Tag Archives: “horse abuse”

The 10 Commandments of Riding for Roy Moore


When do the other 3 horsemen arrive?

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

A few days ago, alleged pedophile, bigot, and misogynist Roy Moore rode his horse, Sassy, to the Alabama Senate polling station and got roasted extra crispy by the internets for his poor riding ability and silly Gunsmoke cosplay.

The “10 Commandments” judge loves traditions from the 1800s, including slavery and child brides, so it’s fitting that we present him with a set of commandments that he should adhere to when considering torturing riding horses in future.

Roy Moore’s 10 Commandments for Riding Horses

  1. Thou shalt not sit like a lumpy sack of potatoes despite having a gaited

    All hat, no cattle

    horse. When you can barely stay level on a TWH, that is a clear sign you should not be anywhere near a horse.

  2. Thou shalt not jerk and flail your arms about like you’re trying to pull-start a gas lawnmower. Curses on whoever set you up with a long shanked bit that isn’t even positioned correctly. I don’t like them but I will say that leverage bits belong in educated hands only.  Period.
  3. Thou shalt not let the daylight show between your ass and the saddle
  4. Thou shalt not ride with such a heavy hand that you make your horses ewe-necked – both horses shown with Moore have prominently developed muscling on the underside of the neck. Both horses show how their physicality has changed with poor riding and hollowed out backs.
  5. Thou shalt not inflict one’s ignorance and poorly fitting tack on any animal.  Always use a saddle pad under the saddle.
  6. Thou shall shorten thy reins and stirrups and get your legs under you.
  7. Thou shall take lessons if for no other reason than the sake of the poor horse.  Moore doesn’t even ride as capably as someone at a trail ride who is riding for the first time, so he needs to give some thought into strapping on a helmet.

    At least he kept his shirt on….

  8. Thou shalt not use horses as props and photo ops when your riding is so poor that you have no business being up there.  Moore didn’t care that Sassy might have been spooked by photographers and as she was nervous,  he had not the skill set to calm her and instead kicked and jerked on her sensitive mouth. His riding clearly showed that he does not care about the pain of any other creature.
  9. Thou shalt not dress as one of the Village People.
  10. And lastly, If you’re an accused pedo,  thou shalt not name your horse after a now-defunct magazine aimed at teenage girls #Sassy.

Moore’s appearance at the voting station was not exactly my idea of a tableau of vintage America.  Is anyone surprised that he has heavy hands?  Both horses look uncomfortable with Moore touching them.  And Moore riding a filly that can’t get away from him is so totally on-brand, isn’t it?

Another ewe-necked horse by Roy Moore, which is hardly surprising considering the vise-like grip he has on all his mounts.  Here’s he’s almost as lifelike as Bernie in “Weekend at Bernie’s in a classic “chair seat” stance.

Everything about his riding demonstrates a lack of understanding about how one’s body impacts the horse – which appears to mirror his lack of understanding of how his actions impact the lives of others. His horses are merely objects fulfilling their purpose. As with both the law and religion, Moore appears incapable of considering anything beyond manipulating objects to his benefit. Roy Moore is no more qualified for the US Senate than he is to ride a horse.

Next time take the car pardner….

Someone please take these horses away from this man!


Called-Out Comment: Is William Ty Irby Trolling Me?

Bucket Stance

Another example of the “bucket stance.” Sore horses being ridden by overweight riders = more pain.

Yesterday I received this response to my blog post on the Tennessee Walker Horses.  It is purported to be from William Ty Irby,  so for the sake of this blog post we’ll assume it is actually he, although I can’t prove it.  The IP addy of the person posting resolves to the appropriate place in Tennessee though.  Mr. Irby Sr. is the father of Marty Irby, who was discussed at length in that blog post as a reformed “Big Licker” who is now a evangelic “Flatter.”

