A Few Words From The Horse....

A Few Words From The Horse….

Look, [expletive deleted] we don’t do ‘alone.’ In OUR world, in OUR culture, in OUR way of life, we are only told to leave our immediate family when we reach maturity to form our own family. The young mares are quickly assimilated into another stallion’s family (harem band) or won by one of the stallions from a bachelor herd to form a new family. (Your ethologists call it ‘exogamy.’)

Being a social prey animal, the young stallions who have left their harem band family are very apprehensive about ‘being alone’ without the companionship of others of their own kind. They dread being alone SO much, that they willingly congregate into bachelor herds with other young, future competitors. Those are the same competitors that they may well someday have to face in serious combat to earn the right to form their own family.

They congregate together because they desperately need the company of others of their own kind not only as a matter of survival, (extended area of detection of predators) but also because of the innate need of our species for like companionship. So the NEXT time we ‘ride out alone,’ try to appreciate the fact that we consider this not only culturally reprehensible, but also instinctively insanely suicidal.

Speaking of ‘family’, did you ever STOP to THINK how desperately we need the social upbringing of our family unit? Or how devastating the lack of simply learning ‘our’ culture can be for us? You deprive us of living the first few years of our life in a normal stallion-mare-sibling family unit. Your so called ‘weaning’ denies us any appreciable learning of all our social and reproductive norms by premature separation from our Mother.

Then you blame US for all those ‘bad horse problems’ and call us ‘bad horses.’ In reality, it is YOUR lack of knowledge and understanding (or caring) that actually causes those ‘problems’! Perhaps you foolishly believe we go through life purely on ‘instinct’? If you do, please try to remember that it is the equally proportionate influence of both nature AND nurture that gives us the mental, emotional and instinctual balance we so desperately need to mature as healthy adults. If you doubt this, look to your feral children raised by other animals.

We strongly suggest you learn a bit about our culture and social norms by viewing the documentary series and life story of a Mustang named Cloud, by Ginger Kathrens.

Or read the works of equine ethologists like Dr. McDonnell and Dr. Mills, (amongst many other equine ethologists who have invested a goodly part of their lives to bring the story of our culture to light).

That also goes for your aberrant self-serving use of ‘caging’ us in solitary confinement. Good Lord! You humans start going psychotic after a month or two of solitary confinement and YOU are ‘cave dwellers’. Can you imagine how maliciously depraved that is to the hearts, minds and spirits of OUR species?

That does not even take into account the detrimental effect it has on our respiratory, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems, or loss of REM sleep, arthritis and other physiological problems that develop from extended confinement in the tiny cage you call a ‘stall.’ Our home is any open area where we have freedom of choice and movement, NOT tiny little caves! Our bodies, minds and hearts require MOVEMENT, (between 10 and 25 MILES A DAY). Calling it a ‘stall’ does not help us. Neither does rationalizing caging us according to your values and needs.

So the NEXT time you want to lock us up in one of your ‘stalls,’ try locking yourself up in a proportionate two foot by five foot windowless cell, with the stench of your accumulated faeces and ammonia-producing urine saturating the air every waking minute and no way to contact another human or see the sky or feel the wind. Don’t forget to turn off your cell phones, radios and TVs when you do. No books or writing material allowed either. Just stand there, day after day after day, all alone.

Try it for a few months. When you get out, multiply how you feel times a thousand. That should give you a ‘rough idea’ of how WE feel when you keep us in a ‘stall’.

E STUDY TIMEOh, by the way. Calling it a ‘stall’ and justifying its use because it has been done hundreds of years, (or because wealthy horse owners or those who do not care in your world condone it) doesn’t change anything. To us, it’s still a tiny cage filled with loneliness and desolation.

Also, we never CARRY anything on our back. The only time something is on our back is when a predator attacks trying to kill us, youngsters playing together, reproductive play, preferred associates in restive socialization, or a stallion mounting a mare). Try to keep that fact in your pee-size idiotic brain the next time we ‘go out alone’ into some insanely suicidal environment while carrying some dolt on our back that:

1) Makes us feel clumsy and unbalanced.
2) Interferes with our ability to instantly physically react and escape from a predator attack because of the additional dead weight we’re carrying.
3) Has NO idea of our natural movements of locomotion, (which makes it very difficult and uncomfortable to even walk much less trot or run). This often results in mild or sometimes severe forms of chronic ‘rider induced lameness’ that makes us hate carrying you even more.
4) Thinks that the piece of metal they put in our mouth (that creates a great deal of pain when they jerk the reins attached to it and restricts our breathing) is supposed to make us somehow want to excel in their chosen mounted activity and make us a ‘good horse.’

