Can too much love hurt a horse?
Someone sent me a link to an article written by a horse trainer warning people about loving horses so much that they spoil a horse and create a dangerous animal. The person who sent me the link thought perhaps I could set the author straight about the value of being loving towards horses. Instead, I ended up agreeing with the author’s assessment that many horses become dangerous because of inappropriate and largely unconscious human actions.
The author wasn’t addressing the value of correction based training versus positive training, she was simply pointing out that people are misusing the sentiment of “loving” the horse as an excuse for not learning how to ensure that when horses are around humans, we both understand that nobody wants to get hurt.
It seems obvious that more people are hurt by horses than hippos because we have this concept that we love horses and are entitled to live in close contact with them. We breed them, we keep them in stables, we ride them and when they don’t do what we want, we typically sell them. In this paradigm, it’s a disservice to the horse to think you’re being kind and loving when you’re actually teaching and reinforcing dangerous behavior which often leads to a lower quality of life for the captive horse.
Today, the love for horses that has developed through my life-long passion no longer looks like wanting to ride or keep horses in stables. The love that I experience whispers for horses to be free to live lives of their own choosing. As much as my resources can support, I give horses this freedom.
The horses in my care today were not born in a wild herd, they are products of another human’s desire and captive breeding but that doesn’t mean that their lives need to continue to be molded to serve humans. I do need them to be safe around people on the ground so I use the most loving and conscious techniques gathered over decades to ensure we understand each other and are kind and careful with one another. That’s my job as a human guardian and the least I can do to express my gratitude for being able to share the earth with these noble animals who don’t owe me anything.
Stormy May is the producer of the documentary “The Path of the Horse” and author of the book of the same name.