As my riding education continued, I learned how to control and dominate a horse. I also learned the language that I could share with others to teach them the illusion that what we were doing wasn’t harmful.
Really, it doesn’t hurt the horse to rip his mane out by the routes – let me show you how. I know, I know… any person with a tiny bit of compassion would recognize their pain as you do it, but I promise that if you do it enough, you too will share the line that it doesn’t hurt them. You too can pass along the illusion with some rubbish about there being no nerves in the horse’s crest.
The horse won’t let you inflict that or some other pain? Just grab a twitch. I promise it doesn’t hurt to tighten this chain around his upper lip. In fact, it is pleasurable because it releases endorphins. I know he will struggle, but if you crank it down hard enough, fast enough, he will relax. No, it’s not submission – it is calming him. And if you aren’t sure, we have this other kind called a “humane twitch.” You can use that, but it is harder to keep it in place.
Don’t worry about the metal shoes we are banging onto his feet with nails. Yes, it looks barbaric, and your gut tells you something has to be wrong with it. Just be around it long enough, and you will know that it is for the good of the horse.
He likes to be isolated in a 12′ by 12′ stall. We are pampering him because he is a show horse. I know that he cribs, but that is just a nasty habit like smoking. It has nothing to do with the way that he lives. Just strap this to his neck so that it is hard for him to suck in the air. You can always tighten it a notch or two if it isn’t working. I know it looks like it may strangle him, but it is for his own good.
We have to blanket him. So that we can ride him, we have to clip him. Now that we have clipped him, we have to keep him warm. We can’t really avoid the huge rubs on his shoulders – blankets create pressure points.
Go ahead and clip all of his whiskers off to make him “pretty.” Horses don’t actually need those tactile organs that provide feedback about their environment – they are unsightly. Oh, and don’t forget about the long ones around his eyes. Also be sure to clip all that extra hair out of the inside of his ears. Who cares if his ears get chewed up by bugs, the fluff is ugly.
Don’t worry about the bit we are using – a snaffle is a kind bit. It is gentler to use a stronger bit in his mouth than pull hard on a softer bit. Of course stronger isn’t a euphemism for more painful. His mouth is designed to have a place for the bit to lie – a gap between the teeth in the perfect spot. I promise it causes no harm.
Congratulations, you have earned the right to use spurs. Now that your leg is quiet enough, you are able to use stronger equipment to train your horse. No, it isn’t cruel, manipulative, or coercive to use these methods. It is for the good of the horse. You can now also use draw reins, stronger bits, and “the rig.” (The rig is a contraption of ropes that we would use to train the horses to work in a frame while lunging).
Power over others is weakness disguised as strength.
– Eckhart Tolle
I could go on and on about the methods that I learned as I rose through my education in equitation and horsemanship. I think you get the point. I was learning how to have power over the horses. I too was being conditioned just to go along with everything that felt, at first, wrong. I was learning to ignore my heart and say yes – just like I was training the horses to do.
What’s worse is that I started to like it. I liked the power that came from getting a large animal to do what I wanted. I felt in control in the barn when the rest of my life was out of control. I was facing my fears, becoming dominant, proving my worth, and kicking ass. Who cares that I had to run a stud chain across a nose to wield that power – I was taught that was an appropriate, even necessary, thing to do.
I look at it now and wish that I hadn’t caused so much pain. Yet this is what I was taught – from the time I was a little girl all the way up through my formal college education in horses. I knew in my heart and my gut that something about all of this was off, but this is what was happening in all of the barns I was in. I knew no other way.
Having a sense of guilt or even outrage is of no use unless we choose to do something to change it. Standing up to defend the war of horse training will not stop the suffering. Nor will it teach us about how to live another way.
If we want to create a peaceful world, we must begin with our actions. We must humble ourselves and look at our weaknesses. It isn’t easy, but I choose to forgive myself as I create this peaceful equine revolution.