Thursday, 30 April 2015

AQHA’s lip chain rule

Glad to see AQHA committee members consulted with animal welfare, vet, and professionals in their decision to eliminate lip chains. So this is how the evidence weighs in to me…
  1.  Artificial aids work “humanely” when they provide a pressure and release system, logical to the horse.
  2. To be effective, that pressure must be enough to motivate that horse in that environment. Prey animals, despite training, can do things we don’t expect in an unfamiliar territory – especially stallions, so driven by their hormones. When you don’t have your tools available in the moment, you miss a training opportunity or worse. However…
  3. The timing of the handler must be sophisticated enough to deliver the right intensity and timing of that pressure. While many handlers are highly skilled, others are…not. Too much pressure or constant pressure – I’ve got to admit, I was uneasy with the idea of lip chains allowed for mares, geldings, youth or amateurs.
  4. The general public evaluates the industry on what they see from the bleachers. As exhibitors, we’re ambassadors for our industry. Perception is everything.  

So every discipline has its gut level criticism – maybe throwing the baby out with the bathwater (I hate that expression) in eliminating practices on the basis or potential abuse or perception versus their intrinsic cruelty. A measured response, based on evidence – let cooler heads prevail!

Monday, 6 April 2015

Let the record show…and Easter.

It’s easier to check up on claims of “success stories” these days. Show records are readily available and information abounds through a simple web search. AQHA, for instance, provides detailed records of the show ring performance of horses and riders. It’s now easier to “look before you leap” into that horse purchase or new coach alliance.

Skeptical by nature, that’s the way I came to stand upon the Christian faith – compelling evidence. The Easter story is one of a Jewish teacher who made startling claims and then backed it with miracles, predictions which came true and coming to life from death.

“If a man can predict his own death and resurrection, and pull it off, I just go with whatever that man says.” Author, pastor Andy Stanley

Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. C.S.Lewis

For me, it was not really a leap of faith at all – but rather, walking the ramp of reason before I took took the final step of faith.

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Bit evasions and Good Friday.

This week I saw a horse who’d had enough. He just took the bit between his teeth, locked his jaw and trotted off on a tangent out of the circle, toward the gate. The rider tugged away but the horse’s neck and determination were set like stone. This riding lesson was over, as far as he was concerned!

 A horse will evade the bit itself or the bit operator. In either case, he’s tried a few options to find relief from the pressure and none seem to shut it off. My job as the bit operator is to precisely time my release to the behaviour I’m after – a shortened stride, lateral flexion or lowered neck. And I need to select a bit that will provide relief when the horse responds – no pressure felt by my horse when no pressure is applied.

 Bit evasions take various forms: raising the head above the bit or curling behind it. Chomping on the bit, rolling the tongue. Research on bit position, bit, and tongue movement has opened my eyes in recent years, to make me a wiser bit consumer and bit operator.

Funny how “clenching the bit” or “stiff necked” are idioms we use for steely determination.

So what’s this got to do with Good Friday? I’m glad for Christ’s steely determination – He had a life purpose, one that involved unimaginable suffering, and He didn’t turn back.

I’ve been reading the historical accounts as we approach Easter. What floors me is that Christ’s determination wasn’t to evade pressure, but to take it in my place.
  • Jesus took the twelve disciples aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. Luke 18:3
  • As the time drew near… Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Luke 9:51
And this, written 600 years before Christ, foretelling His sacrifice: 
  •  I offered my back to those who beat me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard.
    I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting… 
         Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do the Lord’s will. Isaiah 50