Friday’s Opinion

I’m a bit on the fence about the proliferation of material being put out there that speaks with buzz words most can’t understand and a conviction that all horses are golden and any problem is human created. Many of these people have achieved a horsemanship understanding few will achieve, but seem to have lost their passion to help the deserving horse with a message most humans can grasp.

Speaking in foreign tongues

Part of me is puzzled by the fact that this new brand of “horse whisperers” refuse to speak in terms a novice (or even a seasoned professional) can understand if they’re not part of their cadre (which usually requires buying $699 DVDs or paying to access members only information on their website). Yet, they claim their passion is to save the horses from human cruelty (usually due to ignorance).  No matter how accomplished these folks may be on the horse communication front, how aptly they can demonstrate their talents and how often they waive the horse advocacy flag, I’m a bit sceptical about those who shout horse savoir while erecting barriers for the most needy.  I get everyone needs to make a living and am not a proponent of all knowledge should be free, but there’s a disconnect with these folks when they lead with a horse welfare banner and follow with all access denied if you won’t immediately pony up.

I think these folks have a lot of knowledge to share that could benefit the horse – particularly those who are challenged with novice handlers and riders. Yet, the language they use is so esoteric to most of the uninitiated, even their sales pitches are lost on this important audience. To boot, they require almost immediate payment to reveal their secrets. How’s that helping the horse?  Still, I realize some of these talented folks have made a difference in the lives of many of the horses they’ve touched. They have a lot of insight to share that could benefit so many horses. I just wish they’d either be true to their stated mission (with terms the masses can understand and associated accessibility for those who seek to assess what’s being offered prior to pulling out the MasterCard) or honest about their intention to make their offerings (and language) exclusive to their club of benefactors.

Who’s really helping the horses?

The paradox between their message and their actions is troubling. If they believe every horse is a victim of human experience and they’ve set their life goals on saving these horses from their dumb human owners/riders/handlers, why limit the salvation to those who boast a wealthy or enlightened owner willing to immediately pay the piper for their education? Usually, those who do the most harm to horses do so without recognizing the ill of their actions. It concerns me when one who can demonstrate such character with the horses they encounter fail to extend this to the humans they accuse.

Is every horse really an angel?

Frankly, I don’t share the conviction of some of the self-described equine mind-readers that all misbehaving horses are victims of human mishandling. I’ve met some horses in my life (not many, but enough to realize not all are angels) that don’t want to be reached. Granted, I’ve spent the last couple of decades of my life dealing with Thoroughbred race horses, where temperament (forget about conformation) is an afterthought, but I’ve come across a few horses over my 40 years of riding and 20-plus years of training that  aren’t worth the costs. There are just too many great horses out there to put in time year-after-year on one that is not receptive to kindness and clear guidance. Sometimes, ignorant breeding (and yes, this is a human factor) produces horses that will be difficult for a lifetime.

Help humans to stop creating problem horses

Sure, most horse problems are created by human handling, but I’d like to believe in most cases, these breakdowns aren’t due to evil, but instead, ignorance – or more likely, fear. If we really want to help the horse – and create horseman for the future – we need to speak in tongues novices can understand, provide accessible information to help them grow in knowledge and awareness, discourage bad horse/human combinations and do all we can to help those who don’t know what they don’t know strive to learn from those who demonstrate integrity and illustrate through their actions what horsemanship really means.

Take the lead from the horse

Horses can teach us so much about communications. I haven’t encountered one yet that seeks an exclusive podium to present that message. Wouldn’t it be great if those who can be called true horsemen today could take a lead from the horses that have taught them so much by being clear, generous, honest and open with their message to the people they are trying to reach?

2 Responses

  1. Great post Nanette! I’d just like to comment on “Is every horse an Angel?” A mare comes to mind that was not an angel and was not a victim of past abuse. This horse belonged to a fellow boarder who was a kind and educated rider. The horse was ridden three or four times a week and was shown in training-level dressage events — no whips, spurs, chains or any harsh methods were used by her owner. Whenever this mare was asked to do any work, she responded with pinned ears and an attitude.

    One time a young puppy toddled into her pasture, and the mare attacked the pup until she was driven off by my horse. To my mind, this event was a manifestation of the evil character of that horse, and the kind heart of my mare. When I left the barn, the owner and her vet were experimenting with Regimate to try to change the mare’s behavior, but the owner would have been better off with a different horse.

    1. Thanks for the story, Paul. It’s sad that breeding practices on some fronts do not consider temperament as a factor. There’s ignorance in the mix too. Sometimes, a horse simply lands in your lap that doesn’t want to be helped. There may be medical issues in the mix (I had one with cyst on her ovary that the owner did not want to remove – and the result was a terror to all humans, horses, fences and barn walls in her way), but even so, there are times when you need ask yourself – is it worth the cost and heartache? I might be criticized for not being a bleeding heart in all horse cases, but have come to realize that my time and energy is limited, and I’d prefer to devote it to horses that are receptive and glad to have an understanding and responsive human in their life.

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