Basing knowledge on preconceived beliefs can be detrimental to the welfare of many animals. The horse is likely one of the most misunderstood animals on the planet that has carried a biased reputation for centuries – a reputation for being a working animal and existing for mere human entertainment.
For those fortunate enough to understand the simple joys of spending time with a horse, form a connection with one – especially so in the case of animals that have suffered at the hands of human necessity and greed – watching these docile animals learn to trust again is a truly incredible experience.
Horses quiet, gentle souls that thrive on companionship (both human and horse) and yet, we have exploited them, used them and tossed them aside when they no longer meet our needs. In this manner, horses are not viewed as companion animals, but often find themselves in the demoted category of livestock commodities. This marginalization of horses causes them to suffer gravely, all at the hands of our preconceived notions and misunderstanding of these beautiful creatures. We can all strive to help horses by breaking these notions, but first we must identify them and acknowledge their existence.
1. Horses Need a Purpose
One of the first questions I get on a regular basis when people come to visit the horses in my sanctuary is “which ones do you ride?” My answer is straightforward – none. To most, this is almost incomprehensible. They cannot understand the point of having a horse if it cannot be ridden. It is almost as if they have been programmed to believe that a horse must have a job, a purpose.
A stigma exists that horses are here to entertain, to meet human necessity and always be useful. This is far from the truth. and thankfully, more people are beginning to see this. It is a rare opportunity to see them in a more natural environment, bonding with others of their kind without always having to please their human counterparts. If two horses form an inseparable bond, it is seen as a negative behavior which must be corrected, however, horses are herd-bound animals; they do not do well when separated from others of their kind. Keeping a horse stalled for a long periods of time goes against all of their natural instincts. They require grazing space to explore and friends to socialize with on a regular basis.
A horse is not a toy that can be “put away” when not in use. A horse is a living, breathing creature and has every right to enjoy freedom as we do. Seeing them as mere object rather than emotional, sentient beings causes great risk as many are “disposed” of once they are no longer useful. This leads to the next big misunderstanding – “rehoming”
2. Sending My Horse to Auction Will Guarantee a New Home
Whether it is ignorance or denial, a large number of horses find themselves in search of a new home. Some will be advertised on local classified ads or equine groups; others find their way into a livestock auction house. It is a common scenario – a horse once used for riding is no longer fit enough to carry on their career and therefore dumped rather than provided a peaceful existence.
Believing that a horse run through auction will end up in a loving home is a naive one. The reality is many of them will be bought by the lowest of low, the kill buyer. This scenario ends with a grueling, horrific trailer ride to the slaughter plant and an inhumane death. Thousands of horses end their lives in this manner every day. Horses are no different than your cat or dog – you choose to make them a part of your life, you offer them protection, love and care; they are a lifelong commitment however are rarely viewed this way.
3. Only Lame and Ill Horses Are Sent to Slaughter
Although there are no legal slaughter houses operating in the United States, there are several in Mexico and Canada. Horses are often shipped for days in horrible conditions to the plants. Kill buyers are frequent attendees of auctions, looking to fill their trailer load and make a profit. For those unaware of how vast and deep the veins of the slaughter industry run, any horse can find themselves caught up in its web. No horse is safe. Young, old, lame, pregnant, healthy and fit horses all have equal chance of being slaughtered for meat. The horse once ridden by someone’s child is just as likely to end up on a dinner plate as a worn-out racehorse no longer making a profit.
How You Can Help
Horses are highly social and emotional animals. They feel just as we do, they form bonds, build friendships just as we do, they deserve respect, understanding, and compassion. And above all, they are not machines which must be replaced when broken or worn out. Look past the saddles, bit and bridle. Look at the horse as nothing more than a horse with their own life to live, their own freedoms to enjoy. By changing the hearts and minds of a few people at a time, the perception of the horse will hopefully improve.
“It takes nothing away from a human to be kind to an animal.” – Joaquin Phoenix