How often do we hear, or use, this word when talking about horses? Often in the context of knowing something is actually better for the horse but my horse can’t because of all sorts of carefully created and formulated excuses.

I know that roughage is best for horses but my horse needs extra cubes/mix/nuggets etc because…
Barefoot is OK for some horses but my horse couldn’t possibly go barefoot because…
Some horses can stay outdoors all year round but my horse gets bored/gets cold/gets wet/prefers his stall…

And so the excuses proliferate. Where do they actually originate? Sadly, many are the result of peer pressure; in the average riding school there is always a majority of “traditionalists” that considers its knowledge superior to that of specialists. But even this knowledge is often promulgated by small groups of key professionals.

How often does the vet suggest oats and barley and other grain-based foods for sluggish or scrawny horses?
How often does the farrier tell people that their horse will “never again be able to be ridden on the road” if they deshoe?
How often does the trainer advocate Rollkur – or whatever name it carries these days?
When the errors of their ways are pointed out, the main line of defence is BUT… we’ve been doing it for XX years so it must be right…

Well let me put it this way:
Children have been subjected to sexual abuse through the centuries – does that make it acceptable?
Women have been paid less for the same work for decades – does that make it acceptable?
Girls have been circumcised in Africa throughout the ages – does that make it acceptable?
People with disabilities were locked up in lunatic asylums in the past – now we realise there are better ways to help them.
Slavery was rife the world over until the late 19th century – now we condemn societies where it is still practiced.

History does not make something right; nor does peer pressure, nor marketing. We are frequently told that our horses are used differently from many years past – very true – but they are still horses! The evolution of the horse in the 5000 years since domestication is but a fraction of the 5 million years preceding that. Nature got it right!

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