Thursday, 24 December 2009

Ponies can be useful!

Ponies and horses can be useful.
To the vast majority of the world's population that is so mindblowingly obvious it is hardly worth saying.
In England it is a revolutionary attitude likely to destroy the very fabric of society. In England, ponies exist to allow their owners to pretend the last 100 years haven't really happened. The British attitude to equestrian activities is the longest running re enactment society around.
Attitudes that would get you arrested in any other walk of life are the norm. Take a simple example, the whip. Take your pet through the streets waving a whip at the said pet, but please don't touch it as I don't want you to get arrested.  Dog, gerbil, cat, giraffe, lion...... wave a whip at it and the authorities will be screaming "cruelty to animals" before you even touch the animal, but if you give your child a pony, you give the kid a whip, to go with the special boots for kicking it in the ribs, the gloves to protect the little darlings hands as it hauls a lump of metal round inside the pony's face.
The Pony Club test children to see they are comfortable holding a whip in either hand at 10 years old. The British Horse Society insists you bring a whip to any exam, and the British Driving Society insist you have a whip in your hand at all times. They are so whip obsessed, they even call themselves whips and are proud of it.
What has the pony done to deserve this unique status, the only animal you can whipin public and one where you are made to carry a whip at most organised equestrian events.
It might make some sort of sense if the whips, bits spurs and all the leather straps were actually necessary. They aren't
I drove Obama from Brecon to Birmingham in 2009, via Abergavenny, Monmouth, The Forest of Dean, Gloucester, Cheltenham, Evesham and on the Stratford Canal to Birmingham. I used a simple rope halter and a pair of reins, no whip, no stick, no violence and in thirteen days never felt the need of any of the stuff considered obligatory by the re enactment societies. Obama is a seven year old rescue pony who I got as a failed kids pony in January 2009 and since then he has done everything I have asked. My only training criteria when I started, was that I would NOT use a whip. Over the year I have increased the use of the carrot without ever using the whip.
While on the road I talked to a lot of people who had worked with horses, logging, mining, delivering, ploughing, etc and I asked all of them if they had used a whip. They all looked at me as if I was completely mad.
If we want ponies and horses to be useful again we are going to need to at least make the whip optional. At present it is depressingly often compulsory. A jockey will be disqualified if he races without one. Why?
So back to using horses.
Carbon neutral, eco friendly and loved by everyone, why aren't ponies everywhere?
And here we are back to the English re-enactment societies. If ponies are easy to handle, easy to train, nice safe animals to have around, who is going to be impressed with the horsemanship of the establishment. The whips, bits and spurs are what make ponies dangerous, and the danger is what makes horsemanship an elite activity.

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