Sunday, February 26, 2012

Say Neigh to Trail-Riding

Many people-- even those who are vegetarian and opposed to animal testing-- often strongly defend trail-riding and commercial horse-back riding as being fair and humane. This is a very misleading opinion, however, as I am about to show:
  • The horse's physiological makeup was not built to withstand an extra 100-200 pounds, rider and tack, on their back, says Cherry Hill in her book How To Think Like a Horse. The only reason that humans can ride is due to the position of certain ligaments and muscles, but, in my opinion, by no means will the horse be comfortable with it. (Update: I know that Cherry Hill is not advocating against trail-riding in this quote. I am merely drawing logical conclusions based on the facts.)
  • Commercial riding centres do not let their horses roam free; instead, they are kept penned in "standing stalls" that do not allow the horse to turn around. Often the horses only see daylight when they are being ridden.
  • Animals, quite plainly, were not put here on earth for humans to use as their tools. Says Saba Alemayehu on, "I always tell to pony riders and police men/women not to ride the animals needlessly, but some of them think it is something that the animals themselves enjoy to do, which is a lie. Every animal hates being manipulated, exploited, and being made an instrument..."
  • The "tack" that horses are forced to don is anything but humane. Nobody should kid themselves that horses like to have such a painful bit (piece of metal invented for "steering" the horse) in their mouths that they become desensitized to the pain and need a stronger one.
  • Neither should we try to believe that it's okay to whip horses in order to make them go faster. I learned this at a March Break riding camp I attended years ago. The riding instructor had a long whip that she would wave near the poor horses' legs to keep them going. I wasn't sure that it was a whip at first, but the terrorized neighs and startled eyes of the horses confirmed my guess. I was riding a horse who wasn't going as fast as the others, so the instructor handed me a short piece of leather.
"Here, use this," she said.
"What do I do with it?" I asked nervously.
"You-- er-- tap your horse's side."
I very gently "tapped" my horse's side, but nothing changed.
"Harder!" she said.
I hit the horse with a bit more force, but decided that I shouldn't do any more than that. Why would I hurt my horse?
"Come on," she exclaimed. "Horses are big, tough animals-- they won't be able to feel a little hit on their sides!"
She managed to bully me into hitting my poor horse even harder-- remember that I was still pretty young and easily intimidated-- but needless to say, I never went back to a riding stable again!
  • Horse stables very often support conventional breeding practices-- that is, forcing the two horses together. They do this so that the stallion won't hurt the mare, but really, such breeding is one of the worst kinds of abuse that there is!
  • Horses may become exhausted from overworking and providing one ride after another... for days on end.

It's up to you to stop supporting these cruel practices. Firstly, don't go to a trail-riding place yourself. This may mean turning down an invitation from your friends, but it's worth turning them down for once. Secondly, try to explain to people why not to go horse-back riding-- you can tell your friends, parents, grandparents, children (if you have any), teachers, colleagues, etc. Third, spread the word via social networking sites, blogs, posters, etc. The first three people who send an anti-horseback-riding poster that they made to:

get their creations posted on The Animal Rights Action Site next week!
What about bareback riding rescued horses? That's a slightly different story. If you have rescued a pony or horse, riding her must be consentual-- she mustn't refuse, run away, or flatten her ears. Teaching your horse to live in harmony with you is one thing. Forcing your horse to be ridden on the false premise that "he'll like it after a while" or "it's good for him" is another. If you really want your horse to want to be ridden, you'll have to build a close relationship with him first.


  1. Due to the comments I have recieved from this post, I think that a few notes should be added:
    1) This post is advocating against trail-riding companies, and many horseback riding schools, in particular. It is not always bad to ride your horse. However, the right conditions have to be present for this to happen respectfully and fairly. I stand by everything I have said in this post. There's no need to read extra things into it that I have never actually said.
    2) Comments must be respectful to elicit a response.
    3) To "buy" and "sell" horses, force them to do things that they don't want to do, make them uncomfortable in order to get them to do what they don't want to do, and use them for human purposes is contrary to the philosophy of animal rights. If you don't agree with animal rights, you can tell me so. However, this is an animal rights blog! True animal lovers, in my opinion, do not oppress animals!
    4) Comments and discussion are always welcome, as long as you keep it respectful.
    5) Be open-minded! You shouldn't allow yourself to be blinded by bias. I try not to be.

