What’s the vegan stance on horseback riding?  Is riding horses cruel?  This is quite the controversial topic and one I will be covering in more than one video and blog post.

For this initial look into horseback riding, I’m going to first address the question of whether riding horse is vegan and then I’ll move into whether it’s cruel.

As I said in my video about wool, veganism, in general, is about opposing the use of animals for our own personal gains in any form whatsoever.  If we look at horseback riding, it’s evident that horses do not need to be ridden.  They seem to do very well for themselves in the wild without one of us atop them.  Horseback riding solely benefits the rider and is thus a form of using animals for entertainment.

Now this is not a popular stance and there are several arguments as to how riding benefits the horse: One of these is that domesticated horses need the exercise.  The most simple response to this is that domesticated dogs also need exercise, yet owners are somewhat able to provide this without mounting them.

A second argument is that riding provides horses with an enriched environment.  Again, this can as easily be achieved without someone atop them by walking a horse from the ground.

A third argument is one that comes in many forms but always starts with “by my horse loves…” and insert being ridden, going to shows, wearing a bridle, having a bit, running the barrels, and what have you.

Perhaps there is a horse out there who genuinely loves to be ridden–it is still important to understand the impact of riding on a horse’s body.  What I’m going to cover is a cursory look into the impact of horseback riding on horses.  I have links to additional resources a the foot of this post and I urge you to reference those studies to delve deeper into his topic.

Let’s start with skeletal structure.  There is a saying that a horse is ready to ride when their “knees close.”  This refers to waiting until the growth plates just above the knee convert from cartilage to bone.  Dr. Den Bennet in her article, Time and Rate of Skeletal Maturation in Horses, states, “what people often don’t realize is that there is a “growth plate” on either end of every bone behind the skull, and in the case of some bones (like the pelvis or vertebrae, which have many ‘corners’) there are multiple growth plates.”  She goes on to detail the exact schedule of growth plate conversion to bone in horses.

schedule of bone growth in horses

Click to enlarge

 

While many people start riding their horses around age 2 (in racing) and 3 (in leisure riding), Dr. Bennet’s detailed schedule shows that the last plates to fuse are in the vertebral column, and this does not occur until the horse is at least five and a half years old, with taller horses and males taking even longer.

According to 2002 study, Practical Anatomy and Propaedeutic of the Horse, the length of time for complete growth of the epiphyseal plates (cartilage) in the body of the lumbar vertebrae of thoroughbred horses, for example, is not until they are (on average) between 6 and 9 years old!

The basic takeaway of this is that it’s incredibly easy to damage a horses back and displace his or her vertebral growth plates, causing pain and lasting injury.

Aside from the issue of growth plate fusion, riding a horse at any age causes skeletal damage as well as muscle and tissue.  Alexander Nevzorov of Nevzorov Haute Ecole states “a horse’s back is not a seat, not a place for a human butt, not a piece of ‘meat’, not some sort of ‘terra firma’.  It is a very complex and tender anatomical structure with extraordinary functions.  Besides the obvious biomechanical function, the back has another very important function.  The spinal cord’s work is to guarantee that the responses from the entire nervous system can communicate the senses of taste, smell, vision, hearing, and vestibular function to the brain, not to get lost in too much detail. on this especially vulnerable, sensitive organ, onto the medulla spinalis, the brain of the back, sits a rider.” (Nezvorov Haute Ecole Eqeuine Anthology, VOL. 4, p10-11)

In a 2007 study by Matilda Homer and colleagues, out of the 295 horses in the study who were considered physically sound upon initial examination, 91.5 percent of were diagnosed with some kind of alteration on the spinal processes after x-ray.  Almost always the spinal processes of the caudal saddle position were affected. the most frequent results were diminished internal spaces of spinal processes including changes of the bone structure of the spinal processes.

xray1

Click to enlarge

The spinal damage from weight alone is compounded by the use of saddles, harnesses, bits, and whips. saddles restrict blood flow to the arterial capillary bed causing tissue damage, as well as general wear and chafing. but nothing is quite as cruel as the use of bits and whips, which I’m only going to give a cursory nod to in this post

Bits cause pain and damage to a horse’s complex cranial nerves as well as their teeth, tongue and palate. facial nerves are extremely close to the skin and thus extremely sensitive.  It is essential to understand that there is absolutely no way to use a bit without the horse feeling pain.

For the scope of this post, I’ll just say this about whips: It’s a whip!  Would you whip your dog? and yes a horse is large than a dog, and many argue, has thick skin, but where the whips land- around the area of the muscle vastus lateralis–the thickness rarely exceeds 2 millimeters and the skin dermis and epidermis is supplied with a large amount of nerves.  And…it’s a whip!

Now this all just scraping the surface of the horse issue.  I haven’t even addressed the breaking of horses, horse racing, the rodeo or other topics and will cover these in later video posts. 

see ya next nugget!

 

 

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RESOURCES, VIDEOS & STUDIES:
The Horse Ethics Series
Effects of the Bit
Horse Racing
Carriage Horses

For more information, please utilize these resources. Most of these studies contain additional citations.

Harm of Riding Study by Maksida Vogt, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

Time And Rate Of Skeletal Maturation In Horses by Dr. Den Bennet

Röntgenveränderungen an den Dornfortsätzen von 295 klinisch rückengesunden Warmblutpferden (Changes to the Spinous of 295 Clinically Healthy Warmblood Horses) by Matilda Holmer, Bettina Wollanke und Guido Stadtbäumer

The Cruelty of Equestrian Sport by Alexander Nezvorov

Nezvorov Haute Ecole Eqeuine Anthology

The Horse Under Pressure (effects of the saddle) by Patricia de Cocq

Harm of Whips by Fair Horsemanship

 

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60 thoughts on “Is Horse Riding Cruel? Is It Vegan?