So,  “Mr. Irby” has taken issue with what I’ve written,  and the suggestion is that I’ve fallen for HSUS propaganda and lies. He writes:

“Ms Clemenceau: Please do not “throw around” my name, especially when you have no clue about which you speak! It is apparent from your article that YOU ARE ANOTHER OF THE GULLIBLE IDIOTS FALLING FOR THE HSUS PROPAGANDA & LIES! My son does not speak to me & has purposefully withheld his cell # from me! Where were you 44 years ago when the HPA was passed? How many performance horse shows have you personally attended & observed today’s inspection process for you to become an expert? Send me your email address & maybe I can send you some FACTUAL information to help better educate you on the matter! This would include FACTS disclosing my son Marty’s personal vendetta against the TN Walking Horse Celebration & the Chairman of it’s Board. Please try to learn more about the subject so you won’t be broadcasting incorrect information!”

Clearly,  this comment,  which you can read in the blog comments section,  deserves to be called-out….

Mr. Irby,

For years, the fox has watched the hen house in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. The “Lickers” turned the Tennessee Walker Horse into a freak show to the

Chip Weddington's Facebook message to Marty Irby

TWH Trainer Chip Weddington’s Facebook message to Marty Irby

general public and other horse owners. I can hardly bear to watch that awful flailing “gait” in the show ring, and the quality of riding in the “Big Lick” classes is the poorest I’ve ever seen of any breed show.  Have I attended any “performance shows?”  No,  the short answer is that we don’t have any such shows in my part of the world,  so the sum total of my experience comes from watching videos.  That’s more than enough for me – thank god the “Big Lick” is unheard of where I live.

TWHBEA has lost members in droves, and it is solely due to reputation. You have lost the public and turned cheating into high art. And now the TWHBEA has backed itself into a corner because many flat-shod TWH owners won’t join with you, and why would they? On Feb. 21, the Shelbyville Times-Gazette ran a story quoting Mike Inman, CEO of the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration (Sore-abration?) saying that the cost of most seats at the 2014 11-day show has been cut to less than half the usual price. Boxes with six seats that normally cost $575 will run $200 this year. And better boxes that normally cost $625 will be discounted to $500.

You’re fixated on blaming the HSUS when numerous other organizations that I highlighted in the original blog post all agree that penalties for soring need to increase. Not only is the PAST act backed by HSUS, but it is endorsed by veterinary groups. There is no indoctrination by HSUS or any other group. This is an effort to end a series of brutal practices that have been condoned and celebrated at the highest levels in the industry.

Clown shoes

If people wore stacks, they’d look like this…….

If soring, pads, chains, elongated hooves, long shanked bits, and all the other action devices used to create the “Big Lick” and cripple the breed were to go away, then good riddance to them. The physics and equine biomechanics that occur as a result of attaching these giant pads to the hoof confirms for me that the process is never benign. Unshod, flat shot, light shod are the only way to go. In my opinion, the only way to stop soring is to eliminate the “Big Lick” overall.  Why should your industry be given any more opportunities to clean itself up – the abuse has gone on for decades, culminating with the arrest of Larry Wheelon.

And why would I give you my email address? In order that I can become the recipient of cringeworthy messages like the masterpiece sent to your son by Chip Weddington?  If you had actually wanted to refute anything in my blog you could easily have done it in the blog comments. But you didn’t. If your son won’t give you his contact information, I can certainly understand why. Friends and family who condone abuse are not worth it.


Heather Clemenceau


Not everything out of Tennessee is as good as this:



The Dirty, Low-Rent Ethics of the “Big Lickers”



Written by: Heather Clemenceau

Passing a bill in the United States Congress is not exactly a walk in the park. The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act was introduced in response to a 2010 Report of the Inspector General at the United States Department of Agriculture. In that report, the Inspector General concluded that the current program for inspecting Tennessee Walking Horses (TWH) for soring abuse is not adequate because the inspectors are hired from participants in the shows and therefore have a conflict of interest.

