Thursday, May 21, 2009

Where in the hell is my Soapbox?

Ok... I am certainly not going to backpedal... too much, anyway...

But this morning I fell of my soapbox. Who put that thing out anyways?

As I read back through yesterdays post I could help by cringe. While I stand corrected on a few matters, I also stand behind the vast majority of the issues and concerns I expressed about the AQHA as a breed organization.... but what I didn't like was the sentiment that rang through out that post. I hate when I get caught sounding like a bitchy, negative, catty, nagging *bleeeh!* woman!

Sorry 'bout that.

I think we've all expressed a time or two a certain level of exasperation with the equine sport as a whole. It seems that wherever horses and people mix, problems will inherently arise, sprung out of the competitive nature of us as human beings and our, sometimes, ruthless pursuit of entertainment and/or ego gratification.

The subjectivity of what differentiates use from abuse in any of our interactions with horses is so vast and incomprehensible and adverse to our desires that I believe we often shy away from looking to hard for clarification in the murky waters of horsemanship. We could through away the debate between use and abuse and ask ourselves if or why we should be allowed to "use" horses at all! What is fair to ask of a horse? Is any kind of riding cruel? Some say it is. Is any form of striking your horse wrong? Some say it is. What about breeding? Is it our right to manipulate nature with selective breeding? Is it right to breed a genetically unsound animal? Is moral to breed a horse for profit? We could spend a month of Sundays discussing it. Or we could say, "We do our best to be fair and treat our horses well."

But, some argue, we LOVE our horses. We do amazing things for our horses. We RESCUE horses.

We kiss them and feed them and house them and keep them safe and shod and happy.



Why do we do that?

The reality is, no matter how I'd like to claim otherwise, that the majority of us keep horses because of the use and enjoyment we take from interacting with them. Only a very small percentage of people keep horses that they can not use in some way.

I am not one of those people. I would not pay to keep a young, permanently lame and unusable horse for the rest of his life. I'd find it gut wrenching, to say the least, to let go of a horse I loved but I would. And have. I am a pragmatist and as such, boarding at $400 a month, $4800 a year, $48,000 over 10 not realistic. I'd rather donate $50,000 to Alzheimer's Research... or Parkinson's, Or ASL, or Leukemia, or one of the other diseases that has touched my life. Or maybe to the AQHA FUND. Or maybe I'd just go on a vacation. I'm no saint. But I'd keep an older horse that I felt had "paid his dues". Because I'd owe him for the use he granted me.

I'll admit that I keep horses NOT because THEY LOVE interacting with me. Not because they love the hay I feed them or the way I spend an hour grooming their hide until it gleams... not because I use "natural horsemanship" and avoid causing them pain or discomfort. I USE horses. And I take care of them so that I can continue to use them. Everything else is window dressing.

And I am not alone.

Most people VALUE their horses based on the USE they derive from them.

I dont want a horse to be in pain, to be neglected or abused. I simple wish that we could be better patrons to the equine species. Through whatever means possible. I think that we should do what we can to avoid the production of horses that can not provide a use to people because unusable horses are, 9 times out of 10, the ones who end up the most sorely neglected. And I think we should employ trainers who maybe dont win every time but strive to treat the horses in the care fairly and humanely or heaven forbid, with genuine affection. I think we should not breed horses without consideration for the life and future use of the foal we produce. I believe that the ability to gain or maintain a quality of life should be put before the mere preservation of life. I don't believe in passing the buck.
I believe in the inherent goodness of all these things.

But I am also guilty of being charmed by the win. I am guilty of putting my own desires over that of the welfare of my horse. I have made a horse feel pain because I wished to do a maneuver better or faster. I have ridden a lame horse. I have sold a horse at auction. My horse has been injured as the result of my ignorance or lapse in judgement. I am guilty of breeding a horse with a turned in front right. I am guilty of failing to communicate my desires and punishing my horse for my mistake. I am guilty.
Where in the hell did you put that soap box? I want it back. This "guilty" shit sucks.

