The fourth of July weekend has passed, in which we celebrated the freedoms of our country. Or did we? Regardless, there are many freedoms we enjoy as humans which aren’t always extended to animals (or any creature/plant/organism). Yes, there are many wonderful people who care deeply for and extend an amazing level of consideration for their animals, but that in and of itself does not mean those animals are free.
When slavery was legal and the norm in the south, just because you treated your slaves well didn’t extend any freedoms or rights. It just meant that they experienced a level of captivity which was better than many others’ in captivity. Still, they were slaves, captives, subject to the whims of any white person around them. According to most accounts slaves were considered the same as livestock.
In that context let’s look at our horses. They are subject to whatever whim we should have. We buy/sell/trade them as we wish (or the market will support). When they are no longer useful we can put them down, send them to auction or the slaughterhouse. If they misbehave there are torture devices to deal with that – from whips to spurs, harsh bits and even some trainers have been found to use electric cattle prods on their horses.
In competition horses are subjected to unnatural trimming, shoeing and soring all to change the way they move. Their mouths are strapped shut so they can’t escape the yanking and pulling their rider does on the reins. Their heads are pulled down and into their chest to create submissiveness. Tails are cut, set, docked and blocked.
And if you’re unlucky enough to be a Thoroughbred born into the race industry, you might face surgery before you’re matured just to impress potential buyers when you’re a yearling. Run to make your owners/trainer/industry money and then discarded to an auction where you’ll be even more lucky if you don’t get bought to go to slaughter.
Disposable, our horses are disposable. They exist only to serve some purpose to us. If they cannot be trained, ridden, competed, raced, bred or sold for profit then they have little value. Imagine if that is how you were treated – zero value if you couldn’t be educated in a specific field (which you might not naturally excel in), work well with your boss (who might be an ego-maniac asshole), give public speeches well, run marathons and WIN, produce children every year on demand.
The problem isn’t with horse slaughter, the problem is that our children are being taught humans are the dominant species, the smartest, the strongest, the BEST. And everything else is “less than” and subject to us. Until we address and change that major issue we’ll forever see cases of abuse and neglect not just of the horse, but of all animals. We’ll continue seeing men shooting their horse just to “prove a point” in the horse slaughter debate – and to clarify, that point was never quite clear but resulted in a horse being shot point blank in the head.
And more subtle signs will continue, completely ignored, like horses being locked away in stalls for all but a short time when they are ridden, because it’s “convenient” for the rider. Then punished for succumbing to normal stress behaviors like weaving, stall kicking, cribbing, windsucking, pawing, pacing and calling out to their horse-mates.
I do realize there is a price all horses pay by being in our care. They lose a certain freedom, and in return they can often gain easier access to food, water, shelter than if they were roaming in the wild. Is the trade-off worth it?
To me, it’s only worth it if the horse still has a voice of their own. If I don’t subject them knowingly to pain or risk them injury so I can profit. I look to see that my horses are engaged, interested, have life in their eyes. That they choose to interact with me, not because I’m making them uncomfortable to be away from me.
How do you feel about how horses are kept, treated, trained or discarded?