Humanity has come a long way in terms of respect for animals. We now have animal rights written into our government policies and animal groups looking after the interests of those who can’t speak for themselves. I feel we are moving forward towards living in a more compassionate and caring world. But recently I had a glaring reminder of the work still to be done.
I was at an Antiques Fair and came across the piece in the above photo. This brass statue depicts a rearing horse and a man. The man has reins attached to a bit in the horses’ mouth in one hand and a whip in the other hand. It is depicting the strength and courage of the man controlling the wild beast. With both hands he is using pain to control the horse. These types of artworks are common and admired, however to me it is a sad reflection of the level of acceptance people have to the mistreatment of horses.
To put it into perspective, imagine that instead of a horse the animal was a dog. The man would have a metal bar strapped inside the dogs’ mouth to which he applied pressure to make the dog do as he wants. If the dog didn’t comply the man would hit the dog with the whip in the other hand. If this statue had depicted a dog instead of a horse, I doubt it would have been sitting there on public display. People would have been horrified at the level of brutality. So why is it ok to do this to a horse? Lots of people walked by and looked at this statue and all of them accepted it as a normal thing.
I believe using pain to control another being is wrong. At horse events you can see horses being controlled using pain with open, foaming mouths trying to escape the pain of bit pressure and riders with whips and spurs. To any animal empath it is a nightmare. How did this become normal? How did it seep into the human psyche that horses are the receivers of pain, that we need to hurt them to make them do as we want?
When I first went bitless I had a number of people question my choice. They thought I was crazy and being very dangerous. After talking to them I found out the reason they felt this way was that most of them were afraid of their horses. I had to ask myself the question, ‘Why are people riding horses they’re afraid of?’ If you think about it this is a crazy situation, it's also very sad, both for the human and the horse. I never sit on a horse I’m afraid of, I work with the horse until we reach an understanding and no-one feels threatened. People think they need to use pain because the horse is dangerous, not realising that it’s the pain they’re inflicting that’s creating the danger. Horses are naturally very peaceful animals, herbivores with a high degree of sociability. It is possible to relate to them on this level and not use pain. When a horse feels no fear they are easier to work with and willing to please. It's the fear created by the pain that creates the problem and it’s a perpetuating situation going around and around in a circle.
Many people now are opening their eyes up to this in the horse world which is wonderful, but this statue reminded me that the general population still accepts this pain based status quo for horses. The message of consideration and compassion is not just for the cute, fu
Suzy Maloney B.Eq.Sc.
Happy Horses Bitless
Lismore, NSW, Australia
Ph: 0401 249 263
Facebook: Happy Horses Bitless Bridles