Horses are different

Horses are different

Dealing with these fascinating creatures costs more thoughts. Energy than keeping a dog or cat.

You think about things that seem to belong to a completely different world. As a horse owner, you suddenly follow the weather forecast with completely different eyes, involuntarily discover poisonous plants in your neighbor's front yard, regularly check your bank balance for possible reserves for possible veterinary costs, drive your car ten years longer or forego vacation trips over 100 distance kilometers because your nice neighbor might not know what to do in case of an emergency after all…

Have you seen the amounts of hay that a horse eats in a year? That's a big tractor trailer full. And a horse should never live alone. So already two tractor trailer loads come together, which must be stored. How to recognize good hay and know the conditions under which hay must be stored? Neither a shed nor a drafty hayloft is suitable for them. And the farmer doesn't necessarily know any better just because his great-grandfather did it that way. Know the mountains of manure a horse produces in summer and winter? They have to be collected daily, taken away, regularly disposed of or well maintained as compost. Have warm boots in case you have to wait for the vet on a winter night? The vet is not always available within a few minutes and you cannot leave your horse alone in every situation until the doctor arrives at the yard. Sometimes this is not a pleasure, especially when neither a hall nor a warm lounge is available. In many "cheap" stables there is not even hot water or electricity. The driveway may be impassable in winter. Have enough patience – or the children – for the education of a horse? Horses, like all animals, are never completely finished. They change, have moods, whims, make experiences. Most horses or riders do not learn to ride out together in six weeks through civilization. Often this takes years. How far does your love extend to the one, your horse? Dreams can be shattered when the horse eventually becomes unrideable. Are you aware that it can cost friendships to consider an animal as an individual? You will cancel one or the other visit to the cinema, one or the other appointment, if your animal becomes ill. Maybe even the annual vacation goes to vet bills. Your partner may have other priorities in such things. A pony turns 35. More years old. You would be responsible for its welfare for a long time. And also a horse grieves when it is sold, loses its herd, its friends, its human or its familiar environment.

Horse dreams and reality

Older readers remember warm, steamy carousel ponies from childhood days. They attracted many children like magic. They did not seem happy, if we are honest. Others remember the old black and white cowboy movies. Horses were racy, strong and replaceable. They stood for freedom and strength. "The girls from the Immenhof" are still repeated several times a year on television today. They awakened the dream of your own pony, carefree vacation days at the lake…

If you entered a riding stable 30 years ago, you usually encountered bellowing riding instructors, desperately struggling riders or riders perched haughtily "on their high horse". Horses had to be big, noble and clean. Riders were only in noble breeches. Jacket to be taken seriously. Practical clothes for the stable. The daily work did not exist. Ponies were rather something for children, not to be taken quite seriously, hardly worthy of serious training. Many of these animals were badly ridden, naughty, ill-bred. Small children on huge horses were shown with pride. Adults on compact, powerful ponies were not worthy of discussion. Riding was a very serious. Very expensive hobby. People were proud to be able to afford a horse – and were happy to show it off. Anyone who had riding lessons at that time inevitably encountered the "old-school riding instructor". He took – in a barracks yard tone – no consideration for the needs of either the animals or the riders. Riding students had to obey, horses had to parry. Horses and riders like soldiers in the department, lined up by size, almost programmed to function smoothly – the last one swallowed the dust of all the better riders. The rider was afraid of riding instructor and horse; the horse was afraid of riding instructor and rider. Fellow riders were afraid not to be the best, not to have the best horse. Closer contact with the (school) horses was undesirable. Many horses were dull, sometimes desperate, often sick because they were not kept in a species-appropriate way or were treated badly. Saddles were bought off the rack, they fit horse and rider or not. In riding schools, equipment was skimped on, saddles were used until they fell apart.

Such conditions are largely forgotten today.

