I have considered myself to be an "equine advocate" throughout my equestrian life. I maintain a vested interest in horse welfare and upkeep, and often use this blog to report on ethical issues afflicting various equine industries. Unfortunately, the equine world regularly deals with bad press concerning the questionable tactics used by some when raising, training and exhibiting its four legged charges. It was therefore with considerable happiness that I read dressage great Jane Savoie's recent article on equine advocacy in Dressage Today. Her article challenges us as horseowners to look out for our equine friends even when well meaning professionals or instructors might encourage us to train them in less savory ways.
This brings to mind a moment in my own horse history when my trainer, while watching me lunge my somewhat headstrong QH gelding, advised me to attach a length of bicycle chain beneath his noseband to help put on his brakes. This was in the earliest years of my horse ownership, and I had not yet encountered any of the natural horsemanship techniques that later laid the foundations for the style of riding and training that I still follow. I knew nonetheless that chaining my horse into lower gear wasn't going to do either of us a favor. He might have done well with a few lessons in "Lunging for Respect," but he certainly wasn't going to suffer metal bites on his nose. Since those first days of ownership, I have never taken lightly my role as an equine advocate, and Jane Savoie's article reminds all of us that we share a responsibilty for empathetic horse husbandry.