Doing the Right Thing
The last couple of weeks has seen a great deal of discussion and indeed some serious disagreements on the equestrian internet which have taken up rather more time than one would wish to confess. The more I learn about Facebook, the more exhausting it becomes, but I also know it can do a lot of good. Concentrating on the positives, I guess we all want to do the right thing... well, at least most of us! But are we in danger of becoming so zealous, that we are not always so kind to the human beings who own the horses we purport to want to help?
Judging by some of the critical remarks on various horsey Groups, people are all too often doing the wrong thing! But are they?
It's so easy of course to judge from behind the safety of a keyboard! So what are some of the favourite topics? Well, apart from bitless, shoeless (I'm not a fan of calling it barefoot, myself - one imagines children running down to the sea having thrown their plimsolls off), there's the anti- noseband people, the anti-double bridle people, the anti-lunge people, even the anti-stable people ... horses should be free! ... yes, OK if you own a prairie, or a very large piece of parkland, preferably with trees for shelter, a running stream or even better a lake! But for the rest of us - maybe it's not so bad to treat horses as we have for the past several decades - but instead of criticising others, concentrate instead on learning to ride them better. For me, that would be a very good way of removing one of the greatest obstacles (in my opinion) of making life more tolerable for all equines.
The thing is once you start banning things, no bits, no spurs, no carrying of a stick, you are assuming that people use these things unkindly - and yes, that may be true in some cases, but should everyone be tarred with the same brush? Is it not possible that a horse may be perfectly happy with a bit in his mouth if the hands that control it are light, feeling and know when to give and when to take, with finesse? Is it so bad to use a spur with an occasional 'prick' rather than constantly nagging, even booting legs? Is it OK to pull a horse into an outline in a snaffle, when sometimes a better result can be obtained in a tenth of the time in a double? One could go on and on. So while I really admire someone who can ride a whole dressage test without a bridle, a saddle, a stick or a spur... and I even might award some extra points in a dressage test re the latter too... that does not mean it is for everyone.
CRC has tried over the two decades since it came into existence to improve riding generally through its publications and internet site - as well as Facebook - to spread positive messages. Where however, people try to undermine or negate its principles - we stand up for ourselves. We have a rather strict pinned post at the top of our Group Page asking people to treat each other as nicely as they would like to be treated themselves. 'Do as you would be done to' is not a bad maxim for all of us, and of course there's no excuse surely to be nice to horses if one can't at least be polite to their owners? There are many people who can be pretty abusive to their animals, but unless one is there - to intervene on the spot - it is often easier to get through to them by persuasion rather than putting their backs up.
Changing our little horse world at a time like this ... when internationally all around is falling apart ... may seem futile at times. But sometimes it's all we have left - to do something small and make a difference. Especially for that horse standing out there in the field or in the stable.... he doesn't know about the bigger picture, thank God, but in his way he is just as much part of this world as we are.