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July 10, 2017 13 Comments
That's a scary thing to say, don't you think? Why would a horseman of my skill and experience ever even think it wasn't ethical?
Then again, maybe you've never met a horseman like me! To answer the question: Is horse riding Ethical? I say, Yes... and no.
Horses bring great joy into a horse lovers world. And genuine horse lovers bring safety, pleasant experiences and healthy lifestyles into a horses life. The reality is, it wouldn't be ethical to turn all the horses back to the wild. Most would perish. It also wouldn't be ethical to leave them stranded in small pastures or tiny stalls. Therefore, one of the best things a horse lover can do for a horse is create positive interactions, which of course can include riding.
The question of riding being ethical or not has to do with what type of riding or training a person does.
For instance, a consequence oriented rider tends to punish the horse for confusion or missteps. A consequence oriented rider takes a horse out for a trail ride to bask in nature without thinking of the horses experience too. (forget about the horse, he's just a vehicle to get to nature faster). In my opinion, this is abusive and definitely NOT ethical.
However, a reward oriented rider tends to encourage the horse to grow, learn, and engage with her environment in playful or fun ways. A reward oriented rider goes on a trail ride because it's fun and because it's an opportunity to bond with and educate their horse partner.
The question of ethics then must move from the subject of riding to the subject of breeding. This is where it really get's scary. You must understand, I love horses. I live for horses! I am here on this planet to serve horses. I feel like I owe it to them. In fact I feel like our generation owes it to them. They helped build our cities, roads and canals. They gave us security, power, speed, distance. They gave us happiness, romance, and now, enlightenment.
I want people to see their value and honor it. And one way we can honor their value is to stop breeding. Not altogether, and not all at once. We just need to be smarter about it, be more conscious, because there is no outlet for horses flooding the market.
Do you know what happens to a thoroughbred that doesn't race well? Do you want to know? There are a few programs to help solve the problem, but none of them are talking about the root of the problem. Breeding carelessly, feverishly almost, looking for the next best horse, is the root of the problem. Everyone loves baby horses, but rarely do people stop to think about that new babies chances of having a good life.
Would you like to know what his chances are? Without hard evidence, I can't give you a direct answer. I'd only be making something up and I don't want to lead you astray. What I can say and what you could probably guess is, the findings so far from preliminary studies, aren't good.
You can follow your own horses history. By the way, if you're reading this and you've made it this far, I'll take that as an indication that you truly do care and your horse is one of the lucky ones. Now simply take a moment to review or follow your own horses history. Where did he come from, what did he experience before you? Or ask about your neighbors horses history and discover the challenges that each horse went through. Now think about their future. What will happen when you can no longer care for them? Have you thought of that? I think about these things often.
Sometimes, people ask me, "How did you get like this Don? How does a horseman, a trainer, a rider, get to be so sensitive about issues like this?" And often the very next question is..."If you feel this way so strongly, why do you have horses? Why do you ride?"
First of all, I appreciate the questions. I love horses. I care deeply, but the most interesting thing is, I think I'm a little bit autistic. Even from a young age I remember seeing things differently from my brothers. I would see a horse shy away and in my imagination see the very thing that caused her to shy away. Not being completely sure of what I was seeing, I would test the horse and watch a little closer, and time after time I would confirm that what I saw was exactly what the horse saw. I can "feel" what they feel. I can see what they see. I can understand them, their plot in life, their pain, their comfort, their joy, their questions. After twenty years of seeing it, feeling it, living it, helping horses recover, helping students learn, I see deeper now. I'm more practiced.
Is it possible I'm just hallucinating and I should just go back to thinking a horse is a dumb animal? Is it possible I'm reading into things too far? Of course, anything is possible. But if you could see what I see, the way I see it. I don't know if you would ever look at a horse the same way.
Here is what I want you to see. If you want to see...
You're horse has every single human emotion. Yes, every one. Fear, Stress, Anxiety, Joy, Happiness, Pain, Hunger, Depression, Sadness, Appreciation, Gratitude, Loneliness, Apathy, Disgust, Anger, Embarrassment, Desire, Playfulness, Longing, Insecurity, Peacefulness, Bliss, Tension, Scarcity, Patience, and any others not named here.
How do I know? I see it.
Can you read someone when their fearful? Probably. A practiced psycho therapist can read you like a book. A married couple can read between the lines and instantly pick out the emotion driving the behavior. What I am is a practiced and gifted horse psychologist.
I can see the tension in the muscles, the face, the breathing patterns. I can see the digestion slow and speed up. I can see the hesitation to move a certain muscle. I can see the early sweat patterns. I can even see what is causing the emotion most of the time. I can see where their attention is moment by moment. I can see when they hope to explore and when they want to shut the world out. And you could see those things too, if you're willing to learn how.
I want to show you how, if you want to learn. And there will be much more to come along the subject of reading horses. But allow me a moment to retreat to the first question... Is riding ethical?
And that, I cannot answer for you, but I can say that the answer is already "in" you. Are you ethical in the way you interact with your horses? Do you think of the horse first, or even at all? I bet, if you've read this far, you're one of a growing population of horse lovers who really, truly do see the horse and want to give her what she deserves!
Follow me for more. Like the article. Signup to our email list because I want to keep sharing with you and I want to hear from you.
"You're welcome at my campfire anytime."
Don Jessop - the breakthrough guy
By the way... the quote "you're welcome at my campfire anytime" didn't come from me. Can you tell me where it came from? Extra points if you can:) Comment below.
August 12, 2019
I love this article so much!! I love to play with my horses and I want them to feel like they’re playing too. I really appreciate your perspective on this, and I wish I could post this at every barn and pasture in my town!
August 05, 2019
check out his blogpost for kids
August 04, 2019
My 5 year old fell in love with horses. Recently, he took a trial lesson.
I wanted to know, what is an ethical way to feed his interest? How will we know if a stable is ethical?
July 18, 2017
The expression, “. . .you’re welcome at my campfire anytime” comes from “The Man from Snowy River.”
Incredibly, it’s so “You”. . .it reminds me of you two!
Your post completely engaged my attention and I appreciate the deeper insight into the very nature of our horses. What a trust they are from our good Creator!
July 18, 2017
I am grateful that I found you as a video coach so many years ago. Your insights over the years have shaped how I view my horses and what I share with friends and now the therapeutic riding program where I volunteer. So glad you are taking this new approach which will help so many more people and horses.
July 14, 2017
That is a great piece of art. Watercolor?
July 14, 2017
While agree whole heartedly about over breeding—you fail to mention one of the greatest areas of over population—the mustangs. I was dismayed at one of the PNH TV shows, displaying hundreds of mustangs confined in corrals—and still breeding. By most counts the wild horse population is in excess of 40K, when the land mass will only sustain 11K.
July 13, 2017
Thank you for an inspiring article. As Ray Hunt said," do it for your horse not to your horse." Wish everyone could see the importance of feeling the horse. As Pat Parelli said," feel of, feel for, and feel together. More articles would be appreciated. thank you.
July 12, 2017
Great article well written! I agree with so many points and it reminds me of a conversation I had with Pat Perelli and he said we owe it to the horses to give them the best life possible and to me it includes never boxing stall always having a run out Paddick if they are to be stalled, plus they never colic this way. Also riding as lightly as possible as your program teaches, and going bitless, I just change my hours to go bit less and she is so much happier! And make sure the girth is not too tight makes him happier for sure! And never leaving them alone in the pasture
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May 30, 2023 1 Comment
May 23, 2023
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May 31, 2022
thank you for the clarafacaition.