Saddle Not Slaughter: The Ethical Treatment of Horses

By Sharon Rogers

Ethical Treatment of Horses Photo By: KitAy(Flickr)

There is not a subject in the world that touches my heart or sets my temper on fire more than the subject of the ethical treatment of horses. That is true of all animals, of course, but I have a very special place in my heart for horses and that makes horse treatment a serious passion of mine. Please forgive me if I start to rant and rave, I will try hard to “rein” it in.

What is Ethical Treatment?

The ethical treatment of animals is a hot button topic for many people. There are those who believe that animals are a pest that needs to be eliminated, or tools to accomplish a task and others who treat animals as if they are one of their children. There are many other opinions on animal treatment that fit in between these two sides of the spectrum. In my opinion, ethical treatment of horses and all animals begins with respect for living things. You do not have to love or admire a living thing to respect it’s place in the world. If you make a choice to “own” a horse then you owe it a certain standard of care. Society, in general, expects you to house and feed an animal in decent conditions, seek veterinary treatment to maintain good health and to cause no harm. This would be a textbook definition for ethical treatment. Failure to provide this standard of care could be considered abusive horse treatment.

What Goes Wrong?

Any number of things can go wrong when people own animals. Some people are cruel and take some perverse pleasure in the abuse of animals. For these people the horses treatment may be indicative of how they treat the world in general. Fortunately the type of people who take pleasure in the abuse are rare. More often we see people with no understanding of the animal in question who use poor judgment out of ignorance rather than malice. When horse owners have unreasonable expectations of their horses, treatment may become harsh in an attempt to change the animals behavior. Ruling by force will not work when you are dealing with a horse. If you have not taken the time to learn about your horse’s personality you may wind up in a vicious circle where you never achieve the desired result.
Another sad, but all to common problem is the animal hoarder. We hear about them on the local news all the time. A house with 52 cats in it, sick and dying because the owner cannot possibly care for that number of animals. Believe it or not, there are horse hoarders out there too. Usually they are well meaning people who get in over their heads while trying to help needy animals. Things spin out of control and the end result is animals that are kept in unsanitary conditions and underfed to the point of starvation.
Any of these situations can be considered unethical treatment of animals. And none of them are acceptable to me.

What Can Be Done?

Animals deserve our respect. Be aware of the animals that surround you. If you see a problem, please do not shut your eyes, or hope that someone else will deal with it. Report the problem. Even if it turns out that your report is unfounded, you will be able to sleep at night knowing that you didn’t allow an animal to be in a dangerous situation. If you have some expertise, or some love to give, take an active role in the protection of horses. Volunteer at a sanctuary, buy some hay or grain, muck out some stalls, or even talk to potential horse owners about what to do if they find themselves with questions. These simple steps can lead to the better, more ethical, treatment of horses.

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Before I sign off, I’d like to make a special mention to Carol at Central Oregon Horse who is also a huge proponent of the ethical treatment of horses. Keep up the great work!

Comment recieved via email from Carol:
“My way of assisting is by offering my services to try to find each horse a long-term or (hopefully) permanent new home with a person who has the capabilities and knowledge to care properly for the horse, so it won’t end up in a rescue or slaughter

Have you hugged a horse today?

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