|Doesn't seem like much fun for the horse, does it?|
Well, it's not a vegan horse sanctuary, that's for sure. Because being vegan means not using other animals for your own purposes. It's not just about diet. It's a whole way of life. It's about doing the best you can in this day and age to do the very least harm possible to people, other animals and the planet and ecosystem in general. Can you call yourself an animal lover/animal sanctuary and still ride horses? Do horses really enjoy the ride? But first, how did this post come about?
I'm not naming names but out on the beautiful Colorado plains is a self described horse sanctuary. One would think that would mean that the horses are rescued from places that use and/or abuse them, yes? And maybe they do this some of the time. Unfortunately, I have recently learned that wherever they obtain their rescues, they turn right around and train them to be ridden, which is really just another form of abuse.
What's so bad about riding horses? It seems a wholesome enough activity, yes? Seems? Yes. Is? No. Not at all. You see the methods used to train horses and the equipment they have to “get used to” are often painful and most definitely unnatural. To top it off, when we ride horses, we sit directly on their spine. You know, the same spine that holds the nerves that carry messages to the brain. It's not exactly a cruelty free practice. At least not if you look at it from the horses point of view.
Do they enjoy it? Well, if you ask the humans who are getting a free ride, they'll likely tell you that the horse enjoys the ride. I don't see how that could possibly be true. The bit hurts. The saddle hurts. They're carrying 100 - 200 extra pounds and to top it off, they are sometimes expected to run full speed at the insistence of spurs, whips and dug in heels. Their life spans are shortened. They often suffer from painfully deformed backs/spines. Doesn't sound like much fun to me.
Now, I don't doubt that horse “owners” have good intentions and love “their” horses. I also don't doubt that the horses are happy to see their “owners” pay attention to them. Everyone likes to be loved, yes? Brushing feels good. Eating regularly is a good thing. Being provided with water and blankets isn't bad. Treats are awesome, etc. There are many positive attentions that horse lovers give to “their” horses. But being ridden and being trained to serve? You just cannot tell me that is fun for the horse. Except for the occasional taste of freedom part, that is.
You know what I mean, right? Being taken out of the barn, pasture, paddock, corral or wherever they're imprisoned and being allowed to run is likely a great feeling. It might be even better if they were allowed to run free all the time like we are. But they have learned that this is the best they will get. And so they settle. They get happy when they know that at least for a brief period of time, they can do what they were meant to do. They can run. They can't exactly run free. But they can run. And that's better than nothing, I guess.
I also have to hazard a guess that if the horse has been mistreated severely in the past, a horse sanctuary that still uses the horses to serve humans but is kind to them (aside from painful common practices involved in training and riding) is an improvement. But wait. This is a wild horse sanctuary. That means the horses have been taken from the wild, where they were free and happy, then “rescued” in order to be trained to serve man. I fail to see how this is any different than any other horse ranch. How exactly is this a sanctuary? It's not.
So there you go. Make the connection, please. An animal sanctuary that uses animals is no sanctuary at all. Other animals are not ours to use. Even if they seem to enjoy what little freedom we give them.