This week I tried to read a book called The Eighty-Dollar Champion by Elizbeth Letts. I got to page 137 before I decided I just couldn’t read it anymore. I am grateful Harry tried to save Snowman from slaughter and I get that in the great depression horses were still being used to help people earn a living. However, nowadays I am conflicted on whether or not even ridding in itself is good for a horse.
I used to ride when I was little and unfortunately the first barn I went to get lessons at was a show barn. From the shows barns I learned that the relationship between horse and rider didn’t matter. What mattered to them was making a horse do a bunch of stuff in a small amount of time. I wouldn’t say the experience was god awful, but after going to those barns I found horses to be scary, dangerous and unpredictable. Within the small amount of time I had ridden at the show barns I had fallen off at least twice.
One of which probably could’ve killed me.
Then I went to a different barn to help with some of my mental illnesses and the owner was probably one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. She didn’t have an insane amount of horses like the show barns did, she had only four horses and knew them well. As I began working with her, my fear of horses disappeared, and I learned that they weren’t as unpredictable as I once thought.
Just to be clear, I think lesson barns can be really good for someone who is just trying to get their feet into the horse world. However, I wouldn’t recommend anyone go to a show barn for lessons if they don’t have much ridding experience.
I know this book is about show jumping, but I don’t really like the idea of ridding horses for shows -especially if their’s money involved. Yes, some people at these shows do care about their horses, but it can indirectly encourage people to do terrible things to these creatures if their main goal is to make a profit.
I hope in the future there will be new rules where people can’t use crops or bits on horses. If you have to use a tool other than your own body, then I don’t believe that the horse wants to do it. Bits and shoes have been found to cause pain for horses. A horse’s hoof can’t move the way it needs to with a shoe on and also putting shoes on horses can make things even more dangerous for anyone around it. A hoof is hard, but a decent size piece of metal is harder. Getting kicked by a shoe would probably hurt slightly more than by a regular horse hoof.
And I’ve seen that most barns keep horses in stalls and I don’t think that is good for the horse either. Animals are meant to move around, studies are everywhere showing just how beneficial it is for horses, cats, dogs and humans alike to move around. I’ve noticed horse will bit the wood on there stalls out of boredom and do something called cribbing where the horse puts its mouth on the side of the stall and breathes heavy.
Due to the time the book was in, I’m not too upset by how the horses were treated because back then they didn’t have access to vast amounts of information. However, I do not think horses should be treated the same way now. I think there is still a large portion of the horse industry that is intoxicating. And so far the way that this book has presented it makes we think that there are still bad parts of the horse industry that are being encouraged.
I do appreciate that the in interview she had in the back of the book, where she did agree that in some ways, “the life of horses is particularly difficult.” I wish she would’ve specified more on what that meant, but I can understand that getting too much into ‘horse politics,’ might anger some people.
Again, I think what this man did for this horse was good -for the time. However, I don’t think sticking to exactly what this man did is going to help the treatment of horses move forward.