Part of my job as a riding coach and trainer is to take the young riders under my care to local show jumping competitions once in a while. My normal routine, before we set off to a show, is to have conversations about putting the needs of our horses first, and how doing our best is what counts, etc. etc. And that is all very well…. but usually, once we arrive at the competitions, it becomes apparent right away that ‘putting the horses’ needs first’ doesn’t always happen.
So, the question that comes up in my heart is: Do I keep taking these children to competitions and try to spread awareness that there is a softer, kinder way with horses?
Am I condoning the suffering of the other horses by attending the shows and not saying anything?(Or perhaps this blog could be my way of saying something?)
Empathic and Compassionate
As I said before, before we set off to any show, we always have the conversation about putting the needs of our horses first. We talk about doing our best, with consideration of our horse.
At home, during the teaching and training of our horses and riders, we use the most empathetic, compassionate ways we can. We choose to ride bitless because we don’t believe in the need of metal in our horse’s mouth to be able to communicate with them. Neither do spurs, whips or other gadgets have a place in our training equipment.
So, with these premises in place, we arrive at shows. The riders are briefed. The horses are calm. That is what is so striking usually about our days out:…. how calm our horses are.
Enter the normal “hub-bub” of a Show Jumping Competition: beautifully turned out horses; one or two inflated egos; some frayed tempers; nerves; horses that are visibly distressed; tight flashes; spurs and whips; loud legs; unfriendly hands; horses saying “no” by rearing, bucking, refusing, running to the gate, dislodging their riders…. sometimes it becomes so difficult to stand by the arena and watch. I want to run to the aid of the horses and try to explain to their riders what was going on for their horses.
In the meantime, the young children I have taken along to the competition thoroughly enjoy themselves. Their horses seem happy to play. It is all easy, soft, willing, calm. So…they want to go again!
I know that a lot of the riders of the horses that are so distressed at shows would be mortified if they realized just how upset their horses are. They are not aware of what they are doing. And I know I can’t say anything to them until they are ready to ask that question: how can I help my horse?
So my query is: could it be that by going to the shows and presenting horses that are calm, soft and willing in the arena we might prompt that question? What is your take on this? Would you like to learn more about giving your horse a voice? If you would please get in touch!