Last weekend my soon-to-be-seven year old son lost his fourth tooth. Because the subject matter was close to his heart, the bed time book we read that night was called Magic School Bus and the Missing Tooth. In this book, we looked at not only human teeth, but different sets of teeth from the animal kingdom as well.
Half way through the book we ran into a fairly detailed drawing of the horse’s mouth. I read: “The sharp front teeth cut off big bites of grass. The back teeth chew up the grass. In between, there is a space with no teeth at all.”
Can you see where this is going?
My son looked at the picture and pointed at the horse’s mouth. Then he said: “That’s where the bit goes when you put the bridle on.”
Me: “Yes, you are right, the bit goes right there in that gap. But mommy doesn’t use a bit when she rides.”
My son nodded, he knew about this subject. I continued: “I don’t use a bit because I think it hurts the horse.”
My son turned to look at me and he rolled his eyes: “Well, duh! It’s metal, isn’t it? I wouldn’t want metal in my mouth!”
I pray he never needs braces.
When I told my friend about this conversation, she recalled having a similar one with her niece, then eleven years old. Her niece was visiting for the summer and wanted to see the horse my friend rode. When they came to the barn, the child looked around and asked: “Why do horses live in small little boxes and not outside?” When my friend started picking the horse’s hooves, the next question came up: “Why do horses have shoes on their feet?” And when my friend finally started putting the bridle on, you can imagine the last question (accompanied with a disgusted look): “Why do you put that metal thing in its mouth?”
My friend said she tried to answer these questions the best she could, but her niece didn’t seem convinced. In fact, even my friend wasn’t convinced.
Why is it that small children can come up with such questions, but most adults involved with horses don’t give these facts a second thought? Are we really so trained to not think outside the box or to use common sense? I think it is time we take a hard look at what we are doing with horses and ask ourselves if this is really the right thing to do or could there be an alternative method, one that would allow horses to be horses?
I admit my son may be slightly brainwashed when it comes to the subject of a bit in the mouth of the horse, but I do hope that with what I am doing he learns that it is alright to question things, even something that has been done a certain way since the Bronze Age. He may never become a “horse person” like his mother, but I’m hoping he grows up to be an independent thinker, someone who is not afraid to live by his own standards, even if they go against the mainstream practices.