Horse Training: When Is Discipline Abuse?

Picture this: A 3 year old stallion with a halter that is hooked to a chain, standing tied in a small enclosure. He is trying to get rid of the discomfort, while he is up on his tiptoe, because the tether raised his head and neck to an disturbing level. The horse is shuffling and rearing his feet, trying to ease the restraint.

This horse will be left like that, without any water or food and the next day he will be more cooperative when his training proceeds. So, here we come to a point where we question ourselves, can we consider this as a part of a training or we should call this an animal abuse?!

Some people may think that horse abuse are neglected animals who are starving for food, laying around without any water. But, think deeply, is it abuse, when someone blinded by the wish for wining and the desire for bigger achievements, forgets about human treatment and care for the animals and starts to overcome the dictates of fair play?!

Most of the time, but the fact is that the horse is one of the most trainable animals, lives no place for abusement , so we must find a way to train horses without abusing them during that process.

Question: What is cruel?

We must find a distinction between proper discipline and maltreatment. So, now we will focus on some points and meashures that most of the horsemens think that by definition are abusive.

  • Hang-tying to break down a horse’s resistance;
  • Riding  to exhaustion;
  • Excessive spurring;
  • Excessive jerking on the mouth or on the lead shank, especially when a chain is used over the face;
  • Excessive whipping or beating or hitting about the head;
  • Withholding food or water to create submissiveness.

The Roots of Abuse

Most of us may ask themselves, how could someone who loves horses that much do such a thing to the animal by using that kind of cruel methods?! There are many answers to that question and here are some of them:

  • Pressure. Most often the trainer depends financially from the wining in a competition. So, that’ s what can make him overstep some boundaries.
  • Weak training skills. Some of the trainers sometimes just run out of ideas and they don’t know which methid should they use, just to make the horse to get the job done. Sandy Collier, is a horse trainer and she claims that the whole responsibility of the success is in the hands of the trainer. She also adds thet using abusive cruel methods will only lead to fear and resistance in the horse’s attitude. And that is just counterproductive.
  • Machismo. Frank Barnett is a Florida based trainer and he shared with us  his point of view about this problem, saying that you are not a real horseman until you lose all your strenght. He pointed out that in that case you will search for other methods to train the horse, and those will be better ways to teach the horse how to win!

What you can do?

The most important thing is that your horse is not in the hands of some frustrated and abusive trainer. Make sure you don’t make that kind of mistake, check the trainer’s back-up.

Share your oppinion about abusive methods, so that the trainer is aware about your state and to help him to rationalize his actions in the future. Be open to other people when they ask you about oppinion for some trainer. If you know some abusive trainer be honest with other people about him.

It’s important that everyone knows that the horse is not a slave and we are not his master! It’s a matter of partnership!

Don’t Let it Happen to You

  • To protect your horse from becoming a victim, read the next few tips that you should use while selecting a trainer.
  • Check his/her reputation. As we said before, check the trainer’s history, his past expirience and you could achieve that easily by talking to other people taht worked with that trainer. Check how he works, does his methods lead to a progress and what is his training philosophy.
  • Stay grounded. Don’t be fooled by the trainer’s sparkling reputation. Try not to be blinded by his current popularity.
  • Watch the warm-up. Observe the trainer and watch his relationship with the horse. Look up if he is not giving him a chance to choose to be good.
  • Visit the facility. See if the barn looks safe and can it provide a normal care for the horse. Check your horse  and see if it’s well fed and happy. Observe the horse’s behaviour while he is around the trainer.
  • Be candid. Talk to the trainer about your desires and goals. Consult with him about your horse and what is his suitable for.

If anything bothers you, be clear with the trainer and say your opinion.


About Kathrine Paul