The PAST Act seeks to ban any artificial devices aimed at changing a horse’s natural gait, including caustic chemicals, stacked shoes, and weights and chains, and is apparently stalled, despite widespread support. We can lay the blame for this directly at the feet of the scurrilous crowd trying to halt this national effort to eradicate the abuse of TWH horses. This abuse has been illegal under federal law for more than 40 years. It’s also illegal under the state laws of Kentucky and Tennessee to intentionally injure the hooves and legs of horses to cause them to exaggerate their gait during “Big Lick” horse shows, all for the purpose of winning ribbons. In the meantime, horses are still being subjected to stacked shoes, caustic chemicals, and chains while we wait for Congress.

Part of the toe still remains attached to the shoe

Part of the toe still remains attached to the shoe

Wayne Pacelle, (CEO) of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recently compared horse sorers to cockfighters:

“ These people, like the cockfighters, are scofflaws. They are actively working in the political domain – in this case, lobbying against pending federal legislation, H.R. 1518 and S. 1406, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act — to protect their criminal enterprise.”

Passing the Bill, which would eliminate the corrupt self-policing system while strengthening penalties for violators, is the only way to save the TWH breed.  Americans need to demand that Congress pass this Bill, with its overwhelming support, and not let a minority of self-interested animal abusers block a vote.

For all the efforts of horse advocates,  there is no shortage of  crazily-unethical supporters of continued abuse….

Applause for:

  • Ed Whitfield, ( R-KY) is the lead sponsor of the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, which would strengthen federal protections for TWH in order to make them step higher in competitions. Whitfield’s legislation would require that inspections of Tennessee Walking Horses for signs of soring be performed by USDA certified inspectors. Whitfield recently released a redacted document Tuesday showing how a complaint filed against him with the House Ethics Committee appeared to involve major players in the TWH industry, despite denials from some of them. Whitfield denied that his wife had lobbied him on the issue, saying his interest in curtailing soring predated her involvement with the Humane Society of the United States, Connie Whitfield is a “policy adviser” with the group.
  • Congressmen Steve Cohen (D-TN), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Jim Moran (D-VA) who are co-sponsors of the Bill.
  • Marty Irby, a reformed “Big Licker” who is now a evangelic “Flatter.” Marty was also 2 time president of the TWHBEA (2010 – 2012) and is presently the International Walking Horse Association Legislative Counsel advocating for passing of the PAST Act. His decision to become an anti-soring advocate cost him his marriage and his contracting business, His father, William Irby, a Tennessee Walking Horse trainer, no longer speaks to him. A former world champion TWH competitor, Irby said he finally grew disgusted with pretending that soring wasn’t an integral part of creating the “Big Lick.” Irby says the ongoing practice of soring is perpetuated by a system of “corrupt animal welfare inspections, corrupt judging, corrupt training methods, corrupt business practices … corrupt horse shows, and corrupt titles.”
  • Bill Harlin, a man The Tennessean describes as “synonymous with Tennessee Walking Horses,” and the owner of Harlinsdale Farm where some of the most famous grand champions in the breed originated. He acknowledges that

    Toe and hoof wall still attached. What did this horse’s hoof look like after this shoe was pulled off?

    self-regulation will never work.

  • Clay Harlin, son of Bill Harlin, who also acknowledges that the soring cult of the “Big Lick” are unwilling to stop the abuse of show horses. He, too, called on Congress to pass the bill.
  • Veterinarian John C. Haffner, who recently related that his increasing exposure to ever more blatant abuse of horses compelled him to sell his veterinary practice. After years of witnessing trainers’ efforts to make sure their horses were in enough pain to perform the “Big Lick” but not so much that they’d fail inspections, he found the corruption to be unendurable.
  • American Veterinary Medical Association Dr. Whitney Miller, assistant director for the AVMA, scoffed at Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-TN-7) Bill, H.R. 4098 saying, “In fact (it) will do nothing to protect gaited horses and stop the egregious practice of soring. This legislation is nothing more than an attempt to maintain the status quo in an industry riddled with abuse and will ensure that the broken system of seeing horses sored at an alarming rate does not have to answer for its crimes.”
  • American Association of Equine Practitioners
  • National Sheriffs Association
  • Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
  • The American Horse Council, along with The American Quarter Horse Association, the American Paint Horse Association, the American Morgan Horse Association, the Pinto Horse Association of America, the Arabian Horse Association, the American Saddlebred Horse Association, the United Professional Horsemen’s Association, the Appaloosa Horse Club, Maryland Horse Council, and other groups.
  • The more than 300 co-sponsors of the PAST Act – a majority of the Congress (45 Senators and 264 House members at the time of writing)
  • The Veterinary Medical Associations from 50 states that have helped create vast support for this Bill

