Sometimes a horse simply can’t do what we ask, they are not disobeying—nor do they need more training, or discipline. We need to pay closer attention to our horse, and less to our own demands, desires. Sometimes I get broken hearted at what I see; the story I’m going to relate here is one of those times.
A few weeks ago I went to a festival of sorts. In addition to exhibits, displays, foods and demonstrations were a few horse demonstrations. Some I watched, some I didn’t. One exciting performance was a very talented young woman and her horses. Quite a show they put on. And what drew me to watch was the fact she used rescue horses in her performance. She did the show twice in the day and I watched both times. Afterwards I regretted that I did.
After each show she and her primary horse bowed. The first time her horse bowed right along with her. After the second show, he did not. She did not accept no for an answer and insisted, in fact she kicked his leg, he tried, and even kindly turned his head to her shouting, “I can’t right now.” She never heard. In fact she kicked him so hard I heard the thump from 50 feet away. Finally he fought the stiffness and, obvious to me, the tightness and pain, and he bowed.
Then she got her long whip and worked him to bow again and again. To add to my distress watching this, I heard women behind me complimenting her for “not letting him get away with it.” One even called out, “That’s right, make him do it 5 times!” ... I fought hard to contain myself.
To be fair to the women behind me perhaps did not notice the stiff right shoulder and sore back, but I did. I also noticed how kindly the horse, who had just performed in high heat some very demanding stunts, had tried to tell his owner he was unable to move in the manner that required a bow. She never noticed, because for her it was all about the show.
I did speak with her later that day and explained what I saw. I admitted that during the stunts and tricks he positively needed to obey immediately and without question, her safety demanded that, and he had. But for the bow when he politely tried to communicate he was in his right, and she missed his plea.I even offered to teach her the basic “release and relax exercises.” She was uninterested in hearing the horse’s point of view.
Add to this, the horse had also, just one hour before her performance, been used as a demo horse for chiropractic therapy ... and then put through the rugged paces of their performance—small wonder he was stiff and sore ... But he was totally polite. I thought it was common knowledge that a horse be given 24 hours at least, after a chiropractic treatment to rest ...
I wrestled hard with whether or not to relate this story, but I sense he wants us to hear his plea, “Sometimes the horse just can’t ... and it’s our job to hear them.”
Gitty Up, Dutch Henry
P.S. ~ To have a look at my book "It's for the Horses:An advocate's musings about their needs, spirit, gifts and care" please visit www.itsforthehorses.com