The Hand That Holds The Rein

Okay, a few follow up questions to my ”Can you do better,” post needs answering, I believe, because a few people simply seem to have missed the point completely, so rather than to keep wasting my time arguing with them, here it is;

Why would you wear a bit? Isn’t that the same kind of abuse then?

Well, no. As simple as that. I dared answer that question with the fact that I wear a bit, because I want to compete with my horses and it is not allowed to compete bitless.

I maintain that a bit, used correctly, does not do harm. No bit is harder than the hand that holds the rein. The whole point in the double bit, used in high level dressage was, once upon a time, to prove that the rider was skilled enough to handle it, to use it, not abuse it. And yes, I own a double bit too, if we must make this about me, and clearly we must. Yes, I’ve even dared use it on my old gelding. I never abused it though…

A world of difference? To me, there is.

Let me just repeat it one more time, for those who don’t seem to get it. No bit is harder than the hand that holds the rein!

A bitless bridle, or a hackamore, or a sidepull, or a halter even, can be abused just as easily, I’ve seen it done a thousand times over. I am too old, I have seen too much, I have trained too many horses, damaged by ignorant people, to be a fanatic. A bit is not evil. Only the hand that wields it, can be.

Why would you want to compete, isn’t that supporting those riders who do abuse their horses? Are you not just a slave owner, pointing fingers at other slave owners?

I guess so. After all, I OWN my horses, I bought and paid for them… and yes, I am pointing fingers, because I believe that some slave owners abuse the privilege it is to own a horse.

I want to compete, it is that simple. I want to show my horses. I want to see how far we have come. Staying away from events won’t make a difference at all. There will always be riders who abuse their horses, but if everyone of us who don’t, just stay away, then lo and behold, bad riding is awarded, because someone has to win.

If people who don’t agree just stay away, who is to see what happens, who is to speak up, who is going to try and make a difference? Who is going to show “little Lise and her pony back home” that dressage does not need to be abusive?

When you want to compete that is just for you, no horse needs to be shown off.

Well, yes. It’s for me when I buy a horse. It’s for me when I ride it. I am human and we are an egotistical breed. Everything we do is for our own sake, when push comes to shove. Let me be clear though. Just because I want to compete, doesn’t mean that I do so at any price. I have had horses that simply weren’t cut out for it, that couldn’t handle the stress, the audience, the new places, the trailer loading and so forth. Those horses I never showed.

I have had horses too, who lived and breathed for it, who loved to hear the audience applaud, who ran straight into the trailer as soon as it was opened at home and who became quite depressed when I stopped showing them for different reasons.

But ultimately, yes, it’s for me. I would like to think that everything I do for me, is on the premises of the horse though. My horses are never forced to do anything. (Except get their vaccinations, – yes I vaccinate my horses too, how dare I- and have their teeth checked and such, I must admit, they don’t always jump for joy at the sight of the vet…) I see no problem with competing as long as my horse is happy to work with me and feels he can handle the job.

Why does your horse wear shoes? Horses never need shoes! They were not born with shoes!

Oh my. Okay, my horses wear shoes, because they need them. I live in Denmark, it rains 350 days a year, our grounds are simply too soft for horse hooves. More specifically, Saleem wear shoes, because he has a problem with the position of his legs. He needs shoes for support or correction, or he will become lame almost instantly. My Ferrier is skilled, highly educated and knows exactly what he is doing.

I have seen a lot of barefoot horses limp around in quite a lot of pain that could have easily been spared them with a simple shoe. How is that fair? In my world, that constitutes mistreatment…

And no, horses are not born with shoes. Neither are they born with a rider. Saleem was born a stallion and I had him gelded, is that wrong too? (I did that, so he could have a good life on my pasture, amongst my other horses without getting into fights all the time and without my mares becoming pregnant all the time, by the way. Most stallions live isolated and alone, which I do consider mistreatment.)

So, I guess it all comes down to choices. We all make choices in the matter of how our horses needs to be ridden, tended, fed, trained, shoed or not shoed… Loved or not loved…

Even if I think it is completely beside the point of the rollkur discussion, let’s get one thing straight;

I am NOT a fanatic. Yes, I train Natural Horsemanship. Yes I ride my horses. Yes I use them for competitions. Yes I wear a bit, even a double one if my horse gets to a level of dressage where it is required. Yes my horses wear shoes. Yes I love show jumping. (I can feel the world explode here….)

So let me ask all of you who think that wearing a bit, or competing, or getting shoes on your horse, is abuse, do you ride your horses? Because really, get off your high horse, please.

What should matter is that your horse is happy, healthy, and pain free. It is our job as the horses owner, (or as the slave owner, don’t you guys own your horses?) to make sure your horses are well cared for and suffer no unnecessary pain. That includes getting it some bloody shoes if it is sore footed… That includes not abusing the bit. That includes preparing your horse properly for the work you ask of it, be it competitions or just a hike in the forest.

It is our job, to be loving, understanding, and caring. It is our job to treat our horses with empathy, compassion and respect. It is our job to educate ourselves, so we can be the best possible owner of the individual horse.

With that, I believe we all know where I stand then. I am just an ordinary Natural Horsemanship trainer, I have no religious believes when it comes to bits and shoes or anything else. I, very simply, always do what I believe is best for my horse.

I guess most of us do, so I really think it is rather foolish to keep up a discussion about any of this.

I believe that we all think too, that those pictures from the Danish Championship were abusive.

But thank you guys, once again or proving my point. This is the world of horses for you. If anyone ever speaks up, they are always met with one question, can you do better?

And it is almost always so far beside the point, once must wonder if someone really think that way? Do someone truly believe that is it alright for those riders to hyperflex their horses, because I wear a bit on my horses, or because Saleem needs shoes?

Do I lose my right to speak up because I am not a barefoot, none bit, bareback fanatic? If so, the world of horses is in much bigger trouble than I first imagined!

Luckily, there are a lot of people who don’t think so, thanks to each and every one of you!


About Starstone

-Owned by horses. Writer, Photographer, Director, Musician.
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12 Responses to The Hand That Holds The Rein

  1. brilliantly put. no need for more words! will share this again.

  2. Reblogged this on pferdeakademie and commented:
    no need for my own thoughts, since everything is already there.

  3. saraannon says:

    The most telling story I’ve heard was a rider who said she could ‘hold’ her horse in a bitless bridle but wanted to know what to do about the dent in her horse’s nose when she took the bridle off.

  4. sammerson says:

    I’m still cracking up over the slave owner thing.

    By the way, I wasn’t born with shoes or clothes on. But you won’t be catching me running down a gravel street naked and barefoot! Though I DO hate wearing shoes and take them off the minute I walk through the door!

  5. paulineb says:

    You just said everything I wanted to say. Thank you.

  6. Reblogged this on noelheartpoet and commented:
    It says it all….

  7. jen says:

    You nailed it when you said it all comes down to making choices! It would be a much better horse world if people didn’t judge each other on the personal choices they make for their horses. You get flak for your horses wearing shoes…I get flak for my horses not wearing shoes. You get flak for using a bit, and I get it for not using a bit. Yet, you honor my decisions and I honor yours, because all our decisions are based on doing what’s best for our horses. If our horses are happy and healthy, why should it matter? Why can’t we all just get along? 🙂

    • Starstone says:

      So true 🙂 The world of horses is a wonderful place, if you are ready to defend EVERYTHING you do at all times… Still, people tend to back off if they find out that you know what you are doing 😉 It just gets tiresome, aruging the same issues over and over again 😉

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