man in red jack riding a black horse

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16 Comments

  1. I am an equestrian, and i would like to get it out there. Horse riding is not cruel. If a horse is lame, it will most probably show that it is lame by not cooperating or limping. Also, horse riding, apparently to you, is ‘unnatural’. There are many things in this world that are unnatural, but not all of them are bad. And unless being abused, most horses do not feel pain when being ridden. If tacked and prepared correctly, they should not even be uncomfortable during riding sessions. Responsible instructors should check the tack if the child/adult is not fully comfortable with tacking. But no, horse riding is not cruel.

  2. I am a professional horse trainer (of the humane variety). I specialise in horses who have developed strange behavioural attitudes (usually, but not always through misguided treatment/training) and have two points to make.

    1. Dr Dyson’s guidelines are so encompassing as to be of little use. There are so many reasons why a horse might display any number of the characteristics Dr Dyson lists as signs of lameness as to render the 24 point plan of limited value on a practical level. The inclusion of such a wide range of behaviours as signs of lameness will (and does) automatically lead to an over-estimation. It seems that everybody is looking for simple “12 point plan” for everything that can be read and easily digested on an iphone, but there is no substitute for horsemanship, however cold it is outside today.

    2. Horses are like teenagers in many ways. Proudly independent but needing gentle guidance – not becasue there is anything wrong with what they are saying (teenagers can often be devastatingly correct in their world view) but because as parents, our job is to help them prepare for the real world. Horses, may also show reluctance to work sometimes but, again like teenagers, are generally happier when they get off their butt and find some direction in their life. Many horses who find such a purpose often exhibit the same type of deep happiness that many humans develop when they know their direction in life – a kind of equine professional pride. Such a person may have gone through some challenging times to get to that point, and so it is with horses. If you apply Dr Dyson’s plan to horses, many healthy horses would be classified as lame and very few of them would ever find their place or develop their skills. Simply put, whatever parenting approach you have towards teenagers, I think we can all agree that cosseting them and never allowing them to overcome challenges rarely turns out well.

    Finally, I would make thepoint that describing horse riding as ‘unatural’ is not the slam-dunk you seem to think. It is not ‘natural’ to clean your teeth or use an iphone either, but these are definite benefits. What we should be asking is not whether something is ‘natural’ but whether it brings real-world benefits and I would argue from a lifetime around horses that a horse that stands in a field all day is an unhappy horse compared to one that has a role that he/she understands.

    Wishing my fellow vegans and veggies all the best,

    Rick

  3. Thanks for writing this article. I found both it and the comments very interesting.
    I’m not a horsy person. By that I mean I love horses and find them fascinating but I’ve never been involved with them in any way except interacting with those I’ve seen in fields while out walking (that doesn’t nullify my reasoning before anyone suggests that).
    As an animal lover who is against all forms of animal exploitation, horse riding is a subject I have thought about a lot. For me it comes down to this, horses didn’t evolve to carry a load on their backs. Especially such a large load as a human pushing down at around 90deg to their spine. Not only is this heavy load totally unnatural for them, they are then pressured into physical exerting themselves while carrying it.
    I’m a generally fit and healthy person with a very active job but I occasionally get back and joint pain from the nature of my work and when I do it’s awful. I’ve heard a lot of horse riders say that horses wouldn’t do it if they didn’t want to but I don’t believe that’s true in a lot of cases. When have you ever seen an unbroken horse willingly except someone climbing on their back and riding round. The very term “breaking in” a horse says that you have to break their desire not to have someone on their back. Do I want to carry on working while suffering from back and joint pain? Certainly not, but I always do when I can. You could say I’ve been broken into a life where I sometimes have to work through the pain.
    For me it boils down to this. Do horses need to be ridden and do we need to ride horses? The answer to both questions is no. Does horse riding cause the horses pain and discomfort? In lots of cases, definitely and in most, if not all cases, probably. In answering these questions it becomes apparent that horse riding is yet another example of animal exploitation where many of those who partake in the activity use excuses to justify their past time without truly knowing the extent of the suffering they are causing the animals they claim to love.
    The statistics in this article that show a massive increase in incidents of lameness in ridden horses compared to unridden ones is further proof of the harm horse riding causes. And that’s just pain that’s at a level we can gauge through reading signs in the horse. It doesn’t include milder pain, discomfort or the potential psychological impact of being controlled.
    As with a lot of cases where humans think we somehow have the right to use animals however we see fit, I really think it’s time we got down from our horses.

  4. As an equestrian myself, I’m not sure you understand how riding really works. If a horse doesn’t have the will to be ridden, it won’t let you. It takes a certain level of patience and personality from both the horse and the rider. Yes, there is some abuse in the industry, but riding itself isn’t cruel.

    1. You couldn’t have said it any better! I’m also an equestrian and I really can’t believe that someone who isn’t, would have the guts to put something up like this when the don’t truly understand and know what it feels like for you to wake up early just to come outside so you can see your horses and to feel their warm breath against your face in the cold, and to experience their love and affection they give back to you. If you don’t ride frequently and haven’t experienced a true bond with them then you have no say because your argument is invalid.

