ON THE SUBJECT OF HORSE ABUSE — BY DON JESSOP
This popular international magazine came in the mail today. When I saw the cover photo I was shocked and more than a little heart broken.
Mens Health Magazine is unwittingly promoting horse abuse by showing a “cool” picture of a famous actor (one of my favorite actors) riding a confused and frustrated horse. You can see his tail is swishing, his mouth is wide open and his neck is craned to avoid the pressure coming from the reins. It could be just a bad moment caught on camera, but why would anyone think that’s a good picture for people to see. Can you believe it? How many people see pictures like this, and think it is o.k, and continue to ignorantly enslave the horse. I’m not saying people do bad things on purpose. I’m saying they do abusive things on accident. Often because they simply don’t know better and the world around them doesn’t know any better either. But let me say, it doesn’t matter. Not unless you’re willing to help us make a difference. Mastery Horsemanship is passionate about changing the world for horses. Share this article and help us tell the world to STOP horse abuse.
There are five main types of abuse to consider. All of which we hope to change for future generations of horse owners and their horses. Here they are:
Unwarranted physical striking:
This means you kick or strike a horse for not doing what you want. It’s that simple. Let’s say he won’t go across a stream, so you beat the shit out him to cross the stream. This is abuse! There is a better, slower, and healthier way to achieve goals like this. I’m not saying there isn’t a time and place to be firm. Sometimes, if you’re life depends on it, you have to be firm. Horses need to know boundaries just to be safe around humans. It’s one of the first lessons dolphins get with a good dolphin trainer. You can’t have a thousand pound animal slamming and crushing you into the ground. But once boundaries are clearly set you almost never have to be firm again. Especially in a learning situation. Just because a horse won’t get in the trailer for instance, it doesn’t mean you should smash him with your stick. I want my readers to take my courses and learn a better way to be direct and firm, with better timing. Please help me make a difference for ignorant riders, owners, and trainers, by sharing this article, reading my book, and taking my on-line training courses. I’ve decided to give away the first course absolutely free, just to get people started. Check it out!
Neglect: This means leaving a horse to fend for himself without any resources to survive, let alone thrive. Have you ever seen a starving horse? I have. It’s horrific! Have you ever seen a horse’s feet grow so long they look like look like curly skis? I have. The horse can barely walk. There are certain health concerns that all horses need, including food, water, safe fencing, some form of shelter for harsh elements and hoof and dental care because their feet and teeth (just like our finger nails) never quit growing.
Isolation: After a horse meets her need to survive, she desperately needs positive stimulus. That can come in the form of companionship. Horse are herd animals and although, they can easily injure each other by kicking and biting, they still need to connect socially. Even if it’s from the other side of a fence. Have you ever seen an isolated horse try to chew his way out of his stall? Have you ever seen a horse develop cribbing, weaving, pawing, and other psychological problems? I have. And it’s terrifying. Too many horse owners (probably not you, if you’re reading this) don’t even consider the horses brain. It’s one of the saddest things I can describe to see a horse behind bars. And what did she do, to deserve this treatment? Did she commit some crime or is it more likely the insecurities of her owner that prevents this horse from enjoying companionship? I have a hard time even writing about this. But I feel I have to. Please help me share my passion for making horses lives better in the future, than they are today.
Confinement: Different from isolation, although not always separate, is confinement abuse. This means the space in which the horse lives is simply too small. I’ve seen as many as ten horses living it a space no bigger than a fifty foot round pen. I’m not talking about training. I’m talking about “living.” Some people collect horses and don’t have space for them. Other people simply don’t care. They think their beautiful facilities will be appreciated by their horse. But horses don’t care how nice your wood paneling is. Horses need space. They don’t need thousands of acres. They just need enough space to express themselves with movement and speed. If you don’t have the space, you can add other types of daily positive stimulus (such as trail riding) to counteract the effects of confinement. I hope you see the value of space. Horses need room to move. Horses in confinement develop all the same negative psychological traits that horses in isolation develop. All of this is in my book. Check it out.
Over training or incorrect training:
Pushing a horse to muscular fatigue is abusive and will cause injury. I’m not saying you shouldn’t grow a horse’s fitness. I’m saying you shouldn’t push leg muscles and joints to their maximum, day after day. And the same goes for all the other muscles. Such as neck, jaw and back muscles. Which are needed to create flexion and roundness and performance power. Some trainers work on their horses beautiful posture and balance to the point of fatigue. Which in the end, causes the horse to hollow his back and brace against your suggestions, therefore increasing the risk of physical and psychological injury. Some trainers don’t do anything at all to help their horses balance while in motion or carrying a rider, which can be abusive all by itself. We have to be careful about how long and how hard we train. We have to be careful about a horses physical balance, and other physical needs such as oxygen, and heart rates. A horses brain, muscles and joints, as strong as they are, aren’t indifferent to pain and injury.
I’m sure there are other types of abuse that could be derived from these basic concepts and I’m happy for you to comment and share your opinion. Most of all, I want you to share this article. The world is changing fast, but horses (one of our national treasures), are still being mistreated every day.
Thanks for reading. Comment below.