Horseback Riding and Animal Rights: Can They Ever Be in Harmony?


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Horseback Riding and Animal Rights:
Can They Ever Be in Harmony?
Comments by: Hazel Furness - 23 Feb 2007

I consider myself a good vegan. I don't consume any animal products, I buy vegan and non-animal tested shampoo, conditioner, make-up, etc., etc. However, I agree with horse-riding.

I have thought long and hard about this subject, asking myself whether I was being selfish and agreeing with horse-riding just because I like it. I am still open to suggestions on the subject, but my present opinion is that as long as it is done humanely and with the horse's best interests, that horse-riding is ok.

I disagree with stabling horses (unless there is absolutely no other option), I disagree with showing, breeding, competing and racing of horses. I disagree with training methods, feeding programmes, shoeing, and overloading a horse with unnecessary tack.

Natural horsemanship (Pat Parelli) and horse whispering (Monty Roberts) are two very kind ways to deal with horses, and I believe all horsey people should look to this and take heed.

You do not need leather tack, metal bits and shoes, whips, spurs, etc., etc., in order to enjoy horses. Bareback riding with no bridle or even headcollar is possible. With a great deal of trust and communication, people can ride horses by 'asking' them instead of 'telling' them. Horses are incredibly sensitive creatures and will respond to the lightest of touches if they are taught how. Kicking their sides and jagging their mouths is unnecessary and cruel.

I would agree with riding with a synthetic saddle and a bridle, as long as it was all vegan, fitted correctly and used properly. I don't see the need for a bit - if a horse will respond to a light touch then why pull at its sensitive mouth with a piece of metal? Saddles help to spread the weight of a rider, and prevents them from moving about, thus interfering with the horse's balance and movement. If you are a very competent rider then you wouldn't need tack to help you stay still and be comfortable for the horse, but less experienced people should consider the horse's needs before hopping on board with bony seat bones and bad balance.

I know I am biased towards horse-riding, but I believe that if people act with the horse's needs first, and their own second, then they both enjoy riding.

As with dogs and cats, it is clear when horses are happy/sad/ill/angry, etc. Horses will display if they are unhappy or uncomfortable. Their downfall is in their placid and accommodating nature. If they acted like deer, and were flighty and nervous then we wouldn't have domesticated them and they would be free. So we should reward their characters by treating them with the respect and care they deserve.

Like I said, riding is only a small part of horse-ownership, and there are many other activities to do with horses on the ground - grooming, mucking-out, watching them wander and eat. We do not have to ride, but if and when we do, it should be done as all other horsey-type things are done - horse comes first.

Horses being happy and enjoying their lives is of paramount importance to me, and I do not think that riding them (as I have described above) affects this.

Hazel Furness

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