A little while ago I wrote a post about guilt as an equestrian and a page I follow on Facebook called Equestrians Rock picked it up and shared it for me. It got a little bit of attention both good and bad and one particular comment was about how I was a bad horse owner because I hadn’t seen my horse for two weeks.
If you’ve not read the post go and check it out and read the background info as to why I didn’t see Spike for so long (I’m not neglectful I swear!). Anyway this person continued on to tell me that I was a bad horse owner and that I couldn’t possibly love my horse and that all they ask for is our time and our love and if we do that we will get their love in return.
Getting out to the barn is one of my favourite things to do, but do I get to do it as regularly as I like? Not always, because I’m an adult, I have a full time job and he’s boarded 45 minutes from where I live. So I get out there when I can, and sometimes it can be longer between visits than I’d like it to be. But, when I do get to see him I always find him eagerly awaiting my arrival, sitting at the gate, tail wagging, tongue hanging out… Oh no, wait sorry, that’s my dogs reaction. My bad.
My horse in the pasture doing horse stuff like eating grass, wondering when his next hard feeds going to come along and trying to tear yet another hole in the hundred dollar rug I bought him just weeks earlier.
What really happens when I get there is that he will dawdle over and happily allow me to do the rituals I find normal, like grooming him and picking out his feet and then making him do whatever I’ve packed into today’s lesson. Why? Because he’s been trained to allow me to do that.
Does he let me do these things out of love? No! If you think he lets me scrape his winter coat out with hard bristled plastic brushes or chop his mane off into a crew cut (confession time – it’s happened more than once, sorry Spike!) because he loves me and not because he’s educated enough and respectful enough to allow me to do those things, then you are delusional.
The truth is that horses rely on their owners. Your horse needs you to ensure that his needs are met… he needs you to ensure that he has enough water, that he is fed enough, that he is he wormed, that is he vaccinated, that his feet are done etc. These are all things you horse relies on you to do for him, but doing those things for him certainly doesn’t make him love you.
The second truth is that our horses tolerate their owners. They allow us to do the things we do because they’ve been educated. Your horse did not come fresh from the breeder with inbuilt knowledge of how he should act around you, some body taught that to him. He’s respectful because he knows he has to be. He is the way he is because time has been invested on training and placing boundaries about what can and can’t be done. But, respect isn’t love either.
Now before you get on your high horse (pun intended) and stomp your feet like a petulant child and tell me what a terrible, horrible person I am, let me say this. Just because I believe that education and respect do not equal love, does not mean that I believe that people do not have connections with their equine partners. OF COURSE WE DO! We are able to communicate with an animal… we are able to ask our horses, that are twice our size and have minds of their own, to do things for us using only things like body language and cues. Of course riders have connections with their horses…I just don’t think LOVE is the word to use.
So, do I love my horse? Yes I do, because I am a human, with human emotions, I can quite obviously say that I do love my horse and I can say that I am capable of having that feeling.
EDIT: As this post as gained quite a bit of traction I find it important to note that these are MY views. Yours do not have to be the same. What a boring place the world would be if we all thought alike. Please be respectful enough to accept that it is okay for someone, whether it be me or someone else who responds to this post, to have a view different to yours.