Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Little Respect

Picture this: It is lunch time in the barn and the horses are visibly agitated as they impatiently wait for the grain. The mare on the left kicks the stall wall and the sound echoes through the building, vibrating between the restless horses. Two geldings pin their ears back and run their teeth down the metal bars separating them from each other and the stallion across the aisle paws vigorously; in a world where food is controlled by humans, this moment is the highlight of the horse’s day.

A woman enters the barn from the attached indoor arena where she has been longing her big, black warm blood mare. She leads her horse down the frantic barn aisle. Despite the commotion in the barn, the mare’s ears are pointed forward as she politely waits for her owner; it is obvious she is eager to get to her own food.

Just as they are about to enter the stall, the woman accidentally drops her whip. Without thinking, she stops to pick it up. The horse, however, completely focused on the grain waiting in the feeder, is practically going into the stall. As the woman bends over and the horse moves forward, the longeline tightens and jerks on the mare’s mouth violently. The mare stops immediately, opens her mouth as wide as she can get it and tosses her head side to side, trying to free herself from the sudden pain. The woman straightens up and jerks on the line again, this time on purpose. Then she whacks the horse across the chest with the whip and yells:
“Show me some respect, will you?”

Show me some respect. I understand the words, but somehow they don’t seem to match the situation. Respect is a word widely used in the horse world. “Make him respect you!” “Show him who is who and then he’ll respect you!” But isn’t respect something you have to earn?

Let’s take a look at the official dictionary version of the word. According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English respect is, for example, one of the following.

1. Admiration of someone, especially because of their personal qualities, knowledge or skill.
2. An attitude of regarding someone or something as important so that you are careful not
to harm them or treat them rudely.
3. To admire someone because they have high standards and good personal qualities such as
fairness and honesty.
4. To be careful not to do anything against someone’s wishes, rights, etc.

Right. Now that we have consulted the dictionary, we truly realize the backward nature of the above scenario involving the woman and her black mare. We are so ready to expect horses to respect us, but yet we seem to forget the true meaning of the word. In order to get respect, we must be worthy of it; we must be fair and honest, we, the human race as whole, must be respectful. And as the current state of the planet demonstrates, we haven’t exactly been that when it comes to other living creatures and organisms inhabiting this planet.

Obviously respect is not something that comes automatically to everybody, but with a little thought and compassion, we can all bring ourselves to at least question our actions. All you have to do is ask: “Is this how I would like to be treated?”

Respectfully yours,


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