OK, the headline is unusually harsh, even for a blogger who examines every detail of horsemanship with skepticism. A little sensational, you say? Yes, I agree. But, read on, if you can.

"Sometimes things don’t have to have a point - they just have to make you smile." And these images of horses with hair extensions do just that.

Award winning advertising photographer Julian Wolkenstein was chatting with a fellow advertising friend when he hit upon the idea of experimenting with horses’ hair to make supermodels of the equine world.

"The idea for these images came from a discussion with a friend who said, ‘Hey wouldn’t it be fun to shoot horses with big hair?'"

Julian worked with hair-stylist Acacio da Silva to whip the horses into shape.

"'Each horse took around four hours to groom, with hair extensions being added by Acacio, and then when they were presented in front of the camera’s and lights they would shake their heads, give a neigh and then ruffle up their hair,’ said Julian - with a somewhat forced grin."

It is said that the horses loved the grooming, but were less enthusiastic about the lights and camera.

This made me think of the procedures horse people put our horses through to make them “look nice” and to meet whatever standard we adhere to for our various equestrian endeavors. Many of us undertake these tasks without ever thinking whether or not they are necessary, or even harmful.

Of course, the first example that comes to mind is the soring and insanely damaging shoeing style of the Tennessee Walker, designed to enhance its distinctive walk, The Big Lick.

I’m not going into all the details of this procedure or the reasons TWH people think it’s necessary. They are not evil people intent on harming the horses they so obviously love. They really believe in what they are doing. This is often the case with how we manage our horses. Mindfulness is sometimes hard to come by when passion looms large. We believe what we do is necessary until we are forced to stop and think.

It’s a slippery slope, with just about everything we do for our horses falling somewhere on a continuum from allowing them to be as natural as possible given the barest constraints of domestication to living in box stalls 24/7, sporting slinkies and booties, eating only pelleted feed and supplements.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, or feel free to add to this idea in anyway. I’m wondering if the reasons we metaphorically curl our horses hair boil down to vanity, convenience and ignorance. Upon reading the remainder of this, some readers will write in with the reasons for which many of these procedures are done. But there are always reasons. I’m interested in pointing out the base human needs that create them. I believe they arise from a lack of mindfulness.

I confess that I know little of the historical origin of braiding manes. I do know that, during one of the most strenuous and dangerous horseback riding events in modern times, fox hunting, braiding the mane serves little purpose. Anyone who tells you braiding keeps the mane clear of brush and debirs is fooling either you or themselves. A few braids at the base of the mane serve well as a grip for jumps and rough terrain, but they serve the rider rather than the horse. You can argue safety all day long, but in the end, it’s an issue of the use of horses (some would say exploitation) as opposed to the coexistence with horses that it boils down to.

I know horses who stand quietly for the seemingly interminable task of braiding, heedless of the pulling. I also know horses who seem to hate every separation of the mane and banding or sewing.

Pulling manes has often been an issue for me, as I have always boarded at traditional barns where you are looked down upon if you don’t keep your horses “looking their best.” Who is to say what this really is? If I allow my horses’ manes to grow long during the summer to protect them from flies and sun, or long in the winter for added warmth, I hear a lot of oblique criticism from those who would never allow such a thing. (I have to agree with them that it’s more maintenance and if you don’t comb it out every day your horse ends up looking like a wild orphan of the range.) No one can tell me that horses do not feel their hair being yanked out of their necks. All you need is a basic anatomy class to show you that there ARE nerves in the crest. Mane pulling is done for the vanity of owners. For uniformity in the hunt field. To look pretty in the show ring. I completely understand pride of presentation and professionalism. There are ways of achieving this pride and presentation with a natural horse. Take a look at the manes of Western Pleasure horses. No one has tortured them in the name of neatness (at least, not their manes).

Everyone has seen the legion teenage girls who bathe and groom their horses obsessively. The horses seem to like all the attention. I just wonder if their skin and coats like all the detergent. Mother nature did not send the horse into the world with a lifetime supply of Super Sparkle Mane and Tail. Is it strictly necessary to use it weekly? Wild horses seem to do just fine without shampoo.

[I always dreamed of running a facility for the natural good of all the horses. Water would be on the ground around the low water troughs , to nourish and soften hooves, outdoor shelters would be cooled by breezes (and fans if necessary), and horses who aren't ill or injured would live outdoors, 24/7. Grass would comprise the bulk of the diet, weather permitting. Forage in winter. Hooves would be trimmed, not shod. I'd love it if readers would chime in on what features would complete this fantasy natural barn. Like fantasy baseball, I do fantasy stabling.]

It’s possible to take this unthinking mindset to the other extreme and go too far in the direction of “respecting the horse’s natural condition.” The Strasser trim comes immediately to mind. Not necessarily the trim itself, but for the way it is often immediately implemented, leaving a previously shod horse painfully lame, to grow sole, bars and wall over the course of months.

Sticking to any horse care doctrine/regime without really thinking about where it came from, why it may or may not work, and how it applies to our personal horses can get us into trouble. Sometimes we don’t even realize it. Holding fast to the middle of a continuum of care, and remaining aware of the reasons for and implications of our choices, should be a goal for all horse people. I realize that many do as they’re taught. But sooner or later, we have to start thinking, and seeing the horse as an animal rather than as an extension of our own egos or as a tool for accomplishment.

I can’t help thinking that the glitter girls, tail extension people and braiding addicts might enjoy the company of their horses more if they saw them for who and what they really are instead of trying to alter them to meet some arcane, arbitrary breed or performance standard. You can’t really love someone until you know who they are. You can’t love someone if you’re constantly trying to change them, adapt them, use them.

