You Will Obey

My daughter’s horse sailed gracefully over the jump, and then made a sharp left turn. Unfortunately my daughter continued going straight ahead, making a less than graceful face plant into the dirt. She dusted herself off, spat the sand out of her mouth, wiped the blood from her lip, climbed back on and completed the course.

When I commented to my daughter that she was certainly not lacking in courage, she just shrugged her shoulders and said that she had to finish the course. Otherwise her horse would learn that if he bucked her off the workout would be over, and he could go back to his paddock to eat grass and ready himself to panic next time a paper bag appeared in a tree.

I asked if that meant he did not enjoy being ridden. She just gave me one of those looks and walked off, confirming what I had long suspected. Horses do not particularly enjoy being saddled, ridden, coerced over jumps and made to ride in weird configurations around a show ring (this is called dressage). So why do they allow it? Why does a 500 kg horse allow itself to be dictated to by a girl barely a tenth of its weight? Surely a horse must have more grey cells than a cow, who wouldn’t dream of allowing someone on its back? And what about elephants? While they do trample the odd mahout, by and large they let themselves be pushed around by tiny men with pointed sticks and do nothing about it. Imagine trying that with a rhino or a hippo.

It does baffle me how often this occurs, a smaller, physically weaker creature dominating a much more powerful one. And now, if you’ll excuse me, the cats want feeding and then I have to provide a lap for their mid-afternoon snooze.

Dr. F. Bunny

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