    Jane Eagle says:

    Interesting article, which raises questions I have always wondered about; i.e. what is the effect of sitting on a horse’s spine?
    I am not a rider and I have never lived with a horse; but like most girls, have always been fascinated with them. I have caught run-away horses (they allowed me to approach), and i used to horse-sit for a friend when she traveled out of town. Not being a rider, but used to dogs, I would leash him up and take him for walks <3

    You see, the barn where I ride, we ate taught to not even pull on our horses mouths. We use our leg to house m by gentle pressure. Now to saddles, many people toughen them to much. For our barn, we only tighten them so much that the saddle may move add or likes but is tight enough to keep our from falling to the horses belly.

    thank you for sharing your experience Sam. there are definitely ways to lessen the impact of the effects of riding. ideally, not riding at all- but certainly better practices exist!

    Karen Mitchell says:

    I like to think that we can make a difference. It’s going to take a very long time, which is really sad.
    I don’t ride. I grew up with horses. We weren’t allowed to ride them as my father was too protective. Today, I don’t own a horse either, but I really hope that I will in this lifetime. I dream to have a natural bond with my horse without riding. Such a special relationship that isn’t possible with a horse that you ride. I will do all i can in this lifetime, and probably the next, to make a difference!!!

    thanks so much for sharing this Karen. and i hope you find a way to share your love with horses- you can certainly make a difference for them…there are many in need of loving homes.

    Iv been in to horses all my life. And i have made mistakes in the past. Especially with saddle fitters.where I come from saddlers think that you can put the saddle on the wither. And not thinking about there scapular! My horse has big ones like dinner pates. I argued with one saddler. About the scapular. He said I was wrong. I told her that I’m not wrong. When you fit the saddle, the side of the saddle has to come back behind the scapular so the horse has freedom of movement!! She said I’m stupid to say that. So I learn myself how to fit a saddle. Now I have the perfect saddle for him. He doesn’t flinch when I put it on him. Also my horse is barefoot and that made a difference. He also has a French link bit. And when I ride out. My rains are like skiping ropes! I make sure my horse has the best to make him feel comfortable. Apollo is a very sensitive horse and, I listen to him all the time. I feel I have made a difference. I don’t listen to these people who think they know everything. An equine back person said to me years ago. Horses are not meant to be ridden.it was the Greeks who started to ride horses. Xenophon the Greek Worrier who started the classical riding. Now I’m trying to help kids to listen to there horses. However, where I live they think they know it all !! I get looked at and, people talk behind my back because I like taking my horse out by leading him. I feel its good to do that as you create a big bond with them. I love my horse to bits. And no way will I ever make him feel uncomfortable 😊

    “Such a special relationship that isn’t possible with a horse that you ride.” I think you will find this is completely untrue. Myself, and majority of others I know do in fact have a strong bond with our horse off and on their back.

    Karen Mitchell says:

    Yes I know. It breaks my heart every day. I’m not exactly well off. Some land wouldn’t go a stray…One can but dream :(

    Karen Mitchell says:

    Did you not just read this???
    If your still stunned, Follow links

    Keep in mind a few main points when discussing horses and veganism:
    1. Horses lifespan in the wild is about 6-7years. In captivity I regularly see fat happy 30 year olds. Whe complaining about arthritis, dentistry etc, were running into natrual issues that we don’t see in the wild because they don’t live long enough to experience them.

    2. Stop saying you only ride bareback, or that saddles cause pain. A properly fitted saddle will feel like a stiff backpack, like the ones used for hiking. And riding bareback is 10x worse for their back. Even the softest seat is 130+ pounds of weight concentrated in a tiny area. The saddle distributes the weight evenly.

    3. And seriously, what in the world would we do with all of the horses we stop riding? It costs $600 or more a month in an urban area to house and feed a horse, and even keep them in rural areas is expensive. You need 3 acres per horse of grazing land on lush, rotated pastures. Their feet must be trimmed every 6-8 weeks to keep their legs comfortable, they need worming, vetand dental care are needed yearly. Go after the abusive show trainers, ban 2 year old racing, get rid of pads and chains on the walkers, but blanket statements like this are downright ignorant. And colt breaking is just a term, we actually strive for no resistance, no bucking, and no unhappy campers. I’m 15 rides into breaking one of my colts, and so far we haven’t even pinned an ear.

    Liz, thank you for your comment.
    1) from what i’ve read, wild mustangs can live up to 40 years in the wild.
    2) i don’t advocated riding bareback- i advocate not riding at all and
    3) we care for them. we keep those that are domesticated as members of our family, as we do with dogs and cats, and watch after them and cater to their needs. only we don’t ride them, again, as we do with dogs and cats.

    hope that helped address those issues. and i do honestly appreciate your comment and you sharing your point of view. i always value hearing various viewpoints. many thanks.

    Liz is correct. The AVERAGE lifespan of a mustang, or any feral horse really, is typically lower than that of their domesticated counterparts. External factors, such as poor nutrition, which can cause multiple health problems and stunted growth, predation, and intraspecies competition all contribute to shorter lifespans. Take into mind of course that occasionally a mustang can survive well past ten years, but one occurrence does not set the standard for an entire species. And to go ahead and address the “bit issue,” I do hope you are aware that there are already bits, such as the JP Korsteel line, which take into account the ‘nutcracker’ effect of most bits. They are curved, which allow the tongue clearance and apply no direct pressure to the the bars of the mouth. Ergo, they are quite humane in most hands. If bits are still of the devil for you, bear in mind the existence of hackamores and bitless bridles, which have no presence in a horse’s mouth, instead relying on mechanical pressure. And if that’s still too much in your opinion, there are certain equestrian magicians out there who ride bridleless, with only a thin cord around the neck of the horse, which largely remains loose during riding, instead leaving much of the steering to the legs of the rider.

