Editor's Paddock- Horse Abuse

There has been a lot of conversation over the years on the topic of horse abuse, whether it was soring of Tennessee Walking Horses, Rollkur training methods for Dressage or the how the Bureau of Land Management has been dealing with and treating the Wild Mustang herds lately.  Horse abuse, sadly, is not just limited to a certain breed or certain discipline of riding it can be found across the board.

Soring is a process of intentionally causing pain to a horse's front legs and hoofs to enhance a gaited horse's gait for the show ring.  Soring is illegal and inhumane, but for many, many years people looked the other way. Luckily for the horses involved there were people out there willing to stand up and fight against soring of these horses. Friends Of Sound Horses (FOSH) has done so much to bring this problem to light and are working to strength the laws to put an end to this cruel method of training. With FOSH and others who are behind stopping this cruel practice of training we might see an end to the soring of Tennessee Walking Horses sometime in the future

The Rollkur method of training Dressage horses has just recently come to light outside the Dressage world. What is Rollkur? The term originated in Germany, and refers to the technique of working a horse with an excessively rounded neck, so that the horse's head is brought down and back towards it's chest (often called 'hyperflexion', or 'low, deep and round” ). The horse is held in this position by means of an extremely forceful use of the bit, using the double bridle whose considerable leverage on the horse's jaw and poll permits the rider to use it to position the head down and greatly behind the vertical. The breathing, blood circulation and cervical spine is effected by this method. There are photographs and videos of horses being ridden with this method with their tongues sticking out and it is a blue grey color. The movement of the animal may be permanently impaired by this method. It’s not only used by dressage riders/trainers, but also is used by Western Pleasure rider/trainers as well.

I have seen some methods of training that I would  most definitely call horse abuse. I have seen abuse at Arabian, Quarter Horse, Morgan and Saddlebred shows. I have seen it in both Western and English disciplines. The one simple answer to abuse in the show ring is for judges to stop placing people who use those abusive methods. That would end those abuses very quickly.

I have seen horse abuse outside the horse show ring as well,  abuse is not confined to the show ring. I seen some horse

trainers who conduct clinics who, I believe, use rather abusive methods and are teaching others to use those methods. We need to speak out against horse abuse - no matter who is doing it.

Why the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has resorted back to cruel techniques in rounding up Wild Mustangs is beyond me. The Wild Mustangs are a living history of the American West and what makes our country so unique. Herding them with helicopters and four wheel all terrain vehicles is inhumane and cruel and should be stopped. Leaving horses without shade or shelter in the hot summer sun with little water is even more inhumane. Allowing horses to be herded in such a manner that they are injured is cruel. We need to step up again and voice our concerns, as people in the past have done, to stop this cruelty to these magnificent horses.

In closing I would like to say that sometimes people will condemn a certain breed or discipline when they hear about abusive training methods, but we shouldn’t do that. It’s not the horse’s or discipline’s fault but rather humans who use the abusive training methods who should be condemned.  Tennessee Walking horses are lovely horses and there are many, many people who would never sore their Walking Horse. There are many, many Dressage riders who are against the Rollkur methods and would never use that method on their horses. Not everyone showing their horses use abusive training methods. Not everyone shows just for the glory of the win, but because they enjoying being with their horse and enjoy the challenge of showing. Let’s not paint everyone with same brush.

We need speak out about horse abuse and do whatever we can to stop it, no matter where it takes place, for the good of our horses and the equine industry.