• VOLUME 64 • © HORSES For LIFE™ Magazine
Standing Up For Our Horses
One of the saddest things for a horse owner is when the very people we rely on to help us care for them cause our horses distress. Protecting our horses when they cannot protect themselves is our number one responsibility as owners.
Many of us have had an experience with the vet who had no patience, or the farrier that is too rough. Sometimes we can only bite our tongue and watch helplessly, knowing that the horse is getting a needed service. I know that personally, when a farrier slapped my oldest horse with a file and called him lazy, I was done with his services and never called him back. The man knew the old horse had a hip injury, and bless this horse, he was trying his hardest to not lean on the farrier, but he could hardly stand when being trimmed. Should I have kicked him off the farm at that exact moment? Most definitely; however he was the only farrier in town and I just cried silently and let him finish the job.
I also had a vet who doped up a horse so much for a routine floating that he nearly fell in the stall, simply because she said he was fighting her. He wasn’t fighting her, though; he was as calm as a lamb. Again, I relied on her to do something that I couldn’t and put up with treatment I knew was extreme because I felt I had no choice in the matter.
I felt trapped at the hands of professionals and embarrassed to question their methods.
In retrospect, the correct thing to do would have been to stop the behaviour immediately and throw these “professionals” off my property. Instead, I was frozen in disbelief and confusion and in some strange way I was almost convinced that the actions of the farrier and vet were justified. I told myself that the force was needed, to ease the guilt I felt over the incidents. My horse looked shocked, confused and afraid. I know I would never have left my child or dog in the care of someone who treated them this way, so why on earth did I let someone treat my horse like this right in front of me?
I cannot think how much time I have spent with my horses teaching them that they can trust me in all situations - that I am the herd leader who will not allow them to get hurt. In one thoughtless moment, one hurtful action, all of the faith they had in me had been erased. What can the horse think? In a horse’s mind, his human, the one who he trusts with his life, has just turned aside and let someone hurt him. He tolerates having his hooves trimmed because we ask him to. Giving his feet to a human is the ultimate sign of trust, and he does it only to please us, no other reason. Now he has several disjointed thoughts in his equine mind; his owner has just betrayed him and allowed someone to hurt him while she watched, he can no longer trust his human to care for him, and the farrier of the future is going to have a long road rebuilding the trust that has now been lost. When we take on the responsibility of horse ownership, he has the same innocent mindset as a newborn baby or puppy; a horse is incapable of an evil or bad thought, he is simply a horse. He needs us to guide and protect him. His trust is hard to earn, but once earned, he gives it unconditionally. He is not prepared for harsh treatment at the hands of others, he only knows that he is being treated in a manner to which he is unaccustomed and afraid, and his human did not intervene. This, to the horse, is the ultimate betrayal.
In some horses, the reaction can manifest in
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