Animal abuse: When are we crossing the line? (Part 2)

When I see people dealing with horses, I wonder if some individuals buy horses and don’t know how to really train or work with horses.  It is sad when I see people who don’t know much and think that they have to beat the horse into shape or abuse it in some way to prove they are the boss.  I hate this kind of thinking.

Sliding_Stop_FlachsbergIf I see someone who doesn’t have quiet hands and they have put a harsh bit on the horse, I think that is abusive simply because they have a bit on that is too harsh and they, the rider, does not know the correct way to use that bit.  The horse then has his mouth gaping wide open, wishing they could get away from the pain.  A large curb bit with a strap under their chin causes the large curb to go into the horse’s mouth and the chin strap pinches the mouth shut, which makes it even more painful since they can’t escape the pain.  I am not saying that no one should use them, but these riders should have very soft hands.  My father has soft hands, so he could use this bit and not hurt the horse.

I also have a pet peeve when people give their horse different signals and expect the horse to guess the correct response.  Such as asking the horse to gallop while holding back on the reins.  This kind of riding is giving mixed signals.  I think this kind of riding is abusive because our horses are not mind readers but people get mad and punish the horse for something the horse can’t help.

Another thing I don’t like is when people signal a horse to do something and then they keep giving the signal even after the horse is responding to the cue.  That to me is called “nagging,” when the horse is doing exactly what you want but you keep giving the signal.  When you give the signal to turn, by direct reining a turn, if the horse starts turning, I stop the pressure.  When the horse stops I give the signal again but stop the signal once the horse starts turning.  Even with the smallest motion towards the correct move, I stop the signal and the horse gets it.  I see the response a whole lot faster.  I remember my dressage teacher, Eric Herbermann, who was a master’s degree in dressage riding, would get after me for “nagging” the horse so much.  He would say to stop giving the aid the minute the horse starts responding to the aid.

horse signalI also hate it when riders use aids that are too much aid or signal to the horse when it could have been softer, too harsh of a bit in inexperienced hands, or too large spurs being used harshly by, again, inexperienced riders, where people also use whips in excessive and abusive ways other than use as an aid or and extension of their arms.  You get where I am going here.

I also need to point this out too — I get tired of seeing people get too emotional while training.  If you get angry at the horse for things the horse cannot help then, please, don’t take it out on the horse.  If you are not emotionally stable at that moment, maybe you should put the horse away until you can think more clearly about the situation.  But this is how we need to handle all kinds of situations in life.  Get away from the problem until you can think more clearly, get some help if needed for handling the problem from a professional.  It makes it so much easier when you can solve the problem in a less evasive and more sensible way.  You and the horse will be so much happier.

When I ask my instructor how to handle a certain situation, I get an “ah-ha” moment when I find out it is easier than I thought.  Sometimes it might take more work from you and your horse.  Horse training does not just come without time invested into working with your horse.  All relationships — good relationships — take time.

However, as new students we will make mistakes while learning, but when we are trying to obtain more knowledge and experience under an instructor who knows what they are doing, then our knowledge will grow and we will make fewer mistakes as we practice more on our horses.  But that is part of growing.  I have made probably all the errors I am talking about above, but my most obvious one right now is that I would make the mistake of too much aid, or mixed signals.  Now that I am aware of those errors, I can work on fixing it under my instructor who can see it while it happens.

If you have some experiences that you would like to speak about, please feel free to talk with me.

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