This week I did something I have never done before: I spoke up to complete strangers in defense of a horse.
It all started when I received one of those mass emails that circulate the internet. The subject line read FUNNY!!! and there was a link to a video on YouTube followed with a prompt to watch the film in slow motion to really get a good laugh.
The video was of a man, a total beginner, riding a very well trained jumping horse in an actual jumping competition. The result of this combination was absolutely appalling. The jumps were relatively high, but the horse cleared them with grace despite the full grown man hanging on his mouth and pounding on his back the whole way. Only once did the horse deny a jump and when he did, he was punished with the whip, after which he continued to jump is heart out until the end.
After watching the video I was stunned: this was supposed to be funny? Where was the joke? All I could see was a suffering horse, forced and humiliated by a human being.
I thought about it for a day, but no matter which way I looked at it, I realized it was time to SAY something, DO something. I know, pretty idealistic of me, but once I had made up my mind, I couldn’t stop myself. I wrote an email and replied to all. Here is my letter.
I realize most of you don’t even know me, but I was one of the people on X’s email list which means I, too, got this “funny” video. I usually don’t do this, but I have recently decided to stop living in silence and speak up, mainly because I want to speak for those who don’t have human words for us to hear.
Did you laugh when you watched the video? Or, did you, too, find the video highly disturbing and sad. I thought it a good example of how people behave with horses – with not a lot of consideration for the animal. You may look at the man on the video and think that you are different than him, perhaps you know how to ride really well or you (think you) never hit your horse with a whip like he did, but in my experience there are not a lot of humans out there who don’t take advantage of these beautiful animals in one way or the other. I certainly have and I could bet money that you have, too. It may not be much more than putting a bit in their mouth or kicking them with spurs when they don’t go, but the act is there, nevertheless. It all stems from the same school of thought where horses must tolerate us and obey us, no matter what.
Who ever gave us the permission to ride these animals? Who ever gave us the authority to use them as sports equipment? Yep, nobody. We took the right, because we figured that since we are the self-appointed leaders of the world, we can do whatever we please. For example go and jump horses over fences when we clearly are incapable of riding over them ourselves. Pretty selfish of us, don’t you think? And not that funny.
Anyways, I hope this letter (and video) makes you think, if nothing else, of what horses have to endure from us humans on a daily basis. Let’s all try to be a little more aware of what is happening to the horses in the world and perhaps one day these animals will get the respect and kindness they deserve.
I wasn’t sure what would happen when I pressed “send”, but I did it anyway. I hoped that at least one person would stop to think, at least someone would make a connection and see the world differently.
I didn’t get as many responses as I had expected, but the ones I did get, varied from utterly hostile to somber agreement. One email, however, in particular shocked me, because it made me realize what an uphill battle being on the horse’s side is and continues to be.
Here is an excerpt from the email:
“I love my horse… he is my friend, and my partner, because without him, I am not a horse person. Yes, I will hit him if he needs it, I don't need him to bite me because he doesn't realize that I am NOT a horse, and that biting me is unacceptable. While I have respect and love for him, I do believe that I, as his person, outrank him in the hierarchy of life… As I am sure you are aware, horses don't actually want to be in charge, they are happy to give that control to us. Anyway, yes, I did feel badly for that horse [on the video], but yes, I also laughed.“
I will hit him if he needs it. Wow. I had never realized that there actually was someone who believed that horses needed hitting and by using violence, they were actually doing them a favor. I always thought people hit horses because they couldn’t control their own anger. This was certainly the case for me long time ago. I knew hitting was wrong, but short of having any other means to communicate at the time, I reverted to violence and then felt horrible afterwards. But to actually believe it is alright to use violence?
…because he doesn’t realize that I am NOT a horse… It is always surprising to see how many people, who have obviously spent a lot of time with horses, think horses are not very intelligent. No, they don’t speak English, or any other human language, but this doesn’t mean they don’t communicate; they don’t have emotions, thoughts, ideas, awareness. Biting is one way for them to say something, but so many people don’t take it as a message, but as a punishable act. This is, of course, closely linked to the fact that most people believe they should control the horse because they are above horses “in the hierarchy of life” mentioned in this email as well. In fact, most humans seem to think we are the king of pretty much everything: animals, nature, the world and in some case even each other. Looking at the current environmental and political predicament we are in, we can see where this thinking has taken us…
Perhaps I have had too much faith in the human race, perhaps this path I have taken is much less traveled than I originally thought. I know we can’t all think the same; it’s just an impossible fantasy. But could I dream of kindness? Could I dream that some day it would be considered abuse instead of training to hit a horse, that some day a man like the one on the video would be disqualified from the competition on terms of abuse, that videos like this would no longer circulate the web as funny?
Could I dream of kindness?
If you want to see the video for yourself, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opMiCyoRzYM