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TO MY EQUESTRIAN FRIENDS AND FOLLOWERS

I did not write this, but had to share this information.

I use to say that I never had a problem with horse competitions; it was just how some people approached competing that was the problem. I no longer say that.
When competition creates an epidemic of disregard for the welfare of horses acros…s the entire spectrum, a person has to consider that it is competition itself that is evil. When good people do bad things to horses, it needs to be postulated that the fault lies with competition.
I don’t know of any competition discipline where the majority of serious participants have not been infected. In dressage we have rolkur, tight nosebands and drugs. In jumping we have horses trained over jumps with rails wrapped in barbwire. In walking horses we have soring. We have extreme endurance races. We have polo horses dripping blood from their sides. We have eventers being killed on course. In racing, horses compete when they are babies. In horsemanship, horrible things happen in the name of colt starting competitions. Western pleasure is rife with cruel training devices and drugs. We breed horses with extreme deformities for halter classes. It is a very long list.
I think we all start out with horses because we love them. We don’t want bad things to happen to them. But competition is insidious. It creeps into a person’s psyche while they sleep and over time turns them into something else. You don’t have to compete at a high level; even beginners can catch the disease.
Some time ago I worked with a young girl. She wanted to learn how to get along with her horse better. She had given up competing because she saw how it damaged the relationship she had with her horses. I spent a lot of time helping her. She also went to another trainer who was more specialized in the discipline she wanted to follow. Over time the girl developed a nice way with her horses and the results showed in their relationship as well as the performances.
But then she met a love interest who was a serious competitor. It was only a matter of a few months before she also caught the infection from him. Within a year she sold her horses to buy new ones that had more potential in competition. She started using gadgets to force submission. When her horses didn’t meet her expectations, her anger would erupt. I remember a few times when she was so angry after an event that her horses were stabled overnight and given no food or water as punishment. I could believe it was the same girl. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t sadly seen it myself.
But she is not the only person that has been corrupted by competition. It was not until I stopped competing in my younger years that I actually learned to be a better horse person. My ambition to win ribbons stifled my evolution as a horse person. I think this because my focus was more on winning than on my understanding or relationship with my horse.
There is something in the nature of people when mixed with the nature of competition that kills (or at least at dampens) our empathy for the horse. It‘s a drug that people just can’t handle. I only know a very small number of people who use competition as a training exercise for their horses. The only purpose of competing for them is to give their horses more experience and exposure to help them become a more rounded companion. I can think of at least one person who doesn’t mind breaking a rule and being disqualified if she feels it necessary to help her horse. But that seems to be extremely rare.
I’m not writing this with the purpose of making people who compete feel guilty. But after an experience in recent days I feel compelled to say something about a subject that doesn’t seem go away.
Competition does not make a horse a better horse or a rider a better rider. The best dressage riders, showjumpers, team drivers and horse people I know are not competitors. They don’t need to confirmation that they are good at what they do or comments from a judge to resolve a curly training issue. They have their horses for that.
When will organizations enforce the concept of the “happy horse” in their judging? When will competitors insist on it? When will breed societies stop rewarding breeders who present pretty horses over functionally sound horses? When will competitors who inflict physical and emotional pain on horses be banned? When will events that have a significant chance of injury or death be banned? When will people be immune to the competitor’s bug?
Does anyone believe that without competition the horse in the photo would be subjected to whatever methods made it move like that?