    Preston Huey says:

    This is a very good article. I used to ride a lot but stopped when I became vegan. I now volunteer at an animal sanctuary where we have five horses and one mule. We love caring for them and you don’t need to ride a horse to enjoy their company!

    Thank you so much for sharing about your journey and for volunteering for the sanctuary! Much love

    Lmao really? The whole “we don’t ride dogs and cats” that’s because A. They are far more smaller which B. Means they need less space and can run around a house for example. Horses need excersise. And you can’t just walk a horse to excersise he/she. Horses run far faster than humans. So please tell me how you can walk a horse to get excersise. Also, about the bit thing, you don’t have to use a bit. You don’t even have to use a bridal or halter at all in order to give cues to your horse. I would also like to point out that you only used abusive pictures in your video, I’ve never used a whip on my horse nor has anyone I know. And just because there are ignorant people out there who tighten their girth too tight doesn’t mean that it’s this horrible and abusive thing. Riding a horse in general is not abuisve or “cruel.” If they wanted you off of their back, they’d get you off of their back. My horse actually does enjoy going for rides. She instantly gets excited and shows no resistance whatsoever to me getting on her. I don’t pull on her head at all. I say woah and she stops/slows. And I just have to cluck in order for her to go. No kicking, no whipping, no bits, no nothing. So maybe point out the pluses instead of just the minuses next time.

    Lizzie says:

    THANK YOU

    Sorry if that came off rude, I just get frustrated with misinformation being spread. The idea of keeping horses is pets is lovely, but the truth is that thought process feeds the slaughter pipeline. I can place well mannered riding horses all day long. Finding homes for pasture puffs is damn near impossible, and I’m sick of seeing them get crammed onto trucks headed for Mexico because no one gave them skills to ensure they’d end up in good homes. Even rurally it costs a minimum of $10,000 a year to keep them. You find me 3 million people willing to do that, and I’ll agree with you. But I’ve been involved with horses from rescue to world shows for 20 years, and know the realities. Are there things I’d like to see done differently? Hell yes, there are some awful things that go on, but people who don’t know horses trying to fix the industry makes it worse.

    I’m vegan and I’m an equestrian. Emily brings up some good talking points in her article but I think that these points are difficult to host a discussion about if you’ve either never been involved with horses as a rider OR if you’re experience as a rider has been negative (- meaning your trainers use short cuts or outdated information/methods to “improve” the ride). As equestrians, you know right away when the saddle sucks or if your horse is sore. You know it within the first few minutes or the first day of riding them. I believe the back issues are reflective of the work/athleticism the horses experience in life- just like people who have physically demanding jobs or are involved in sports. All activity leaves a mark on our bones. Liz, I share in your frustrations.

    thank you for sharing this. i appreciate you offering your perspective in such a respectful and grounded manner. it’s evident you care for horses, and i do believe that experience with them is essential. i consulted several long-time equestrians in the creation of this video as i did not feel it was my place to speak about it fully. again, i very much appreciate you sharing this! all the best.

    Hey I guess you already know it, that they (we) use horses to produce vaccines? Put it on the bloodstream, make them sick, put off the blood, the whole deal. Nice work, thank you!

    Finally, someone who understands. Also, if the writer was so passionate about the topic she could at least be bothered to use capital letters.

    Glad that you enjoyed it. As for the capitalization, it’s the format of the website, not something I’ve done out of spite.

    I remember when I was young and I tried horse riding and the instructor kept telling me to kick the horse with my heel, or give it a whack to make it go. When I hesitated she said “Don’t worry, they have thick skin they can’t feel it”. Well what’s the point of doing it if they don’t feel it. Obviously they do otherwise they’d just stand there while to hit them…

    Very true and quite a simple and logical view on how crazy our reasoning is!

    Then you didn’t have a good instructor because you aren’t supposed to kick your horse. You are supposed to slightly squeeze, and I know a lot of horses that know voice commands. Not trying to bed rude :)

    How about riding a horse bareback and without bridles? I have never owned a horse before but Iam curious to know if it causes less harm to the horse.

    Perhaps less of the saddle irritation and bridle nerve damage, but the spinal effects remain the same.

    Sienna says:

    Sorry if I sound rude.
    Hi everyone how thought horse riding was cruel. You guys are wrong about hurting the horse with a saddle and riders, if you haven’t notice horses are huge. In fact they are at least 10 times bigger, so its not going to hurt them if something 10 times smaller sits on them. And after every time I ride horses, I always give them a treat, from carrots to apples, just to thank them for letting me ride them. Also if horses didn’t like something they would give you a sign. If the saddle was uncomfortably they would buck or they would twitch when you put it on. And if they didn’t like the bridle they would give you a sign. And Madeleine, that one pony might have been mistreated and just couldn’t cope with being riding school pony. But there not all like that some ponies love being a school pony and some don’t. Yes lots of people do mistreat horses , but lots more love, care and spend lots time and money on everything for there horse.
    Horse riding is not cruel. Again really sorry if I sound rude

    Someone above already pointed out that riding bareback is WORSE for the the horses spine than riding with a saddle.