Horses are naturally hairy and often dirty. They roll in the mud, often immediately after a bath, and they seem to like getting unicorn horns of brambles in their forelocks. That’s who horses are. While it’s fun and amusing to dream of them wearing braids and beads, it’s even better to know them as they are, brambles, mud and all.

Views: 1466


You need to be a member of Barnmice Equestrian Social Community to add comments!

Join Barnmice Equestrian Social Community

Comment by rose lee on July 17, 2009 at 11:30am
can one hire 'horse fussers' to chip the rock hard clay off my ponies in winter? : ) My poor beast get a bath only when it's hot enough for me to bear being wet as a fish.
Comment by horse muzzles on July 17, 2009 at 11:05am
I stumbled upon this discussion while doing a Google search. I wanted to know how to groom the mane of my Tennessee Walker so my riding companions would stop making comments about her looking like a wild orphan!!!!! My horse thanks you all for enlightening her human :-)
Comment by Kimberly Cox Carneal on June 14, 2009 at 6:28pm
My first mare would accept about a half hour's worth of preening and then make it very clear in a non-violent ay (a few stamps of her frying pan sized feet) that it was over. No arguing with her. And I respected that.
Comment by Jackie Cochran on June 14, 2009 at 1:52pm
I think that horses think that all this obsessive fooling around (mostly at a standstill) is sort of KINKY.
Sure horses often like to be groomed, most horses love a good scratching, but standing around and not getting scratched--well, it just does not seem necessary to the horses. I don't think that the horses can understand any reason for all this fooling around, and if there is no logical (to a horse) reason, they resign themselves to accepting this non-sensical activity when they would rather do anything else. Luckily my first horse peacefully set boundaries, no violence, just a deep expectation that I would not do any of these non-sensical things to him unless there was truly a reason.
Comment by Kimberly Cox Carneal on April 17, 2009 at 9:10am
On the subject of equitation only, I will make this statement: I think you will find it hard to see a real accusation there in the previous comment; however, if I spoke incorrectly, I stand corrected.
Comment by Elizabeth Cook on April 17, 2009 at 1:00am
Now having to go through extra and restraing tack for jumpers and equitation is not true. In true equitation classes the whole purpose is to have balanced horse that is moving forward uninhibited without extra tack and in most cases you cannot have extra tack on without being penalised. Forward riding is based on fredom of the horses natural movement. People are forgeting what the real concept of the Modern American Forward Riding System is. It came about from Federico Caprilli in 1907 teaching people to follow the forward motion of the horse. This method was developed because he realised the old methods that the social classes of the rennisance had been using were not very stable over jumps so he developed a method working with the horse. So like I was saying true Hunter and Equitaion riders do not do these things that you just accused us of. There is a whole generation of people that have forgoten about our roots. And the sad things is, alot of them are older then I am.
Comment by Kimberly Cox Carneal on April 15, 2009 at 6:53pm
That is what they are doing. UNfortunately, I see more damage being done by people who are dedicated to their equestrian endeavors such as dressage and eventing, fox hunting, equitation, and jumpers. Those horses go through so much preparation to "look good" according to their breed standards and the requirements of the ring and field, and then they have to endure extra, sometimes restraining tack. Then there are spurs and bats, etc. It just pays to think about what is strictly necessary for enjoyment and companionship and what we add, coming to believe is necessary over time.
Comment by Ann Crago on April 15, 2009 at 3:20pm
Girls ...unfortunately..it is girls...are so guilty of this kind of Fussing with their horses ...and as you point out some stuff is harmless silly primping...some down-right cruel.....Maybe they need to get over the fact that they ARE horses,,,and if need be...FUSS with their Barbie Dolls and MY Little Ponies...after all...isn't this really what they are doing ????
Comment by Kimberly Cox Carneal on April 15, 2009 at 2:30pm
You would probably be shocked at my views on horses kept in stalls only (and feeling that those who can't keep a horse on acreage should not keep them). Owning a horse is a privilege, and not a right, and their care and management is a responsibility we all should take very seriously.
It's nice to hear from someone else who doesn't approve of trimming whiskers and ears.
Thanks for responding!
Comment by Lallanslover on April 15, 2009 at 1:20pm
Brilliant post! Very thought provoking.

Personally, I can admit to keeping my horses well groomed and trimmed up, however I refuse to cause suffering in the name of my own vanity...because that's exactly what it is! My horses couldn't care a hoot if they're mucky, with straggles in their 'hair'. Indeed, they seem to enjoy being groomed, but I doubt they think about it in anything but a bonding manner.

Their fetlocks are trimmed, as are their manes and tails, so they are 'neat' and easier for me to maintain, but I draw the line at trimming whiskers or their ears (or pulling manes, if it distresses the poor horse). It drives me nutts to see horses who have had their whiskers removed to 'improve' the appearance of their head. Such an attitude stinks, as far as I'm concerned. Of course, perhaps it's not so cruel as other things we inflict on equines, but it remains a bug bear of mine.

The actual management of horses, living out or stabled, will always lead to compromise. We can't all have acres and acres of safe grazing, available year round, but it would certainly be my idea of bliss. That said, I couldn't begin to entertain keeping my horses on a yard where they have no facility for daily turn out, it's waaaay ahead on my list of priorities. Much better to have turn out than a swanky covered exercise arena, horse walker, wash bay etc. That's why my horses are kept on a working farm, where the owner understands the need for freedom for the animals.

Thank you for sharing your views.

The Rider Marketplace

International Horse News

Click Here for Barnmice Horse News

© 2023   Created by Barnmice Admin.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service