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DONATE: P.O. Box 435 West Kennebunk Maine 04094 (207)985-1994

Value of Horses

Value Your Horse

Physical:

  • Horses help us stay healthy, and benefit the human respiratory system by spending time outdoors, getting and breathing fresh air.
  • Caring and Working with Horses benefits our cardiovascular, skeletal and muscular systems by keeping us fit, boosting our immune system and increasing our sense of calm and well being.
  • Exercising with horses gives us the benefits of aerobic activity by lowering blood pressure, lowering bad cholesterol, lowering respiratory rate, lowering our pulse increasing endorphins and increasing our energy levels.
  • Being in the company of horses increases the efficiency of the lymphatic system to fight infection, reducing the chance of illness.

Emotional:

  • Horses provide mental stimulation to help us be quick and flexible in our thinking, focus and make decisions routinely.
  • Horses are therapeutic because they provide a release from daily pressures
  • Horses give us confidence to aspire to try new things
  • Horses increase our sense of wellness and enjoyment of life
  • Horses are the silent watchdogs, and will keep you safe if you listen
Bernice Toohey pets Blue!

Horses Teach Us:

  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Compassion
  • Responsibility
  • Trust
  • Confidence
  • Tolerance
  • Composure and calm
  • Selflessness

Horses in Captivity, The Big Dogs?

Lexxie and Haley
This was done in a controlled environment,
Blixx strongly discourages having dogs in close proximity with horses under any circumstance.

Mammals are defined warm blooded animals that give live birth and nurse their young. People, as well as dogs, cats, horses & many others are grouped in this classification. There are many similarities among the species, including those between horses and dogs, however the differences are monumental and forgetting them for a moment could be costly.

In addition to metabolic differences in the species dictating cellular changes, & differences in other systems that require specific care, knowing how their instincts affect their behavior and practicing safety should be a priority.

Dogs and cats have been our traditional companions and horses are playing a similar role. Unlike dogs however, horses weigh 900 to 2000 pounds and are quick and powerful. Dogs and cats are predators, unlike horses which are prey. Throughout evolution horses have survived by running from danger and their reactive instincts have been their salvation. In addition to being reactive flight animals, their athletic abilities render them able to move in an instant with no warning and cause serious injury, or even death. This can happen while walking alongside them, riding them or in any situation where there is contact.

Gabriela and Blue

Not practicing safety at all times could result in tragedy, not only for the person but for the horse. A high percentage of ‘accidents’ occur because someone forgot and took unnecessary risks. The possibility of accidents tends to occur more often with experienced people who handle horses on a regular basis.

When a problem occurs, people can be quick to blame & punish the horse, rather than try to understand the instincts that led to the behavior so that it can be prevented in the future. When horses are pushed beyond their limits & travel outside of their comfort zone, trouble can ensue.

Proper handling, continuing, non-abusive training, kindness and security are factors that lower the chances of mishaps. Every horse is capable of behaving in an uncharacteristic way when responding to a threat or to pain. Defining a horse as ‘bombproof ‘ is unrealistic and not only puts the person in danger but also jeopardizes the horse. If a horse is bombproof, it is no longer a horse or a horse with a complete loss of spirit.

Fritz wants to go for a ride with kathleen & Peter

SOME SIMILARITIES BETWEEN
HORSES & DOGS

Domesticated horses & dogs can not survive without people. Both species have a Central Nervous System (CNS) allowing them to feel physical stimulation including pain. They also have a Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) allowing them to feel fear and anxiety as well as safety. Horse & dogs are intelligent animals with the capacity to learn information, retain it and repeat it over time. Dogs respond to as many as 100 words & horses have a similar capacity depending upon the consistency with which teaching is done, and the consistency of their relationship (permanent) with the teacher (owner). It is truly amazing how horses & dogs can communicate & relate to people, and so develop relationships with them.

Dogs & Horses Need Companionship

Are social animals
Need leadership from people
Need mental stimulation
Need attention Respond to affection
Respond to reward & kindness
Learn trust, respect & co-operation
Are capable of companionship

Care

Need proper shelter, nutrition & clean water
Need Veterinary Care
Need ongoing training & handling
Need people to care for them
Need a clean & safe environment
Need to have their space acknowledged (respect)
Prefer a gentle touch to a harder slap when touched

Commitment

Flourish in a long term, secure situations

The Risks

Fun on the beach

Everything comes with risks including horses. When someone gets injured the livelihood of the horse can be jeopardized. Practicing safety through prevention, can benefit horse & person, and is especially successful in long term relationships.

Riding a horse requires an acceptance of risk regardless of precautions, such as wearing helmets and safety vests. Making sure that your horse is pain free & comfortable, as well as becoming a skilled, mature & confident rider takes years to accomplish. It is the best defense against an accident in the saddle, but there is no guarantee.

