Thursday, October 16, 2008

Chelsi's Rant on Beating up Punk Kid!

This past Friday I made a long drive South to watch my Abby mare run at a big reining show. With NRHA classes, it was big enough to attract some of the top names in the state. Oh yah, and....

I beat the living shit out of some punk kid that was trying to school (abuse) his horse in the warm-up pen. Why? I had been quietly minding my own business watching the other (adult) trainers beat up their reiners when this young testosterone laden punk comes into the pen with a shaggy, underweight and bug eyed buckskin mare. After loping a thousand and one circles, pulling her into the ground 152 times, yanking on her mouth, pounding her sides with his spurs, and basically beating the snot out of her in every which way from Sunday, he got really mad. I guess his pony was stopping a little too hard (wild eyed, open mouthed, and scared bejeezes was not a problem, but her feet getting stuck in the ground was). Grabbing the reins, he yanked hard upward and outward on one side and then the other. The buckskin mare opened her mouth wide but found no escape, she pressed her head into her shoulder but still found no relief, he hit her mouth with a tug over and over, and over again. That didn't provide the desired result. So he tried pounding her mouth while laying the boots (and spurs) to her sides. Over. And over. And over again. For 10 minutes this went on. His mother and father stood at the side rail, coaching him through it. His face became flushed and then went crimson red. His mother warned, "Getting mad wont fix it", his reply was, "Yes, it will!" and then drilled his spurs into her side ten times over all the while yanking her mouth in sharp jerks. His parents laughed. The "top" trainers in the industry stood chatting and watched, sending a smirk his way when his horse did something right, or wrong.

I had enough. Watching his parents, these trainers and the other non-pros ride on by as though nothing were wrong had me fuming mad. Was I the only one that could see this blatant display of abuse and torture? Why was no one saying anything? Stopping him? I stood up, climbed through the fence, and walked over to him. He looked down at me with a surprised expression, clearly confused as to what I wanted. I saw a flash of silver. Before I knew what had happened, I had reached up and grabbed his belt buckle. He pulled to the side in an attempt to dislodge me but had no place to go. My other hand reached for his shirt collar. It was red, or at least in my eyes it was. Clenching his clothing in my fists, I yanked with all my might, digging my heels in the dirt and throwing my weight backwards. The punk landed on me heavily, too startled to react. Before he could struggle to his feet I flipped myself over and on top of him. Sitting on his chest, I pinned his puny adolescent body to the ground; the brown dust plumed up around us. I grabbed his face and tried to hook my finger in the corner of his mouth. By this time he had got his wits about him and started to fight back. I madly spurred at him, feeling my heels make contact with the hard muscle of his thigh. He bucked and squealed under me. My hair was flying about my face and I could hear a high pitched scream but failed to recognize it as the sound of my own rage. Hands grabbed my shoulders and pulled me back. The punk was on his feet in seconds, his own temper raging in the face of such humiliation. I screamed, "How did you like it!?!! Huh!!" How'd ya like it! Bet them spurs felt good, eh! You little f@ck#r!! My words came out in a growl. He looked back at me with disdain. Spit flew from his mouth as he grunted and sputtered a few incoherent words, "crazy" and "bitch" being the few that I could make out. The last thing I remember, as I was being dragged out of the arena was looking back at the punk's buckskin mare. She was staying sprawled legged with head down below her knees. Her stomach heaved and breath blew gray from the flare of her pulsating nostrils. Her eyes were half closed and sweat dripped from her flank. She didn't know how I had fought for her, but I did and that was what mattered....except for....

that I didn't. I didn't get up and beat the snot out of that punk kid. I didn't even say a word to him. I sat in the bleachers and imagined that I had done what I just wrote. I seriously thought about doing it. But then I remembered that I was in a foreign country. That I didn't know who his parents were, if they had guns or if they would sue me. I remembered all the reasons why as an adult woman, alone and in a strange town, that I should keep my mouth shut and be smart. And all the other yellow bellied, sell-out, bullshit, rhetoric that makes me just as guilty as every other asshat that stood by and watched that kid beat up his horse.

What is really sickening is that he was just doing what he sees his heroes (the top reining trainers) do in the warm up pen. The same thing I watched countless others do. What is socially acceptable to do in public. Imagine what goes on at home? I bowed out. Maybe the violence I felt like doing towards that boy was not the solution. I doubt that words alone would have had any impact. This is a larger issue that needs addressed in a larger forum. But smacking that kid around would have been sweet. Sorry, nothing you say can disway me from that opinion. That kid needed his ass kicked. He needed to feel PAIN so that he could imagine for a split second the PAIN that he was causing his horse. What is even more sickening, is even that would not have long as his mentors continued to use the same methods. So long as it continues to be acceptable.

