Sometimes there are days when I actually believe none of us deserve to have anything to do with horses, and those are the days when pain fills me up to the brim and I think to myself: “I should just stop this, stop it right now; no riding, no teaching, no grooming, no nothing.”
No going to the barn, no spending time with horses – at all? If you know me, you know this thought is nearly unthinkable. Horses are my life source, my inspiration, the air I breathe. How could I even think of walking away?
A month ago I took my family to a show jumping competition. In my heart I knew what it would be like, but I guess I had to go there to see it for myself. For the sake of clarity, I realize now.
It was clear alright. There was a time when I paid money to see international stars jump their horses, and that time was not so long ago. But emotionally it has been light years.
We had been on the competition grounds for less than ten seconds when I saw the first person hit their horse. The horse had denied a jump, undoubtedly for several reasons ranging from the severe bit in its mouth, the unbalanced rider on its back yanking on that said bit, the noisy people in the stands, the huge colorful Grand Prix jump, his long warm up and the emotional states of everyone involved. The horse denied and punishment followed. He still didn’t jump, though.
We watched six riders go through the course and out of these six, two hit their horses. After the second incident we decided to leave, but not before I explained to my seven year old son that hitting animals was not alright. He looked at me solemnly, rolled his eyes and said: “Mom, I know.”
But it was not just the whipping that wrenched my heart; it was also the yanking, the kicking, the forcing. It was about using a horse as means to gain something; fame, glory, money, a title. It was about getting to that goal by all means, ruthlessly, one track mindedly and at the expense of another living being. It was about human selfishness, it was about inhumanity.
Inhumanity: the quality of lacking compassion or consideration for others. This word derives from the Latin word inhumanus: in = “not”, humanus = “human”, but I find it more fitting to look at the word from the point of view of the English language: In-humane, as if this quality only lived inside a human and nowhere else. But isn’t it exactly so? Ironically it seems to be only us humans who know how to demonstrate this “not human” quality.
Where is the threshold of humanity? When exactly do we cross over to the dark side? Am I, too, using horses to fulfill my own wants and needs, to get pleasure and enjoyment for myself and myself only, to inflate my own ego? Am I only a step away from those riders I saw at the competition? Is it possible that deep down we all foster the same seed of selfishness?
I am not like those riders I saw at the competition, I would like to believe I’m nowhere near as inhumane as they are. I try to be kind to animals; I listen to their hopes and desires. I would not use pain to force a horse against its will. But at the same time, I am riding them in the arena and in the country side, I am teaching others how to ride, how to train horses, I am longing, long lining. I am asking for obedience kindly, but persistently, but I am asking.
Sometimes there are days when I actually believe none of us deserve to have anything to do with horses, and those are the days when pain fills me up to the brim. And I think to myself: “I should stop this, stop it right now; no riding, no teaching, no grooming, no nothing.”
No going to the barn, no spending time with horses – at all? If you know me, you know this thought is nearly unthinkable. Horses are my life source, my inspiration, the air I breathe.
How could I even think of walking away?
~K, as always