    Raya- bad idea. As the article states, horses’ backs are not seats for our butts. That’s the reason for the saddle. The technology in modern saddles is really impressive actually, and with a good seat (rider position) they are designed to do no damage to the horse’s back. I agree with Liz, people who are ignorant to horses but try to fix the industry will make it worse. As an equestrian, I’d say about 75% of the riders I see aren’t ideal, so yes, the industry isn’t where it should be. But the article also states that riding horses isn’t vegan, so if you’re a vegan, don’t ride horses. Seems pretty simple to me.

    I am not a vegan or a veggie, I consider that to be weird.
    However, the argument made on this website against the exploitation of horses is a valid one.
    People in the western world, nowadays,keep horses only for their pleasure.
    Horses are not intelligent as owners of them would have you believe, but behave the way they do purely out of subjugation and fear. Horses are very capable of living without any”help” from the human race, but it is not intelligence causing this, it is instinct. That is something every living being has.
    Ask yourself.
    Has anyone ever witnessed, anywhere, at any time, horses, (wild or domesticated), lining themselves up in order to race each other, just for the fun of it, or jump over things laid out in an orderly manner for their own enjoyment or benefit, or see who can jump highest, or try to fit a bridle in their mouths hoping desperately that some human will saddle them up so they can carry that human around ? Of course not !
    So don’t be ridiculous in thinking that horses “love” doing these things. Horses RIDERS love doing these things, and guess what ?
    IT’S NOT THE SAME.
    Just for information.
    I do not like horses very much.
    I am not afraid of horses.
    I rode horses as a young man.
    I would not do so as an adult.
    Keep horses as pets by all means, but treat them as you would a cat or dog.
    Just because horses are capable of holding the weight of a person, is no reason they should be treated cruelly by doing so.
    The only thing horses are good for, is dog, or cat, or human food, just like cows.

    You have clearly spent no time around horses. I have had all 8 of my horses since they were either just weaned or just born and have in no way subjected them to punishment or pain. I also do not use food in a method of rewarding as I believe my horse should want to be with me, instead of the food. However, even after offering no other reward than my company every single one of my horse will come galloping up to the gate in order to greet me, simply because they believe I am part of their herd. As for horses not enjoying what they do, I have seen 2 of my horses let off steam in our cross country field and both of them have popped over small ditches, logs and streams in the process, simply because they enjoy it and is seen as fun instead of being forced to do it. Most people also forget that horses can weigh up to a ton and have enough force in their back legs to snap a human spine in half, so if my horse did not trust or respect me enough he would certainly let me know. Horsemanship isn’t about being better and more dominate than your horse, it’s about having a partnership. Riding/excersising does in fact effect horse positively as it allows them to release frustrating hormones and endorphins that build up when they have to look at the same fence posts day in and day out. Not to mention studies done which showed horses that were lightly worked every day should an 86% decrease in stress. I would also like to address the fact that horses spines (within the first 6 ribs) are able to very comfortable hold 20% of their body weight ie my 16.3 sports horse who weighs 1300 lbs meaning he could comfortably care 260 lbs , I weigh just over 100lbs meaning my horse could still carry 2 of me along with tack.

    My father used to breed jumping horses. I’ve been riding horses all my life. What I got to learn was that those horses love jumping. At our stable especially the foals would jump over everything similarly to a jump. Also the horse I have now loves jumping. He keeps pushing over to the jumps, cause he wants to jump over them. As soon as he realises we’re going to jump, he gets all excited and accelerates so much and jumps higher than needed. I use jumping as a motivation and it works amazingly well. As for racing horses, they usually feel the need to be first. My horse has a tad of thoroughbred blood in him. He accelerates as soon as a horse walks in front of him or passes him by. He also can’t be slowed down when he has to run behind another horse. Of course a racing horse might not enjoy jumping but a jumping horse does. They seriously do. The best jumping horses don’t jump because they have to but because they want to.

    Lizzie says:

    Chas,
    Have you EVER watched a horse in its pasture? We have foals at our farm. They have never had a human on their back, yet ya know what they do EVERY morning when we turn them out? They run. And they race. They are not doing it out of fear or instinct, they simply love running. These horses will go on to race. Not as 2 year olds hopefully, but when they are older, yes, they will race. And non equestrians will not believe this, but every racehorse I have ever met puts their heart and soul into running. It is not a 90 pound man with a whip making them run, it is their passion. We could not make them do something they didn’t want to do no matter how hard we tried.
    As for the saddle, do your research please. The saddle is specifically designed to distribute weight evenly so it does not harm the horse. Think about this: equestrians love their horses. Everyone knows that. So do you really believe that we would hurt our horses? Of course not. That’s ridiculous.
    As to the matter of bits. To say that you cannot possibly use a bit without hurting the horse is, again, ridiculous. Bits are not meant to be a mechanism we control our horse with. We do not simply pull as hard we can on it to control them. They help our aids, yes, but with the smallest amount of pressure, a good rider can get her/his point across. Are there riders who do not use it correctly? Yes. But this does not make bits cruel, just the riders who misuse them.
    Whips. Sigh. Again, in the hands of a bad rider, yes, it can be cruel. But whips (or crops as most equestrians call them) are simply an addition of leg pressure. Good riders do not beat their horses with them. Again, we all love our horses and would never intentionally harm them. We may tap them with a crop, yes, but not with nearly enough force to ever hurt them. If they were hurt, they would react with fear and anxiety whenever we moved the crop, but they don’t. Honestly, whatever equestrians you talked to are not true equestrians if they do not know these basic facts. So please, do not bash us for things that most of us aren’t even guilty for.