soring5And a steaming pile of horse shit goes to:

  • The Performance Show Horse Association that brought the complaint against Whitfield. The printed names of the following 13 individuals appear on the bottom of the document (these individuals have a cumulative total of 53 violations of the Horse Protection Act (HPA), and a number of those have occurred this year following the filing of the complaint) The  PSHA and its lobbyist Jeff Speaks developed the strategy of filing an ethics complaint as an effort to stop passage of H.R. 1518,  because ethics complaints take time to respond to:
  • Jim Cortner
  • Jamie Hankins
  • Mike Inman (CEO of The Celebration)
  • Doyle Meadows (Former CEO of The Celebration)
  • Duke Thorson
  • Terry Dotson (Former Chairman of the Performance Show Horse Association)
  • Gayle Holcomb
  • Bruce MacDonald
  • Mickey McCormick (President of the Walking Horse Trainers Association)
  • James Linton Griffith
  • Jeffrey Howard (Editor of the Walking Horse Report)
  • Lee Wall McGartland
  • and Buddy Stasney
  • Chip Weddington, a TWH trainer who threatened Marty Irby less than 24 hours after Irby testified on Capitol Hill about the horrifying abuse of championship Tennessee Walking Horses. Irby received threatening message which came from the Facebook account of Weddington, who wrote, “I don’t associate myself with bitch made mother fuckers who sing like little fucking birds to the fucking [Humane Society of the United States] and everybody else … I hope your gay ass gets what’s coming to you soon!!!” If Irby ever approached him, Weddington said he would “knock ur ass smooth out!!!” According to USDA animal welfare reports, in 2011 Weddington was suspended from Walking Horse shows for a year after inspectors cited him for violating the Horse Protection Act.
  • The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association who canned Marty Irby and selected soring proponent Stephen B. Smith to replace him. The group also sent a letter to Congress detailing its opposition to the PAST TWH_with_StacksAct. Signed by current president Rob Cornelius, the letter states that due to “budgetary costs and resulting economic damage, the PAST Act is simply not something our country needs at this time.”
  • Stephen Smith, the newly minted TWHBEA President, is an avid “Big Licker” enthusiast and a powerful Republican political donor. According to forms listing violators of the Horse Protection Act, Smith was cited numerous times for soring violations at a TWH show in the late 1980’s. Smith and his family are major donors to GOP lawmakers in Tennessee, including Rep. Blackburn, the chief opponent of the PAST Act. Since 1989, Smith, his wife Denise, and their son Stephen B. Smith, Jr., have donated more than $270,000 to Republican political campaigns, most of them in Tennessee.
  • The discreditable crowd  who are desperately trying to halt a national effort to eradicate horse abuse of TWH horses with their own Bill.   Not shockingly, 7 of the 10 are from Tennessee, the epi-center of this sadistic method of “training.” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-7) recently introduced an alternative bill, HR 4098, that would greatly reduce the measures being sought by Whitfield’s PAST Act. Blackburn’s Bill would not only allow the grotesque stacks but would also virtually eliminate inspection efforts called for in the PAST Act that are necessary to stop this torture.
  • The rest of the ethically challenged co-sponsors of Blackburn’s Bill are:
  • Diane Black (R-TN-6)
  • Scott DesJarlais (R-TN-4)
  • John “Jimmy” Duncan (R-TN-2)
  • Stephen Fincher (R-TN-8)
  • Charles “Chuck” Fleischmann (R-TN-3)
  • David “Phil” Roe (R-TN-1)
  • The three others who have endorsed Blackburn’s bill are Garland “Andy” Barr (R-KY-6)
  • Nick Rahall (D-WV-3)
  • and Harold “Hal” Rogers (R-KY-5)
  • Virgina TWHBEA Director Pam McKinney who was escorted from the Capitol Hill’s Walk on Washington by U.S. Capitol Police for improper conduct, which included the utterance of F-bombs and flipping the middle-finger salute.
  • The misguided attempt by random pro-slaughters, urban carriage people, and puppymillers, who had to get on the “ethics complaint bandwagon” against Whitfield with their own Change.org petition that has garnered only 244 signatures.
  • And finally, Speaker of the House, John Boehner, currently refuses  to bring the PAST Act to the floor for a vote.  His decision is inconsistent with leadership’s stated preference for adhering to regular order.  Furthermore, it is too late in the year to resort to a discharge petition according to House rules.
  • The "Wheelon Bucket Stance"