As early as the 1950s, the first pioneers of the recreational riding scene tried to free the horses from the stalls and boxes that had been customary up to that time and to give them a life that was suitable for horses. It had been discovered that the old-fashioned husbandry conditions brought disadvantages under new conditions. Horses were no longer sufficiently exercised by work, they had to get rid of their energies under the rider in an uncontrolled way after a long stay in the stable. To riders, the pioneers of recreational riding instilled a new, friendly, co-creative approach to animals. The choice of breeds changed. Animals were imported that could be used more diversely and kept more easily. The realization that horses can also be kept outside of an expensive box stable led to excesses in the other extreme: Ponies were kept in misunderstood rugged husbandry on muddy meadows under conceivably poor conditions.

Today, there is an unmanageable scene of diverse teachings and philosophies around horses and horse riding. The layman will hardly be able to judge the quality and value of the individual offers. First – often not good – experiences move the rider to deal with the multitude of books offered, to read about riding doctrines and posture recommendations. Evaluation and implementation of findings often require large investment of time and money. It is not always possible to estimate the chances of success in advance. Meanwhile, in many stables, riders who do not regularly massage, oil, anoint or feed their horses a variety of remedies are considered irresponsible or at least unloving. Today, many horses are hardly allowed to be horses anymore because of their "love of horses".

"Horse whisperers" and other experts demonstrate their skills at fairs and shows. Always "new" inventions and discoveries around the horse are presented effectively. All too often, the success of their work and the content of their promises are just smoke and mirrors in everyday life. Real horse knowledge naturally forbids quick effects.

Whether innovations are really more horse-friendly than the traditional, often military manners, remains to be questioned in individual cases. Some "horse whisperers" treat the animals in a far less species-appropriate manner than an old-school cavalryman would ever have dared to do. He was, after all, dependent on his horse, entrusting him with his life. Not every "horse whisperer" really whispers with the horses. Some know however exactly to whisper something to the spectators and squint over the back of the horse above all on the purse of desperate horse owners.

The attitude towards the animals has changed fundamentally in wide circles of the equestrian world. "Love at first sight" is often more important when buying a horse than the breed and pedigree of the animal. It has become known that the attitude of the animals has a significant influence on their behavior and health. The change of the professional everyday life brings it with itself that riders keep their horses or accommodate them in a strange enterprise. Both bring problems that riders didn't know about 60 years ago. The range of stables and husbandry systems is now diverse, and choosing an expert for training, veterinary issues, feeding or hoof care has become complicated due to the wide range of choices available.

In parts of the equestrian scene, there is once again a tendency to present oneself and one's horse in a particularly positive light, to play up one's own knowledge and skills, to literally "sit on one's high horse". Especially among riders – from a sporting point of view rather "lone fighters" – there is a lot of competition, often resentment and the effort to hide one's own experiences from others, be it to not show defeats or failures, be it to not have to share successes. Mutual help and consideration in the sense of the welfare of the animals is practiced in few stables.

In such a cool or dismissive interpersonal climate, it is the animals that suffer the most. Even children cannot learn to act sensitively and respectfully here. Learning is hardly possible under such circumstances for horses and riders. Competitive thinking, pressure and fear prevent joint progress.

Especially in equestrian sports, one often misses the effort of "professionals" to share their knowledge and skills with "beginners" – for the benefit of all concerned.

"Genuine" horse people, who are concerned about the well-being of their horses as well as the people, are rarely heard and seen. They live with their animals, respect their peculiarities and needs, but don't necessarily do so in public. Some advocate a riding doctrine, a husbandry method, or care for a breed of horse that tends to be on the fringes of official equestrian society and is not represented at shows. Such people have a close relationship with their horses and other demands on themselves and their animals. They know that harmony cannot be created in half an hour, that a horse show or a full riding hall are not suitable to lay the foundation for a happy coexistence of the horse with its owner. "Horse people" know about the limits of humans and animals. You have to look for the "real" horse people who regard horses as equal and independent personalities! With luck, such a horse person is willing to share his knowledge and experience. Then you can learn a lot. This will not be something ready-made, but the knowledge of the specialness of every moment with every single horse. You will experience what handling in respect and harmony can really mean. One will get a glimpse of the great emotional potential of horses and their ability to interact intelligently and socially with their own kind and with other living creatures.

