It’s no secret that we love our horses. We’re crazy about them. We have to be in order to do what we do. From early morning feedings to late night vet calls, we put their needs first. We do this, because we are passionate about the connection we share with these amazing animals.
Basic needs, such as food, water, shelter, and well fitting equipment are a minimum requirement. As we place greater demands on our equine partners, the scope of care typically increases to match. High performance horses are treated as elite athletes with carefully managed nutrition and training programs, and often body work like massage, acupuncture and chiropractic. These athletes have a small army of people to make sure their quality of life enhances, or at the very least, does not impede their performance in any way. In the equestrian world there is an almost exclusive focus on the well-being of the horse. Equestrians throughout history have been trained that we put the needs of the horse above our own.
Equestrian sports place extremely high demands on the people that participate. Despite this, generations of horsewomen and horsemen miraculously survive on a steady diet of caffeine, convenience food, and sugary treats. Our fitness routines are often limited to chasing loose horses, stacking hay and shavings, lugging full water buckets, and pushing wheelbarrows. In fact, the standard of care for our physical well-being usually consists of arguing with concerned onlookers while they insist that we really do need to go to the hospital.
Excluding the effects of poor diet and a triage-only approach to self care, we are under constant stress. Be it barn drama, bills, or disaster prone horses, it adds up fast. At home we have all the other aspects of our lives to manage too. Modern life is fast paced and high pressure. The traditional ‘sweep it under the rug’ approach to coping with stress is not a recipe for a good interaction with our horse. Tempers get short, mistakes are made, accidents happen, and we expect a great ride despite it all. Is this fair to our horses?
We are at a point in history where more and more people are understanding that with a healthy mind and body, we bring the best version of ourselves to the ones we love and the activities we love to do. It’s time the horse industry learns that we need to take better care of ourselves.
In a world steeped in tradition, it’s time to create some new, healthier, and sustainable practices. We would never expect a horse to be able to do its job when it’s malnourished, exhausted, injured and highly stressed, so why do we do expect that of ourselves? By taking care of ourselves, we feel better, we perform better, and we are better partners to our horses.