Thursday, 21 February 2013

Ethics, moral and the law

Maybe daily reflections on ethics/moral and law would help us see what's going on in front of our eyes. The news in Sweden has been dominated by the story of horse meat being used in fast food under the name of beef, on Facebook images and movie clips that show questionable horsemanship are being spread and on Swedish television the program "Pony Panic" is commented.

I feel I need to mention ISES Conference 2010 again. There was a lecture on ethics and moral in horse handling and trainig and the lecturer pointed out that even if it is unethical or immoral it is not necessarily illegal. And it is important to keep that in mind when the blood is boiling within or when the heart bleeds that the things one long to do in the name of ethics and moral may well be illegal and therefore punishable.We start with the  horse meat in lasagne from Findus and adds a couple of Swedish meat scandals and take a look at them. In the case of Findus, changing beef to horse is illegal. Beef is cow meat and nothing else.I myself have been to a restaurant with a butcher and she said that I did get pork but not fillet as said on the menu. There was a short talk with the chef who offered the evening's dessert when they realized they just couldn't win. It wasn't an illegal act but  an immoral.We have had minced meat that passed best before date and was given a new date,  expired meat that has been turned into minced meat and pork that has been dyed and sold as fillet of beef. All this is both illegal, unethical and immoral but particularly questionable in the case of pork, because it can have trichinae which really can affect people. The fried pork is no problem but how many people do not usually like to have their beef a little red in the middle? Then fillet of pork a problem ...In the case of lasagne something happened, the bias in the news became more on the unethical than illegal aspect and I think that is due to our attitude to eating horse. Horse meat is not dangerous for humans to eat, unlike pork.Now over to the horses that are still alive and whose life is documented and passed around on Facebook. An image etched into my memory is the image of the Iberian horse placed with his forehead against a brick wall and a string tied around the lower jaw and over the withers. The horse will probably move in this position and be seen as well ridden and maybe even be applauded when ridden but the way that outline was acchieved  - beneath contempt.Movies on blue tongues, role kür, slide stops straight up to the walls, too many turns in the spin, corrections with such harsh hands that the bit must cut like razorblades in the horse's mouth, spurs hacked into the horse's sides. And this, my friends, is just a few examples, and probably only the tip of an iceberg. What appears on riding courses and competitions grounds are founded at home ..."Pony Panic", is a programs with a good purpose but I never the less thinks it misses the target. The program is based on problems that can be either in the child in the form of fear or in the horse in unwanted behavior. Now it is important to remember that this is television and that means there is  a lot that has been filmed and from that material appropriate scenes are selected. What happens between the chosen scenes we really don't knowI have not followed this season, I just quickly looked through some of the programmes and I think the pattern from previous years (nota bene: in what is presented) is followed. The horse is held responsible and it is the one that should be corrected. In a situation (section 5) a professional rider is brought in to ride a horse with bucking issues. She rides the horse with auxiliary reins a so called rubber band, the chin is brought to the chest - a common sight. It is not illegal to ride horses squezed together with the reins, but I think it goes against ethics and moral.From the sequense I saw when the horse bucked it was the rider who had not learned to mount properly and the horse was hind shy (if that's an expression that works in English). To me, it would have better to deal with the two issues separately, teach the rider to mount and desensetice the horse.The majority of these young riders would benefit from a basic course in seat training. As I see it many problems is due to a bad seat, which results in poor balance and suppleness, which in turn creates tension and fear and it all ends with the ponies being held to much in the reins.With regard to competitions it is generally known that the winner earns money and the winner may also be lucky enough to have a sponsor that allows a full-time venture. We are all consumers, if we turn to the sponsors with our views on horse management and ask them if they really want to be associated with morally and ethically questionable methods it may be a more efficient way to go than via the equestrian channels. It is not illegal to tell those who pay dearly to be seen that we are not seing them because of what's going on in the arena...

Thursday, 7 February 2013

A short note on training

A short note on training as a response to a question ont he Swedish blog.

Anyone who can say with certainty how we can train our horses, for whatever purpose, without causing damage need not worry about their livelihood. There are as many training philosophies as there are trainers and what works for one horse do not necessarily fit another.

A horse can always move with their own weight on their legs, so to speak. A good paddock can encourage  and help horses to train themselves. In many training stables they build paddocks that are long and narrow and place them in a row next to each other. In this way, the horses gallop back and forth in the pasture and if one starts to run the others soon follow. Another way to encourage movement, be it at a slower pace, is to have food and water and shelter located far from each other. In this way, the horses must walk to satisfy their needs.

Training is basically about preparing a body for the work it is expected to do. In the body there are different tissues that require different amount of time to adapt to the loads it is subjected. Heart and lungs = condition, it is quick to respond, while the tendons, ligaments and bones take longer to adapt to an increased load.

The foundation for all training is walk, a walk with good impulsion works as stretching and strength training at the same time. The work in walk can be varied. It may be in hand walking, long reining, work over cavaletti, work in hand with sideways movements or a walk infront of a wagon /sleigh.

Walk is beneficial for all horses regardless of orientation. Other training varies with the chosen ara of competition or use. A good friend of mine has been a training rider at Janow in Poland. They worked the race horses under rider 6 days a week with fast job on Monday and then reduced the pace down to a ride in the woods the day before the day of rest. Each day, the horses was placed in a walker.

Something that I think is valuable when training horses is to have learned to feel the horse's muscles systematically. It makes it is easier to notice changes in muscle tone early, thus preventing injury. I use Equine Touch when I run through my horses. I also think a heart rate monitor can be useful, the horse's heart rate tells a lot about the state of fitness. Is there an infection in the body an light job gives a higher heart rate, an indication that you might need to take it easy.

Another relevant question is, am I too heavy for my horse? The answer to that question depends on how well balanced you are as a rider, how often and how long you ride, what you do when you are riding and the horse you have. Do you know that you are heavier that you figure your horse can handle pay attention to the horse's reactions during the ride. If the horse bevomes tired, lowers his back and raise its head (become U-shaped), it does not help to pull down the head with draw reins (something I actually seen) - it is much better to dismount and work the horse in hand for a while and gradually extend the time mounted. No matter how light or heavy we are as we mount we put pressure on the horse's muscles in the back and push away the blood from the tissue.

What we should keep in mind when we train our horses is to vary the work, switch between mounted and dismounted, vary surfaces and tempo and give the horse the opportunity to rest, preferably in a field that encourages movement in the gait the horse choose.