Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Why are we in such a hurry with horses?

I have just read this excellent article by Nic Barker at Rockley Farm on why we shoe horses. Basically the answer is that shoeing a horse is a quick fix. if you don't shoe, you have to put a lot more time and effort into getting the horse's environment, feed, exercise etc. right so his hooves can function as nature intended. I have heard more than one person say "I'd love to go barefoot, but it would take too long to transition and I need to do x, y and z with my horse this year....."

This got me thinking. It's not just shoeing that we do to hurry along what we want to do with our horses. Let's take rugging. Another thing people do because they want a clean horse, don't have time to brush him, don't want him to get too hairy or want him to look "nice" and clean. I have heard convenience used time and time again as a reason to rug. Not the horse's convenience, when it's 25 degrees (like it is today) and he's sweltering under a rug though.

We're also in a hurry to get on the horse's back. Can't have him standing around in a field doing nothing for too long. People apparently find it normal to back them as three year olds. But they don't finish growing until about 6 and a half. So why do people feel the need to have a four year old jumping over a metre high (something I saw regularly in France) or going eventing? Why rush getting them backed and potentially ruining them, physically or mentally, for the rest of their lives?

Because we are in a hurry, we can't wait, we need to feel we're getting our money's worth out of this animal that many of us are just too busy to bother to find out about properly. How many people spend time hanging out in the field with their horses? Not just popping down to stick a rug on, or grabbing him to bring in to tack up (if he's lucky enough to be turned out, that is, and not kept in a stable for our convenience) but just being with them, watching them interact, giving them a good old scratch, letting them sniff our clothes, nibble our hair?

Cartoon by Fed Up Fred
How many people have time to spend training a horse correctly? Why spend months and years building up her balance and muscles working on the ground before ever getting on when you can just get her used to a rider and away you go. If she doesn't move how you want her to, stick a gadget on, that'll do the trick (draw reins seem to be the favourite in France). And if it still doesn't do he trick, if she can't canter a circle after you've had her for a few months, just decide she's not the right horse for dressage and get a different one.......

But to me, horses are not disposable commodities, they do not "need" to be stabled, rugged, shod, bitted, or even ridden. I do not need to get my daughter a "proper" horse for eventing or jumping, we have the horses we have and we try to enable them to do the best they can for us, taking as much time as they need to be able to do what we ask of them. Some things are just worth taking your time over.......

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