What if horses deserved the same rights as humans?

Most people consider horses as pets, as animals that need to be trained to obey to their master. We usually just assume that humans are mentally superior, therefore that they have to physically control animals too….


This week’s blog is written by Isa. Isa came to be a working student last month and will stay here until the end of August. I hope you all enjoy this weeks blog. Leave a comment or question for Isa if you like. I have places for working students throughout the year.

Kind regards Stina


 What if horses deserve the same rights as humans?

Most people consider horses as pets, as animals that need to be trained to obey to their master. We usually just assume that humans are mentally superior, therefore that they have to physically control animals too…

We want to micro-manage as best as possible every dog, cat, horse… that we « own ». We use them for our own entertainment, for competitions, we sometimes give them jobs… They work and earn food in reward. It’s the basic principle of the master/pet relationship.

In many people’s opinion, it is perfectly fine to think of animals as living things we own, and that we dispose of as we wish, but it is a crime to do the same with humans. We even invented a word to define this serious offense -when the balance between the work a human provide and the salary they get is unfair, when someone is lacking freedom, it is called slavery.

Why is the public opinion so different on the use of a living being depending on its specie?

Having a lion as a pet is controversial, because it is a wild animal and it should live in its natural element. But horses are « different » because they have been bred, raised, trained to become obeying pets. In our society, Men are more or less legally equal, and deserve freedom, but horses can be kept in small boxes and be beaten for their whole life.

What if we were wrong?

Let’s think about the differences between a horse and a human.

We obviously have different bodies. Horses run much faster, have stronger jaws, can kill a strong grown up man by a single kick and browse much longer distances in their wild state. We have predators features, such as our front placed eyes, while horses are strictly defined as prays. We can talk and understand each other, even about precise details. We can modify and use our environment to evolve.

If we wanted applicate a simple way of thinking to this question, we would stop here and claim that our « almost predator » status is superior to the strict « pray » status of horses, that we can therefore control them without perturbing the natural order of the food chain. We could think that because we can make tools, drive cars, travel by plane and make our civilization evolve, we are definitely more capable of deciding what’s good for horses than themselves.

I don’t think this reasoning is right. I think it is extremely simplistic, and that horses exceed us in many ways. I am convinced that equines can smell better, feel any emotion or energy better, sense dangers and avoid to take useless risks better than we do. They understand each other perfectly without using words and they can send alarm signals rapidly if their survival is threatened.

Is the modification of our environment a skill? Haven’t we already proved that it is also a curse? Don’t climate change, the extinction of many species, billions of dying humans, the lack of vital resources prove that we’re not that great at managing our environment? Aren’t we destroying our own planet?

Why would a specie that is killing itself be superior to one that has always applied mutual help as its principal value? What if our relationship with horses should  be friendship instead of property? What if a REAL communication could take place between humans and horses?

I’m not talking about forcing the horse to obey to orders communicated by hitting the horse, I’m talking about practicing horseback riding or any kind of horse practice with the agreement of the horse. What if WE tried to understand them, before forcing them to work for us? What if we could work WITH them?

Would you let someone choose your lifestyle if you didn’t know them and if you thought they could harm you?

Communication is the key to accede to friendship and to trust. That is why a few people decided to study horses and their language. My goal coming here was to become one of them and to make new friends -humans and horses!

Ethology is the practice of any kind of friendly communication with a horse. That is what I’m learning here at Richmond Vale Academy, with Stina Herberg. There are many ways to communicate with a horse. Some use violence, some use love and patience. Stina belongs to the second group.

There are also many languages. Just like humans, horses have common body language signs, but they have different personalities and ways to handle a situation. Here, I’m slowly learning the language of the herd I’m taking care of, and I’m getting to know each of the horses’ personality better. By observing, spending time with them, and having lessons with Stina, I’m trying to communicate and interact with them, and hopefully create a bond that is strong enough for them to trust me.

Isa Palay, France

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