With the proliferation of social media and instant global networking, it seems every day there’s another opinion-driven outcry concerning what others shouldn’t be doing with horses. Unfortunately, most who support a pitch crafted to incite rarely take the time to understand the issues. This tends to be the case with any politically motivated activity (and regrettably, often those also designated to serve and appointed or elected to decide the fate of others), but it’s grabbing hold of the equine industry with a vengeance and should be cause for pause. Sadly, many fixated on the rallying cry don’t even have contact with horses, or in many cases, the equine industry.

There are usually at least three sides to a story – the opposing arguments (count that as two) and the truth.

Look before you leap

Any time a niche industry invites government regulation or assistance (read uneducated interference), there are negative ramifications that most don’t envision. Costs escalate. Who considers compliance demands, added operational difficulties, deep pocket influencers with their own agenda and the huge hit to efficiency in supporting client desires when they scream for intervention? Certainly not the masses who have no horse in the race, so to speak.

Over time, the rules put in place are completely counter-productive to the aim of the action. Just take a look at what’s going on with farming in US as an example of subsidies gone very wrong. Purported to help sustain the family farmer, federal and state policies are literally levelling generational, privately-owned farms (and our agricultural heritage and resources), while supporting corporate facilities and/or the city slicker with a savvy CPA.

It is always amazing to see a politician call a press conference to boast about how generous he’s been in securing money for us. It’s our money he’s spending so liberally – without our consent!

The horse industry and horse lovers have specific interests and issues that cannot be effectively addressed by legislation governed by a body of people who may only know a horse “as seen on TV.”

What cause did you join today?

Did you ask the government to take action concerning the BML mustangs? How’s that going for you?

Are you screaming to have the government intervene to keep the band of horses running free in Florida? Have you considered what happens to these horses when they are injured or sick? How about the fact that these are domesticated animals that may have actually enjoyed the job they were doing?

What about the multitude of Human Society hysterics over the cruel practice of hunting, carriage driving in NYC, leaving horses free (so they can starve to death) and, now it seems, allowing horses to be domesticated (they already are – we’re no longer dealing with an animal that is equipped or genetically programmed to return to an unfettered life and most seem to want to work with kind humans).

Are you lobbying the government to divert funds to maintain horse access to public land? Careful what you wish for here as it may come back to bite you.

Are you scrutinizing and reporting your neighbor’s apparent abuse while you toss your horse over to a boarding barn that “takes care of him” while you’re too busy to engage him in an interesting activity and/or give him attention? Have you considered how that behavior may be hurting your horse?

Have you bothered to take the time to learn about the cause you are supporting by seeking out contrary opinions and making a decision based on knowledge vs. hype?

Bring the heart strings home

Before you leap into the fray demanding that others consider the horse, try listening to yours. If you pay attention, they’ll tell you what they want, and it’s rarely what you suspect. Most horses, when given a chance to be understood, will jump at the chance to get engaged in a job they enjoy. If you’ve picked the wrong career for him or are not effective at striving for communications both ways, care for him enough to let him shine with a better match and go get a made horse already prepared and willing to do what you want (or an instructor, or trainer who can help you reach your mount).

Have you really looked at your horse lately? Is he bored? Overweight? Underweight? Frustrated? Difficult? Dull-coated? Cranky? Ill? Consider allocating some of the time you spend pushing causes that other’s propose closer to home by getting to know your horse better and listening to what he’s trying to tell you.

If you’re still intent on spending majority time arguing other people’s causes, at least get educated. Before you trumpet a message to the masses to get their equine house in order, take the time to research contrary opinions and the possible outcomes of your call for mandates.

It’s troubling that so much time and effort is devoted toward bandwagon efforts to control  the horse industry when so many horses are being neglected or misunderstood at the homes of those who are quick to condemn but slow to see.  Go hug your horse tonight and maybe you’ll learn more from that simple act about what horses really need from you than you ever imagined.

2 Responses

  1. Well said Nanette! As someone involved in equine based education (I run a therapeutic riding program and a corporate leadership program) I have to wonder at all of the “certifying” organizations that have sprung up. It’s amazing how eager everyone is to legitimize everyone else. I am cynical enough to think that most of the time the organizations who certify are just the guys who got there first – not necessarily the most qualified people.

    Like you I keep my head down in all this and focus on my own horses. I have tried to learn from those who I trust and who are the best in their field (no pun intended) My biggest priority is that my horses are healthy, happy in their job and well-cared for. We have horse ‘experts’ who walk through my arena door all the time with advice on what we should be doing. We politely ask them to leave.

    There are many correct and humane ways to care for and utilize horses. I refuse to be part of programs who insist that their way is the only way.

    1. Laura,

      Thanks so much for providing another interesting perspective on this one. I, too, have heard the outcries for equine certification on many levels, and while this didn’t enter my mind initially on the cause bandwagon front, you’re right, it is relevant. In an ideal world, all would operate with character and integrity so that what was claimed and/or promised would be true. Still, while I cringe at what some hanging a shingle do to horses and/or the people who trust them, I fear the cure would be worse than the blight. Seldom have I seen those passionate about control able to maintain objectivity when given power. And you make a great point – first to organize rarely means most qualified to judge (and those with an opinion they have the only right solution scare me too).

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