Training, accomplished through consistent and effective communication, including many hours on the ground working in close proximity, helps to ensure safety. When working in smaller spaces, it’s important not to tire the horse with big gates at high speeds or to work the horse for long periods. Rounding & bending exercises are effective at a walk/trot because communication is the focus, and can be accomplished at slow gaits.

The 3rd factor companionship, aids in domestication and should be practiced regularly. People who have more than a riding relationship with their horses, have a more distinct bond and so become a better team. Horses in captivity need more than just to be with other horses. They need human companionship on a regular basis & the opportunity to learn about our world by being slowly & gently exposed to the stimulation of new sounds and sights regularly, which leads to confidence.

On the ground, there is a different danger. Walking by or alongside a horse, grooming, petting or handling horses requires experience, knowledge and quick reactions. Athletic abilities are an advantage when it comes to a horses quick reactions. Acknowledging that all horses can spin, buck, rear, kick & bite if confused or threatened, can help to see the world from the their point of view & prevent a relaxed attitude that can precipitate an unfortunate situation.

The Link to Violence

Bob Zellans family over for a visit

Horses are prey animals, as opposed to predators. If startled or frightened, they react by running from the threat. They are peaceful & gentle by nature. It is interesting then, that many levels of abuse & intimidation exist when relating to an animal that is only looking for leadership.

How often have you heard it:

He’s lazy, or stubborn, kick him harder

He’s hard to stop, use a stronger (more painful) bit

He’s still not paying attention, this time really smack him with the crop

Make him respect you, put a chain over his nose & yank hard

Horses are like cars, you have trade the old model in for a new one

Make him go faster,-- about a horse being run excessively in a round pen to tire him out, in order to be a safe ride

Anna & Blue

He’s stupid, why did he get himself dirty”,-- this about a clipped horse shivering & tied to a wash stall on a winter day, or

Don’t let her threaten your space, smack her in the eye”, this regarding a genuinely frightened horse resisting trailering and feeling threatened & frightened.

These statements reflect the intention of inflicting pain for results, and view horses in a derogatory manner with a lack of respect and ignorance for their capacity to learn & levels of intelligence.

It also indicates that the horse was failed, by at least 1 person who did not fully address the behavioral issue at some point in that horses life, when it was less significant. Unfortunately this can result in use of abusive behavior later, especially when the behavior has become dangerous. By the time aggressive behavior and force are used to communicate with a horse, many steps were missed along the way.

As Mammals, horses have certain things in common with other Mammals, including a Nervous System. The Central Nervous System (CNS), allows them to feel the slightest sensation of a needle when vaccinated or of a mosquito that has landed on them. The (PNS) Peripheral Nervous System allows them to feel mental stimulation such as anxiety or security & comfort.

But is it acceptable to use violence towards horses because they’re bigger or because we’re afraid, or even as a last resort. Is it fair to call a confused or threatened horse bad? Is it ok to demand respect without giving it back. What about the claim that horses don’t feel pain. If so, why do people use such behavior. Should horses be treated with such force & control, or is it better to take more time to get results through a co-operative relationship, with the person as leader. Are they worth the time or is our time table more important? Is it better to be patient and repeat a command with more insistence, take a time out, or is it better to punish by hurting & teaching to respond to fear. Abuse comes in many levels and can be subtle.

Patty enjoying the horses after a presentation

The horse world is filled with wonderful & regal traditions, however certain implements like whips, crops & chains are sometimes used to inflict pain rather than to direct movement, and as an extension of the arm. Tapping is different from hitting to sting. Applying pressure with the calf & developing a balanced seat will lead to subtle communication with time, without the use of spurs. A horse that has been taught how to walk quietly alongside a person or stand still, does not need to be restrained or forced with a heavy chain. A horse that has not been abused & taught to wait with quiet enthusiasm for his food, will not show aggressive behavior during feedings.

Horses in captivity in the best of homes, must learn to tolerate the world around them, but tolerating is different from feeling security & comfort. Some horses endure hours of being alone or tied & restrained, and all horse must handle confinement to certain degree, even in the best of settings.

All of these situations go against their instincts. When the pressures of performance, whether it be to enter a trailer or compete are added, they can be pushed too far and feel threatened. People view this as uncharacteristic, or bad, failing to comprehend that there is a limit to what a horse can endure.

Sometimes our attempts to achieve a desired result, of standing still for grooming or judging, entering a trailer, to change gaits on cue, run around a barrel or clear a jump, fail. Frustration can develop and lead to anger and violent behavior towards the horse, who becomes more confused & frightened. Ever wonder why horses especially those under performance schedules & vigorous training get ulcers?

By practicing stewardship towards animals we can apply a level of companionship, care & commitment that will benefit the horse. Awareness can prevent abuse before it gets started & teaching through example can change many lives and make a profound difference for us all.