    The “Wheelon Bucket Stance”


Please contact your U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative today and urge them to co-sponsor the PAST Act, H.R. 1518/S.1406, and do all they can to get it enacted quickly.

Soylent Green Is Horses…..


lunapic_136306162820000_8Written By:  Heather Clemenceau

How good is your memory – do you remember the cult sci-fi movie Soylent Green?  I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly good movie – it was released in the same decade that gave us the Village People, but it’s got some surpsingly durable themes.  It was based on the book “Make Room!  Make Room!  By Harry Harrison.  The book was actually based on a population of 7 billion,  pretty much what we have right now.  Part of what made the movie so popular was its somewhat plausible and proximate horrors about synthetic food sources.  The  movie depicted the year 2022, when the world was suffering from pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans, and the greenhouse effect.  Most housing was dilapidated and overcrowded, and the homeless filled the streets and lined the fire escapes, stairways of buildings, abandoned cars, subway platforms, etc. with little to occupy them due to high unemployment. Much of the population in this future world survived on processed food rations, including one named “Soylent Green,” which is said to be manufactured from plankton harvested from the oceans.  Charlton Heston plays the part of detective Robert Thorn who disobeys orders from his superiors  and investigates the Soylent Corporation.

e9aa_soylent_green_crackersThe main character’s investigation reveals that Soylent’s oceanographic reports are fraudulent and that the oceans no longer produce the plankton from which Soylent Green is reputedly made. Thorn’s friend Roth is a former college professor whose job is to sort through the now-disordered remnants of written records in order to assist Thorn with his investigation.   Roth realizes that that the reports indicate a horrible truth which they find nearly impossible to believe; Soylent Green isn’t made from plankton, it’s made from something far more sinister. Unable to live with what he has uncovered, Roth opts for assisted suicide at a government clinic (in the former Madison Square Garden, which had been converted to a clinic for mass euthanasia).  As Roth is dying, he watches video clips of Earth long ago when farm animals, deer, and horses were thriving and there was no mass suffering.  During his final moments, he begs Thorn to follow his body to the processing centre for absolute proof of the scheme. So detective Thorn stows himself aboard a garbage truck to a human body disposal-centre, where he sees (HUGE SPOILER ALERT!) humans being converted into Soylent Green. Thorn then retreats into a cathedral filled with homeless people, wher5197320220_e3e47c5e81e he is attacked by agents from the corporation and is seriously injured. When the police arrive, the dying Thorn urges those around him to spread the word that “Soylent Green is people,” which is of course the film’s most recognized tagline.

