By Dr. Joyce of The Caring Heart, Spokane, WA
“…the creature itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:20)
I acquired registered saddlebred horse 3-year-old mare Commander’s Snazzy Pzazz in a rather unusual manner. A couple of months earlier, I had purchased mare Lady and her then 2-day-old foal from trainer Mark. Part of that deal included a series of horsemanship lessons for me, because I knew absolutely nothing about keeping horses or riding them. I really needed lots of practical instruction! Well, I heard via “the grapevine” that Mark was in the process of “skipping town” and moving to Minnesota. Oh-oh!! He had only provided me with one of the lessons I needed so badly. So, a friend and I drove out to William’s Valley that evening to the horse establishment where Mark was staying, and confronted him. Yup, he was packing up to leave. I asked him if he would give me some horse gear (tack) to make up for my missed lessons. He didn’t have any to spare, but said he would give me a horse – Snazzy Pzazz. We took a flashlight out in the dark that night to try to see Snazzy out in the huge pasture, but couldn’t. So, I went home partially owning a horse I had never seen. Mark said he would be back from Minnesota one more time. If he didn’t come back or didn’t make it right with me, I could own Snazzy outright.
So, beautiful, energetic Snazzy came to live at my place. She was a high-strung chestnut with a real eye-catcher of a horse body, but with a Roman nose horse face, which, I’ve read, can make a horse more wary and less trusting because the more prominent nose restricts range of vision a little bit. And she was more wary and less trusting. Day after day Snazzy paced the back fence line, so nervous and tense! Poor girl!!
Also via “the grapevine” I learned that trainer Mark had been exploiting Snazzy in his training of her, trying to make her into a top saddlebred show horse. SO, she had much more reason to be wary, nervous, and untrusting than the shape of her nose would cause. Reportedly, Mark had pushed her and pushed her, day after day, long hours to make her into the successful saddlebred show horse he wanted her to be. He had popped paper bags at her to get her going. He was abusive in his aggressive training of her, making her into a nervous wreck.
After I heard how he had treated her, I could not allow Snazzy to go to Minnesota with him. When he came back to Spokane for one last time, I offered Mark $800 for her papers to be signed over to me. Mark took the deal and Snazzy was mine, and was forever free from his exploitation of her. I did not have the skill to ride her or train her, but she was at peace and happy at my place, and she had walks down the road and the company of her horse friends.
Horses really are at the mercy of whoever owns them, trains them, rides them, and so forth. Mostly, it seems, horse trainers learn their techniques and their understandings from those who taught them, for better or worse. Different philosophies have their adherents, and even the most “exalted” professional trainers and judges in the field are still promoting practices that cause horses substantial damage. For example, dressage judges have been giving higher scores to those riders who get their horses to travel with their heads and necks bent low and curled in. This can and frequently does cause the horse to have a “broken neck” where the ligaments at the top of his or her head are stretched so badly that a deformity is visible. I have heard that a high percentage of horses in certain competitions become so permanently damaged that they are through by eight years of age. Horse exploitation and abuse is a terrible thing, and has gone on and is going on massively and incredibly cruelly. We should do anything we can to stop it!
After having horses for about 18 years now, I am convinced that people who deal with horses should be very well trained in methods which put the safety and well-being of the horse FOREMOST! There is a great deal to learn about these most marvelous horses. It is a horse owner’s responsibility to build a horse’s self-confidence and give him a safe environment he does not have to fear, and an owner/trainer/rider who he can trust and relax with, and who is a good leader for the horse. Real partnership and harmony is what it’s all about! Two creatures – human and horse – who are sensitive to each other, know each other, and gently respond to each other like two ballroom dancers who have been dancing together for years and years.
What happiness for both horse and human when that situation exists! People who have the best relationships with their horses are so sensitive to their sensitivities. They offer gentle cues, have lots of patience, and minimal pressure. They do NOT come to the horse with negative emotions to unload on the poor horse. Horse well-being really is first, and not some human ego trip to try to win ribbons at some horse show, no matter how much the horse suffers and is damaged.
I’m still learning, myself. I want to know all I can about what makes my horses enjoy their lives, like our activities together, and remain very healthy and in good condition. I want to take them more places, so they can see more than just what’s around our three acres. I want us all to learn more. Horses seem to really like to learn when schooling is done in a comfortable and correct manner. They seem to have a really good time and exhibit enthusiasm when ridden by a trusted person in a manner which is right for their conformation, personality, and stage of development. Horses really seem to like and want companionship with their owners. Horses like to have a job when it is the right job. When my son and I go out to put the halters on our two horses, they bend their heads down, wanting the halters on. No resistance!! They cooperate so sweetly. They really like to be brushed, and to have treats. Mare Belle LOVES to pull us in her cart.
To sum up my points here, I believe that those who want to be around horses have a HUGE responsibility to become as informed and skilled as possible in methods that truly support the total well-being of the horse. That responsibility extends to the horse owner’s being the kind, consistent, trustworthy person the horse needs. If the horse owner is NOT, the horse will know the difference, because they are uncanny about knowing more about what is going on in us than we know about ourselves!!
Dr. Joyce The Caring Heart Copyright 2012