My trainer told me that after I left, she was watching a run and trying to figure out how to compete using fair, non-abusive training methods when everyone else had their horses damn near perfect (and morally afraid of screwing up). She watched a top trainer do his run. Watched and admired his twenty foot stops. Watched him spin like a top. Watched him execute a perfect lead change at a flat out gallop. Watched his horse finally break mentally and charge him straight towards the wall of the arena. Right up till that point, he was damn near perfect. Another man, another "big time trainer" came out. His run was nearly perfect. Right up till his horse tripped. Right up till he drove his spur into the horses shoulder and caught a vein. Right up until the blood started spurting out and pouring down his leg. Someone joked, "you'd better get a tourniquet! Ha, ha, ha!" His horse was scared shitless and bleeding. It was all a joke.

I feel compelled to do something! To smack some sense into these people that claim they "love" horses! To change the industry and draw attention to this madness. To make it stop. But who do I rage that war against? This exists everywhere! People + Money = Horse Abuse. What sport, equine or otherwise is devoid of it? What equine sport can you claim does not abuse their horses? Dressage? Jumping? Western Pleasure? We've all heard the horror stories. So who do I rage against? mare did not win her class. But she did come home happy, healthy and sane. We may have lost the battle, but at least morally, we won the war.


  1. Wow, what an awful thing to have to watch. Maybe a good start would be to name names as to who stood there just watching. If someone is so famous people know who they are by their face and they have a lot of people copying them, then it is much worse for them to be tacitly encouraging that kind of thing than, say, the kid's parents. I think if more people named names and maybe even sent complaint letters to the breed orgs about these issues, maybe things would change.

  2. We have one young lady at the barn that I must turn away when she is riding. She started out leasing a nice little western pleasure pony. They did very well at the local and 4-H level. Then I started to watch her let greed, and winning make her ride harder and listen less. When the lease was up, she bought a nice AQHA gelding and in no time, she has changed him from a horse with some spirit into a suppressed and anxious boy. I simply cannot watch her ride. I would say that I am over sensitive to it, except there are at least 3 other barn members who feel as I do.

    I ride by setting an example of praising frequently and using treats often. My daughter does too and the difference in our mares and this poor, sad gelding is striking, though I am sure the young woman does not see it. I am sure what she sees is an obedient boy, what I see is a gelding who is afraid to offer anything behavior wise, it makes me sad for him. She is lucky in that he does not fight back, I've known horses that would not tolerate that treatment, people often get hurt with horses like these.

    I say nothing because abuse is a fluid term in shades of gray. Abuse is a difficult subject, there are many nuances to it and what I consider abuse, many others think of as training. In addition, I am sure my comments would not be recieved gracefully, so I stay out of it.

  3. This is why I no longer train for the public...or have dreams of ever showing at the higher levels. When I quit training for the public, I felt like some of these horses-my desire to perform and succeed had just been beaten, yanked and spurred out of me by the big name trainers who tried to tell me this is how it was done. I was depressed and disliked horse people, the industry and have never been able to look at the top levels of trainers in the same way. All I felt was disgust at the tactics taken to win, win, win. People didn't care that the $10,000 prospect that they had just bought needed another year to "grow up" or might have been better suited in another discipline-they bought it to WIN in X event and by god it was my job as a trainer to make that horse do that.

    I don't have any trouble spotting abuse. Some training techniques may look severe, but that should be a short lived moment-geared toward "fixing" a specific problem. Abuse is the relentless infliction of severe techniques that never seem to stop. Repeated yanking, jerking and spurring for every maneuver asked for is ABUSE. The horse has no respite, no time to figure out what they are doing wrong and are given no indication that anything they are doing is correct.

  4. I am so sorry that you had to see that happen to that poor little mare, and like you said, it goes on all of the time.

    When I was in my early 20's, I trained with a well known Arab trainer, and was horrified at what he occasionally did to some of the horses that he trained. Did he do that to my horse? No. Would I leave my horse there for training? Not in a million years!

    Greed, fame and money make people do awful things. One of the mottos that I try to live my life by, is to never use something ( another human or an animal) as means to an end. Maybe more top notch trainers should take a philosophy course!