We do not ‘do restriction’ either. If we are trapped or caught and unable to flee in a micro-second notice, we feel we are ‘on death row, waiting for the executioner.’ Our primary means of survival is the ability to instantly react and flee from danger. Try to remember that the next time you want us to enter and stand in a tiny cave-box with barely enough room to stand up comfortably, while being bounced around at breakneck speeds with the stench of exhaust fumes filling our nostrils.

We also do not wear anything on our feet. We haven’t for millions of years and got along just fine on all types of terrain, from the mountains of stone to the sandy ocean shores and everywhere in between without the restrictive ‘shoes’ you nail to our feet that cause all kinds of physiological/locomotive problems for us.

While we’re on the subject, we don’t grab and hold another horse’s foot and tell them to stand in one place either. That is UNTHINKABLE! To do so would prevent the other horse from escaping in the event of a predator attack. Of course one stallion fighting another stallion may try to cripple him by biting a foreleg or hock to maintain possession of his own harem band/family. So think about that the next time you ask us to ‘pick up our feet’ so you can grab and hold them for what seems like an eternity to us, while cutting and tapping and pounding on them. (Not to mention our elders, who find it painful to stand on three legs for any length of time.)

Speaking of millions of years, your backwards, counterproductive practice of interfering with our natural thermoregulation you call ‘blanketing/rugging.’ Don’t you know that blankets can prevent us from growing a healthy winter coat, trap toxins and bacteria, limit the production of natural protective oils in our coat, sometimes force us to sweat unnaturally, restrict natural movements and can cause injury when they get caught or loosen?

Or is it just that you don’t give a damm? That you actually prefer making money and showing off to your peers rather than consider how much harm you are doing?

All we really need is shelter from the wind and rain, and the ability to chose for ourselves when to use it.

Like most herbivores, our digestive system is designed to process small amounts of forage at a time throughout nearly the entire day. Feeding us overly processed feeds, grains and rich legumes once or twice a day is very hard on our digestive system and can lead to chronic or acute colic, founder, laminitis, gastric and colonic ulcers or even simple discomfort that affects our performance when you ‘ride us.’ That surge to our system can also make us hyper-active and often causes us to ‘act out’ in ways we would not normally think of acting. Of course we are then usually punished for ‘being a bad horse.’

This does not take into account the discomfort and pain of excess hydrochloric acid when our stomachs are empty for long periods of time. You see, our stomachs continually produce acid, (up to nine gallons a day). So when we’re ‘out riding’, (or doing any mounted activity with you) try to remember that the ‘snatch of grass’ we take might be because we thought it was tasty and natural for us to do so. It might also have been to alleviate the pain and burning in our empty, acid-filled stomach. Is that the way you’d want to be treated when working if you had digestive needs like ours?

Have you ever given ANY consideration as to WHY we need dental check-ups? Why the silica in the grass, (not hay) helps us maintain healthy teeth? Or WHY eating at GROUND LEVEL is so important? Or how it affects our TMJ? Or how the TMJ affects our whole body?

We use ‘straight-line’ thinking and linear logic (unlike you fools who seem to enjoy tempting fate by going back to something that tried to kill you to ‘investigate and conquer or kill it.’) If something has hurt one of us, if something has tried to hurt one of us, or if we think something MIGHT hurt us, we try to avoid it at ALL costs. This also means that just because you can frighten us and force us to run around in circles while trapped in your ‘round pen’ or picadero, it DOESN’T mean we have to obey you OUTSIDE of that place you trapped us in and forced us to run around (and will often seek every evasive opportunity offered).

When we ‘spook’ at something while carrying you, it is not our intention to frighten or hurt you. In fact, usually it is just the opposite! Each member of our family depends on the others to instantly ‘spook’ at the slightest thing that is frightening or could possibly harm us. This increases our overall range of sensitivity and alertness to danger. It is also why we find it extremely difficult to NOT join other horses that run past us. You see, we don’t know what they’re running FROM and feel the desperate need to survive.

So when we ‘spook’ at something, we are trying to save ourselves and in many cases, (though you don’t deserve it) to save you in the process by doing so. If you are frightened by our reaction or get hurt or fall off, please don’t whip us and beat us for reacting in the manner Mother Nature dictated us to react.