  5. I have had horses for 55 years and for the last ten of those I just can’t think of a reason to ride. Why should another sentient being carry me when I have my own legs? Why should she have metal in her mouth? A saddle pinching her back (however will fitted once the rider is on can anyone categorically say a horse feels no pain or discomfort?) Have every movement controlled by a human as in high level dressage? I can’t justify any of it any more. My horses roam free at home and they are perfectly happy in their herd. They have their field mates and food, shelter, water.
    I also rehome horses from Ireland as they are more likely to get a permanent home in the UK but am gettimg increasingly irritated by the questions people ask.I presently have a 12yo ex hunt horse here and although I would like a non-ridden home for him it’s impossible at the price he is (set by owner). He’s been hunted by men for 8 years, never had his back or teeth done. When people ask me about his rideability, they get offended when I say he’s “quiet and safe” in human terms because he’s on automatic pilot. He’s not interested in being ridden ..it’s just something he tolerates, something he has to do. He doesn’t have the energy or will to misbehave. He goes where you want him to go at the pace you want him to go. He stops when you ask him to. I need to sell him as his owner in Ireland wants his money but honestly when I see these broken spirited horses and albeit well-meaning riders asking all these questions, I just wish I had the money to buy him myself and let him hang out in the field for the rest of his life. And no he didn’t “love” hunting, and no he doesn’t get “bored” in the field with his friends.
    Horse diving seems repulsive to us now but less than 40 years ago diving platforms were still being built in Atlanta. In another 40 years time I hope riding horses will be viewed with the same revulsion. Please read ” I can’t watch any more” by Julie Taylor about horses in Olympic level sport if you still think it’s not cruel.
    Thank you for researching the article and Ienjoyed the links to recent topics especially the signs of pain.

    1. Wow, Clare, It’s fascinating to read about your insights and experiences with horses. Thank you for your time, money and energy in caring for horses for over five decades! It’s heartbreaking where some of this had led to, across various mediums.

    2. Claire I’m also and equestrian with 3 horses. I ride with a bit-less bridal and though I do ride with a saddle twice a week, I ride 2 days a week without one. You can have your opinion but you don’t need to call us abusers and say we are inflicting horse cruelty when we know that if they don’t want us to ride them, they will make it bloody impossible to get on them. Horse riding is a partnership and bond between the two of you, not for us to “take control” but to enjoy it with them. They want to please us and the way I know that is because I see it every day when I go out to see them.

  6. My family has had horses for my entire life and use them for work, competition and recreation. Our horses are our friends, our partners, our beloved pets, and in the case of my children who are on the autism spectrum, an important part of their therapy. We have found that when we develop a good relationship with a horse, they are at their happiest when they have a job to do. Just like a human, they need a purpose. We would never pair a horse with a rider of an inappropriate weight, neither would we ride or use a horse when it is lame–that’s just common sense. They are given plenty of food, fresh water, and room to run and roam. When they get old, they become what we call “pasture ornaments”, meaning that they live out their lives in peace on the farm. Are horses abused? Yes, absolutely, and we should work to end that abuse. Children are also abused and we should work to end that as well, but that shouldn’t stop those of us who can provide a stable, loving and nurturing environment from having families. Just my $.02!

    1. Hi Leah, it sounds like you’ve taken all the measures for your family and your horses to have a loving and mutually beneficial relationship. And yes, there’s always a spectrum of abuse with animals, both human and nonhuman. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  7. I am a guardian of 5 equines and none of them are ridden. I feel they do not need to be ridden to prove their worth. I am not anti horse riding but I do feel the horse must be 100% in agreement with being ridden for this to be acceptable. Interesting what I have found personally is the stigma of “riding” is not in riding but in the opposite of not riding your equines.There is a grassroots movement now for the non ridden equine (on Facebook it is called exactly this) but it has had a lot of flack from the horse riding community. Many people use horses merely as instruments and once they stop assisting them with their purpose they are either PTS or moved on to other homes. Horses, in my opinion, are one of the most re-homed animals with some having 3-4 homes before they are 2 years of age. This is purely because they were not acceptable to their human.

    1. Hi Michelle, your perspective and experiences are fascinating! I wasn’t aware of the frequent re-homing at such a young age. I’m curious, how do your horses get exercise? Do they keep each other stimulated?

      1. Yes, horses belonging to people who are focussed on riding only or dressage etc can sometimes just see the horse as an instrument for forwarding what they want to achieve. I have seen horses bought as babies and then on sold at three because they were not suitable for the person’s equestrian pursuits. I also find it quite a rarity for a horse to stay with the same person for their entire life. We have a small animal rescue and the 5 equines are part of this. We have given the lion share of of the property to the horses and they are on tracks (the design comes from Paddock Paradise). Most of our horses are walking approximately 5 kilometres a day on these tracks which basically weave around the property (you don’t need a big property to do this – even under 5 acres would suffice). We have their water and food at opposite ends with variations of terrain throughout (rocks, gravel etc) so they are continually wearing away their hooves. As far as stimulation I feel our herd just need themselves. I do not feel that a horse needs a job, per se and feel that this viewpoint can come from our use of this animal. We generally do not say this about our dogs and cats. I truly believe that horses were not put on this planet to be ridden i.e. they have existed well without man taming and riding them.

          1. I so appreciate this article and all of the insightful comments. I am the guardian to four amazing horses and have ridden since I was only a few years old. As I get older and understand more what makes a horse truly happy vs all of the things humans do to them for their own pleasure:entertainment, I find myself struggling to see how I fit into the “horse world” anymore.

          2. Hi Nicole, I’m also appreciative to learn about different experiences. It’s interesting to read about your shift in perspective on the horse-human relationship. Especially your last line, “I find myself struggling to see how I fit into the “horse world” anymore”. Thanks for sharing!