50 Shades of Black and Blue

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high fashion hermesWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

The discovery of Farida Khan, a notoriously abusive equestrian from Bangladesh, has surprised and disgusted the internet equestrian community. Several videos from her Facebook page went viral and prompted new pages calling for investigation into her animal handling practices.  She’s been reported to just about every agency imaginable,  including Stop-Crush.  While at first many of us were dismayed by her apparent lack of riding skills and overt cruelty towards her horses, it was soon realized that there was a seedy subtext at hand.  That’s because Farida deliberately whips her horses as sexual stimulation for a fetishistic audience, who urge her to “draw blood” and change the colour of her horse from “gray to red.”  You can check out her YouTube channel (under a fake name) here. Caution – I would say that most scenes depicted here are NSFW!

“Oh yes it definitely hurts them a lot and I enjoy seeing them suffering for my pleasure. Whipping and kicking is the best thing I like when I am astride it gives me a nice Farida Khan whippingfeel and its such a wonderful feeling to control such a beast.”

With very little effort it’s possible for one to discover that there exists an entire subculture where horses are either beaten into compliance with whips and spurs or ridden and stroked provocatively.  I knew about the “pony” fetish, where adults dress up as horses complete with bridles and saddles.  But the pony fetish is hardly something to get bent over, since it’s enjoyed by consenting adults and apparently no animals are involved.

Several of Farida’s “hard riding” videos are featured on the Horse Women Facebook page and clips4all website which I reviewed, just so you don’t have to!  There are the whipping and spurring videos that many of us have seen and condemned,  as well as videos of adult women riding mini horses while jerking on the reins and hitting them with crops.  The commentary that goes along reveals that the hitting of these small animals is designed to appeal to some sort of sadistic tendency in the viewer.  Clearly, these videos make us uncomfortable, in part, because they are designed to arouse and remind their audience that beating an animal is titillating.  But what’s also curious is that many of the people who favourited Farida’s horse abuse videos also have favourited classical dressage videos on YouTube as well.  They seem particularly drawn to Piaffe training.

Farida Khan Whipping 2Don’t get me wrong – I’m utterly disgusted by the whipping and excessive spur usage even if there is no sexualization of the practice.  But I also wonder what it is about regular dressage that attracts these same people to watch and favourite videos of Olympic, USEF, and WEG performances?  Farida Khan attracts a niche audience, and she brags about her dislike of horses and cruel treatment towards them.  She hits them multiple times for absolutely no reason, jerks on the bit, and turns them sharply as part of “training sessions.”  But if you want to see “accepted” torture of horses you don’t have to watch fetish videos.

Most horse owners would never abuse their horses, even out of ignorance.  But watch a few equestrian events and you can see whipping and spurring, along with horrendous combo bits or multiple apparatuses used on horses that are designed to force compliance or cause pain.  What is often accepted as “horsemanship” is often abuse that should not be permissible.

Thanks in part to  investigations by the Humane Society of the United States, the soring of Tennessee Walker horses —the intentional infliction of pain to their feet and legs to produce an exaggerated gait known as the “Big

Tennessee Walker Horse - Highly Artificial "Big Lick" Movement

Tennessee Walker Horse – Highly Artificial “Big Lick” Movement

Lick,”  has received international attention.  With H.R. 6388, the Horse Protection Act Amendments of 2012,  it is hoped that we can end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of certain devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and hold accountable all those involved in this cruel practice.  An HSUS undercover investigation documented the prevalent use of caustic chemicals to sore horses and led to a 52-count indictment of Jackie McConnell, who pleaded guilty to one count of felony conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act, and three of his associates. In September, a federal court sentenced him to three years of probation and a $75,000 fine.  McConnell also faces prosecution for violations of the Tennessee animal cruelty statute.

Thanks to the Olympics, two other forms of horse abuse have been getting attention.  If you watched the 2012 Modern Pentathlon you know that competitors had to shoot, fence, run, swim, and ride a horse that they had never ridden before.  Because they have to do so much, you know they aren’t going to be particularly great at any of these sports, even though the competition must be gruelling.  These pentathletes certainly aren’t deliberately hurting their horses,  but virtually every rider in the modern pentathlon displayed all the polish of someone who learned to ride three months ago in a crash

The Modern Pentathlon "Couch Potato" Seat

The Modern Pentathlon “Couch Potato” Seat.  At least he stayed the course and is here looking towards the next jump.

course – emphasis on “crash.”  I recall seeing maybe one competent rider who could utilize aids other than the “Holy Shit Brakes,” or the “Save Me Jesus” seat.  These riders choke up on the horse and give zero release – on one occasion causing the horse to flip over backwards – both riders and horses were lucky there were no serious injuries.  Non-abuse is supposed to be a core tenet of riding, and the pentathlon was sheer abuse for many of these horses, who appeared quite competent on their own and should have been allowed to complete the course sans rider.  So give me the ancient pentathlon of discus throwing, javelin, long jump, running, and wrestling over this torture. Riding a horse correctly with proper aids is not easy,  as demonstrated by the fact that these fairly well-rounded,  athletic competitors do not universally manage to achieve good results.

In the dressage world,  Austrian FEI rider Ulrike Prunthaller has been given a nine month ban from competition and a 4,000 euro fine for the application of “painful and illegal training methods” to her horses. Her coach Friedrich Atschko is fined 5,000 euro for conscientiously supporting these methods. The pair was cleared of the charges that they injured their horses with screws, nails, stones and other unwanted artefacts,  due to a lack of evidence.  Such training methods are to be loathed, they give the horses significant pain, suffering and fear.  It can hardly be said that these two were not aware that they were causing suffering.

