Interesting, how things come in a full circle…. I have so many questions at the moment, and a group of young teenagers made me think of some of my own answers.
I hate zoos; make no secret of the fact, and avoid them at all costs. Animals shouldn’t live in cages, restricted in movement, and being watched and used to entertain the humans. I know the arguements, and have debated it in previous blogs. If we (humans) are destroying habitats, hunting and poaching wildlife, we owe that same wildlife protection so they don’t disappear entirely. We need to guard the gene pools etc etc. But do I personally like zoos and go to visit? No.
I visited Singapore zoo last year, with Lucia and a animal communication group (http://natural-connexion.com/) to meet Charlie (https://kudaguru.com/charlie-and-challenging-our-thinking/)
2020, before COVID really took a hold, I went with a similar group, this time through Loesje and her Linking Awareness (https://linkingawareness.com/linking-awareness/what-is-linking-awareness/ ) to stay with some rescue elephants in Malaysia. And again, it was very challenging for me on many fronts. These elephants have come into contact with humans through different situations – wildlife /farmer conflict, zoos, tourism etc, and are now “problems”. They are being kept in the best way possible, bearing in mind that being so humanised they can never be released back into the wild. Their options are, living in small cages in a zoo, being euthanised, or living with the largest amount of freedom, peace, herd interaction and happiness that they practically have. It’s a good compromise, with good people. Is it an ideal situation? No. And I struggle with it. Large, wild animals shouldn’t be fenced in.
Recently, a group of girls were brought to me by one of their Mums. They used to ride, but now have adamantly decided that riding schools are cruel and abusive. Their mum still rides. Would I be able to help them debate the issue? Oh, how to push my own buttons….
I said to the girls – if I asked you to help me save the 5 toed orange spotted purple lipped tree lizard of Outer Mongolia, would you? Probably not. Why not? Because you don’t know them; you don’t see their value; you don’t care about them because why should you? It’s human nature to protect that which we care about.
Is it ideal that we keep horses in stables? No. But, they’re domestically bred and raised, turning them wild would be a cruel death sentence. In the country where they live, there is limited space, they cannot live together, outdoors as a herd.
Horses need the three freedoms. Freedom to form friendships and groom, touch, interact. These horses all have low stable walls, they placed side by side with friends, they can groom and stand together, and in paddocks they go out in pairs or groups. Second freedom – the freedom to self select forage. Again, not ideal, but they always have grass or feed in their stables, they hand walk to select forage outside, and they’re never hungry. Thirdly, the freedom of movement. Ah, here’s where the girls have issue…. They live in 4m square boxes. But, they go for walks, they are ridden, they do get daily turnout. In an imperfect world, they are getting the best compromise that the humans can offer.
These horses are the ambassadors of their species, and, to a degree, of the planet. If you know and love a horse, you care for him. If you care for him, you make sure his paddock is rubbish free and has clean water. If you need his water to be clean, you care about the pollution source upstream. We instructors are responsible for bringing in the next generation of horse carers, and if we don’t take the time to educate, communicate with, and challenge the thinking of the next generation, we’re refusing our responsibility. Talking to this next generation made me realize, my issues with zoos, is precisely their issue with riding schools, and yet I can justify it my own brain.
I have honestly been debating long and hard about giving up working with horses. But in talking to them, I changed my words. Horses don’t work for me. I work for them. I work FOR them, as one of their ambassador’s… The girls are looking at the situation from a different stand point, and just maybe, so am I.
Is your horse there for you, as your pet or competition bicycle, or are you there for your horse? Is there a difference? Let me know what you decide….