What do you do when a horse sport different from your own uses cruel methods? Be grateful that your own sport is humane and clean and turn a blind eye or do something about it?
Of course what constitutes cruelty is often debatable. In my opinion the isolation of horses in single cells with minimum activity is cruelty, and I am not alone in having concerns about the mental abuse of horses in bad dressage, while others think racing over fences is cruel. The current primary area of focus in the FEI cruelty arena is the use of performance enhancing or pain killing drugs, and the greatest interest in the public arena are the dangers to both horses and riders when going cross country in eventing.
I happen to believe that the stable management and riding skills of those in eventing contribute directly and positively to the health and well being of thousands of horses and indirectly to thousands of others as these riders and trainers coach and influence new generations of event and pleasure riders….turning ignorance into knowledge and responsibility. In fact I believe it is difficult to find a sport which makes a bigger contribution to horse welfare than horse trials.
I also believe that there is a difference between cruelty caused by ignorance and cruelty caused by deliberate violence…the conscious and obvious use of pain to elicit a desired response. The use of electric shock prods or nerve lines for example. Thankfully such instruments of torture are rarely used within the world’s horse population, however, whatever the sport, if such methods are used they are damaging every equestrian sport by association.
Therefore I was shocked to read of certain USA States banning the use of electric prods in the rodeo industry. If it is necessary to ban the use of electric prods then I assume there is evidence of them being used. Then I watched film footage on U Tube of rodeo horses apparently refusing to buck unless a prod was used. Look it up yourselves on U Tube under Born To Buck……..and I have a question? If these horses are ‘born to buck’ why are bucking straps needed?
If we see or hear of the use of cruelty we need to voice our feelings and ensure the relevant competition organisation and/or National and International bodies police the situation and make it clear that such behaviour is totally unacceptable. To do this we need to find the tiger within us and be brave. But make no mistake we need to do this in the best interests of ALL equestrian sports. Onwards! William