The Beauty and Splendor of Horse Competition: The Good and the Bad

#Rewild Party in Wellington, FL

Show Horse Recognition

Show horses are one of the most athletic and beautiful creatures you could see, but also one of the most dangerous and riveting sports you can watch and be a part of. Equestrian shows attract thousands of viewers around the world as people come to marvel at the strength that is the horse. I mean, these horses hurl their bodies over huge jumps while carrying their riders on their backs. The strength and talent of these animals are unmatched. Whether it is show jumping, dressage, rodeo, or hunting, there isn’t anything these horses can’t or won’t do for us. Show horses succumb to much stress physically and mentally. There are many variations of sports-based around the horse and rider, but I don’t believe enough people are talking about it. When we think of sport we don’t necessarily think of horses first but you have never seen athletic strength, stamina, and teamwork like that of the show horses in these competitions.

 The Risks with Jumping

A horse’s jump is made up of five phases: 1. the lead-up, and the launch, 2. the springing motion, 3. the descent, 4.the landing, 5.the support of the forelegs and support of the hind legs. Over the different phases of the jump, there is a sequence of bends, extensions, contractions, and stretches to an extent that could be a study in never seen in any other sport. Not to mention, they are supporting the weight of their bodies as well as their riders. The muscles in the front of the horse’s body take on an immense amount of pressure to absorb the shock of the land. It is this landing point that is the most critical part of the entire process. The force on the front legs when the land can be as much as four times the weight of the horse. The athletic ability of these horses is absolutely ridiculous when you break it down and think about all that goes into the process of one jump, so much so it could be a study in kinesiology.

Problems with Show Jumping

A lot of animal advocates criticize show jumping as they say it is unkind to the horses. There is a thin line within the sport of show jumping that makes it safe for the horses. Many people within the equestrian show world do all kinds of unethical things with horses to prepare them for the show ring. Some people consistently give their horses performance-enhancing drugs. Some people are physically very hard on their horses in training. Some people force their horses to compete when they are hurt. Much of the show world sees horses as a business. They lose sight that these are living animals, not dollar signs and deserve respect, care and consideration as anyone would. For this, it is clear why animal advocates have an issue with show jumping. There are many unkind people that treat horses as a means to an end rather than a team member constantly pushing the limits to the detriment of the horse.

Show jumping at the Hampton Classic.

It is a Team Effort

However, I counter the arguments criticizing sport horses with the understanding that horses have been partners with man from the beginning of time, always helping and sharing our journey. Then it is only fair that they enjoy some fun and sport with us as well, As long as our sport horse is treated with care and respect these horses enjoy the sport as much if not more than their riders. Competitive horses take their jobs very seriously and love their riders equally as much. There are people in the sport that treat their horses like royalty. Their horses receive the best care that can be offered. They have the best masseuses to massage their backs, acupuncturists, massage blankets, and so many more amenities. They are treated as an equal half of the team because without the horse, there is no team, there is no competition, and there is no sport. The sport can be fun for both the rider and the horse when there is equal respect. And, as is well known, this can be applicable to any situation, not just horseback riding. 

The Dangers of The Rodeo

Rodeo riding, on the other hand, is a totally different story. This type of sport is extremely taxing on the rodeo horse. While Rodeos have been very popular in the past, more people are coming to realize how cruel the sport is on the animals that participate in them. Rodeo horses suffer broken ribs, backs, and legs. They come out with torn tails, punctured lungs, ripped tendons and painful deaths. Not only is this sport extremely harsh on their bodies but there are also tools involved to make these horses perform in a cruel manner. They use a tool called a “hotshot” to make the animals perform. The hotshot is an electric prod that scares the animals into displaying abnormally dramatic reactions due to intense pain. I mean, they essentially torture them to create a better show. Other tools that are used include metal spurs and straps that burn the horses’ stomach and groin area which causes him to buck and can lead to serious leg and back injuries.  

A horse enjoying greener pastures

Are Horses Just Used for Our Entertainment or are they so much more

Many arguments have been made that we use show horses as guinea pigs, just for our entertainment. I won’t lie, there are many situations where horses are treated extremely poorly and put in abusive situations for human pleasure and gains. I have pointed out in this article all the negative ways in which horses are used and abused. But this isn’t true for everything and everyone. My family has treated horses as the magical creatures they truly are.

Our horses are our family. They receive only the best care. They have top of the line food, the best doctors available and endless amounts of love. They are spoiled with mints and carrots and long grazes in the paddocks. They are hugged and kissed from head to toe. They are not just meant for an equestrian show, they are so much more. Giving back to our horse partners with love, care and appreciation mean so much, their efforts for us will only be greater in return.

Appreciate Our Horses

Horses do a lot for us, whether we know it or not. They nurture our souls in ways that other animals do not. For that, we must treat these creatures with kindness and admiration they deserve. Horses are the closest we will come to the feeling of flying. They propel their bodies and ours over huge hurdles with immense strength and elegance. For those two seconds above the jump, you are flying. The world fades away and it is just you and your partner, your horse. All your trust is in your horse’s hands, so to speak. As you fly, you relinquish control of everything. You will not be able to determine the outcome or make a change. At that moment, you are only to be present. This is not something many of us are skilled in doing. We think we have control over aspects of our life that we truly don’t. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up

Just like any other sport, the equestrian show is a team effort. Although this team is comprised of two members, mutual respect is a must for the team to be successful. If you see someone or know someone that is not treating their horses kindly, please contact an animal support group. The same way you would help a friend who is in an abusive relationship, these horses need your help as well. There are so many organizations that will step in and stop animal abuse. Find support groups in your area and reach out. Do not be afraid to speak up for what is right. We must be their voices for they cannot speak. 

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