CARD LADY 2That only makes us more fearful and in remembering later, we hate to ‘ride out alone’ with you that much more. If you had taken just a little time to FIRST build that essential bond between us, and then convinced us that nothing can hurt us when we are out alone together, we wouldn’t have ‘spooked’ in the first place. (Or if we DID get startled by something, it would have only been a momentary ‘spook in place’ until you reassured us that whatever startled us couldn’t really hurt us).

You seem to forget your own uncontrollable ‘panic’ when you stamp and crush each other to death if someone yells “FIRE!” in a crowed theatre (or when you’re escaping a fire in a crowded, burning building). What you feel, trying to run panic-stricken out of that that burning building, is no different from what WE feel when something startles us, (ESPECIALLY when we are ‘riding out alone’ with you on our back).

While we’re on the subject of ‘riding out alone’ with you, please try to understand that we can detect your heartbeat, your apprehension and fear, hear things that you cannot hear, see things you cannot see, smell things you could never smell and sense things you could never possibly be aware of, no matter how hard you tried.

Gads! Even your nervous system is so lacking you don’t have a panniculus reflex! Try to remember that when you think we are ‘acting spooky’ and hyperactive for ‘apparently no reason’! If you’re not too preoccupied with ‘training us’, perhaps a short read of Dr. Burton’s Chapter Seven on the Internet might give you a better understanding of those sensory and biological systems.

You don’t even pay attention to your own scientists! Your ‘training’ using fear and the threat of physical punishment and/or actual physical punishment has been ‘weighed and measured’ by them and found not only lacking, but wasteful and counter-productive as well. They tell you that Positive Reinforcement has a much longer lasting effect than Punishment. And that we learn faster when stress hormones do not flood our body. Yet you continue to use archaic methods, blissfully patronizing your ego and some idiotic fantasy of being a ‘great trainer’ in the eyes of your peers.

Of COURSE we’re going to react when confronted with a challenge, (ESPECIALLY if we’re trapped!) Some of us may react violently in the beginning, and later succumb to ‘Learned Helplessness.’ Others may just ‘shut down’ completely and give up their spirit to become your ‘push button zombies.’

And after being handed from one to another while enduring painful, abusive ‘training,’ you then kill those who attempt to retain their dignity, their spirit and their ‘sense of self.’

For that matter, everything you do is ‘backwards’ and alien to any logical, thinking being. You walk around all day on your hind legs, change your scent from day to day with various deodorants, perfumes, hair sprays, shampoos and body powder. You also change not only the texture of your body covering often, but its color as well and ‘take some body covering off’ (or put something different on) on different days. That’s very confusing to those of us who depend on identifying others by scent and sight.

Your erratic emotional states seem to vary to extremes at times for seemingly no obvious, logical reason that we can possibly determine. Good grief! With all your myriad of emotional variances, we never know WHAT to expect! It’s very difficult to trust anything that erratic.

Speaking of which, you even ‘bare your teeth’ when you are HAPPY instead of angry. Did you ever stop to think that predators ‘bare their teeth’ when fighting or attacking? (So do we when we’re angry).

We do not castrate our stallions. In ‘our world’ we have no confusing reproductive/emotional conflict as to what a male horse is, (or what his responsibilities are to his harem band family and the propagation of our species).

We also allow youngsters to observe our reproductive process so that they know it is a part of life and something to be accepted as normal instead of an unknown, apprehensive, fearful experience with a strange stallion the mares have never before met. And vice/versa so the young colts can gain an understanding of what is proper, expected reproductive behaviour.

In OUR culture, in OUR society, we have TWO very basic relationships we may share with another horse (other than stallion/mare and mare/foal). One is the normal inter/intra-herd relationship, where our herd rank is very important as a matter of individual and species survival. It is established/maintained by the use of warnings, intimidation, discomfort and even at times physical punishment.

You seem to copy that relationship quite well when you try to ‘train us’ but are patently oblivious to the fact that it is an adversarial, confrontational relationship. (especially in changeable, domesticated, unrelated herds!).

