You and Your Horse

Finding your own way with horses

What is violence?

Posted by in All, Commitment to Protecting Horses, Handling

What is violence?

Do we really have to define violence? Shouldn’t it be clear what violence is and what it isn’t?

Well, and here we reached a crucial point: It seems that, in the equestrian world, the term violence has drifted into a very unpleasant direction, causing all the terrible consequences we can see day in and day out among all sorts of riders. While everybody would call it violence against animals if somebody beats a bunny, kicks a cat or pulls a dog’s head towards his chest with a metal piece in his mouth, all of these are considered normal procedures for horses.

Now many will argue: You cannot compare that! But this is the crucial point: Why can’t we compare that?

This is not about polemics; we think of these questions of being vital in the discussion about the term violence:

  • Why should there be different standards and rules for horses than for other companion animals?
  • Why should it be more “allowed” or less morally despicable to be violent against a horse than against other animals?
  • Why is it widely considered normal that beginners are downright taught how to beat a horse to “make this ass move” (and so on), although almost everybody, who is seeing this for the first times considers this brutal and wrong?
  • Why do we get used to violence so quickly and accept an amount of violence in horse stables which would lead to scandals and closings if it happened in animal shelters?
  • Why do we allow our own definition of violence to turn into an elastic term in the presence of horses and why do we become more and more dull about it?

Because horses are bigger? Because horses are more “dangerous”? Because horses often don’t do what we want? Because we have “reasons” to do that because we have goal to reach? Because you “actually” mean well and “actually” love horses? Because we have “a right” to make horses do what we want them to do? Because there is (supposedly) “no other way”?

All of these are points which try to justify the use of violence. And all of these are about the horse. In our opinion, however, it is much more about us: Behind the many excuses and justifications of the use of violence towards horses there is often our helplessness. Or our ignorance. Or our emotions. Or our incredibly bad conscience. And often all these things come together (… and, yeah, we know what we are talking about, unfortunately).

Interestingly, most people are much more conscious and aware of other people’s use of violence compared to their own – shouldn’t this make us think?

Making mistakes and getting sometimes on the wrong track is human and doing something in the heat of the moment which we later regret is human, too. But repeating systematically acts of violence and abuse towards animals with the excuse that this “has to be done” is in our opinion inhuman. Because this proves not only the inability to exercise self-reflection but also missing empathy and ethics.

So, once and for all, let us stop to define violence with regard to horses in another way than with regard to other species so that the “normal” moral rules can take effect also in horse stables. These are necessary to avoid that horses are abused just to make them do what we want them to do. Instead let us admit that we often are helpless and unable to cope with situations because we simply never learned to communicate and handle horses without the use of violence. Let us face our feelings of guilt and sense of shame with the aim to make it better from now on. Let us get ready to extend our knowledge so that we don’t have to say, we “have to” handle our horses with the use of violence, because there are many alternatives out there. Yes, there are other ways! Violence is and will be violence, whether horse or not, and violence is and always will be wrong.

So, in practice this means:

  • Stop and think when something is not going in the way you want and don’t automatically act like you always did.
  • Don’t just copy others how to deal with your horse, but find a way which suits your personal vision and, most of all, your moral standards.
  • Always ask yourself what the reason could be if the horse doesn’t act in the way you want him to, because they always have a reason.
  • Don’t always blame your horse but ask yourself first; this means to critically reflect on your own behavior, knowledge and skills.
  • Seek advice and help from people who live a non-violent life with their horses.
  • Learn to understand horses and find a horse-friendly way of communication.
  • And again and again: learn more, learn more, learn more.


(Translated by Gesine Jiménez Martínez)

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