Unfortunately, these days those of us participating in the commercial carriage industry have to acknowledge the new attitude about animals that more than a few people ascribe to these days. I am sure if you have been in the business long enough, you have heard it all “poor horsie” followed up with: “he is thirsty, hungry, sad, lame” and/or it’s too: hot, cold, rainy, sunny, etc. You cannot win with those who ascribe to a true animal rights view of “poor horsie” syndrome, but what you can do is reach the average person with obviously conscientious operations.
So what can we as B.E.S.T. operators do? First off, understand the public’s point of view, even if you do not agree with them. Try to take what they think, see and feel into account. Imagine yourself seeing something you do not quite understand that just does not look “right” to you. Keep in mind to most people today companion animals are “fur babies”, and thus you are the “fur parent” So… if you think it would look awful to watch a child eating his cereal off the city street then it’s going to look exactly the same way to the general public when your horse does it.
When it comes to issues with animals and their well-being people are very emotionally driven. If someone even thinks they see abuse or neglect they are sure to at the very least tell someone else about it, at worst take a photo and plaster it all over the internet with their own (even if it is wrong) interpretation.
Members of B.E.S.T. are all about avoiding those kinds of conflicts. By having your image in order, you would be surprised at how much of this you can avoid.
Here are some tips:
A) Try to avoid activity that causes excessive sweating and the heavy breathing that goes with it. There is a difference between a “damp” horse sweating under the harness, and one that is dripping sweat and grabbing for air. If you can start and end your horses shift with a mostly dry horse with normal respiration you have accomplished not only setting a great example but keeping the public hand wringing at bay.
Horse sweating under harness vs horse who is sweating profusely.
B) Do not overwork your horse. This seems so obvious it does not really seem it should have to be mentioned. Yet, it does. It is very easy for horsemen and women to tell when their horse is reaching his/her limits. When that happens, tell the customer you either need to give your horse a 15 or more minute break, or stop rides altogether. Not only does overworking your horse subject him to possible sports injuries, if obvious, it really looks bad to the public. In the long run customers and those familiar with your business will both respect and appreciate your care and concern towards your horse’s well being.
C) Make sure your horse is clean, groomed, and his hooves are in good order. Nothing screams neglect as fast as a dirty, smelly, horse that is working with busted up hooves. Make sure your harness is clean, free of hay twine, and obvious signs of disrepair. See to it that your carriage is clean and not duct taped together. The overall impression someone has when they look at your turnout will affect what they assume about your horse care too. Be it bad, or be it good. Unfortunately, all one has to do is Google to see those bad examples that are everywhere.
D) Always employ the B.E.S.T. safety standards! You should always be striving for the safety of yourself and your customers but good safety practices say a lot about how much you are also concerned for your horse and his/her well being. An unattended horse is a horse at potential risk of injury. Always be right there with your equine “partner”.
E) While PDA is something people are often discouraged to do, do not be afraid to show affection to your horse! Don’t let yourself be embarrassed to be seen petting, kissing, hugging, scratching, talking to, or any other action that is your normal way of expressing your affection towards your horse(s). Don’t be embarrassed to tell him he is a “good boy” or she is a “good girl” regardless of who is in ear shot. Allowing the public to see first hand that you speaking kindly to, and about your horse goes a long way towards the concerns of those who would question your relationship with your horse.
F) Keep in mind at all times the many things you can do to accomplish a Better Equine, Safety and Turnout!
May all your horse carriage outings be happy times surrounded by pleasant people!