspect of what we do ourselves.

With open eyes I have evaluated my own equestrian history and have come to realize that I am not proud of some things I have done. This I cannot change, but I can change what I do from now on.

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”  ~Mahatma Ghandi

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The good will of the horse is like the scent of a rose. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.