But I LOVE horses. Even Halter bred Quarter Horses. *sheepish grin* What? They are impressive looking! (get it...Impressive. I crack myself up)

So who am I kidding by demanding that the AQHA or any breed organization have a mandate for "the betterment of the horse". In truth, everything we do is for the betterment of our use of the horse. What I have watched go on in the reining warm-up pens is sickening. I've seen youtube video of some dressage trainers doing horrendous things. I have watched ignorant beginner horsemen abuse their BYB "nag" just as often as I've seen the professionals abuse their $40,000 stars. No discipline or category of rider is immune to scrutiny. Nor am I.

I really do try to keep this blog positive minded. I do go on rants every now and then but usually I try to spike them with a little humor or imagination to make sure that, while I get a chance to express my thoughts and opinions, I offer a positive side to the equation. I am the kind of person who has to consciously work day by day to look at the cup half full...(rather than half empty). My Mom is full of cliches she likes to throw at me when I turn pessimistic, "Oh Chelsi!" She'd say with a breath of exasperation, "Just 'cause there is a cloud in the sky doesn't mean it going to rain!" And even my DB, every so often, has to take me by the shoulders, give me a little shake and say, "LOOK! The sky is not falling!" And I will look up at him with tears in my eyes and say, "Oh, but it is! It is!"

I can be a trifle dramatic at times.

(Note: To anyone who knows me personally, STOP rolling your eyes! )

Anyways, the AQHA is not evil. At least not as far as I know. They have positives. They have negatives. Hanoverians are called dumbloods because sometimes, despite all the fancy dancy selective breeding, they can be a little...dumb. We are imperfect as horsemen. We all misuse our horses.... All of us, through ignorance or indifference, we do. And our horses suffer for our mistakes. But I like to think that most of us try. We try to be better. To do better. We try to give back and make our horses happy. And for the most part, they forgive us our sins. We try. But they try harder.


  1. The great thing about your blog is it challenges people to think about WHY they think something is great/not great. So even if opinions differ, I enjoy seeing where others are coming from and their experiences.It helps me understand my own positions on horses, riding, etc.

    I am not the best rider on earth...but I secretly engage in snobbery and have even enjoyed watching someone who rides "not very well" so I can feel superior. I try to monitor my mind about it all the is so seductive to feel like I know things. (Which sometimes I think I really do, but who knows if that is just my ego).

    Now with a family member with his first horse, I give feedback, but give him room to just BE with his horse. It's hard, and I've had to stop myself a few times from bursting forth with all of my knowledge! I have had both good and bad experience with horses, but I too, wouldn't trade them, any of them, because they make me who I am.

    Cheesy, yes, but I say "Keep up the good work!"

  2. I am late to the debate...D...arn It!;)

    I'm still going to throw my 2cents in on it.:)...

    In the interest in abbreviating this comment, the breeding of "specialized" QHs...most commonly the cowhorse type vs the racing type was becoming a concern to the die-hard "versatile" QH breeders as far back as the 60's. Of course today, it is the cutters vs the reiners vs the rail class people vs the speed events vs...well, you get the picture.

    Here is an extremely interesting article that dealves into the the same topic that you presented Chelsi.
    One thing you are going to read in there is directly related to your comments about the NRHA and the NCHA. Actually, these two organizations are largely responsible for the demise of the "all-around" QH and in fact led to significant changes in the AQHA that allowed and encouraged breeders to breed specialty-type horses within the breed itself.

    Personally I don't see the NRHA or the NCHA ever starting their own "breed" registries. Why would they? People pay to be in their organizations and go to their shows and they(the NRHA/NCHA) don't have to mess with any of the crap that the breed organizations do. Their motto is "Hey, got a horse you want to show? Pay your membership and entry fee and have at it."

  3. Pretty impressive soap box you've got there, Chelsi. I have to admit I've never thought much about it, whatever that says about me.
    Personally I like your drama moments and writing from your heart and mind. I enjoyed this post and it did make me think.

    Thanks :)


  4. Regarding the comment in your previous post, I'd say somebody had their Cowboy Boots stepped on.

    Interesting reaction.