    Maddie says:

    I do think you should do your research more on horses before you comment. Horses are very competitive animals, if they weren’t so good at racing it would have never become such a hugely recognized one – horses love to race, to run around. There are some points that are valid but if you are a rider of over 6 years and you read all the books necessary, have good lessons, and care for them properly, they will treat you like a loving owner. Horses are also used in rehabilitation of humans, they are VERY intelligent, and contribute more to society than just being a meal on a table, and another thing is – they are very big animals, unless you’ve chained them down if they hated being ridden they wouldn’t allow someone to, unless this is some western movie and they treat the horses badly and people train to stay on a crazy ill treated animal, but dressage and jumping is pretty much the opposite.

    One thing I have to say is that…. “bits are only as hard as the rider that is using the bit.”

    Caroline says:

    exactly Nora!!! (:

    Julia says:

    Fair point, but as an avid horse owner/rider, some of your reasoning is well outdated. Anymore, a large number of riders are beginning to go bitless. Some use an English hackamore, though even they can be dangerous on their delicate nose if used incorrectly. I myself use a Dr. Cooks bitless bridle. I recommend researching it. Also, although riding specifically is primarily for the human’s pleasure, I’ve met many a horse who obviously enjoy being ridden to an extent. And riding is only a portion of the horse-human bond. Many riders are getting into natural horsemanship and combining trick training and games (horse enjoyment) with riding (rider enjoyment). Please youtube “NativeHorse” and watch her videos. They emphasize on the ability to ride a horse yet still have a deep, loving relationship with them.

    Ann Holder says:

    I’m an equestrian, and not a vegan. Horses backs are not specifically made for the saddle, but there are still things we can do to make them better. Allot of riders use special pads designed to fit the horse’s back and create support for the saddle. Bridles, as has been said before, a bit is only as harsh as the riders make it. Many riders use snaffle bits which are easy on the horse’s mouth. Also, if you are a balanced and good rider, you should be able to have contact without hurting the horse’s mouth. As for horseback riders never having a bond with their horse because they ride this, let me tell a story:
    About a month ago, I bought an overweight, but adorable pony to turn into my eventing mount. He was extremely willing and did everything I asked of him. (Let me also add that because, before I bought him, he was turned out and not ridden, he was in danger of a fatal disease which exercise brought him back to a safe spot in his weight) Every day, he met me at the gate and nickered to me. We trail rode, schooled cross country, and galloped bareback. Then one day, he unexpectedly got colic. He was transferred to the local vet hospital, but they could do nothing, he was too far gone. When I saw him one last time, he nickered and then closed his eyes.

    Caroline says:

    I just wanted to put out there that not all bits are cruel as you stated above. yes, many are very strong and cruel in the hands of an inexperienced rider, however, you can use kind bits and gentle hands which would not hurt the horse. horses need a job to keep them happy, occupied, and make them feel wanted which “walking from the ground” would simply not provide. Thanks (-:

    jennie says:

    This really upsets me, I’ve been vegan for two years and I’ve been horse riding all my life (well since 4)
    I rescued an abused mare 3 years ago, when my therapist advised me to go back to horse riding and since then I’ve adopted the natural horsemanship style of riding e.g parelli, monty Roberts ( they’re the only American ones I can think of, haha but I mainly follow a local Irish trainer)
    Me and the mare have developed a very strong bond, she literally saved my life because I was suicidal
    I don’t fence her in, she lives in the forest by my house (she’s lived there about 1 and a half years now, I was convinced she would run away but to my surprise she stayed, everyday after school I go there and I spend all my free time with her
    She’s 6 and i started riding her when she was 5(as it takes a long time with no bridle or saddle to mount a horse who’s never been mounted)
    Someone tried to break her in before I rescued her but was unsuccessful that’s why she was sent to the knackers yard to be made into dog food…
    We go riding nearly everyday, some days we just mess about, but I honestly do think if riding was hurting her she would just run away, I use the system of reward (e.g give an apple to her for good behaviour) and through this method I have taught her a lot (she even kneels down so I can mount and gives me hugs and kisses, she really brings a smile to my face)
    But she has taught me so much more, I seriously would not be here today if it wasn’t for her because when we are out hacking or galloping along the fields it’s a feeling like no other and all your worries just disappear, you’d have to be an equestrian to understand the feeling
    Now That I found out I’m no longer able to ride.. I feel so gutted. Maybe I just shouldn’t return to the forest… I don’t think I could handle it, seeing her would just make me remember the feeling of riding..
    I am so sorry I didn’t know I was hurting her back! She’s my only friend I wouldn’t even dream of harming her, she’s my world (well was) she helped me through the bullying, eating disorder, self harm and drug abuse.. I am so ashamed of what I’ve done, I feel totally shitty about it.. I used to think of riding as borrowing freedom.. I see now how it is wrong… Ughh just like everything I do its wrong.. Everything in my life has just went wrong
    I don’t know what I’m going to do now, but I’ve decided tomorrow will be my last visit ill probably have a mental breakdown, but its for the best, I thought letting her live freely in the wild was ‘letting her go’ but now I’ve discovered its not and I’m so upset with myself like ughh! Why was I so stupid!

