Recently I was quizzed on what my goal was, with writing these blogs. My answer. Horses. I have no aim other than to promote the welfare of the horse. No matter what sphere or where they live. Good welfare practices are not only about condition scoring or environment. It’s about mental welfare also.
“What the eye doesn’t see and the mind doesn’t know, doesn’t exist.”
What the mind doesn’t know? not only what we can see, but what we don’t know.
I am far from an expert, I am a student. A student who will have no exams, just continuous lessons. My teacher “The Horse”. Am I a slow learner? I guess so, but then there is so much to learn. When working with horses, handling them, training them and riding them. Do I make mistakes, Yes, I am not ashamed to admit it either. Do I learn from my mistakes? I hope so. I am judged by the horses that I own, handle and care for on a daily basis. Yes. They let me know if I have made a mistake. It is my goal to recognise it and prevent it from happening again. To work in unity with them. A partnership build on learning and communication.
Welfare is about human imposed choices, how we care, if we care, where we care. The way we keep our horses is our choice, if they are stabled, free to roam, kept on track systems or put in grazing pods. It is what we have chosen for them. We provide them with what we think best, (Thinking allows humans to make sense of, interpret, represent or model the world they experience, and to make predictions about that world. It is therefore helpful to an organism with needs, objectives, and desires as it makes plans or otherwise attempts to accomplish those goals.)
How do we know what we think best for our horses? Is best, some of us will look to scientific reports, Peers, large national organisations, experience the list of possibilities is endless.
The sad thing is that we thought we could take an animal and make it what we want, keep it how we want and impose on it what we think is best.
When faced with dilemmas, we used tools, constructed new devices and gadgets to make the horse do what we wanted to inflict on them. Made harsher bits, used ropes, halters, round pens and spurs.
We did not ask the teacher – “The Horse” we made devices for our convenience, tools for domination and utilisation.
My world now with horses is very different from how it started out. I used dominance just like the text books, teachers, instructors and peers instructed me to. I never questioned why, I did not think?
Many make the horse do what they want, using whips, round pens, spurs and many many more. But do you ever ask yourself – Do they understand what I want? Did I ask them in such a way that they understand? Is my communication with the horse built on Trust or Fear?
I am seeking for the answers to What I don’t Know? I am encouraging others. Just two days ago I run a session with a group of urban horse owners where I used a clicker to demonstrate just how difficult it is for the horse to understand what it is we want them to do without a sign that they are doing it right and even with a signal (clicker), the moment that the penny dropped was a shocked one. Welcome to the world of the horse. The sense of helplessness when asked to perform or do a task when there is no communication is daunting. These young lads learnt that for the first time and my word what a breakthrough.
An insight for them, as what is going on in your brain and what you are doing with your horse will not always be met with approval. But we as humans dominate the choices that our horses have to put up with and sometimes suffer.
Both physically and mentally.
Hence the end of the DH Lawrence quote. Doesn’t Exist.
The” doesn’t exist” bit comes from ignorance and lack of knowledge. This is the crux of where welfare comes from. Knowledge or the lack of. The knowledge that a whip will make your horse go, or that the whip is tool used for punishment, pressure and force or that the whip will install fear into a horse and that is not the best thing to be gambling with when you put your trust in animal.
knowledge is the riptide of welfare,
We need to install an emergency stop button. Educate and learn from the teacher, The Horse and what science is telling us about the horse and how if we wish to have these animals in our lives we need to respect and learn. Most importantly treat them how they think they should be treated.