Today is Freethinkers Day, celebrating Thomas Paine who was born on January 29th 1737. British born Thomas was instrumental in the American revolution with his pamphlet ‘Common Sense’. He also lived for a while in France (falling foul of Robespierre) and wrote the ‘Rights of Man’ which was an appeal for the recognition of human rights and a compassionate society. He was considered a radical thinker who could also write in a language that appealed to the masses and sought to redress poverty through welfare distribution, pensions and maternity benefits. He advocated the application of reason over the privileged teachings of religion and authority. He has certainly earned his place in my Maverick Hall of Fame!
Okay I hear you say, she has finally lost it, what does this have to do with horses?
Well lets explore what being a Freethinker means –
‘A person who forms opinions on the basis of reason, independent of authority or tradition’
Or my favourite definition –
‘Freethinkers hold that knowledge should be grounded in facts, scientific inquiry, and logic, The skeptical application of science implies freedom from the intellectually limiting effects of confirmation bias, cognitive bias, conventional wisdom, popular culture, prejudice, or sectarianism.’
I have been around horses a long time and I know how much of the horse world, sadly even now, is shackled in conventional wisdom and tradition, cognitive bias, prejudice and popular culture.
How many of us were taught – horses live in stables, horses must be shod, horses must wear rugs, or horses must have hard feed – these are the examples on how we keep horses. What about when we start training – horses can only be controlled with a bit, show him who’s boss, if he starts playing up you can’t quit until you have the upper hand, lunge him until he is tired then he won’t buck!
Sound familiar? How many of these still go on, almost subconsciously, at a sub level? I am sad to say that I still see it everywhere, by people who proclaim themselves horselovers, because it is so much a part the convention wisdom of what we are taught by those who use authority backed up by tradition.
I admit I too have been guilty of these.
I found it very hard to break some of these ideas, even once I had recognised them, because I did not have anything else to put in its place, but there is hope.
I am happy to say that times are changing, scientific studies are being conducted into horse management, care and training and showing us that there are better alternatives. Horses are better socialised in groups and given freedom to move, they often suffer fewer digestive problems if feed appropriate forage diets. Can experience fewer issues when barefoot and we can have better relationships when trained with empathy and reward rather than dominance.
So to all those freethinkers out there who are studying the science and applying logic and reason, questioning conventional wisdoms and fighting prejudice. Celebrate as today is your day!