Monday, 22 December 2008

Love the Pony, Hate the People.

At a cocktail party you always hear snippets of conversations, just enough to interest, never enough to know exactly what is being said. Your road is mentioned, and new arrivals moving in........ Arabs, luckily your hosts have the good sense to have red wine coloured carpets. Gypsies, now the vol au vent has hit the carpet and that does show, Welsh, that sounds a bit better, at least Anne Robinson won't move in, bloody Irish, whatever next. Moroccans, Native Americans.............. you can relax. It's OK they're only talking about horses, so that's OK isn't it?

Arabs are noble, courageous and well mannered, intensely loyal, totally trustworthy. Gypsies, honest as the day is long, strong but gentle, kind, not as pretty as the Welsh, not as fiery, and the Irish, pure class, gentlemen every one of them. Morocco, the Barbary Coast, home of the Barb, fiery and strong, dependable and brave, and Apaloosas dignified but free spirits like their owners. You can't go wrong praising the ponies, just try praising the people at the same cocktail party.

Arabs, Gypsies, Welsh, Irish, Moroccan and Native American. We love the ponies, how do we treat the people? The Bedouin whose love for their ponies is legendrary (and fills the sales blurb on Arab Horse sites), and whose oral traditions of breeding records are totally trusted on those same sites, how are they doing these days. Their way of life is being destroyed, their claims to their own land, based on the same testimony which makes their horses pedigrees watertight, is ignored. They are displaced, betrayed, ignored and if we carry on they will disappear.

We don't have many Bedouin in England, so we don't hound nomadic Bedouins out of existence, we have Gypsies to hound out instead. And guess what, Gypsies, "coming from a culture that, traditionally, has not kept written records, the best bloodlines were all kept and recorded only in memory." Now where have I heard that theory before. Like Arabs, everything you can say about Gypsy ponies, you wouldn't say about the people, which justifies destroying their way of life. The Welsh, well we don't really mind them that much any more, they can keep Wales, we've taken the coal now. The Irish, well everyone loves the Irish, we thought they were so great, we gave millions of them as a present to the USA. Shame so many got lost on the way, but if they will choose to ship out on cheap coffin ships, what do they expect.

In fact we like the Irish and respect their horsemanship so much, we made it illegal. Here from the Statutes of Kilkenny 1367, “Whereas at the conquest of the land of Ireland, and for a long time after, the English of the said land used the English language, mode of riding and apparel, and were governed and ruled, both they and their subjects called Betaghes, according to the English law, in which time God and holy Church, and their franchises according to their condition were maintained and themselves lived in due subjection; but now many English of the said land, forsaking the English language, manners, mode of riding, laws and usages, live and govern themselves according to the manners, fashion, and language of the Irish enemies;”

Well at least we haven't tried to make the riding style of the Bedouin, or the Gypsy illegal.......... or have we. Gypsy fairs that don't have written records are removed from the calendar despite "coming from a culture that, traditionally, has not kept written records, the best bloodlines were all kept and recorded only in memory."

We can't separate People from Ponies.

Modern horsemanship tells us there are no bad horses, just bad trainers, and that like begets like. An honest trainer produces honest horses, a kind trainer, kind horses, confident trainer, confident horses, and I agree.

The same is true for breeds. Breeders were trainers, when horses stayed within walking distance of the fields where they were born. The animals took on the personalities of their owners as they fitted in to their way of life. But it was more than that, they shared a life, man and horse co existing in a tough environment, adapting to each others strengths and weaknesses, learning and developing together. Man and horse took on each other's character traits blending into one unit, uniquely fitted for the way of life. Arabs and Arabs developed together, Gypsies and Gypsies, Irish and Irish.

Here is William Youatt writing in 1888 about the Arab. "The colt is never allowed to fall on the ground at the period of birth, but is caught in the arms of those who stand by, and washed and caressed as though it was an infant. The mare and her foal inhabit the same tent with the Bedouin and his children. The neck of the mare is often the pillow of the rider, and more frequently, of the children, who are rolling about upon her and the foal. No accident ever occurs, and the animal acquires that friendship and love for man which occasional ill-treatment will not cause her a moment to forget.

At the end of a month the foal is weaned, and is fed on camel's milk for one hundred days. At the expiration of that period, a little wheat is allowed; and by degrees that quantity is increased, the milk continuing to be the principal food. This mode of feeding continues another hundred days, when the foal is permitted to graze in the neighbourhood of the tent. Barley is also given; and to this some camel's milk is added in the evening, if the Arab can afford it. By these means the Arab horse becomes as decidedly characterised for his docility and good temper, as for his speed and courage. The kindness with which he is treated from the time of his being foaled, gives him an affection for his master, a wish to please, a pride in exerting every energy in obedience to his commands, and, consequently, an apparent sagacity which is seldom found in other breeds. In that delightful book, Bishop Heber's 'Narrative of a Journey through the Upper Provinces of India,' the following interesting character is given of him: --

'My morning rides are very pleasent. My horse is a nice, quiet, good-tempered little Arab, who is so fearless, that he goes without starting close to an elephant, and so gentle and docile that he eats bread out of my hand, and has almost as much attachment and coaxing ways as a dog. This seems the general character of the Arab horses, to judge from what I have seen in this country. It is not the fiery dashing animal I had supposed, but with more rationality about him, and more apparent confidence in his rider than the majority of English horses.'

If we love the ponies, how can we mistreat them, if we love the ponies, how can we mistreat those who made them what they are.

If you love the ponies, how can you hate the people?

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