Thursday, February 10, 2011

They are so Forgiving

This topic has been on my mind for a while, but I never really formulated it in my mind as a blog topic, well until now. I think we can all safely agree that horses (animals in general) can be all too forgiving, but I suppose that is what we love about them too. This post is inspired by the ignorance we all see from those horse enthusiats around us. Im talking most specifically about horses in poor condition, but not necessarily neglected. Those horses with good intentioned owners, but not necessarily the knowledge (or maybe even means) to see to it that their horses are in the conditional that they could (or should) be. But what amazes me more, are those horses in the not greatest of condition are still so unconditionally loving to their human partners, and forgiving for their short comings and ignorance.

I'm talking about the back yard horse owner, the enthusiastic young rider, and even the competitor. Now, I do want to mention before I continue that this post is not to put anyone down, or say that any of the mentioned are abusive, wrong, etc. This post is simply my opinion being expressed about the amazing ability horses have to trust and love unconditionally, even when lacking in some care.

The back yard owner is the one who may or may not have lots of experience with horses. They generally keep their horse at home (hence the title given) and may or may not have the best of living conditions for their horse. They love their horse(s) and give them decent feed, they may seek veterinary care when needed, and generally have less than high quality equipment. This could be the person that feeds well, but doesnt worm. They could be the one who feeds terrifically, but has poor tack and equipment. They could love their horse more than anything else, but have unsafe and hazardous living conditions. And yet, the majority of horses will love that owner, but suffer from a wormy belly, a sore and weak back, and dank living conditions, among other possible ailments that could easily (to ignorant eyes) be overlooked. I think this is a large portion of horse owners. While they might love their horse and believe that they are giving them quality care, most of the time their ailment is simply ignorance and lacking some sort of guidance - be that a trainer, or another horse friend perhaps.

Then you have the enthusiastic rider. The young person who has fanasied having a horse and is now on the early steps of learning more about these fabulous creatures. They could be the rider who has unforgiving and unknowledgable hands, usually banding and flapping around on their horse's back while the (typically) trusty old school horse tunes out the rider's imperfections and plods along. This rider really doesnt "bother" me persay simply because I would like to assume that they are learning how to ride properly, and are not necessarily being "abusive" to the horse. Thats not to say though that we can overlook what is being done to the patient equine, and we need to make sure that we are giving back to the complacent stead.

Now on to the competative rider. This is probably my biggest pet peeve in observing riders. Its hard to watch someone blatently pushing their horse around demanding a "headset", spurring their sides and pulling back, and demanding some sort of "perfection" from the horse that the rider sees fit to win whatever competition they are in. Watching people get so frustrated with their animal either in warm up, during their time in the show ring, and especially after what might have been a ride where the animal didnt work up to the rider's "standards". I hate to see what seems to be a perfectly willing horse come out of the show arena to only be worked into the ground because the rider is unhappy with its performance in the show ring. This is not to say that schooling after a run is bad, because it certainly is not. But taking frustrations out on the horse simply because it didnt do as well as you might think it should have been is wrong. And it amazes me how horses (typically, of course not always) put up with their heads being reemed off, their sides kicked in, and being so overly worked out of frustration. It truly amazes me how these animals will work so hard to please us.

Finally, saddle fitting, or general tack equipment failure is so grotesquely overlooked and ignorance to proper saddle fitting is so common. Im not going to preach how knowledgable I am in this area, because frankly, up until about six months ago I thought I "knew it all" when in reality, I only had the bare bones of knowledge. But it pains me to see people (especially those who are trainers) to be riding and working in such ill fitting equipment and either be ignorant to it's true fit, or simply dont care. I understand everyone has a budget, and people most likely try and fit whatever saddle they have or can get access to as best as possible, but it really irks me how commonly incorrect people are to a true and correct fitting saddle. Its just amazing for me to imagine the horse working as best as it can with a thirty pound saddle strapped down to them and digging between their shoulders. Then to add a hundred fifty (or more) weighing person only pushes those pressure points deeper into their back. Makes my back hurt even thinking about it.

