4Hooves Stable Whispers: Wild at heart

4Hooves Stallgeflüster: Im Herzen wild
Welcome to a new series in our online magazine: the 4Hooves stable whisper. The Stable Whisper is our monthly column. A column from our editorial team that is tough and critically examines some points from the equestrian scene. We hope to be able to stimulate you to think. As always, it's not about digital black and white thinking, but rather about thinking about other perspectives, weighing up the pros and cons and then making a decision for yourself and your horse. Our editor Carolyn is starting things off today. Have fun while reading!

Fascination with horses

We humans have been fascinated by horses for thousands of years. There seems to be something magical surrounding her. Back then they were wild and free and didn't need humans, as they even posed a threat to them as a predator. And yet these strong and at the same time gentle animals, which despite their strength are internally fragile, could still be tamed. This fascination with horses continues to this day, an attraction that is difficult to resist.

Unfortunately, the images of wild horses living in vast areas untouched by humans are almost a thing of the past. Although they can still be found sporadically, the reduction in their habitat due to livestock farming and agriculture, as well as the associated food shortage, are severely affecting the last remaining wild horses. Instead, most horses today are in human hands. We have domesticated them and taken responsibility for their well-being. But how well do we live up to this responsibility? How well do we care for a living creature that nature has created for vast areas? Let's be critical here:

Our horses today

If I look around our horse world today and look at how we keep horses, use them and treat them, then in many cases the comparison with the free and wild horse couldn't be further apart. What do I mean by that?
Some horses are sometimes kept in boxes around the clock in which they can only dream of running freely. Others are separated from their fellow animals, although as herd animals they need this community bond. Some riders go to the riding arena day in and day out and tie their horses' heads down because that's what they understand as gathering. Others race down the riding arena at a monkey gallop and then slide over 20 meters. And so far I haven't mentioned the gallopers whose legs are literally broken by the big sport, the Tennessee Walking Horses who suffer hellish torture for the big show money, jumpers who are chased over obstacles that are too high, the rollkur in dressage sport, the brutal plucking on the bit in western riding or, or, or.
Do you think I'm exaggerating? Do you feel personally attacked because you are “only” a recreational rider and your horse can live in the pasture with his horse friends 365 days a year? Yes, I admit, I'm being provocative. I deliberately chose examples of extremes. Because even if most of us hopefully don't belong to the above categories, these examples still represent the daily reality for many horses. And that's exactly what shouldn't be the case! We are dealing here with animals who, even though we have certainly disappointed them many times, still continue to trust us. It is our responsibility to care for and treat these creatures the way they deserve. This means getting as close as possible to their original life in the wild.

What do I want to say?

I don't want to tell anyone how to keep their horses or what to do with them. None of us is better or worse than the other. We are all in the same situation: responsible towards a living being that lives in our care and with whom we do not speak the same language. I would therefore like to invite each and every one of us, myself included, to always question carefully what decisions we make for our horses. And one question should always serve as our guiding question: How would our horse decide?
Our horse, who deep in his heart still lives in wide open spaces, wild and free.

Always PER horse

And I want to encourage you to do something else. To raise your voice when you see horses being treated unfairly, mistreated, etc. We are used to putting up with a lot, especially because of the big tournament sport in which a lot of money is involved. But that doesn't mean it's ok just because it's accepted by most of the equestrian world. It's NOT ok!
Horses are so easy to break mentally. This is also the reason why they allow so many things to happen to them. Yet they still let us know how they are doing. We just don't listen to them, don't want to listen to them or even suppress their voice. We overlook horses' eyes that have lost all joy of life, we tie their mouths shut, we take harder action, ride with ever sharper bits, fix tails, etc. Just so we don't see their signals. But that shouldn't be the case!
It is up to us, each and every one of us, to stand up against injustice and to raise our voices for our horses - a voice that we have sometimes taken away from them. Every single vote counts and every single vote makes a difference. And to make this clearer, I would like to end this first column with one of my favorite short stories. I hope it touches you as much as it did me and that my words make you think.
Until then & all the best
An old man walks along the beach at sunset. He watches a boy in front of him picking up starfish and throwing them into the sea. He finally catches up with him and asks him why he's doing that. The boy replies that the stranded starfish will die if they stay here until sunrise. “But the beach is kilometers long and there are thousands of starfish lying here. So what difference does it make if you struggle ? says the old man. The boy looks at the starfish in his hand and throws it into the saving waves. He looks at the old man and says, “It makes a difference to this one.
- William Ashburne -

About Editor Carolyn Okroy:
I have been fascinated by horses since I was five years old and have been a passionate rider ever since. Growing up with western riding, my style is heavily based on Old Californian riding. I met Jeff Sanders in 2012 and his teachings have had the greatest influence on me ever since. For me it provides a coherent, horse-friendly and biomechanically correct concept in which I recognize myself and my work with horses most. These are also the topics that I personally attach the most importance to.

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