Training, torture – synonymous, right?

I’m sure many of you have already seen this photo floating around facebook, but do you know the story behind it?

This photo comes from a Hackney Stud in South Africa where their grasp of the concept of training has clearly been confused with that of torture.

Apparently the genius’s that thought this one up feel this “method” will help build those attractive neck muscles that we all love so much – you know, the ones that are typically the byproduct of proper training and self-carriage.

These people were investigated by the Highveld Horse Care Unit (HHCU) where the inspectors found out from employees that the horses stand tied up like this for two hours at a time, repeated throughout the day.  Unfortunately the article posted on HHCU’s website was pretty scint on details so we have no idea if anything is going to happen to this Stud, or if the horses are going to be saved or what have you.  There are a number of discussions taking place on different forums about this, however, so if you want to hear what others have to say, check out Horse Grooming Supplies Forum and/or Horse Forum.  Or, if you feel so inclined, there’s an online petition to the South African government to stop this assholery.

Even body builders will tell you that you don’t hold a pose for two hours!  Come on people!  Anyone who’s ever been to a gym or done a workout in their lifetime knows that you do reps, not just grab and hold.  The repetition is what contributes to building muscle.  The kind of muscle that torturous methods such as this build are bracing and of no practical use.  This is done for aesthetics, pure and simple.  These horses are going to break down at a younger age than those with proper training and muscling.  It’s a sad statement on the way the horse industry is, worldwide, that it’s more important to have a “pretty pony” than a working horse that will last you a long time.  Do these people, the buyers of these abused horses, not consider the fact that they’ll get more bang for their buck from a horse that will perform for 10 years, as opposed to 2.  And make no mistake, this is abuse.

This also raises another issue, are horses so indispensable that people will buy them, use them for 2 years and then throw them away?  Oh wait, we already know the answer to that one, don’t we?  The racing and futurities industries are prime examples.  You know, they say that different cultures have different values and it can be hard to understand their points of view, traditions, way of thinking, etc.  And yet, apparently the devaluing of animal life is ubiquitous.  Hooray, we all have something in common.  Wanna hug it out?

For anyone daring to question the harshness of these abominable “methods”, just taking a look at the photo.  You can practically see the veins pulsating from the horse’s shoulder.  For anyone who’s ever watched an episode of House, Grey’s Anatomy, Doogie Houser – even Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman knew that this was indicative of an elevated heart rate.  Since we know the horse didn’t just run a freaking marathon, I think we can safely conclude that the horse’s heart rate is elevated due to pain – possibly from the unforgiving twine forcing so much pressure on the poor horse’s jaw it looks like it might snap off at any second.  Can you imagine how much damage that can, and likely is, doing to the horse’s musculoskeletal structure?  For anyone who’s ever had a chiropractor (or any medical professional along those lines) out for their horse, you know that one of the first things they check is the temporomandibular joint.  If there’s something out of alignment in this joint, it can cause pain issues exacerbated by flexion at the poll – hmmm and how exactly were these Hackney’s supposed to be traveling?  Could it be: flexed at the poll?! How willing (able) do you think they’ll be to trot out in the proper headset, featuring those neck muscles those jackasses tortured them to get?

Anyone else recall one of the issues surrounding rollkur?  The fact that the extreme overbent position compromised the horse’s ability to inhale sufficient air? (Check out Sustainable Dressage’s article for more info on why/how this affects the horse’s ability to, umm, breathe.)

Look familiar?

Once again, horse abuse proves to be completely senseless.  Good job humanity, you really know how to make a girl proud to be a part of the species.  Bra-fucking-vo.


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Posted on February 29, 2012, in horse and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. OMG. SO HORRIBLE!!!!!!

    Besides the obvious overbending (poor baby is resting his head on the wall to relieve some pressure), LOOK how his flanks are sucked in (dehydrated) and the rub mark up by his hipbone. This horse is so incredibly miserable and broken looking.


  2. Wow, that is gross and sad.
    (head desk)

  3. You are correct that it’s not happening in just backward company. I once peeked behind the stall curtains at our state’s state fair into the stall of a Modern Shetland getting ready for competition. He was stood up on a sheet of plywood, held in a stretched out as far as he could stretch position, a strap around each ankle secured him to the plywood by an eyebolt in in all 4 corners. In addition to being held in this pose, he had a harness on which held his head up and it was connected to his tail so it looked as if his head was being pulled back to his tail. (This was not, the same type of tail set harness used by Saddlebreds to keep their tails up.) There the poor creature stood – trussed up like a chicken – and stretched out as far as he could be stretched. I have seen plenty of WP horses strung up to the ceiling all night before their classes with heavy work saddles on their backs, so they will carry their heads low for their classes, but I never saw one practically “put on the rack”. If that wasn’t bad enough, he was also blind folded. The idea being just before his class, the hood was taken off, dialation drops put in his eyes, so he’d have that ” surprised” look in his eyes as he entered the ring. And, there was noone in his stall owner in sight. The poor thing was strung out, couldn’t move anything but his ears, blindfolded, and left all alone. MY own horse would have blown a gasket and turned himself inside out to get free of that contraption. What must have been going thru that poor pony’s head? His neck and back surely were in great pain and I have no idea how that would make him look better in the show ring.