Now, Im sure this post can be taken as me thinking so high and mighty of myself. I really am not. I have very very much to learn in the world of horses, and feel that every day as I learn more, I discover how little I actually did know. I think everyone should make a conscious effort to educate those ignorant, but willing to learn around us. Because we can never give back to the patient horses without educating their owners. And of course, some owners will think they "know it all" and are unwilling to learn, but trying for the horse's sake at least is some effort.

I dont really feel like Im touching on the entire sugject that I have in my mind...but it is a rather vast subject. Maybe we can continue it in the comments with your input? What are your thoughts an opinons on these less then perfectly cared for horses we all see, but arent in such bad condition that you might consider it abuse?


Anonymous said...

I stopped competing for precisely the reasons you stated. I got tired of seeing riders, including trainers, mistreating or overworking horses when the problems where almost always the rider's fault in the first place.

Quality care is as important as good instruction. I think the best thing we can do, in whatever horse environment we're in, is to continue to learn ourselves - we all have a lot to learn, and it never ends - and to provide the best example to others we can with our care and treatment of our horses.

The Internet has actually made a positive difference, I think - new horse owners now have access to a lot more information on how to care for their horse and treat it humanely.

paint_horse_milo said...

The worst is when people have horses that are in less then ideal conditions be it tack, feed, or property, and when offered help and advice, the people get all snippy and defensive and are too close minded to listen to advice when given.

Gooddog_baddog said...

I'm constantly worried about how I ride and how my tack fits. I want to do the best for my horse. I'ts frustrating to see how much ill fitting tack there is out there. And it's not just the saddle fit I see. Why do peole think a breast collar fits ok when it's sitting/rubbing across their shoulders? I've seen them so low in the front chest area that I worried that a horse might somehow trip on it.

Mare said...

I certainly realize that I'm not perfect, I make mistakes that I regret later, and I often wonder why my horse puts up with them, though I'm grateful she does.

I see many riders my age make mistakes, which can be expected, because we are still young, but their problem is that in there minds, nothing is even wrong...

I feel as though I'll never stop learning, and that's okay with me, because I feel as though knowledge is a true gift:)

Rising Rainbow said...

Of course, it's frustrating to see horses being cared for in an improper fashion and to not be able to "do" something about it. We all want what is best for these amazing animals but we're stuck with the fact we humans are flawed. It's never going to be perfect and each owner will be learning at her/his own pace while the horse suffers through. As much as I'd love to change it isn't within my power to do so.

The best I can do is help when and if I can. Sometimes at horse shows new people will ask questions. I try to make time to answer even if I'm strapped for time at the moment. I, like Kate, think the internet has helped a lot. I figure if I share my mistakes maybe someone else might not make the same ones.

As for trainers, they make me the craziest. I see in some places in Europe people must pass test and be certified to be a trainer. I wonder if that wouldn't be a solution here. There are so many shingles hanging out there by people claiming to be horse trainers. I can only imagine how much damage some of them have done to both the horses and the industry.

Anonymous said...

@Mare - I do that as well, make mistakes and later feel terrible (but also appreciative of Milo's patience) about what happened due to my ignorance. But that is kind of just he way it is with everything, its a learning process, and unfortunetly, us learning someitmes compromises our horses.

@Rainbow - great post. I agree, a certification process would be a great idea. Of course, there would be many here in the states that would be agaisnt it (those fake trainers that is). Sarah is a certified saddle fitter and body specialist. I dont believe she has any certification in training per se, but I do believe that with her vast knowledge of the horse's functionality it gives her great inside as to show and help the horse how to use their bodys correctly.

I too try and help out and be as friendly as I can when at shows. I take the time to talk to my competators, I prefer a much more friendly and open learning environment at shows then the stiff rigid "your my competition" style. I find it helps me relax to make friends and chat with others and I tend to learn things too. I also make a point to thank gate holders and stewards because Ido appreciate their volunteered time. WIthout them, the shows wouldnt run smoothly.

Story said...

Horses really are the most forgiving creatures. I never stop worrying about my horse's well being. I also make it a point to never stop learning. There is always more to know and always something I can be doing better. Excellent post.

Sara said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Giving my beautiful horse with a reliable horse gear will create peace of mind because their so special to me.