I ask this question to prompt some debate and possibly even arguments as to whether it is even ethical to compete with our horses at all.
There is a growing band of horse people getting stronger with the aid of social media that are clubbing together to try to ban all types of equine competition with the FEI having to deal with complaints of mal practise in the higher echelons of the competition world.
But I like to put this question to all those at the grass roots, myself included.
So why then do I compete?
I can tell you right now, it’s not for the the money! Nor the coloured material that is placed upon our horse’s head should we do well enough to be in the winnings that day.
I like to go out with my horse in public to get people thinking about what is is that THEY are doing with their horses. You see, I take Mr Smiffy out with very little headgear and no gadgets at all. I do my best at all times to see things from his point of view.
This video is of his first competition inside for many years and I know the jumps are only 2′ 6″ but then Mr Smiffy is only 14 hands and he has me to cope with! Before this competition he expressed the need to roll in the corner of the warm up arena. I wasn’t on him at that point and the rubber/sand floor was very inviting to him so I took his saddle off and let him roll.
People didn’t quite know what to make of it but they all laughed and said they hadn’t seen that happen before. I replied that we were amongst horse loving friends and it wasn’t just before a showing class so what would be the harm in letting him roll? After all, a prey animal wouldn’t roll if it didn’t feel safe would it?
So back to the competition…..as I said, this is Smiffy’s first inside competition in a very long time and you will see that we were 2nd which I was very pleased about. But what pleased me more than that, is that in the line up, Smiffy stood perfectly calm, taking responsibility for standing still with no contact on his head, and he was able to yawn his head off releasing all his emotion that had built up through the day. This is a sign of a horse being able to display it’s natural behaviour.
In contrast to this, one of the horses there on the day, (and I know this is extreme) went around the whole time, with it’s tongue completely hanging out of it’s mouth, jaw strapped so tightly with a grackle noseband, and every time the rider pulled at it’s mouth it just got faster, more tense and hung it’s tongue out to the side. That made me feel so sorry for the poor thing. The girl riding it, was no more than about 15 or 16 and she seemed sweet enough, but completely oblivious to her horse’s suffering. How would she feel if she realized what she was putting her horse through, all in the name of competition I wonder? I feel pretty sure she would be mortified if she really understood what she was putting her horse through.
You see, I know I can’t change what other people do with their horses but I CAN control what I do with mine. It’s makes people look at things in a different light. They sort of smile a bit meekly and don’t quite know what to say. So they say things like, ‘Gosh you’re brave just riding in a halter’.
I want them to get curious enough to ask me ‘WHY’ and then when they understand the why, I will show them the ‘HOW’. I can help them have the understanding of what it must feel like from the horse’s point of view and that when the relationship is right, the horse feels no need to pull away and will happily comply with our request. Surely that is much nicer for both the horse and the rider (who would just as soon say how much they really care about their horse). Just look at how little I need to do to guide Smiffy around the course.
If you want to know the ‘HOW’ then send me a reply and I can suggest some things that will help you with your situation.
I do hope you enjoy the video and will ‘share’ and ‘like’ this post. You see my dream would be that when enough people at the grass roots level start considering things from the horse’s point of view, the balance will change in favour of the horse and not our human ego which wants to win at all costs, which often includes the horse’s mental and emotional well-being.
Is that our goal? Hmmmmm……