Every situation will bring about a different priority. In Singapore, all cars must be parked by reversing in, nose facing out. Because? The car parks there are so small that it’s a bit of a jigsaw puzzle getting in. In the event of fire, they want to evacuate fast, which is much easier if everyone is going forwards. In Germany, they all park nose first. Why? Because, reverse parking means exhaust pipes against walls which leave dirty marks. Evacuation isn’t a priority. They do, however, have a lot of spaces painted pink, which are for single women. These are closest to the lifts and security, well-lit and bright, because their priority is stopping the attacks on lone women leaving work late. And now, here I am, thinking of this in Kenya. Again, they reverse park for the bulk of the time, and yet there is space, and the majority of parking is outside, where there is less fire risk. So why? Terrorism. Kenya has been victim of few terror attacks, and again, evacuation is faster if you’re pointing the right way.
So, what’s the relevance to you?
In every country, every community, every culture, we deal with what is the most urgent. In Nordic countries in winter, snow control is vital. This wouldn’t be much of an issue on the Middle East. In Africa, we worry about Malaria and tick bite fever, not really an issue in Europe.
In the UK in particular, things seem to be becoming more and more pedantic. Yes, a horse must be comfortable and well cared for. But where it gets me is if it clouds people’s judgement.
When I am in foreign countries, I often get asked to help people with their tack fitting, shoeing or feeding issues. Two feeding issues made me think recently. The first has a big, strong, exuberant young warmblood. He forgot to stop growing and is a VERY big and strong young lad. He is, if anything, rather too prosperous… He is a little too round and well covered and has a little too much boing in his step. His owner asked me to check out her feeding schedule since she had been reprimanded by her vet for not feeding him enough. Ummm, I said… On the back of her hard feed bag is the feeding guide. For a horse of his size, he should be getting 5kg. He is currently getting 3.5kg. But he is also on 15kg of very good quality hay, as well as chaff, extra sugar beet, vits and mins etc. He is VERY well fed, and looks as if he is VERY well fed. Did your vet ask about what else he is getting I asked? No, she replied, only about how much hard feed he is on. Maybe, particularly a vet, should trust his eyes instead of sticking to the letter of what the feed bag says?
The other was about an adviser who lives in a country that has excellent feed, hay and grazing, telling a questioning owner in a country with bad feed, bad hay and no grass, that they should dramatically reduce what they feed their horse out of a bucket. Yes, if the horse in question was getting a few hours of high-quality grass grazing they could be eating less, or even if they had a lot more access to better hay, but with no grass, limited bad hay, they wanted to reduce his food? Well, no, how can you advise from a different country without asking for enough information?
Both the vet and the feed advisor are qualified professions and I am sure they are good at their jobs, however, they both have a different country priority.
The thing that affects me most though, is probably tack. In developed countries, if a saddle is 99% ok, it’s considered a problem for some people. A good while ago now, I walked into a riding school and several of the horses had bad saddle sores, some openly bleeding. When I questioned the manager, I was told that was part and parcel of a riding school horse’s lot. Did I agree? Absolutely not. My first priority was to fit all the saddles, allocate each horse their own saddle, the best possible option, adding pads when they could be useful, and labelling the saddles, the pads and the racks, so making sure that it could be maintained. By European standard, where they ideal? No. Were the horses an awful lot more comfortable, and open wound and blood free? Yes. We have an obligation to do the best by our horses, but we do, realistically have to accept that we must have priorities, and often we have to offer the best we can, instead of being paralysed by the knowledge that it can’t be perfect in everyone’s eyes….
What compromise would you accept, where are your priorities?