    Anyways her safety and happiness is what I should be concerned about not mine so I guess I am happy I found this article but I also feel like the only thing I have in my life is been taken away but that’s just me being selfish

    So thanks, I guess

    Crissy says:

    Keep riding! !I am Vegan and I ride.
    Take no motice of people who dont understand the connection we have with our horses.
    Ive seen horses put saddles on their own backs n invite the rider to ride. Your mare will be very dad without you.
    Horses have been Domesticated for 6000 years as long as dogs. They need us like we need them. Thats what they tell me thru their eyes. Just make sure you listen to her. My old horse told me the other day he doesn’t enjoy dressage anymore and i dont ask him to move that way now. In fact i haven’t ridden him since.
    My younger horse begs me for my attention. He comes running up to see me like a dog.
    Should we gree all our dogs n let them toam n starve n get cold in winter.
    I am Vegan I care about animals I dont eat them or jarm them. Thats the best thing to do. But enjoy your special relationship with your freind dont let anyone stop you.

    jennie says:

    Thanks for the reply! 😏 yeah, I was finding life very hard without her, but I definitely will go back (:

    Bethany Bravington says:

    I didn’t like the fact when there is this event that happens around me that lets people at 200 pounds on the horses. I dont like seeing horses at events either where they are carrying adults and kids on their backs all day.

    Spencer says:

    Dear Emily,
    As someone who has grown up with horses and has been riding since I was five, I have a lot of experience and knowledge about them. I would do anything for my horses and would never want to put them in harms way or put their welfare at risk, and many other horse owners feel the same. Although, I do agree with you that there are some people in the industry that do not always have the horse’s best interest in mind, such as a few trainers in the racing industry, but for the most part, many owners and riders would never want to harm their horses. As well as a few people in the industry, some riders who are not as experienced may not have the best skills, horsemanship, or nice equipment for their horses due to their lack knowledge and skills. I have travelled around the United States training with some of the countries best trainers and all of them teach based on what is best for the animal.
    However, I do have to disagree with you on a lot of points you made. But I feel as though it is harder for someone to understand riding from the outside, especially if someone has no true experience with it. Horses are huge animals and if they really did not want someone on them, or to run and jump, they would not do it. Horses weigh around ten times more than most humans and so realistically we cant physically force them to do anything. Growing up I had several horses that really did enjoy being ridden and got excited when I would come to get them from their field to go for a hack. I even had some problems with ponies jumping over the fences of their pastures to eat the grass on the other side. While some horses might not enjoy riding, there are some that do. You said horses need exercise like dogs and could be walked. Although this is true walking is not that much exercise for such a big animal and walking a wound up horse is a lot more dangerous and nerve-racking than walking an excited dog. I have seen several cases where skinny, underfed, weak, and sickly horses have come into our barn from just sitting in a pasture untouched and have become healthy and happy horses. With the proper exercise and riding the horses developed the right muscles and became stronger and livelier. Horses in domestication are healthier and live a lot longer than horses in the wild.
    Technology has come along way in our world, even in tack for horses. When you said that the back of a horse is no place for a human butt, you were right, it is for a saddle. Saddles do not cause pain to the horse if they are the proper fit. They help the horses back by distributing the riders weight and have many different sizes to make the horse comfortable. Many nice English saddles form to the horses back like memory foam, move with them, and are very light so they do not impose on the horses gaits and movements. When it comes to bits, they seem scary at first, but they sit in a gap in the horses mouth where they have no teeth. Equestrians are taught to direct the horse with your legs and not your hands. Many bits are made with the comfort of the horse in mind. For example, some have rubber mouthpieces and there are even bit less bridles, called hackamores that are becoming increasingly popular. At recognized horse shows you can even get in serious trouble for having things like spur rubs, girth marks, and bit marks.
    While I think there are some things that could and should be done differently in this industry, true horsemen know when a horse is uncomfortable or sore and will do what they can to make their equine partner more comfortable. Most people love their horses very much and if they did not like horses, they would not be involved in the sport. You mentioned keeping horses just as pets in pastures, however, horses are incredibly expensive and require a lot of upkeep and land. There are not many people out there that are willing to pay that much just for a horse to sit in a pasture. There are some trainers that may use short cuts in training that are not good for the horse, and I agree that it is something that needs to be changed, as well as some other things, but things like that won’t be altered by people with no true experience in the area.

    Gloria Ortiz says:

    Sorry but horses are not made for sport. Look wharf happened to Chris Reeve! It’s nice to like them but it does not mean you have to ride them. They are animals not human. They were meant to help us in the old days tof carry stuff, cross rivers etc. Equestrians are doing it for their own pleasure not the horses

    If it is not to their own pleasure then why do they follow me? Why do they run next to me? Why do they jump over logs when I do? Why do they go completely against instinct and lay down next to me? As I said in my last comment, you have excluded people who do Liberty with their horses etc.

    Maddie says:

    Hi Gloria, please read all the comments ad statements made by actual caring horse owners before placing a one sided uninformed opinion. These people who HAVE and LOVE their horses are explaining their side, the least you could do is read it and take in what they are saying before you judge and make such a harsh decision on the subject

    Robert says:

    Hi, I use to work with horses, I use to work in Lexington Kentucky Training center for through breed race horses, as well as church hill downs, King lands and a few small farms.

    Each place I worked in was in my opinion cruel to horses, For one very simple reason they forced the horses to be riden and abused.

    You see I have a very simple rule I go by when it comes to working with horses, and that rule is when a Thousand pound animal gives you a indication I do not want that bit in my mouth.

    I do not want that saddle on my back, or tries to shy away when you are trying to mount them, Then you need to understand one very simple thing They are trying to tell you something, and the wise thing to do is heed the warning,.

    Horses have emotions and feelings the same as you, Tr y to put your self in their place, You are taken away form your mother to be made a slave out of for nothing more then the gratification of someone elses selfishness.

    You see that is all it comes down to, Now don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with horse back riding providing The horse wants to, Some horses actually look forwarded to it, But when they start giving certain signs, Then learn to respect them, ether do not ride that horse or find one that is willing to give you a ride, Oh and here is a free tip for those of you who have children wanting get riding lessons the very first time tries telling you child let the horse know whos boss get you kid out of there quick and one that ever tells some one like that has no business teaching or for that matter even being around horses.

