Did you know there was a revolution occurring?
It is quiet and it is subtle but it is happening and it is growing in strength.
You see, the human-horse relationship used to be one of work, humans relied on horses for their livelihood, for personal transport, for haulage, for logging or working the fields.
This relationship was one of servitude on the part of the horse, in order to get the work done he must obey and all training was geared along those lines, any disobedience was seen as a challenge and must be discouraged.
Then the relationship started to change in the mid 1900s. Due to the mechanism of processes and the widespread use of motor vehicles, humans no longer needed to rely on horses for work or transport. Horses became a leisure item, a hobby and a sport.
But whilst the nature of the work has changed the culture persists. Only this time the horses are working for the human’s ego rather than their livelihood.
Now I know a great many horse owners who would not see it like that, they would profess that they are horse lovers, that they give their cherished horses every care and attention and they certainly spend vast sums of money on them, and yet they love their horses only so long as they are useful.
Only so long as they can be ridden, or carry them over jumps, perform intricate dressage movements or take part in a dazzling number of equine sports.
In order to achieve this, the horse lovers employ an extensive range of aversive equipment and training methods all of which are designed to ensure obedience in servitude. Sadly this equipment and training is normalised and therefore is not seen as the tools of bondage that it is.
And if they cannot achieve this aim? The horses are discarded, sold on, sometimes even destroyed, and the humans love is transferred to their new equine acquisition.
But there is a growing swell of people who do not regard horses this way.
They consider horses as equals, to be respected, there are no expectations of service, no pressure to perform and they are not discarded when no longer considered useful. They are loved unconditionally.
These are people who go out of their way to create perfect environments with plenty of natural resources and enrichments.
They are people who train with positive reinforcement techniques, not because they need them to perform or work but because the horses find it empowering.
These are people who often do not ride, but if and when they do, it is in partnership and not in service.
These are the people who are showing the so called ‘horse lovers’ what the term really means.
Whilst these people are often geographically isolated, they are by no means alone and are finding communities and a home on social media.
This is not an exhaustive list and there are many many more but these are a few of my favourite resources
Non Ridden Equine Association – Set up especially to be the voice for non ridden equines after the founder’s horse had to be prematurely retired
Putting Horses First Magazine – it does what it says on the tin and I highly recommend it.
Empowered Equines – Excellent rescue and positive training centre
Whispering Horse – Great trainer and resource
I have also been heartened by several cases recently where this has spilled over into other areas of equestrianism, there is the East Devon Riding Academy (who was already a very progressive riding school), who after their relocation felt that the horses no longer wish to be part of the riding school and closed their doors to clients whilst keeping all the horses to live naturally.
There is Horse Riding Holidays Andalucia, a Spanish riding centre to help support their rescue horses who have made the decision to only allow trail rides in walk.
And the new horse business the Bespoke Tack Room who are specially looking for one of their brand ambassadors to be non-ridden.
These pioneers are the leading edge of the revolution which is coming.
So horse lover, consider your training methods and equipment and next time you go to ride or train your horse, and ask – would your relationship still be the same if that was longer an option?