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THE HORSES I COULDN'T HELP!

Don Jessop

“I lay awake thinking of the animals. I can’t shake the images from my mind. I am haunted by their cry!”

Just a few minutes ago I put the phone down, my body was shaking. My thoughts we’re reeling. My inner voice was shouting “I should have said more! I should have…done more. This isn’t OK? Why is this happening?”

The woman on the other end of the line was a telling me how “it just doesn’t matter” that her horses weren’t getting fed enough. That her horses we’re “none of my business.”

“If you think I’m neglecting my horses, why don’t you just take them!” She shouted.

My heart sank. I knew I couldn’t take her horses. All I wanted was to encourage her to care for them in the way they deserve. I knew and have known for years now that I can’t take on more horses. Not only because I don’t have the space but because the very minute I take on more is the same minute I lose time to promote proper horse training and care industry wide.

I felt her frustration and normally I would be able to simply let it go. But for a few years now a special kind of tension has been building inside me. I see horses differently. I used to see them as four legs and a strong back that could carry me across the Snowy River with Jim Craig in the Australian highlands. Things have changed for me. Maybe it was the concussion. Maybe, I always saw things this way but couldn’t admit it. Now, when I look at a horse, I see a being. I see a heart and lungs. I see a vivid memory inside a vibrant mind. I see the pain of slavery and captivity expressed in reactive behaviors or a sullen countenance.

I want horse owners to succeed with their horses. I want horses to succeed with their humans. I care deeply for the safety and well-being of these special animals.

The problem is… I can see the future. The horse industry isn’t getting much better for horses, not yet anyway. But with your help, maybe it can.

From the perspective of the public, the care-taking of horses actually has improved, due to the natural horsemanship movement started nearly fifty years ago by men and women like Ray Hunt, Linda and Pat Parelli, Tom Dorance, Bill Dorance, John Lyons and many others. However, the natural horsemanship movement has only impacted a small portion of the entire industry and… even within the natural horsemanship style, horse abuse cases are taking place every day.

What are those abuse cases? What does abuse actually mean? Basically, in my opinion, horse abuse takes place when a trainer is consequence oriented instead of reward oriented. This kind of thing happens every single day among “natural” trainers. When I see a trainer spank a horse to go, then offer no reward when he does go, I see abuse. When I see a trainer ride a horse and put it away before the sweat dries, I see abuse. When I see an owner confine a horse to a twelve by twelve stall day after day, I see abuse. When I see a rider take a horse through challenging circumstances, far beyond the developed skill of the horse and mechanically force cooperation, I see abuse.



Abusive training styles run rampant in the natural horse industry and in the traditional training industry. But it is not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is careless breeding. People keep bringing horses into the world like they’re going out of style. We need to stop careless breeding. Notice I didn’t say we should stop breeding altogether! I mean we should stop breeding just because we like babies, or because we want our special bloodline to last, or because we forgot to close the gate and the stallion got loose, or because someone offered us a bit of spare change. Breeding should be carefully assessed for quality horses of sound mind and body. Horses that are compatible for human hands in a human world.

The reason careless breeding is such a big problem has to do with neglect. There are simply not enough practical thinking horse owners to care for all the horses flooding the industry. There is simply no outlet for horses. Horses are being left to starve. Mistreated horses or horses with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) are being left to wither away and pass from home to home because they are no longer “safe” to ride. Injured horses are being tossed out, and if you have a heart (which you must, if you’re reading this) you find it hard to see horse families being torn apart. Horses are in fact herd or “family” oriented creatures. Mares and foals create a connection that lasts a lifetime. They never forget! Never! Would you forget if you we’re taken from your parents at an early age? Probably not..


The point is, horses are subject to human hands. If those hands are not careful and conscious and intelligent, horses will suffer. You can help me curb the suffering of horses by sharing this article and following me for more insights, inspiration, and technical information about skills and learning. I want you on my team because together we can start to make a difference.

Thanks for reading.

Don Jessop

Don Jessop - Blog Welcome

Hi! I'm Don Jessop

With Mastery Horsemanship

I write to inspire, educate and encourage you on your horse and personal journey.

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