Every day my route into town takes me past a lone horse standing under a small patch of trees in a large grassy field. Every day as I drive by, I wonder why this horse is without companionship. Every day when I return home, I watch the horses at my sanctuary interact with each other and move in tightly knit groups. Never are they far apart. I wonder how this lone horse must feel. No creature should have to go through life alone simply to convenience humans.
For far too long we have given very little credence to the emotional well-being of the horse. For far too long we have exploited them for our own entertainment – exploiting them until they no longer serve a purpose or suit our needs. If there is any doubt that horses are capable of complex and deep emotions, one simply has to spend time with them in a natural environment.
Horses as Herd Animals
Horses are incredibly social animals. They are capable of forming highly complex relationships with their herd mates. They are not meant to live a solitary life. As with the case for so many animals in this world, humans have exploited horses for their own purposes. Even the wild horses are no longer free to live in peace as they are continually threatened by the livestock industry as they are seen to be competition for grazing beef cattle. As a result, these majestic wild horses are routinely rounded-up with the use of helicopters with injuries and fatalities as a common scenario.
Their family units are cruelly torn apart in the process, ending in a trip to the auction house and ultimately the slaughter plant. They have to pay the price for human greed. This is a tragic way to treat wild animals. Are domesticated horses afforded different treatment?
Sadly humankind continues to take advantage of the horse for the sole purpose of entertainment. Whether in the form of competitive riding or racing, their natural instincts and behaviors are denied on a regular basis. Confining a horse to a stall for long periods of time is extremely unhealthy and detrimental to their overall health, both physical and emotional. Again, human need trumps animal welfare.
Forcing a horse to pull a carriage full of tourists through busy, noisy, and crowded city streets are cruel and unnecessary in this day and age. Tradition does not justify animal abuse. And yet many cities throughout the world have no issue with keeping the carriage industry alive.
If the horses had a choice, would they not prefer to be grazing on green pastures with their companions? Of course, they would. Instead, they must continue to serve a purpose for humans until the day they can no longer turn a profit and are tossed aside like garbage. They are seen as commodities rather than sentient beings. 100,000 horses will be slaughtered this year as a direct result of human action. Each one of these souls deserved to have a life worth living – a life where they could be free to just be.
Horses in Sanctuary
Not all horses fall victim to human ignorance and greed – some are fortunate enough to find a safe haven where they are allowed to live simply as horses and form lasting relationships. Nothing is asked of them other than companionship and trust. This is sanctuary life.
Of all the residents at Penny Lane Farm Sanctuary, there are two that have taught me the most about emotions – two rescued horses named Teddy and Penny. Both were pulled from a local feedlot (the holding facility before they are shipped to a slaughter plant for meat production) at different times – their histories and past experiences unknown.
When placed together, an instant bond was formed and remains unbreakable to this day (nearly 6 years on). One could go as far as saying they were meant to be together, soul mates for life.
Despite having other horses nearby, Teddy and Penny have made the choice to remain steadfast friends. They are protective of each other and show a great deal of love and affection. They choose to be with each other and spend all day and night in each other’s company. Three years ago, Teddy (our gentle giant Belgian) had to be taken to the veterinary clinic to have his right eye removed due to a large tumor. It was difficult to separate the two horses.
Penny was unsettled for days until Teddy’s return upon which she led him around every inch of their paddock.
To say horses do not feel or lack emotion is a thoughtless statement far from reality. One only has to spend time with horses that are given the freedoms to live their lives to see the truth. The author Marc Bekoff wrote ‘When animals express their feelings they pour out like water from a spout. Animals’ emotions are raw, unfiltered, and uncontrolled. Their joy is the purest and most contagious of joys and their grief the deepest and most devastating. Their passions bring us to our knees in delight and sorrow.’ This is exactly what I see when I look at Teddy and Penny standing together in their home.
How You Can Help
It is time to alter the perspective that horses exist merely to serve a purpose, to entertain or to make a profit. They are so much more and they deserve our respect. There is no better feeling in the world than spending time with a horse as an equal – building a relationship based purely on trust and understanding.
Simply providing companionship and allowing the freedom to exhibit natural tendencies can greatly improve the quality of life. Do not support any industry whose sole intent is to exploit, abuse, and neglect horses. This includes the racing industry and carriage industry, to name a few. Instead, why not visit a sanctuary dedicated to providing a peaceful environment for rescued horses – a place where they can remain with their companions for life.
Lead image source: Griszka Niewiadomski/Free Images