  5. wow. i feel sick. why, why, why, why does this happen? every single discipline just brutalizes these animals. god in heaven i hope you are there for them.

  6. You know what? Great story. Good point. Good writing!

    I hope you save this one and send it out to a few pubs - you never now they may pick it up.

    You are so right, so right. I have seen similar things and wished to do similar things to the people I have seen riding horses like that.

    What is so heartbreaking about your post is that the mare was totally submissive and just wasn't understanding what the rider wanted and was getting beat for it. How sad as a situation and how sad for us as a society that allows it.

  7. I wish you had had a "come to Jesus" meeting with that brat! But I know that we cant do that. It makes me cry to see animals that trust us being abused by us.

  8. Aw, Chelsi!! I wanted you to kick his butt! I was on my feet cheering you on! Even though I knew you were just spinning one of your fabulous edge of your seat tales! ;) Sorry you had to sit there. Tough situation. I would have done the same thing.
    I couldn't agree more, how sad that if these people do this in public, what happens in the training barn at home?? This is why I follow the more "natural horsemanship" methods. Maybe these guys need to take some lessons from Stacy Westfall? Jerking and beating a horse is never going to help create a better ride. I feel so terribly bad for these horses. It is one reason I really doubt I'll ever show horses. I don't agree with many of the madness and methods used to get a show horse anymore.

  9. How awful :(

    One of my neighbors bought a couple horses a few months ago. Supposedly for reining. He doesn't even take proper care of them, keeping them in an area 'fenced' with only a single bar wire, about 16" off the ground.

    But the worst is seeing him ride the one horse backwards all over the place. He drives it backwards up and down hills and all around...apparently to build up the rump muscles for reining, and those fancy, hard slide stops.

    If he doesn't come home with big bucks, as he says, then he'll get rid of these horses and look for 'better' ones.

    People get so obsessed with winning. It's really awful.

  10. I am so sorry that you had to endure that. It is so unfortunate that it happens in every discipline, and worsens in the higher levels.

    I attended a series of Stacy Westfall clinics this past weekend at "The Mane Event", an equine trade show held in my area, and was truely impressed with her methods. My coach and one of the girls at the barn took part in a couple of the clinics and did quite well. I think these top notch trainers that use haarsh methods to get what they consider to be responsive results when in fact they are submisive due to fear, need to take a step back. This girl can run a reining pattern bareback and bridleless. That shows her horses respect her. I bet little could be said in that respect of the other 'big guns' out there....

  11. I don't know what to say, I'm not even sure I can type or make any sense after reading that. I am enraged and I flat out bawled after reading your post!! At first, I felt elation at your bravery because if I were there, I'd hope to have enough guts to do just that! But, probably like you did, I would probably have to leave before I got physically sick or arrested and in the end, do nothing. All I can say is that someday when God lets loose with his pent-up and mighty rage and vengeance for all the cruelty and abuse that mankind has inflicted not only on poor, defenseless animals, but on each other - I say, let it fly - it can't happen soon enough to suit me. These people sicken and disgust me. But, like you, I don't know what to do except to pray to who I know to be a loving God that promises to end it all one day soon. "Vengeance is Mine sayeth the Lord". Some people are too stupid to live. The only thing that people like this seem to love besides winning, is money. Hit them where it hurts, in their pocketbooks. Maybe we should all whenever we witness anything like this, videotape it with sound and find out where local is for them. Every community has a local access channel or some big barns where this kind of stuff could be shown publically. Maybe a phone call to a local vet would be helpful, they can legally shut shows down where abuse is going on. That first guy in your picture looks like a local trainer named Shawn Church. Do you know who that is in pic #1??

  12. Thank you all for your comments! I am glad that I am not alone (not that I thought that I was)!

    For legal reasons (seriously) all I can say is the facts as I know them.

    1. I THINK that the picture of the first horse and rider LOOKS like a trainer from Oregon named Shawn Church. I posted this picture because it is a nice photo of a sliding stop and do not know if it is him or not.

    2.My mare Abby was owned by Shawn Church in her two year old year.

    3.My mare Abby has scars the size of grapes in her mouth, and has rowel scars all over her sides. I DO NOT know who was responsible for these scars. My mare Abby had serious mental issues and anxiety when asked to do reining maneuvers when I purchased her as a 4 year old.

    4. Shawn Church did show at the same show I was at (and Abby) a few weeks ago. I did see him in the warm up pen and do not agree with his training methods.

    And that is all I am going to say about that. You fill in the blanks.