    Madeleine says:

    I was a typical “horsey” girl: while my friends’ bedroom walls were covered in posters of boybands, mine were adorned with pictures of horses. I loved riding, and did so from the age of four on and off until I was 17. I became vegan at 19. Along the way, a lot of things I experienced concerned me, but somehow I reconciled it with myself. “It was just how things were.” “It wasn’t as bad as it seemed.” Looking back, I wish I had been a little more compassionate and not just done what I was told. One thing in particular stood out to me and does to this day, 16-17 years on. I went on a riding holiday and was paired up with the most beautiful, vibrant, sweet-natured, five-year-old, black pony. He was new to the riding school and he oozed enthusiasm. He had a delightful personality and was so interactive. I didn’t end up riding him for the whole holiday, instead riding a “stubborn” older mare who had a very different but equally lovable demeanour, but I had a very enjoyable experience and returned the next year. I went to see the black pony I had fallen in love with the year before, not expecting him to remember me but to have a good re-bonding session. When I saw him and helped his rider tack him up, I was crestfallen. This once enthusiastic pony just stood there, motionless, head down, eyes glazed over. He didn’t respond to talking or stroking like he had done before. He resisted having the bit put in, having taken it on his own accord the previous year. At that time, I knew straight away what had happened to him, yet I didn’t want to admit it. I enjoyed riding too much. I didn’t want to think that the horses didn’t enjoy it. I was sad, but everyone around me was carrying on as usual, riding and providing the horses with everything they needed to live. It wasn’t until some time after I became vegan that I decided that horse-riding was not in accordance with my core values of respecting the desires and feelings of other beings. It is rather shameful to admit. My non-vegan (at the time) cousin said, “Would YOU like a bit in your mouth?” “It goes in the diastema, and we don’t have one,” I replied, almost automatically. “But would YOU want that against your tongue and your cheeks?” And then I thought about all the times I had pulled on the reins. The so-called ‘gentle’ jointed snaffle that squeezes the tongue and presses into the corners of the mouth. Remembering how it felt like an ice block to my hands in winter. My answer was of course “No”.
    It isn’t simply a case of “horses are so big and strong that they wouldn’t do something if they didn’t want to”. While I have experienced many times horses not doing what you want them to, and sometimes punished painfully for it, and sometimes just getting away with it, it is surely not difficult to see how it is easy to manipulate a creature of any size. As an example, if I sit on an ant nest and an ant bites me, I am going to move away because it hurts, or is at least very uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter that I am ten million times more massive than the ant, and that her jaws are almost microscopic. The ant can move me if she wants to, even if I would have preferred to not get up and not get bitten. The point being is that it doesn’t take much to be aversive and unpleasant, and this is not how I would choose to spend my life, and if I wouldn’t like it, who am I to decide that another being should have to endure it.
    That being said, I don’t put horse riding in itself in the same mental category as the consumption of animal products. I do, however, know that many horses are slaughtered after they are of riding use, because it is the simplest and most cost effective way to ‘dispose’ of them, and these will become someone’s cheap hotdog or perhaps cat or dog food. But it is also evident that there is a scale, as with probably everything. There are people who clicker train their horses and don’t use any aversive methods, though these people are extremely rare. But it is sad that we seem to love animals only for the value which they can provide us, and, usually, give them no real choice in their lives.

    I agree with Madeleine, it is a spectrum– horseback riding can be abusive, it can be enjoyable and beneficial to horses, or anything in between. It’s not just riding but any interaction with horses is on that spectrum. Just because you’re not riding doesn’t mean the horse is enjoying herself. I also agree that horses trained with clicker training and avoiding all aversives absolutely love their jobs and their owners.

    The important aspect of this conversation is what animal welfare advocates need to do to shift the ugly end of the spectrum from abusive to neutral. If people who care about horses stop riding and interacting with them, the only people left are those who cannot teach younger generations a better way. So, if you care about the treatment of horses, educate yourself about humane training and management practices (and go beyond simply humane training to training and riding that gives the horse a chance to opt out if she’s not enjoying herself).

    Wow. Ignorant. Very very ignorant. Some things you said were true… But you didn’t include people who don’t use bits, ride bareback, or don’t use a bridal at all. You didn’t talk about the people who have bonds with their horses that are unbreakable. You didn’t mention the horses that will follow their riders every day, all day. You didn’t give a round of applause to the people who wake up every morning and feed, groom, check the water, muck the stalls etc. for their horses every day, twice a day. Who have saved horses from the slaughter house. Did you know people jump their horses over 6 foot fences with out any tack, even though their horses could refuse at any second?And you will call that cruel?

    Horses were not put on this planet to be ridden by humans.

    Jessica says:

    Hi, I am vegan and have struggled with this for a long time. I believe under the right circumstances (which are rare in the world of equestrians) that it can be vegan. I take my inspiration with the horses that I care for on my property from a very inspiring vegan rider @littlepistolannie on instagram/facebook. She rides on occasion but “plays” with her horses in a way that is so unbelievably beautiful and I cannot see “working” (loosely used – horses should work for people but with/ play with them) in any other way. Her methods are 100% focused on the horse. I use her philosophy when playing/riding my horses. They – and if you are not a horse rider will not understand this – clearly want to spend time with me and honestly if people consider me not vegan for loving the horses the way that I do then fine call me vegetarian despite my in no way killing/causing harm to animals purposefully.

