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Is She Abusing her Horse?

Photo by Claire Nolan - Barefoot Horses Together

Do you know someone who has horses and doesn’t care for them? I hope not. But if you are aware of anyone who is really neglecting or abusing their animal, you may want to do something about it.

Please be clear, this isn’t about lack of exercise or not feeding the ‘right’ food or not cleaning the dirty blankets. Although some may view that as serious mismanagement. I am talking about tyranny, abuse and exploitation. Oh yes, if you know about this, then you are responsible to act.

Fortunately, most of us never witness anything like this. I certainly have not. It exists, I know, because I hear it on the news from time to time, but I have not, nor do I know anyone who has. No one we know gets involved with horses without the intention to care for them. Of course, there are conflicting ideas about what is the best care, the best food, the best riding styles and of course the best trainers and farriers. We all have ideas and opinions on what is right and wrong. Nobody consciously and intentionally sets out to do the wrong thing.

Now we are seeing another gap, a chasm, a polarization between perceived right doing and wrong doing. It is something that is becoming increasingly intense in our industry. You guessed it.  It’s between those who shoe their horses and those who boot. Yesterday I watched, as this separation and divergence developed into aggressive opposition. Two horse owners who love and care for their horses and are kind, upstanding members of their communities battling it out. Either of them would drive you to the hospital, feed your kids, pray for you or take over the barn chores in a time of need. Both are productive, hard-working, thoughtful, courageous and vulnerable. Yet, they are so convinced that their opinion is the right thing that they are willing to alienate themselves from another nice person just to defend their point of view. They are willing to forego civility to be right.

We’ve all done it. At the time it seems like a good idea. We argue for our rightness. Sometimes, we do it even when we don’t have the facts and don’t really know more than an opinion. Witnessing this last USA Presidential Election has brought fanaticism and judgments to the forefront: Democrats are tree-huggers and don’t have a clue. Republicans are bigoted racists. Mexicans are illegals. Pro-Life supporters are anti-feminist. We separate ourselves into factions and form opinions and intolerance of those who don’t agree.  When in separate political camps, those who were once friends become enemies.  Perhaps irreparably divided, Britain’s split from the European Union forces a population of worry and contention. Australia’s policy on Asylum Seekers or the ‘Boat People’, world terrorism, the slave trade and the sex trade give us a fearful perspective. Fear contracts our world. We seek safety. Similarly, in our industry those who shoe and those who boot are starting to keep their distance from each other, grouping together in small like-mindedness. And on it goes.

Moving outside the idea of right and wrong, we can let go of our responsibility to take sides. We can stop trying to convince others. It’s not our job. Our job is to be ourselves and to accept ourselves as who we are. Once we do that it is easier to accept others. I personally, am firmly committed to barefoot horses. Yes! I believe it is the best thing for most horses. Could it change? Perhaps, if someone I respect could explain to me in a way I can understand, I would think differently. So far, I feel the reasons for naturally barefoot far outweigh the justification for nailing metal shoes to live tissue. But hey, I do have some very good friends who shoe their horses. I accept them as they are: wonderful people who I have great fondness for. I do not respect their reasons for shoeing their horses, but I still like them, and we still hang out. I must admit, for the most part, we avoid the conversation, but it is coming. One day we’ll sit down, without the emotion and more openly understand our respective reasons. We’ll answer when asked, without offense or grievance. We’ll listen consciously, without preoccupation of formulating our response. We’ll relinquish our attachments to staunchly advocate for our camp. After all, we want the best outcome for everyone, don’t we? Don’t we? How about if we don’t separate our industry even further? Don’t buy in to the axiom ‘you are either for us or against us’. It feels better to be united, to feel convergence, to be part of a group. Let’s remember why we have horses. We are horse people together. Nobody is intentionally trying to do it wrong.

Happy Trails,

Carole Herder's Signature

Image of Cavallo President, Carole Herder

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