Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

Natural horsemanship has a lot to answer for. After a cross country event the other day, I rode back to my trailer to find the two women parked next to me doing some very strange things as they loaded their horse.

One woman led the pony up the ramp quite efficiently, flicking it with the rope to stop it hesitating and then shut it inside.

Whereupon her friend shouted: 'No! Get him back off, quickly!' And she lowered the ramp, untied the pony and pushed him back down the ramp.

'He's got to choose to load, ' said the woman, who I now noticed was a little hairbrained looking. 'He's got to chooooooose to load.' A conversation then ensued between the loony woman and the sane woman in which the loony woman insisted that horses must be allowed to 'self-load' on to trailers.

The loony woman then started to lead the poor pony around in circles, waving a rope in the air and making cattle herding noises. After about the fifth circle, she ran towards the ramp and let the pony go, which was apparently the signal for the pony to choooose to load.

But you know what's coming next. The pony being a pony, and not a human being who could rationalise the future and understood he was going home and that all would soon be well, chose not to load. He chose to stop and stare at the scary gaping mouth of the trailer, then he chose to lower his head to eat the grass.

The loony woman tied him to the back of the trailer, in front of the lowered ramp, on a short lead so that he couldn't eat or do anything but stand looking up the ramp into the terrifying dark recess.

And he stood like that for the next hour.

'How long do you suppose they are going to wait for it to choooooose to load?' I asked the builder boyfriend who was busy throwing a bucket of water over Grace to wash her off.

'It's going to chooooose to stand there all night by the look of it, ' he said.

Now, under what system do you suppose that tying a horse to the back of the trailer and making him have a good think about his behaviour would be called smart, or kind, or natural? Natural horsemanship. It is a dangerous cult. The people who do it seem to think horses are human. But horses aren't human, and they get pretty confused when people treat them as if they were. …

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