    Okay, I have some things to say:
    1. Whips: I use a whip all the time. Any normal person wouldn’t just use it to hit a horse with full force. You just give a light tap, just a touch. If your horse still doesn’t listen you give a slightly harder tap but not a slap or anything. Something even humans could be okay with. The idea that you /hit/ the horse is totally wrong. It’s a tapping not a hitting.
    2. Horse riding is not abuse or anything. My horse loves riding. Seriously. When I haven’t ridden him a day or two and he just sees the bridle he’ll try to stick his head in the bridle even though I didn’t even hold it in front of his head or something. He enjoys it a lot and seeing his joy I don’t think I am hurting him. As for the bit, there are bits that don’t hurt the horse’s mouth as long as you don’t pull on the reins like a freak. My horse as an example can’t be ridden without a bit or with loose reins. He’ll get pissed and move his head forward to show me that he wants more contact in the mouth.
    3. As for saddles I use a very good one. It is a professional saddle and fits my horse perfectly well. I also use a numnah made of sheep furr and a saddle pad to make sure my horse is comfortable. If there are problems with the saddles horses will immediately start showing it by not wanting to walk or whatnot.
    Please do not spread wrong informations. No need to make equestrians look like animal abusers. Thank you.

    I used to ride in my teens. I don’t ride now. I’m vegan. I think Liz makes some very valid points however. Horses will just not be kept for any reason other than food if people cannot ride them. I do think many horses are ridden cruelly. Liz admits this too.
    I had a thoroughbred mare once who would have become petfood if my uncle had not bought her for me to ride.
    I rode her badly at first (stupid young teen that I was.) She bolted and threw me off as I deserved. My uncle changed the bit to a soft one made of rubber. She calmed down. But still, I stopped riding her and just treated her as a pet goat who I visited in the paddock. I built a relationship with her slowly. At first she would kick and bite me whenever I came near. Soon I could walk all around her and under her and between her legs in perfect trust and safety. I began to ride her. When she saw me coming she would whinny and run towards me even though she knew I would soon be riding her. Once on her back, we communicated by mental telepathy. I could think “go” and she would go. I could think “stop” and she would stop. But if she wanted to take off and I wanted her to remain on the spot, she would do this beautiful on-the-spot up-and-down dance as a kind of compromise. I had no need to haul on those reins. We thought as one. It was a beautiful relationship.
    I think it is equally bad to see dogs chained up all day or shut in houses. Dogs are meant to run free across the wilds, not be shut in houses and don’t get me started on the horrors of human interference with dog breeding creating “pedigree” dogs who suffer from their bred-in deformities, like pugs and dog with non-pointed snouts who cannot breath properly because of how we breed them.

    I have a lot to agree with what bitesizevegan says about horse riding and horsemanship, but I do have a few issues, mainly that horse riding is bad for the horse. I do feel I should get out of the way that I own horses and ride them every once in a while with a rope halter.

    I have an issue with the 2007 study is that it does not say how the horses were raised and if they had proper fitting saddles their entire life. OF COURSE if you get horses who had a saddle on them at the age of two, a saddle that did not fit, did not have a proper fitting saddle pad, and were ridden extensively every day for the rest of their lives, with a too heavy rider, then of course results are going to show the horses suffer from spinal injuries. It’s like if I was trying to show purebreds are not as healthy as mutts and I only brought in Pugs, Bulldogs, and Great Danes for testing. Of COURSE results are going to show that mutts are healthier than those breeds.

    I’d be slightly more inclined to listen to and seriously consider a study if it tested horses that were raised RIGHT.
    What constitutes as raising a horse right:
    No saddle on the horse till the age of 5 or 6, and the saddle is only put on VERY briefly at first, and to slowly increase the time the saddle is on so that the horse can build muscle. The saddle must properly fit the horse, and it must be accompanied by a properly fitting, thick, wool saddle pad. Then you slowly introduce the rider, only have the rider on for brief amounts of time and slowly increase the amount of time the rider is on so the horse can build muscle. No long periods of time can be spent riding (absolutely no longer than an hour) until the horse is fully developed at 9 years old. The rider of the horse must weigh no more than 15% of the horse’s weight (for instance, for a healthy, 1,000 pound horse, the rider should be no more than 150 pounds).
    The horse’s body needs to be conditioned to a saddle and rider first before doing heavy work and going for long rides. If you wait till the horse is 10 to slam a saddle and rider on it and instantly do 2 hour long rides daily, then you will end up with spinal issues. The horse needs to have it’s body exercised and properly conditioned before it can do that kind of work. Same as if a grown human went to the gym and tried to lift 200 pounds with no prior work/exercise/conditioning. The man will not be able to lift the weight and will likely injure himself. You have to work your way up and train your body to be handle it. Same with the horse.

    Also, bareback riding has been shown to be worse than a pad and saddle.

    Riding bareback focuses all of your weight in one area, where as a good saddle pad and saddle helps distribute the weight evenly.

    I do believe a horse should not exist or be owned just be ridden and you need to build a bond and trust with your horse before you ever ride it. Riding should be an exercise to help you and your horse build upon a preexisting bond and to form a stronger relationship together. Anything else is just a bonus with riding. Riding should never be just for work or just for your own personal gain. You should not own a horse just with the goal of riding them. You should own them because you love them and care for them and want to provide a good home for them. You should always be doing other things with them besides riding. Sacking out, grooming them, giving them scratches, simply being there with them. To enjoy life with them and make them feel safe and secure. They should never be your slave, they should be your companion, happy to be working WITH you. Sadly, this seems to be near non-existent in the horse world today. It’s all about money and looking flashy.

    Fair Horsemanship teaches horseback riding … maybe endorse a horse “expert” who doesn’t ride like Ren Hurst or Stormy May?

    Done and done, Monica ;D Here you are!

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