Everyday impressions I Without me…

You have been riding the ponies in the riding stable, the horses of a friend for years. But this? You put on the thigh – nothing happens. The riding instructor becomes annoyed. Drive, drive, drive again and again. If you don't bring him forward right away, the riding instructor will show you how it's done. How does he do it?? With him every pony goes forward. Spurs he'll wear and a crop. Now give it to him, show him you're the boss …The riding instructor loses patience. The others in the group laugh. Some scold. You paid for the lesson. Without me…Your pony seems to say. Not now and not at all! Howl you could. But the pony is usually so sweet. He is happy when you come and take him out of the stable and clean him for a long time. You'll be glad when this lesson is over. Gallop once more. Of course only the others, you can't even bring your horse forward at a walk. The looks and comments of the riding instructor make you sink into the ground. You lead your pony to his stable. You stroke it for a while. The others in the herd want to go too. He's about to be chased away. I wonder what it had again today? As you leave, it looks sadly after you from the back corner. The other riding students ask why you don't ride another one. When this one is so silly…

Everyday impressions II fright with end…

You should ride the big brown one, the one from the last box on the back right. If you go in, he'll turn his back on you. It's best to tie him up right away. He stands there, restless, trembling. When a bucket falls over in the stable aisle, he flinches. You're starting to feel queasy. He always jumps off as soon as you get on. He can't wait to get going at last. But always after the other school horses. When you ride ahead he starts to buck. Sometimes he suddenly turns on his heel. Hold, hold, take the reins. The riding instructor tells you what to do. But the horse is nervous. He can't stand still, he wants to get away from the spot, no matter where he is. Your arms ache. Suddenly a noise behind the rail. He shoots forward. It's too sudden, but you stay on top. It would be even nicer to fall off the horse here in front of everyone. Hold the reins tight, yells the instructor. Past the place again. Hold the reins, straight ahead, drive. The horse tries to squint to the left. Just don't let him look. Concentrate, hold on tight. You feel the tension rising under you. You feel the muscles, but then it's already too late, he breaks away to your right, bucks off, runs after the other horses – by then you're already lying in the sand. Get on, get right back on. That's how it is when riding. Show him, says the riding instructor. Then finally the end of the lesson. This horror has come to an end for you. The horse stands trembling in the arena, sweating, whinnying after the others, rolling his eyes and wanting to get away, just away from this place… The next student is already waiting.

Everyday impressions III Monster for my pony

You fetch your pony. It waits at the fence, since it has seen the saddle. Sometimes it's a real clown. Then it's fooling around, bucking exuberantly next to you across the paddock, nudging the dog on the butt with its nose. Carries his bucket away. It steals your hat. It's always with the nose. You take the saddle to the arena. It comes right after. It's very windy today. You ride under the old trees. It is quite nervous. You talk to it, it turns its ears, lets you convince it there's nothing wrong. Or maybe it is? Monsters are everywhere. Do not know that the people? Suddenly next door rattles the neighbor with her garbage can. Dry leaves everywhere. Monster in the dustbin. That was too much. Two sets forward. You guessed it, had the saddle horn in your hand. No harm done, just a little monster. Next round, a few more turns, a bit of trotting, a treat as a reward. Then back to the neighbor. You feel him getting nervous, tensing his muscles. Ready to jump away. One hand on the saddle horn, the other on the mane. No, there's nothing here. Doesn't always come a garbage can. Neighbors are not monsters. Or else? The head goes down. Snorting in relief after the danger has passed. So – another lesson learned. Well done. Treat. Dismount. Another round of scratching the neck. The upper lip trunks gleefully to the right and left. Then everyone can run free in the riding arena. Let them take a closer look at the monsters. They don't need you for that.

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