When is a horse not a horse?

horsesWhen the horse is deemed an innately vicious animal, of course.

I came across this story recently. A judge in Connecticut, ruling in a case in which a horse bit a boy’s face, declared horses to be innately vicious animals. (Read more) It’s a ruling that could devastate the not inconsiderable equine community in that state. Insurance for stables would skyrocket. Children could no longer take riding lessons.

I couldn’t believe it. I grew up horse crazy and have never gotten over the sickness. As a child, I not only rode the pony at my grandmother’s farm but volunteered to spend my Saturday cleaning out the stables. I took riding lessons, loving it most when we got free time. I always took the saddle off and rode bareback. I loved jumping over low fences bareback, feeling the power of the horse gathering himself and then flying.

I also thought about the wonderful healing work done by places like Riverwood Therapeutic Riding Center, places in which horses become therapists and healers for everyone from disabled children to depressed adults. My most enjoyable CEU ever was at Riverwood, walking among horses, trying to make connection and lead them with just the power of my own self.

One of my first thoughts was, “That judge didn’t grow up with horses.” And then I realized that  I was probably more right than I knew.

For too many of us, our only experience with the natural world is what we see on television. Our conception of how animals behave comes from Walt Disney. I was in Colorado one fall during elk mating season. It was an incredible time because the elk came down from the mountains.  We pulled to the side of the road to see a heard grazing in a valley. Incredibly, one woman was walking towards the herd, calling out, “Here elky, elky.”

If you’ve never seen an elk in person, let me tell you. they are big. And in the fall when a bull elk has only one thing on his mind, you don’t want to get close to them.

When we are disconnected from nature we forget that animals are animals. Creation is neither a video game nor a Disney movie.

Horses are not innately vicious; they’re animals. One of my first lessons in my riding lessons was never to walk behind a horse. You can get kicked and get hurt. If a horse is startled or frightened the horse will act to protect himself.

Some horses, for whatever reason,  are onery or just plan mean. Just like some people. But many others have amazing spirits. Just like some people.

Wonder how that judge would characterize humans?