Monday, May 21, 2012

Humane Duty

I talked with a friend tonight.  I know her through multiple sources: she lived with my college BFF's family , she knows the people at my family's barn...etc.  And my 6 year old daughter has loved her since the first meeting.  This woman, newly graduated from a college with a great horse program, is a wonderful instructor.  My daughter has taken one lesson, and though she fell off due to over balancing, has ID-ed the reason she fell off (horse tripped and she was too far forward), wants to go back and correct the problem.

Recently, we stopped in at a local place.  After seeing their stallion standing in a stall in at least 12 inches of manure, a horse with a swollen eye/emaciated (glaucoma or cancer), and the lead instructor riding without a helmet and with a 5 inch shank bit (for every pound you "pull," the horse feels twice that per inch), AND the horse was behind the bit, it assured me that this was not the place where I could sub some lessons for my daughter.  Oh and the mini-horse had such over grown feet that I would tern them as elf feet.

I was lucky enough to take college classes in equine production, training, physiology, and teaching riding lessons.  I know how to start a new rider.  I know how to build up an advanced rider.  In addition to being a vet, I can do these things....if only I could afford a pony for my daughter.

So, I talked to "daughter's riding teacher" tonight after my daughter found her name in my phone and called her.  And we shared stories of riding without helmets.  Things that are, to us,  as uncomfortable as getting in a car without a seat belt.  We talked about horses (and other animals) that needed to rejoin the great grape jelly bean in the sky and we talk about the stupidity of riding without a helmet.  I have come off of a horse so many times that when I started having seizures and my neuro guy asked about head injuries, I just laughed.  Most of the injuries occurred with a helmet.  So, good there.  But some were when I was futzing with my helmet and it fell off.  There are so many times that I would have been dead without a helmet.

Distance be damned, I will drive my daughter to my friend who cannot even get on a horse without a helmet vs the place where the woman rides with no helmet, a 5 inch shank, and the horse's head behind the vertical.  Because my daughter loves her for her artistic and crazy colored hair....  and I love her because she believes that true equitation covers all disciplines and she believes in effective riding.

And this is true for your vet.  Just because everything looks ok at first glance and parents tell you that thinks are great, find someone that you really trust.  If they are far away, that is a pain, but it is likely worth it.  Because I will choose someone that will give my daughter what I would like to give.  Common sense, forward thinking, and workman like riding.  I want her to be safe, but on the cutting edge of equitation.  I want her to be able to ride anything.  I guess as a parent, I expect some perfection.  Ok, maybe a little over-reaching.


  1. I couldn't agree more. But... Shouldn't you turn in that "local" operator for neglect of her horses?? Those conditions (and the health of the animals) sound deplorable. <:(

  2. Although I completely agree with the rest of the article, there is nothing wong with a long shanked bit when it is used properly (which I doubt was the case here). Many people mis-use severe bits to "get contol of" an untrained horse. They are properly used to fine tune a well trained horse: The magnification of force allows the horse to respond to minute changes in hand pressure. And the long shanks are a useful tool in fine tuning the head set of a gaited horse, although the head should not be pulled back "beyond vertical" as it was in this case.
    I am not defending anything else about that situation, and I suspect the severe bit was being mis-used in this case. I just wanted to point out to those who might not know that using a long shanked bit, in and of itself, is not always abusive to a horse.

  3. A long shanked bit should only be used in the hands of someone who can jump a horse with no reins, with cups of water in each hand and not spill a drop. The long shanks a great for Western pleasure, where the "rule" is that your hand stays within a 4 inch invisible box. Very small movements and pressure create increased pressure in the mouth. However, I see them used as "brakes" for immature riders. My last horse had a lovely thick german steel french training snaffle for ring work, but I did use a kimberwick. When I rode gaited horses, I used a double bridle, and you are right about the final set of the horse's head using the shank portion.

    I just think that people use bits rather than real training in many cases. They think that a horse that is "on the bit" is correct and only pay attention to the front of the horse....never mind the actual powerhouse of power, the back end.

  4. thank you :) i'm a riding instructor myself, alongside being a veterinary technician. i also have the same "artistic" hair as described above- it's either pink, purple or blue at ALL times! most people have NO idea i've even got horses, much less know how to RIDE them! i'm currently training 2 beginner riders, one on my own pony (who happened to be my first horse- got him when i was 10 and have had him for 16 years now. he's my 3 year old daughter's "first horse" now, and STILL does lessons!) in conjunction with using another horse from my 4-H barn. i also still have my 32 year old mare AND her 16 year old daughter. its nice to hear of more kids getting into riding- since most kids live in tiny bubbles where horses are dangerous e.coli carrying monster creatures that will stomp a kid's head in, and most parents wouldn't trust a riding instructor with pink hair :) gives me a little bit of happy.

    1. addendum: helmets, helmets, HELMETS! kids don't even get to GROOM without helmets on!

    2. Cat is a helmet freak. And when Finley first met her she had blue hair. Our friend, Molly, used to have waist length dreads and she is a high risk OB-GYN, dressage guru, AND a fire/sword dancer. We like the alternative folks in our "family." And I have seen Cat win a jumpers class after breaking/dislocating her finger then go on the next day to win everything.

    3. perfection :) i've been on the judgement end of things plenty of times- pink hair, facial piercings, etc. husband has piercings as well. you would not BELIEVE the comments we've received as parents- it's horrible how someone can judge you, especially when you have a child and still live an alternative lifestyle. My daughter (her name is Meadow, BTW:D) chooses my hair color every month. it's just SO nice to hear that some people can look past the shell and see whats REALLY there. i was in 4-H from the time i was 8 until i aged out at 18. i was in FFA in middle and high school- i've shown every single animal you can possibly think of through BOTH organizations, sometimes at the same time. i've hand raised more babies of more species than most people would ever get a chance to in a lifetime (calf breath tops puppy breath in my world!), yet most people see the hair and think i'm an imbecile who only cleans cages at the vet office... hate to break it to ya, bub... I'M HEAD TECH. not only that, I'M ONE OF THE FEW LICENSED TECHS IN MY STATE (not required in Fla). i'm intelligent, i'm insanely compassionate, and i've handled bigger animals than your 100 pound dog on a daily basis for almost 20 years now. booyah.