Friday, February 16, 2007

More on the Abuse of Arabian Horses

There has been a lot of buzz since my post yesterday An Arabian Mare's Death Due to the Halter Division's Dirty Little Secret. From what I can tell, the discussion has taken place mostly outside on private forums and through emails. While I encourage any and all discussion because it helps to enlighten people, I would hope that you would share your reactions here as well so that more folks can benefit from the input. This practice is just one of the horse industry's dirty little secrets. While I may have posted it in regards to the Arabian horse, you can bet that equally as egregious occurrences are happening across the industry. Our best weapon against them is exposing them.

Much is being written about the age at which horses are being campaigned. This morning I came across this blog post Must Read. This post is a copy of an article by Robert M Miller DVM that talks about Barbaro, his injury and the race industry. In the article Miller explains the injury that Barbaro experienced is common for young race horses but it's only the famous ones like Barbaro and Ruffian that ever get noticed by the press. Miller also talks openly about the problems for the horse when it is started as young as horses are today for both racing and show futurities. This article really is a Must Read and I thank The Equus Ink for the post.

While some may think that showing and racing horses are the culprits here, there really are responsible people out there participating in these activities that are not doing so at the expense of the horse. Stopping these activities all together is like throwing the baby out with the bath water. There is no reason why a horse cannot be shown safely and humanely. Whether or not that happens depends on the trainer and the owner and their ethics.

Despite the belief of some people that there is no such thing as an honest trainer who cares about horses, that is just not so. There are definitely responsible horsemen out there. In the Arabian industry look at Tommy Garland and his series on RFD-TV. Tommy practices what he calls CPR for horses and owners. Confidence Patience and Respect. The Arabian Horse World has just run an article on Tommy in their Feb issue. I know Tommy personally, I have worked with him in a couple of clinics. If he and I lived on the same side of the country, you can bet I'd be a regular at his barn for lessons. If i won the lottery tomorrow, I'd be sending my horses to him for training and marketing despite the fact he lives on the east coast. The man has integrity. (Since I did this post, I have come to change my opinion about Tommy Garland. His methods may be useful to the horse but I'm no longer sure that the man has integrity. It is possible to have the skills to be a good trainer but still not be a good human being. )

The whole fault with what is happening to show and race horses does not lie solely on the trainers. Owners are equally responsible. Owners pressure trainers to get the job done faster. They complain about what it costs to train a horse and they pressure trainers to win. Winning at all costs is not a thought process exclusive to trainers by any means. Many clients are just as driven and don't care about their horses.

The hard part of this issue is how do you control these kind of people and get them in check. Well, one place you can't fault the Arabian industry is for trying to make things better. You only have to look at our rule book to see that it is the biggest most complex thing in the darn industry. The reason is people wanting to make things better, leveling the playing field and protecting the horse. Now, whether or not they have been effective is another story. No matter how hard you try to stop the cheaters, they will find a way to cheat. That's for sure.

The only thing that I have seen over the years that has been effective at all is public opinion. When I first started showing, ginger was a way of life in the Arabian halter horse's life. It was illegal but everyone accepted it was done. But as people have gotten more outspoken about their oppostion to the use of ginger, it's use has diminshed. As more and more owners have ordered trainers NOT to use it on their horses, the trainers have backed off.

Now, I'm not saying that it's not used at all anymore. That probably won't happen until they find an effective test for it and for any other substances that have the same effect. BUT I am saying that every horse in the halter arena is not being gingered today. There are a considerable number of horses each year that are escaping that ritual because of public opinion. You can bet it matters to those horses that they don't have to deal with that burning sensation. The horses have outspoken individuals who were not afraid to stand up and be heard to thank for their relief. The day will come when ginger is no longer used on horses as long as public opinion continues to demand it.

The same can be true of any other issue the show and race horses face. As long as specifc abuses are kept in the forefront so public opinion can build and get organized against them, horses' lives will continue to benefit and quality of life will improve. Blogs and posts like this are a great starting point. If we can continue to build readership and built up our search engine stats you can bet we will be able to become a voice for the horse industry and effect change. It's already being done in the political arena, why not the horse industry? That part is up to you, the readers. Mark you favorite blogs. Comment on them, Share them with your friends. Let us know what you want to read about. Help us give the horses a voice.

I for one show my horses but I'm known for not necessarily getting them started in time to make junior horse classes. I have shown horses at halter, and will continue to do so, but I don't allow or tolerate any abuse of my horses. What I do with my Arabian horses is decided by the horse. If the horse has a halter attitude and loves to play on the end of the lead and strut etc, and needs the added stimulation of something to do, I might even show a young horse at halter.


  1. You won for most comments over at my place!


  2. I'm so glad you posted about that mare and the 'dirty little secret.' It's unfortunate that this type of behavior is so wide spread; not just a few halter horses, but the entire greed issue within so many breeds. Makes me happy to have my $125 BLM mustangs, lol!

  3. Another great article MiKael, it all has to start somewhere, hopefully it will escalate and we can virtually eradicate it although I am pretty sure there will always be those individuals who will find some way to get away with it. Reminds me of another thing they do in the jumping training, they have two people holding the pole and as the horse jumps it they lift the pole and rap his/her legs with it which makes the horse tuck its legs up and jump higher to avoid being rapped painfully with it on their shins.

    Thanks for all your comments and support over the past few days, I greatly appreciate it and know that one day we definitely will meet LOL. I look forward to that.


  4. At the farm where I worked in California years ago, we gingered a time. The trainer decided to give it a try since "everyone is doing it". Ten mintutes passed and the mare broke out into a sweat and got this wild look in her eyes. It was clear she was having some sort of reaction to the ginger, so she was scratched from the class. The horse was fine and trainer threw away the ginger, never to be used again.

    If you are opposed to halter classes the way they are run, you should consider some of the sport horse in-hand classes at Arabian shows. They are run on the triangle and emphasis is put on movement and conformation rather than "proper" halter stance and demeanor. These classes are judged by all breed sport horse judges, not necessarily arabian judges, and are less likely to tolerate whipped, crazed, stressed animals.

  5. On the subject of race horses, I find it hard to justify racing them at 2 and 3 years old, I realize that the cost is more to hold off for another year or two, however, if the horse is able to have a longer career because of it, the money is made back (of course, assuming the horse has some success) It just bothers me that they feel the NEED to push them so hard at such a young age... sad really.

  6. Great post! It's an absolute tragedy people do stuff like this. Brought me to tears. I just don't understand why people have to push anyone or anything past their limits before they are ready. My horse just turned three and my gosh the grief I've gotten about not having him under saddle. I've only had him for a year and I'm so pleased with the progress we have made together. He had a rough first couple years of his life (abused, malnourished, etc) and so earning his trust and respect hasn't been an easy task. People just don't seem to get that riding isn't my number one goal. It's having an equine partner and a best friend. Riding will come with time and continued hard work from us both.

  7. Ginger? Dont get it. How is it used and what is its effect?

  8. It is a wonderful thing that people who are subjecting horses to such cruelty are being exposed. People who opperate this way have absolutly no buisness working with horses or any animals for that matter!!!!