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Our subjects cover: religion (Christian, Jewish and others); diet and lifestyle (vegan and vegetarian); and other miscellaneous subjects.

Horseback Riding and Animal Rights:
Can They Ever Be in Harmony?
Comments by: Anna Fuller - 25 Feb 2002

Carmel and Jim,

Yes, I have pondered all the points you have raised, many times over the last few years.  All I can do is what I feel is right for me and my  I have been involved with horses most of my life, in the form of simply having horses and doing what I call "pottering about" with them i.e. spending time with them, watching them, grooming them and riding them quietly.  I've never been competitive or interested in making horses work or perform to any great degree. Most of the horses I have owned have been rescue cases (I worked in equine welfare for several years) and believe me, riding is the least of keeping a horse.  The daily work involved in caring for their needs takes up more time than any time spent riding! 

In New Zealand (temperate climate) we don't keep horses in barns and stables, but where one has little pasture space (in my case), they do benefit from a certain amount of exercise and change of scene.  For us, that means riding is a leisurely stroll down to the river, for a leg-stretch and a paddle or a brisk walk around the block.  I believe that "Socks" looks forward to and enjoys his outings in the same way that a dog enjoys a walk.  He trusts me and knows I won't hurt him or ask him to do anything other than the usual routine.  Horse body language is easy to read, especially if you have an old "mate" you have known for years.  I will truthfully say that there are often times I don't feel much like having that ride (I'm getting old too!), but I know that Socks is waiting at the gate for me at the regular time and that he benefits from the exercise.  Ideally, he would be living wild in a herd and getting plenty of exercise, but his life, here and now is not like that.  In this country (and Australia too) wild horses are considered vermin) and old horses go to slaughter. 

As for "breaking in", I agree the traditional methods are cruel and disgraceful. Also, in the US, horses seem to wear an excessive amount of gear and horrible-looking bits.  It is possible to use a fraction of that gear and no bit.  I often ride bareback and when I do use a saddle it's a synthetic light-weight one that's comfortable for the horse.  

I know it looks like I am trying to justify riding my horse, but I guess I am trying to make the point that there are degrees of most things, and if we are involved with animals, then we will want to give those animals the best lives within our power.  It is the same with other pets.  I believe it is perfectly OK to keep cats and dogs as companion pets, providing for their physical and emotional needs.  But what about show and breeding kennels and catteries where the animals are kept for purposes other than that special relationship of a human and pet?

I probably will never own another horse.  However, at this point in time I own an old (18 years) horse who looks to me for all his needs, including exercise, and I do my best for him.  I agree that probably most, if not all, horse riding is exploitation of that animal - I'm not sure how to tie that thought in with my own horse and the relationship we have.
I'm looking forward to the new Kingdom Jesus has promised us a place in, where all the animals and the horses will be safe and happy.  Thanks Carmel & Jim for getting me thinking - and writing - about this.

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