We’re less than 10 years away from the decade depicted in the movie and already experiencing all the symptoms of the dystopia of the movie. One of the ethical issues posited by the movie (but not the book) was that in death was to be found a valuable commodity, so valuable that the government would go to almost any lengths to conceal it.  The theme of euthanasia being a preferable transition to death also featured predominantly since people had the option of their own humane euthanasia – to sell their body in exchange for a more peaceful death.  This option was certainly preferable to being picked up by the city via huge vans with scoopers as occurs in the movie.  Just as most people are unaware of what happens to horses sent to auctions, the moviegoer is left to wonder where these people are taken after they are picked up from the city’s streets.

none_of_your_businessIn early 2013 the food safety scandal sweeping Europe brought details of how tainted our food production is.  Consumers of “beef” products have had informed consent removed by fraudulent corporations that show utter disregard for their customers’ autonomy and right to choose what they eat. The scandal actually bears a lot of similarity to the plot line of Soylent Green,  in that the scandal uncovered the mysterious supply chains, industrial scale adulteration, smuggling, organized crime and outright fraud – not to mention the usual finger-pointing, cover-ups and protestations of shock that accompany food crises.  As in the movie, corporations have deceptively disguised a product to serve a global food market.

Just as the character Roth struggles to uncover documentation to support the hypothesis about Soylent Green, we see that there is no record-keeping mechanism for tracking the administration of drugs to horses.  We now know that equine passports are duplicated or made fraudulent.   Moreover, in the movie, it looks like the Soylent product  is produced according to high quality control requirements,  but the reality is quite different.  Recent audits conducted by the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office in Canada and Mexico found that these countries are not in compliance with the E.U.’s food safety standards with regard to their medical records, even though non-E.U. parties have had two years to amend their residue control programs. North American horses do not even have passports as in the EU.

Despite these important food safety policies and standards, every year thousands of animals are routinely given prohibited substances; MOV_dbc9824d_bracehorses, show horses and carriage horses regularly end up as meat intended for human consumption imported into the E.U. Last year well over 100,000 American horses were transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, with the meat going primarily to the E.U. and Japan. These animals were never bred or raised for the table, but for other purposes, and they should be disqualified from the meat trade. In the movie, protagonist Thorn’s final warning “soon they’ll be breeding us like cattle” reminds us of what has already happened with “meat” horses bred specifically for other markets such as Japan.  The movie also assumes a large variety of countermeasures simply don’t exist or were rejected – just like abandoned HACCP critical check points and government officials who either know what is going on or are complicit in burying the findings of whistleblowers who warned about horsemeat becoming prolific in food in 2011.  We’ve also seen that other countries have found drugs in horsemeat from Canada, which is hardly surprising since the CFIA only tests less than 1% of horsemeat for phenylbutazone contamination.

Experience has shown that those who tend to defraud the system designed to protect humans generally have even fewer qualms about the welfare of the animals they slaughter. Food fraud also extends beyond the trade in horses.  A recent two-year study on American seafood found compelling evidence of “seafood fraud.” Researchers found fish sold as snapper and tuna were likely to be mislabelled, 87 and 59 percent of the time, respectively.  Overall, one-third of all samples used for the study were misidentified out of over a thousand samples taken.

This scandal has caused us to openly question what is on our plates and how it got there, and given horse advocates the opportunity to open up dialogue on the cruel treatment of horses. The public imagesis beginning to realize that corporate food manufacturers and producers are only concerned with maximizing profits and thus, do not deserve our unquestioning trust.  Emerging from the scandal is a new buzzword, “traceability” – consumers knowing where the food on their plate has come from.

By nature of the genre, science fiction has to be somewhat prophetic, or at least convince audiences that if something isn’t likely, it is at least plausible. Some of the salient points Soylent Green made back in the 70’s definitely feel like they’re already upon us 10 years too soon.

“He who controls the food supply, controls the people”  ~Henry Kissinger

50 Shades of Black and Blue


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.  The Napoleon Riding Cult has been charged with animal abuse in the Netherlands.