02, December, 2019

While watching some of the news reports this weekend around the terrorist attack in London this weekend, beyond the feeling of horror for the victims and gratitude for those that acted so heroically to prevent further carnage, I was also taken by the service of the horses of the mounted police force. Yes, I am that person who says ‘oh look, a pony!’ at any given opportunity, but beyond that, the thing that struck me was what incredible animals these sentient beings that we choose to dedicate so much of our lives to are. Here they were in the midst of a very busy and overwhelming scene, with a lot of frightened and distressed people around and they were unbelievably reliable and reassuring.

A couple of months ago there was some footage going around on social media of a horse going cross country that lined up a completely unjumpable barrier fence and took it on. There was a lot of commentary around that at the time and I won’t rehash that, but the thing that struck me was the absolute faith this horse had in the job that he thought he was being asked to do. As far as he was concerned, he had the utmost faith in his pilot.

While what the rest of us do with our horses is far less dramatic, in our daily interactions with them we do ask them to trust that we have their best interests at heart. We get them to step into small enclosed boxes and drag them, wobbling and weaving, all around the countryside, we ask them to step over snakes (hoses) and attack them with noisy, vibrating gadgets. We ride them along country lanes and expect them to stay calm as horse eating combine harvesters bang their way past with inches to spare and not blink an eye as future hat accessories burst forth from the hedge at knee level.

It is quite remarkable that we think it is perfectly normal to gallop them down to water and pop over a log into a lake where they have absolutely no idea that they won’t be swimming when they land. We take them into arenas at shows and ask them to walk, trot and canter in perfect circles while flags flap and the loud speaker crackles and they can see their comrades being punished by being tied to large wheeled vehicles to tow around in the next ring. We take them away from their familiar environments and put them in plastic enclosures overnight next to unfamiliar neighbours and they have to accept that we will bring them their water and food and keep them warm and safe.

Our horses are incredibly trusting and it is the fact that they are that makes them the wonderful partners in sport and leisure that they have proven to be. It is up to us as owners and riders to respect that trust, to never abuse it and to be understanding of the moments when their natural instincts overshadow their training. I am a firm believer that a horse never does anything maliciously, they behave unexpectedly because they do not understand the question that is being asked of them, or their impulses outweigh the level of faith they have in us.

Today when you go to the yard, remember to be grateful. It is an incredible privilege that our horses afford us to be in their presence at all.

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