There has been an interesting discussion going on, starting with Laura's post Trust over at Equestrian Ink, and followed by Kates post Sometimes you feel like a nut at A year with horses.
It's about how we interact with our horses.
In a way the discussion itself makes me smile, because communication is not easy - whether it is between humans or horses. There are many similarities, are there not? It is much about interpretation, and trying to understand.
It also made me think about how much the horseworld has changed.
In the old days, as nowadays in some parts of the world, your income might have been depending on your horse.
Or even your life.
Since the de-horsing of the farms in the 50'ies, we now mainly use horses for pleasure.
That arises some other thoughts about the horses we have around us.
What is fair?
What can I ask from my horse?
All herd-bound animals - be it humans, antelopes or horses, must have a set of rules to interact safely with each other.
I guess we all can agree that we need a set of basic rules for our horses, to be able to handle them safely.
But after that, the use and our opinions of how to handle the horse might differ.
Us horse people can be very conservative.
Most of us live by old traditions, and when we do things, we do them in a specific way because that is what we learnt once upon a time.
As an example, look at how we build and work our barns.
Compare it to how cows are kept. During the last 20 years a large degree of automation has taken place. Now cows even have robots to milk them. Fully automised feeding, based on chip marking. Each cow gets the amount it should.
One can ask if this is all good, but at least the farmer is not as bound to be home for milking or feeding as in the old days.
But when it comes to horses?
We still muck out in wheel-barrows.
Now I am going to reveal something very controversial.
I use treats when training.
Never mind that dog trainers, dolphin trainers and I guess every animal trainer in the world now uses it, in the horse world it is still a bad word.
And I wonder why?
Please allow me to ponder a bit more on this.
We are much coloured from old traditions.
These traditions were mainly made by men, where (sorry guys) the macho-factor sometimes comes into handling of horses.
Be firm. And if the horse doesn't want to, make him. By force, if necessary.
So, it is more accepted to hit the horse than to give him a treat.
Isn't that strange?
Now, on the other hand, I believe most horses (like children) test you out from time to time. Some in a subtle way, some more flagrant.
The more experienced you are with horses, the more you are able to read them.
And you can by reading the horse often avoid that tricky situations arise. Both you and the horse can relax more.
You can allow to give and take a bit more, and listen to each other. But keep the borders firm.
I do not have a bad conscience to make my horses work.
It's their job.
The horses that don't have a job don't live here anymore, most of them.
Where are the farm horses?
Where are the army horses?
I also have to work, to keep my horses and to get food on the table.
So my horses have to work too.
I keep horses for pleasure. I am not in a hurry, because I don't base my income on them.
I work with the horses I have chosen myself, and I chose them much on a sound mind and body.
So I guess my horselife is pretty much uncomplicated.
But I also see that it limits my experience, even if I have been around horses for a long time.
On the other hand, I know that there are other people out there that have their income based on horses.
The trainers often get the horses other people can't train.
I can see that their situation, and their experiences, might differ from mine.
If your safety is on the line, how do you react?
Does an unsafe horse have much of a future?
What is abuse?
I suppose we all can agree on beating up the horse is abuse.
But what about the more subtle things?
Keeping a horse stabled 24/7?
Putting on three rugs?
Only doing indoor arena work?
Is that OK?
Many people have sighed for the 'good old days' and regretted the 'passing of the horse,' but today, when only those who like horses own them, it is a far better time for horses.