Everywhere I go I see older horses that are frightened of humans. Riding horses, brood mares, competition horses. Horses of all shapes and sizes, from four years old to twenty four years old. I see horses that are nervous and worried every time they’re approached, let alone handled or ridden.
I’ve read that’s there’s been a great revolution in horse training in the last thirty years. Horses are supposedly handled much better these days. I beg to differ. The way that many horses are handled hasn’t improved. It’s still barbaric.
It’s amazing to me that in this day and age, prominent horse magazines still print articles saying tying a horse down on the ground is a good thing. There are examples all over the internet of trainers roping horses’ legs, tying horses up to fight and saddling young horses for the first time and letting them buck. Audiences clap and cheer as they watch horses bucking around when they’re first saddled. Spectators seem to think it’s okay when horses are harassed with tarps and flags and chased to the point of exhaustion.
It seems that whenever there’s a problem, lots of trainers still revert to ropes and restraints and force. Trainers will tell you that they have to keep going until the horse submits. It’s like a battle that the trainer must win at all costs.
There’s one huge problem with this. Horses don’t know that they’re supposed to “submit”. Horses have no concept of winning or losing. The only reason that a horse bucks and fights is because he’s frightened and confused and doesn’t understand what’s going on. A confident, relaxed horse will gladly do what’s wanted if he understands the lesson. A terrified horse will fight to the end.
Horses should never be chased to the point of exhaustion or harassed with flags and tarps or have their legs roped or be tied up to fight, or saddled up and let go to buck. Next time you see a horse bucking when saddled for the first time, pulling back at a post, kicking when his legs are roped or being chased in a round yard, please remember if the horse was confident and relaxed and knew what was wanted, he wouldn’t put himself through such trauma.
Whenever a trainer says, “It doesn’t matter if a horse bucks, he’s gotta work things out for himself” or “He’s just gotta learn to carry the saddle, he’ll get used to it” or “He’ll soon get sick of pulling back”, you can be sure that it’s actually the trainer who can’t “work it out”. The trainer doesn’t know how to saddle a young horse without bucking or how to teach a horse to tie up without pulling back. It’s the trainer who doesn’t know how to handle a horse’s legs, so they use force and ropes and restraints and say that it doesn’t matter. Maybe these people don’t realise how terrifying and cruel these situations are for horses.
It’s not always easy to find a way around a frightened horse but there’s no excuse for standing by while young horses buck around in sheer terror or pull back at a post. And there’s no excuse for using restraints in any training situation.
There’s a lot of publicity these days about people being bullied on social media, at school and in the workplace. And yet the bullying of horses is widespread and condoned by many prominent trainers.
There is a better way to teach our horses than chasing and restraining and terrifying them. It’s time for everyone in the horse world to recognize this and do something about it.
Read more on this subject here: www.fearfreehorsetraining.com/blog/in-defence-of-the-horse