I have often been called upon to work on the physical problems of horses suffering from colicas or other problems during competitions, and I realized to my great distress that often (not always) the well being of the horse was not really taken into account.
Naturally my help was given along with the care and advice of veterinaries.
All the same, I was expected to cure with these words: “as quickly as possible”, “maybe he’ll be fit for competing tomorrow,” and especially “he has to start training as soon as possible.”
This posed a very difficult ethical question: should I really help if these horses were to be put to work immediately? Usually, I was well aware that a period of convalescence would be necessary. Do I have the right to insist on that? Will they really listen to my advice? Should I help the horse immediately so as to quickly diminish or eliminate his suffering?
When there is a serious problem, everybody panics because the reputation of the horse or the finances involved are so big. Of course, the rider loves his horse and wishes him well, but he is caught between his love for the animal and his work. He is obliged to make decisions that are not always for the well being of the horse. How can I explain to him that it would be better if the horse did not compete that day? That the medical decisions to get him “in shape” could have adverse results later?
I believe that one must consider the hours spent in planes or trucks, jet lag, fatigue, stress or even the anxiety suffered after being separated from the horse’s companions…or even the fact that the horse is anxious because of a companion’s suffering. Often, the horses are too tired, pushed too hard and have to make an enormous effort to meet expectations. They want to make the effort, to please you their rider, but often they just do not have the strength to do so.
Their riders do not always realize that their horse is suffering. For example, they do not necessarily perceive his anxiety or the beginnings of a colic. The level of physical or emotional pain is often discovered too late and only when the horse starts to limp or rolls on the ground in pain. That is why I think it would be wonderful if the riders also learned the language of communication, because it is the only way to really understand from the inside what the horse is feeling; it would also help to develop the riders’ capacity for empathy and perception. I truly believe this capacity is essential for every professional rider.
The time has come to realize that horses are sentient beings, that we have to listen to them, respect them, honor every thing that they give us, learn their language and create a relationship of collaboration with them. That is the reason why I created with Sonia Matt and Valerie Grenon the association Peace For Horse which transmits this education and helps horses in need.
When a horse cries, we do not see his tears. They are hidden inside him.
Laila del Monte