Rollkur/hyperflexion is another form of abusive submission horses are being subjected to in dressage. Exaggerated flexion of a horse’s poll and neck became popularized in dressage in theRollkur - Clearly the horse is not comfortable! 1980s when Nicole Uphoff of Germany used it as a training technique with her horse. The rider whose name has become most closely associated with the method is  Anky van Grunsven. What makes this particularly abusive is that, at the Olympic level, the competitors UNDERSTAND the anatomy of the horse and they enforce rollkur (or “Low,  Deep,  Round”) anyway.  And if they don’t do it in competition,  they’ve been seen doing it in practice,  away from the arena proper.  Even some of the riders not using rollkur were seen digging in with spurs upon entering the arena for their tests and on through their rides.  The FEI (Fédération Equestre Internationale) and all its associated federations enforce their own rules and standards when it comes to rollkur,  or not!

Abusive training technique - horse's mouth open,  clearly in pain

Abusive training technique – head pressed against the wall,  and the horse’s mouth open, tucked-up and clearly in pain

German veterinarian Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, working with German Olympic dressage champion Klaus Balkenhol, created headlines when they publicized the findings of Heuschmann’s anatomical and biomechanical studies of hyperflexion. Heuschmann said that hyperflexion not only fails to develop the proper musculature for upper-level dressage, but the exaggerated flexion can also restrict the horse’s airway. Heuschmann published a book, Tug of War: Classical Versus “Modern” Dressage, detailing his findings and arguing against the practice of hyperflexion. Unfortunately it seems as though rollkur has made it’s way into the Western Pleasure world as well,  where it’s still not humane.

What makes rollkur especially cruel is that it closely resembles, to me, images of

Stress positions are designed to be exhaustingly uncomfortable without being clear "torture."

Stress positions are designed to be exhaustingly uncomfortable without being clear “torture.”

prisoner abuse and torture from the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in occupied Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. They demonstrate extreme examples of a technique broadly defined as “stress positions,” which are designed to “soften-up” prisoners prior to interrogation. Here, prisoners are being forced to artificially lower their heads and adopt unnatural positions of their spines, similar to horses in rollkur.

We must stop seeing a horse as an adversary that must be “broken.”  It seems today lavish gaits,tricks and precision are what is rewarded in competition rather than the quality of the training, the willingness of the horse,  or the dedication to the sport by the rider. Most of us have done something questionable or ill-advised with regard to our horses, or we may have seen a trainer do something that didn’t rough handlingseem right but we didn’t know at the time why it was wrongIf anyone in any equestrian discipline uses some of these techniques on horses with the full knowledge that we are causing them pain or distress, then we are little better than sadist Farida Khan.  Use of the whips, extreme bits,  and harsh spurs are the  surest indicators that all other training has either been neglected, rushed, or poorly executed.  “Hard Riding” is just another type of willful abuse – the reason for it hardly matters.  The horse does not know why we abuse him or for what purpose, only that we do.

The video below is disturbing in that a mini-pony is being abused and exhausted.  This video,  produced by the Napoleon Riding Cult,  resulted in 3 people being charged with animal abuse in the Netherlands.

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About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out http://boinc.berkeley.edu/ if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic (but not crazy) vegetarian, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - http://iwl.me/ Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

10 responses »

  1. Well done Heather!

    As you, I and I,m sure many others, are reading & founding out more unacceptable things in the horse world. Thanks to internet, and the ones who actually care.

    Theres some things I didn,t know about, like the training techniques, ouf!! Or this “Farida” (scum) or this prisoner abuse, torture from the infamous Abu Ghraib prison occupied in Iraq! ect
    BUT, what has mankind become!

    Some are backwards & do NOT see the beauty of nature & what it is allowed to offer. Who are “they” to tourment any living species. Shame!

    Tks ~ merci

  2. Great article on some of the ways people exploit horses. Bit-less bridles are the kindest way to ride. There is not enough “soft’ hands out there. I do not go to horse shows anymore..just got tired of watching horses rolling their eyes in pain as riders jerked their mouths (with cruel bits) & slam their backs. All the force used against them is nothing short of stupidity…because when you give…they give…visa versa..horses have always understood the art of giving…..sharing & twittering

  3. I am so glad my father figure has long past otherwise he would die of sadness to see what goes on now. I was whipped soundly for riding his horse 7 miles at a fast pace and she was lathered to the point she looked pure white. I learned the hard way, IF it is necessary to ride such then the time must be taken to cool your horse down slowly, offering just sips of water, bath off the the sweat, then when dry, curry until she is relaxed and eating good hay.

  4. That’s simply disgusting! And I can’t believe there’s so much cruelty in accepted Pentathlons! But sadly it’s not surprising at all, anything that earns people will be abused! It’s so pathetic. I’ve wondered whether these horses ever get abused for competition and now I know the answer is yes. So saddening – owners can have such great bonds with these magnificent animals & others even use them as therapy – yet these people will choose to abuse them! Thank you for exposing this cruelty, hopefully a lot more will be done soon to stop it!

  5. just get another sport that does not involved other creatures who dont consent, they are not ours the same as we are not theirs,

  6. Pingback: New Here? | heatherclemenceau

  7. These photos are reasons why I stopped using a bit on my horses and only ride bitless now. They respond so well, actually even better to the bitless bridle than they did on the bit.
    It makes me so sad :(

  8. I just found your blog-well done on exposing cruelty!!! Our silent friends cannot have enough voices speaking for them.
    As for that Farida whats-her-face? She just made my “win the lottery list”. You know, that list we all have if we have lots of money to spend doing anything we want?
    I’d find her and let her know what I think of her behavior-nuff said ;-)

    • Thanks very much! Appreciate. There are many people googling Farida Khan, and this blog tends to get a lot of hits, unfortunately, some are from animal abuse fetishists. I’m glad some regular people read it and become acquainted with this awful fetish.

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