When two of us bond together as true lifetime friends you call that relationship ‘horse buddies’ or ‘horse pals’. Equine ethologists call this ‘other relationship’ affiliated pairing, non-sexual bonding, peer attachment, mutually beneficial coalitions and preferred associates. We have no need for intimidation, discomfort or physical punishment in THIS relationship because we unconditionally accept each other’s herd rank and trust each other completely. True, if you watch two horses bonded in this type of relationship, they do seem to bicker and ‘play fight’ more with each other than other horses. But that is just the males engaging in ‘social play.’ You see, they can play more because they trust each other COMPLETELY to never intentionally hurt each other.

catch preserveFor 6,000 years we have been blamed for being a ‘bad horse’ NOT because we are ‘bad horses,’ but because generation after generation you have continually sought to establish the relationship of dominance and submission to effect some level of ‘learned helplessness’ and instant obedience (which is one direct causal of all those confrontational ‘horse problems’ you perceive and constantly complain about).

Why do you continually choose confrontation and dominance/submission instead of friendship?

WE have remained basically UNCHANGED in our hearts and minds for MILLIONS of years. Yet YOU keep regarding us as ‘bad horses’ when we are only being true to our way of life and natural way of going. Then you continually seek the advice of ‘trainers’ who offer ‘cures’ to the very problems their misguided but self-serving methods created in the first place! I wonder if it was a horse that first said, “Doing the same thing over and over while expecting different or better results was a sign of mental problems.”

The empirical studies of Waring, McLean, McDonnell, Burton, Kiley-Worthington, Beck, Mills, Rees, McGreevy and other internationally respected equine ethologists would certainly cast light upon the detrimental effects of your present day training and management practices. Well, they would if you were not too busy on your ‘ego trip to train us.’

You willy-nilly invest countless dollars and hours learning various archaic methods of ‘training’ without ever considering how it affects us. Why not try to understand our social culture and our physical, mental, emotional and instinctive needs first and THEN make a decision how to interact with us?

Although there are many others, why not start with this one?

‘The Domestic Horse: The Origins, Development and Management of Its Behaviour,’ by Dr. Sue McDonnell and Dr. Daniel Mills.

As it is, your counterproductive choices would strongly suggest one of several possibilities:

1) The human species lacks the analytical/perceptual capacity (and/or mental acuity) to devise and actuate preventative measures to avoid those multitudinous perennial/generational interspecies conflicts, (and so-called behavioural/bad horse problems).
2) Humans have become so singular in their thinking (brainwashed/indoctrinated by the subconscious oppression of relational and cultural tradition) that they are unmindful and oblivious to a psychological indication of insanity being the repetition of the same actions over and over, while expecting different and/or better results.
3) Extremes of avarice and/or an ego-driven need for societal/peer recognition and/or material wealth have hopelessly numbed your senses of reasoning and logic (much less empathy/compassion) beyond any possibility of recompense.
4) A simple lack of knowledge.

Which is it? Some combination of the first three? Or the fourth?

If the fourth, (If you really love us and care about us) we beg you to please take a little time to understand us.

So far, it seems you have done everything humanly possible to make our lives as miserable, and insanely chaotic as possible, while serving you.


The Domesticated Horse
Contributing Co-Editor: Charles H. (Chuck) Mintzlaff

Co-Editors note:

Logic and common sense dictate that any sentient being will be more conducive to the responsibilities of their domesticative duties if their physical, emotional, mental and instinctive needs are recognized and appreciated.

Thus we take a completely ‘holistic approach’ to the total well-being of the domesticated Horse.

We neither need nor use any type of restriction, whips, clickers, lariats, cordeos or ‘magic aids.’

Nor do we work his body to dull his mind and bend his spirit into ‘learned helplessness.’

Instead, we seek to win his heart. And in the process, share all the caring and intimacy a horse and a human can possibly share together.

For the object is not to make the horse ‘do something.’

The object is to give them the opportunity to enjoy their domestic tasks, and live their lives as content and stress-free as possible.

Restriction and mounted activity are regarded as hypersensitive issues to be dealt with only after the deepest possible levels of reciprocal trust, communication, understanding and intimacy have been achieved.

Nowhere in the realm of human-animal relationships are the logical, practical and emotional rewards of this philosophy and way of life more self-evident.

For once in our care, our horse can only be what we make him to be, friend, or foe.

There is no such thing as a bad horse.

“Primum non nocere”
(First, do no harm)

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About the author


Mark is the founder and editor of HorseConscious, which provides a haven for those seeking a gentler, more equal way to be with horses that doesn't involve force or pressure. As well as building a community, where people can meet and exchange ideas, HorseConscious is also a focal point for education in these methods. The site is free for all and we are continually adding new articles and features and we'd love to hear of your experiences too!


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