Monday, September 27, 2010

Horse Monday! Also, Ranting...

So, nothing of note is going on...I've not taken any pictures because I'm a slacker and Miles had a swollen rear fetlock yesterday (all better today, though of course I didn't have time to ride), so nothing of note to report on that front. He was great Saturday though, and I got to show him off to a horse crazy girl that was out at the barn and thought he was the most handsomest thing EVAR! :) She was 13 and at the barn with her dad, who was at a meeting in the lounge area of our barn, so she killed a couple of hours by following us around. Hey, I remember being that age.

Anyway, I sorta love Mondays (after work, natch), because HRTV has horse programming on all evening...I'm assuming it's because they don't run races on Monday? Anyway, it's everything from The Saddle Club (don't hate!) to Lynn Palm to Monty Roberts and some Australian show called Horse Talk. I love it all. I have dubbed Monday nights on TV...wait for it..."Horse Monday". I know, my creativity astounds.

Anyway, I'm watching tonight, and I have to rant for a moment. I realize I may piss some people off, but keep in mind I'm not talking about YOU, only what I'm watching on the tube. Having said that...

Lots of these shows center around a rider/horse combo that have a problem and they are turning to one "expert" or another for help. Actually, I commend and admire those people for seeking other opinions and for having the guts to ride on national TV for every shmuck like myself to critique. Having said all that, the one discipline I cringe at EVERY time I've seen it demonstrated on one of these shows is barrel racing. The show I saw tonight that got me thinking about this wasn't even someone asking for was just a girl with her horse telling their story. The poor horse was wearing the usual head tie-down thing (sorry, I don't know what else to call it) that all barrel horses seem to wear, and looked like she had more than a little hardware in her mouth as well. Her rider was small, but (and I'm sorry), not particularly kind to the horse's back or mouth as she was running barrels during the segment.

This isn't, unfortunately, the first time or even the 10th time I've seen a similar situation. Last week it was someone on Ryan Gingrich's show asking for help with her barrel horse. She had her gelding in a twisted wire snaffle, and of course the ubiquitous tie-down. There was lots of pulling and kicking and resistance (can't imagine why). To Ryan's credit, he at least swapped out the bit. Twisted wire may have it's place, but that horse was getting his mouth shredded.

Hey, I know there are good, kind barrel racers. In the upper level rodeos where there is big money involved, I see (for the most part), great riders using their whole bodies to cue their horses around barrels, not just yanking on their mouths. I'm sure a lot of my bias comes from my primarily English background, and every equine sport has problems and ugly riding at lower levels (as well as upper levels in some cases). Still, this is my rant and my just makes me sad for the horses. Also the riders for that matter; I know most of them must love their horses. Maybe this is what they're taught. Maybe they haven't had a lot of instruction and don't know any better. Maybe it's the barrel racing culture, which I admit I know zilch about. All I do know is I get tired of seeing hot, high-headed horses with open, gaping mouths attached to riders' unforgiving hands that are held high, with no slack in the reins whatsoever and a tie-down on top of everything else. It's not a nice picture to me. It's not kind riding.

Again, I want to reiterate I know not ALL barrel racers ride like this, and I've seen very nice rides (that are plenty fast) as well.

I'm also not picking on barrel racers because I think it's the worst thing out there. Someday I'm going to do a blog on Big Lick horses and really piss people off, because I don't think that particular horse "sport" can be done without abuse to the horse. Ugh, I honestly can't believe it still exists. I'm convinced Tennessee Walking Horses must be the most forgiving breed in the world.

Feel free to share your horse sport peeves, or to tell me to go fly a kite:) Happy Horse Monday everyone!


  1. Not to bust your bubble or be mean or rude or anything, but I am one of those people who have ridden English their whole life and have now decided to barrel race. Yes, I've been trained both english and western (mostly pleasure). Yes, I have a barrel racing trainer. Personally, I use a tie down simply for safety reasons. I understand that it can be used improperly and when it is done so, it hurts the horse. But my horse functions fairly well with a tie down and doesn't really seem to care or notice. I don't think the use of tie downs or doing the big lick is wrong - of course, it is wrong when the horse is hurt - but I also understand that there's a right way to do things and a wrong way. I just want to say and I use a tie down, and don't think it is particularly bad, when used correctly, that is. Again, im not picking on anyone or insulting you, simply stating my opinion.

  2. I don't have a bubble to burst so don't worry about that:)

    Thanks for your opinion on tie-downs. It sounds like, as with anything, there is a right and a wrong way to use it. Once again, I've watched really GOOD barrel racing, and even (slowly) done it myself. It's the crank and yank riding that I see so often that makes me wince. When you combine that with an often tight tie-down...yeah, I don't like it. The very nature of barrel racing (galloping all out with 3 super tight turns) I think highlights a rider with less than steady hands and seat, which is what I'm talking about. Obviously that does not apply to you or all or even most barrel riders though.

