I have been told over and over again, for years now, that I just don’t understand the sport and that I should quit embarrassing myself by complaining about how the professional riders train their horses. Lately, I have been told a lot, that if I had horses like the ones ridden at the JBK festival, you know the ones I made such a fuss about, because of the draw reins and the bits and the (illegal) spikes, and the lung bleeding that went by without being disqualified, if I had horses like these ones, I would use draw reins too…
I can safely say that no, I would not, and any such moronic comments are deleted from this blog, so don’t bother. But what is more, I must wonder why some people seem to think that these horses, who are seemingly the very best, can’t be ridden without force, pain and downright torture, to the point where our federations allow them to BLEED in the show ring. I must wonder why anyone would find that acceptable. I must wonder in what other sport the “athletes” are bound, broken, isolated, tortured, whipped and emotionally abused along with the physical violence. Horse racing, where horses die on track every day…? But elsewhere? Imagine if professional football players were taken from their mothers at a young age, brought up in isolation, kept in a room with nothing to do but stare at the wall, at all hours of the day, only to be let out to be beaten and forced to perform…
So do we want to keep calling the horse an athlete? Because if so, show me another athlete who goes through what our horses do, in the name of their sport. I realize that I made quite a big fuss out of it when our Danish Animal Welfare organization called the horse a “Sports prop,” but the more I see of the equestrian world, the more I realize how right they were and how sad it is.
No, I do not understand that, and I am sick of it. I can safely say that MY horses have NEVER been a sports prop and they never will be, and if that is what it takes, then I am OUT.
But just because I am sick of competing in that game, doesn’t mean that I will keep quiet. If no one speaks up for the abused ANIMAL in the sport, then where will we end? In a world where a weekend event with only five dead “athletes,” has been a good event? Like with Steeplechase for instance… Do we want the equestrian sport to go down that slippery slope? Where the blood rule of FEI is good enough. “It can bleed, once, as long as it can be wiped away.” What is next? One must fear that the next rules will go so far as to say, as long as it is alive when it cross the finish line, it is good enough, like in professional horse racing… Tell me of another sport where preadolescent athletes are dying on a regular basis, in the show ring? HOW is that acceptable? And how can any sane person try and defend it, by stating that I don’t understand the sport?
I do, I really do.
One must wonder if you do…
I was at a driving event the other day. I have never been to something like that before, and I have to say, I was kind of hoping to see some horsemanship for once. You know, people who drive their ponies, through obstacles, that has to be hard to do without horsemanship, right? I guess that I am ever disappointed by my own faith in humanity.
As it turns out, sitting by the water obstacle, I saw ONE equipage where the ponies seemed able to perform the task at hand, without enduring unnecessary strain on their muscles and their respiratory system. Of all the others, it was rather painful to watch, to be honest.
Ponies with labored breathing, pulling wagons and people up and down the water, back and forth, at as high speed as possible, cheered on by the audience, shouted at and some of them beaten, by the drivers. Ponies who, some of them chose to ignore the whip and the shouting, and just fell into a walk, unable to keep up the canter.
A sports prop? Honestly, get a motor crosser…
I stayed, slightly curios to see if the bigger horses had an easier time with the task, wondering if it was simply a matter of not letting the small ponies compete alongside the big horses. I have to say, most of the horses were almost as strained as the ponies, and there were a lot of horrible horsemanship on display there as well. One girl had a horse that spooked over the bridge. It stopped, looked and mustered up its courage, and took a few hesitant steps onto the bridge, truly giving her all it had in its heart. Her response was hitting it with the whip, after it had stepped onto the bridge.
So tell me, where is the horsemanship in that kind of behavior? What was the horse’s reward, for trying its hardest to solve the task at hand? A good beating? How can a horse like that ever hope to avoid pain? If it doesn’t go onto the bridge, it will get beaten, and clearly, when it does go onto the bridge, it will get beaten as well? How can it win in a situation like that? By simply running for its life at all times?
And wham, I was back on the race track.
Is there no aspect of equestrian sport that values horsemanship, none violence or very simply, common decency?
Yes, I am disappointed, yet again, by mankind in general. Not only by those who compete and treat their horses like they had been a motorbike, a machine who doesn’t feel pain, fear, or get tired, but by all of you out there, who feel the need to defend it.
Quite frankly, I have no space for people like that in my life or on my blog…
And before anyone feels the need to argue that a cross county event is supposed to be hard and the horses are supposed to get tired because it is a 15 km distance, let me stop you right there. IF you want to do events like these it is your solemn duty to prepare your horse. To train it, to make sure it is ready, able, and fit to complete the task. Don’t show up with your fat pony, or any other horse that is not in shape to run the distance. I will never accept that it is fair to ask any horse to endure fatigue, violence, and mental abuse in the name of the sport. And should you have a horse that spooks over a bridge, don’t f****** beat it, when it does go across… There were two judges present, they saw it, by the way, so don’t tell me that I should have complained at the event. They stood right next to her. And to the ponies that could hardly breathe, and to all the others who were chased, screamed at and beaten through.
And look at me, not even bitching about the equipment… Like those bits for instance…
I didn’t go there to take ugly pictures, and by all means, most of my pictures are rather good, technically. The water always makes for a good motive, lots of action, and with a camera like mine, lots of pretty pictures. If you are not looking too hard, for horsemanship.
But that is what I clearly don’t understand. How something so simple, so basic, as horsemanship, is so rare to find in the equestrian sport.
Thank you to all of you, who do know that horsemanship must always come first, I know I tend to focus on all those who defend abuse, because it is so beyond me how anyone can be that ignorant, but that is unfair. There are a lot of great people out there, who does value their horses above all else. Special thanks to Ally, for your beautiful email and your wonderful pictures. That was a true inspiration, for a change.