Today I was driving along a ‘B’ road, and I came upon two horse riders. There was a road sign by the verge, and one of the horses was clearly scared. It was trying to back away and keep a wide birth from the bright yellow sign sticking out. This is a perfectly normal behaviour for a prey animal, who are programmed to be cautious of any unexpected things in their environment (which could be a predator waiting to eat them). So how do you think the horse rider responded? Do you think they stopped, let the horse register the unexpected ‘hazard’, comforted it, reassured it that it was safe and then gently asked the horse to proceed?
Well no, unfortunately they didn’t! They repeatedly hit their scared horse with a whip forcing it past something they were clearly scared of, and then looked very pleased with themselves for doing so!
Why do horse riders feel it is acceptable to carry and use a whip / stick to hit their horses with on a regular basis? What would our reaction be if we saw someone doing this to a dog, a cat, a child? Horror, I would think and hope. So why do we find it acceptable that people do his with horses?
Only this week I saw a lovely group of young children riding their ponies in a paddock. All of them had whips and all were using them regularly. The families are lovely and clearly love their horses, yet they saw nothing wrong with this as ‘everyone carries and uses a whip with horses’. Just because something has become the norm doesn’t make it right! I never carry a whip and nor do my children. Why would they? If it is there, then in a moment of frustration it may be used. Should we not be encouraging people to develop communication and understanding with their horse rather than beating it to do what they want?
Maybe the time has come for us to question all ‘norms’ in our life. Are they appropriate? Are they kind? Do they make sense and do they make the world a better pace? If not then change it today and try and encourage others to do so. You and your animals are worth it and they can’t speak up for themselves.