I like this article, all about how we have "killed" Spirit. (That's the stallion from the animated film Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron, by the way, for those of you who didn't have a daughter obsessed with it, the Bryan Adams soundtrack got a bit wearing after a while!)
I love the use of language in this post, especially right at the beginning which is mostly taken directly from a book about a certain short, hairy-footed creature that lived in a hole ;-)
For those of you who don't speak French, here's my attempt at a translation:
"We’ve killed SpiritThis post, written by a non-rider who suffers my equestrian stories on a daily basis, is committed, without a doubt, as is this blog. As well as writing a criticism of what has become normal in the horse world, he is calling for people to question this normality, no matter who we are, where we come from or what we do with our horses.In a stable there lived a horse. Not a nasty, dirty, wet stable, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, it was a luxury stable, and that means comfort.This horse was a noble descendant of Pegasus. He carried his head high and proud, his mane was full on his well-defined neck, his hocks were well-muscled and his coat was the colour of……..well what colour is your horse?In the long row of immaculate boxes we find the highest quality straw and not a dropping in sight. No heavy farmyard odours either, instead we breathe in the pleasant smell of cleaning products. And in these lovely 3 metre by 4 metre spaces are superb horses straight out of the pages of a magazine, impeccably shod, shining coats, expertly plaited manes and plumed tails. These noble creatures, impassive, watch the strange brooms of the bustling grooms with a haughty eye (or is that dull-eyed, who knows?) But the horse we’re interested in is not among them. Today he is with his rider. Outside. Well, in the indoor school. Outside it’s dusty and there are too many distractions. It isn’t an appropriate environment for a horse of such standing.His rider (could be male or female, but it’s not important for our story, let’s say she’s female) loves this horse. If he’s descended from the Prince of Horses then she too is of the line of Bellerophon who knew how to tame him. She too would give her kingdom for her horse. She’s about your age. Her passion for horses was born when she played with her little plastic toy horses and was captivated in front of the telly watching the powerful and noble Spirit gallop, with his fierce gaze and indomitable spirit. But in the eyes of her horse, we find nothing but resignation……..But decked out in his shiny leather tack he shows us his proud paces. Yes, he has this narrow strap that’s painfully tight around his nose, but…..it’s like the warhorses from the middle ages, he has all the trappings, bandages round his legs, brushing boots over those, overreach boots protecting his hooves. On his back, a veritable throne, (not of iron this one) rubber pad, sheepskin pad, saddle blanket and of course a superb saddle, very comfortable for the rider……finishing touch, draw reins, Pelham bit and noseband that give him the head carriage so admired by the judges.Spurs glitter, reins tighten, and it’s time for some schooling. Our rider always says practise makes perfect. So every day she makes her companion practise the exercises that all good sports horses need to master.Circle, volte, demi volte. Nostrils pinched and brow furrowed, our athlete bravely obeys (if our horse knew the story of Sisyphus, he would be able to sympathise). A hearty slap on the neck is his reward. Then on to lengthened strides on the diagonal, transitions and shoulder in. The effort causes him to whisk his tail and grind his teeth, but he has to continue, no choice. If he trips, slows down or stops, metal heels caress his flanks. But be not afraid, o noble horse, in a few years you will no longer feel this pain, you will no longer feel the bite of leather, you will no longer feel the pressure of the bit or the weight of the rider. In truth you won’t feel anything at all. And then you’re back in your box again, that wasn’t so hard, was it and of course your rider loves you so much you know! She’s not trying to hurt you! So don’t be ungrateful, don’t fight, endure, and make the most of your straw lined prison and your beautiful gaoler.Spirit is dead."
My daughter too played with plastic horses and watched that film countless times. Her favourite toy was a soft toy of Rain, Spirit's paint mare. But she doesn't keep her horse in a luxurious prison. He horse is hairy, muddy and unshod, lives out all the time with her herd and is ridden on a loose rein without a bit, spur or tight noseband. Sometimes in fact without any tack at all.
More and more blogs and websites are asking people to question traditional methods of horse husbandry. The barefoot owners group on Facebook has over 10,000 members. Concordia Equestrians have started holding competitions where bitless competitors are encouraged, and any bit stronger than a snaffle is banned. Epona TV is tirelessly presenting people with videos and articles from experts in many fields presenting alternatives to long established practises. So maybe there's hope for us (and more importantly, for our horses) yet?