    As for big-lick, it's really my fault for throwing that statement out without any backup. However, the kind of riding done at the annual "Celebration" horse show, where supposedly the best of the best ride, is some of the most horrific riding I have ever seen, and I'm not going to back down from that. I've seen TONS of footage from it, MOST of it from the industry or people that support the industry, so it's not like it's been edited or altered by people with an agenda. The absolute worst is the 2 and 3 year olds, with pads stacked inches high, moving like some kind of prehistoric insect. Even if these horses aren't sored (ha ha), I do believe stacking a horse like that and forcing them to move at such a distorted gate is abuse. TWHs move NOTHING like that in their lovely natural's a real bastardization. Here is a link to what I'm talking about. I guess we can agree to disagree but I really can't see any justification for it.

  3. I don't know much about barrel racing, so I can't really comment one way or the other. I do agree that some barrel horses are ridden a little too rough, but I think the same can be said for any other discipline.

    I have to say, that my best friend grew up showing Tennessee Walking Horses. She did not own any padded walkers, but the padded horses did attend the shows she went to. She competed in Tennessee many times at the Celebration and won the Equitation world championship on her plantation pleasure horse, Cash. After many years of competition in Tennessee, her family switched over from the TWHBEA to the completely non-soring TNWHA to remove themselves from the cruel practices of SOME TWH trainers. I have to say that it's a vast majority of walking horse exhibitors who DO NOT sore, but there were still many who did (atleast in the late 90's) from what I saw. I've even ridden a big lick just before her pads were removed for good - a totally bizarre experience.

  4. Miles - I totally agree with you re Big Lick.

  5. JJ-I do hope it's getting better. I know at the Celebration there are HUNDREDS of classes, and "Big Lick" isn't all there is to the show. I would LOVE to actually ride a TWH some day!

  6. Thanks Wolfie! I think every year we get closer to ending the abuse. I know 3 years ago I could easily pull up a video of the 2 year old class of TWHs I was talking about...this time, it wasn't so easy. It seems a LOT of the videos have been removed, so at least public pressure has maybe moved the movement underground, so to speak. I just hope that doesn't deter people from speaking out, just because the problem is less visible.

  7. I agree that the Big Lick is wrong when you do it the wrong way, but some people have figured out how to do it without hurting or abusing the horse and without doing anything inhumane, such as drugging a horse. Actually, I have ridden a TWH that did the big lick. My mother has a friend who has 25 TWH's and breeds them. When I got on that horse, it felt so weird. Its name was Wham, it was 6 yrs old, and he was a stallion. He'd won two world championships (I think) with a 13 yr old rider. He was an amazing horse, and it was an amazing barn, and I sure am glad I was able to ride that horse with a clean conscience - the barn practiced humane and non-abusive big lick training.

  8. I think MOST people don't intentionally treat their horses roughly. I think it's because they simply don't know any better. That's what they were taught. I say this because I grew up in the saddleseat world where it was ok to put a bicycle chain bit in your horse's mouth, put weighted shoes on, chains, ginger in the butt, etc. etc. I was too young to know any better. I started to think differently in my late teens and have since drifted away from that type of riding. Barrel racers use tie downs because they can't keep their horses from flinging their heads so high that they lose control. It IS more of a safety device - for the rider. If you grew up with a trainer who used nothing but major hardware in the horse's mouth - why would you think any differently? I'm not making excuses for people ... just think there should be more education. We can all ride different disciplines, different breeds, different speeds - but I think there's a way to do so kindly and in a humane manner, too. *sigh* Good post.

  9. what the F is Big Lick?!! Am I the only one who doesn't get it. Is it the gait that the TWH do in that video? Seems odd..
    Interesting questions you raise though

  10. Karen-I think you've got it-most people really do love their horses. Otherwise why do it? I think others, though, love...something else. Those are the ones I think should maybe find another hobby. FYI I'm not talking about barrel racers here:)

    Kristen-ugh, it's so...not good. If you google it you'll see what I mean. The link I posted isn't even the worst I've ever seen. It's sad.

  11. I don't really get why barrel racers use tie downs. I see plenty who don't, so it must be possible.

    I thought most people who use tie downs use them because they haven't spent time on training. Some horses develop dangerous habits of tossing their head into folks faces. Hmm. I'm going to ask some of the barrel racers in blog land. I love learning more...

  12. Breathe-yes, that would be great if you could talk to the folks directly who actually compete in BR to see what the deal with tie-downs are. I wish I knew more people who rode barrels.

    I feel a little badly that this post may be looked at as "Barrel Racers are soooo rough on their horses!". I don't really think that...I think the examples of barrel racers on RFD-TV that I've seen ARE rough (at least most of them that I've seen-not in competition, but on some of the horse trainer shows).

    I really don't want to pick on barrel racers though, honestly. There's so much worse out there-my gosh, a dressage rider was DQ'd during her test b/c her horse's mouth was bleeding!! I'm about done with competitive dressage, at least at the highest levels. I think the way those horses move, and especially some of the training techniques to get them to move in such ways, are truly worse than anything I could pick on barrel racers for. Just sad...

  13. By the way, I forgot to mention in the above paragraph that the dressage rider was DQ'd during the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. Horrible, especially if you saw pictures of said rider's warm up.