Domesticated Horses – Are They Natural?By Jeffrey Rolo
In Domestication Of The Horse – Is It Immoral? I laid out common arguments made by opponents of horse domestication as to why horse ownership is potentially harmful and even immoral. Much like the topic of horse slaughter, individuals on either side of the argument can make valid points that often get drowned out during the heat of the debate, so I made an attempt to present the anti-horse domestication arguments in a fair and unbiased manner. If you haven't yet read that article, I might suggest doing so first since I think opponents of domesticated horses do provide some valid food for thought, plus the counterpoints I provide in this article may not possess the full context without having read the other side first.
That having been said, I think it's pretty clear which side of the debate I fall on by virtue of my having happily worked with horses since my teen years. I believe the domestication of horses, when done properly, is far kinder and far more mutually beneficial than anything the "harmony of untouched nature" can provide. So in this follow-up piece, I will take each of the main points against horse domestication made in the last article, and counter them with my personal thoughts.
Domesticated Horses Are Not Meant To Be Servants
This argument, which can only be legitimately presented by a vegan since any carnivore would be a hypocrite to espouse it, relies on the belief that humans and animals are on equal grounds, and thus should be afforded equal protections. This is a stance which I, quite frankly, reject. As much as I may love animals, I don't let such devotion blind me to the fact that humanity cannot be placed on the same level as animals (even if in many cases I might prefer the company of animals to some humans!).
Yes, horses possess their own thoughts, desires and emotions, and I believe that we have a moral (not legal) obligation to treat them with kindness and respect. But that doesn't mean we should cater to their every desire, or not train them to yield to our will via natural horsemanship. Just as a child must sometimes serve the parent, the horse must sometimes serve the owner. And if you think this truism doesn't apply to wild horses, you would be wrong, for an alpha mare commands the herd with a firmer "hand" than many horse owners possess. A wild horse receives no more independence in nature than he would in the typical stable.
Should domesticated horses be treated with care and be protected from blatant abuse? Yes, and I respect horse rescue operations that generously take in neglected horses and seek to find them a loving home. But should horses be afforded legal protections similar to that which a human might receive? No. Unlike PETA types, I do not believe man is equal to animals.
Domestication Of The Horse Is Not Natural
I believe that most people that would make such an argument have never worked with horses, or more importantly, bred them. Why? Because it sounds good on paper, but the reality is that the domestication of horses can be a fairly natural process when approached properly.
Natural horsemanship is not about forcing a horse to understand our language, but rather about learning the horse's language and using that knowledge to communicate with the horse in such a way that it becomes easier for them to subsequently learn our language.
I will grant you that introducing a wild horse to the ways of humanity will be a bit unnatural for the wild horse initially, and it will take some time for him to adjust. But having bred many, many foals, I can say that domestication is a perfectly natural and happy state for them when they were born around people. They learn a human's mannerisms and ways just as quickly as they learn the horses' (yes, foals aren't born with an inherent knowledge of how to behave like a horse – they are taught by their dam).
If you believe that a horse either raised around humans or taught by humans to understand our language is still in an unnatural state because horses shouldn't be "forced" to learn our ways, then the argument lies more with whether a human should own a horse rather than whether such ownership is natural to the horse. And that argument reverts back to whether a horse is our equal, or our servant/pet.
Horse Domestication Leads To Horse Abuse
The argument that horse domestication can lead to horses living in abusive homes treads on very shaky ground, for one can really stretch such rationality to absurd limits. It is akin to stating that pregnancy can result in a child being born into an abusive home, so in order to spare some children from being abused we should deny parents the right to procreate.
Yes, the domestication of horses will inevitably result in some horses being paired with abusive homes, but just as you cannot prevent all children, men or women from being abused, you cannot prevent all animals from being abused. Life isn't fair, and that is true both in our civilized regions as well as the raw, virtually untouched corners of the world. Nature is far harsher to horses than horse domestication could ever be.
We'll conclude our look at the benefits domesticated horses receive in the conclusion: Domestication Of Horses – Is It Mutually Beneficial?