    Thanks for reading! I'm glad that I'm getting so much traffic to my blog recently. I hope you can all make sure to keep your comments well-thought-out. There's a human being sitting in front of this computer, you know.

  2. Update: I refuse to answer to any one of these commenter's messages in particular; however, I will note that I have more experience around horses than many of these people might think.
    You guys don't seem to remember that this is an animal rights blog. If you think I'm going too far with any of this, well, it just goes to show that you haven't necessarily thought about animal rights too much before. For general information of animal rights, you could read Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals, by Karen Dawn. Or you could read Animal Liberation by Peter Singer. Or, you could just do some research on the Internet.
    Before I really came to understand animal rights and veganism, I just automatically assumed that it was too extreme, too. However, when I actually came to learn about it, I realized that it was not too extreme. Not all animal rights activists believe what I do about horses, of course, but I believe that paying a company to "rent out" a horse is wrong. If you alreay have a horse who loves riding, there's no need to wean him off it, but that doesn't mean that the training methods or aquisition practices that you used when you got the horse were right, nor does it mean that you should do it again. Whether or not riding is ethical depends on numerous factors. I can't comment on any of your specific situations, since I don't claim to be the ultimate moral authority on anything. Horses should be adopted from rescued horse places and shelters, not from breeders. If you don't understand why, read up on the whole animal rights thing. If you already have a horse who came from a breeder, however, there's nothing you can do about it now, so you might as well be as good to your horse as possible for the rest of his or her life. Training your horse with bits is unfair and unnatural, and I am against it. I love horses, but I think that they must be treated fairly, instead of as machines or possessions.
    Thanks for reading.

  3. Hello to all you horse people, and thank you, Cat, for introducing this interesting topic!
    I don't usually participate in "chats", after being dismayed by all the insults flying around on a senior dog site I used to be on. Nice to see that at least some folks who have commented here, have done so in a friendly way. Sad when people try to shut a person down, especially a young person, by using words like "idiot" and "stupid" and saying "get a life", and "busybody". Hopefully I have "a right to speak"... hopefully Cat does as well. I have been involved with horses for about 50 years, 14 years ago I started a retirement home for horses and have looked after all kinds. At the, moment I only have 3, as I am starting to wind down! It is wearing, taking on horses who have turned out to be unwanted for various reasons.
    A few comments, based on my observations over the years. Unlike many who have commented here, I do not believe most horses are treated well...speaking of "unicorns and rainbows"...I know some are, and it sounds like the people who have commented here have MOSTLY only had experiences with well treated horses, and also you folks probably treat your horses well, I totally get that. But it strikes me as naiive to assume that just because your experiences have been good, that means that it is that way everywhere. I personally, have never seen what I would say is a happy or contented trail riding horse...NOT to say there aren't some, I just have never encountered one in my life so far. And yes, I'm sure the person who commented here who has a trail riding stable, treats her horses well! I don't intend any offence.
    I'm sure there are some horses who enjoy being ridden, but again, based on my experiences, I think most horses would rather be hangin' with their buddies, horses that is, and being ridden isn't high on their list of favorite activities. I do not believe horses who do not have a job are miserable, unless they are stuck in a stall all day.
    My! Who ever said that horses were "put on this earth as beasts of burden"?! I'm not sure how to comment on that.
    I don't think that animal rights people want all the domestic horses to be set free, of course that would not be practical. I think, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that they believe it is wrong to breed animals for human use, which is an interesting may agree or disagree, and well, hey...isn't that why a person would start an animal rights blog in the first examine those sorts of ideas?
    One last comment, I must admit, I too, would love to believe that humans and horses are partners, not master and servant. However, I don't think this is the case, except for in a few rare cases. I do not keep control of my very large retired jumper because we are "partners", I don't fool myself into thinking that. He listens to me because he respects me, which is necessary with such a large powerful animal. To me, a partnership is truly equal. Can you really say that your horse and you are equals? No, you are in charge, which is how it has to be, in our current relationship structure with horses. Honestly, I do believe that we should call horses what they are, which is servents, not partners. Maybe animal rights people like Cat, are trying to address this...and maybe they have a point.