  4. Oh, oh no. I’m so ashamed that humans can come up with such torture. I feel quite ill. Someone cut that fucking twine NOW. Please.

  5. Can I please have someone to sponsor me so I can fly over there & tie the owners and trainers mouths open. I am thinking some nice soft bailing twine wraped around their lower jaw tied under their arm pits and maybe eved a little weight added to it for good measure. Then I will take a bull whip and make them run a mile or so while tied like this. If they resist I flick them with it, or if they stop…where is my cattle prod? They must also lift their knees high and stick out their chest because that make them look proud and fancy.

    This is just so unbelievebly cruel! I am certain these idiots wonder why this horse is so afraid or stubborn or mean when they work with him. Everytime I think I have seen it all…something like this happens. Heaven forbid they actually take the time to work a horse properly. Sometimes, I am ashamed to be a part of humanity…this is one of those times..

  6. I’ve heard horror stories like these at QH nationals too, like the whole rubbing alcohol injected at the doc of the tail to dumb the nerves so the horse can’t lift it’s tail, and bleeding out high strung horses juuuuuuuuust enough to calm them down. so not right, I feel awful for this poor animal, he is drawn in, can’t drink in that position, and he’s also probably fighting that piece of rope AND probably pacing because of the pain and lack of getting out of that concrete box so that could also be the rub mark on his hip. Poor poor horse. I wish there was a way to pay this back to the ‘trainer’

  7. Good Lord, Spots… that poor pony!!! >:-(

  8. Do you have the name of the stable where this took place? I would have no problem emailing them, and, in fact, I think an email campaign would be justified. It wouldn’t hurt for the abuser to know that the world’s eyes are on them.

    Also, I wonder if the person who took the picture sent it to their local humane society.

    I can only hope they caused an uproar.

  9. To those that think that’s pretty…it’s not, when I look at that I see discomfort and pain, I’m sure it’s humiliating to the horse to have all these people clapping for the at shows when their like THIS HURTS!! why are you clapping?!
    Poor beautiful creatures

  10. The simple fact that he’s pressing his head against the wall is enough to tell you that the pressure is so harsh. He looks like he’s trying to relieve the pain by pushing his head even farther back by bracing against the wall. Poor baby…

  11. Absolutely disgusting!

    People who take part in horrible training practices should be called out immediately and repetitively. Whether at a show ring, warm up ring, in a stall or on the trail, we must be relentless in our efforts to let these trainers, riders, breed registries, judges, show stewards and the public know it is NOT OK to treat animals inhumanely. I have stepped up and opened my mouth several times when I’ve seen horses living in squalor, way too thin, and physically abused and will continue to do so.

    If we don’t, who will?

  12. Sorry, I can’t edit my first comment, but after writing it, I did re-read and I see that there WAS a report made.

    I hope there are serious repercussions.

  13. Good God. Look at the scar on the lower jaw.

  14. There are no words for this cruelty. Here is an update (just posted today, not sure what time) on the highland horse care website.

    It looks like the cruel treatment goes beyond the torturous “training” devices. I hope that the owners are prosecuted swiftly and justice is served.

  15. This reminds me of an exhibition I went to some time ago, where they had the torture instruments used by the Inquisition on display. There are quite a few I wouldn’t mind using on whoever invented this “training method”.

  16. Looks like the place is a run down death trap as well. Hopefully those valuable horses of a gorgeous breed will be rescued, rehabilitated and sent somewhere they can be useful.

    (And don’t get me started on rollkeur. Another thing I always like to point out is that *I* rather like my horse to be able to *see where it is going*).

    • Actually, I learned something very interesting about a horse’s sight at a Bill Richey De-Spooking Clinic last month – that horse in the rollkur picture CAN see where it’s going, but only up to 18 inches in front of it.

      The top third of the eye can only focus on objects up to 18 inches away, the middle third can only focus on objects 18 inches to about (I think) 5 feet away and the bottom third can only focus on things further than 5 feet away.

      I’m still against the use of rollkur, but there are stronger reasons against it than sight.

      • See, I don’t call that ‘seeing where it’s going’. And yes, there are…many, many reasons why I would never rollkeur a horse. But I find people *understand* ‘that horse can’t see where it’s going’ more than ‘that horse is going to need a chiropractor’ because they can look at the picture and see the problem.


  17. I don’t even know what to say. Holy shit. Makes me sick just thinking about it.

    When I got to the bottom and saw the comparison, part of me wondered how many people who practice rollkur saw this, felt terrible for the horse, then saw the comparision (I don’t know if there would be many reading this blog who would practice rollkur…but still) and felt a pit in their stomach.

    Back to the torture, I just want to take that poor boy out of there and feed him yummy mash and tell him no one will ever hurt him again. Look at his face.

  18. Horrible what the equine must endure for the greed of the human wanting money.

  19. News update:

    I’m from South Africa, so get the updates via the grapevine. I do think the 3 week period inbetween now and the “emergency” hearing to very long to wait, but at least something is being done about this. With any luck, this so-called stud/horse training facility will be closed and the ponies will go to lovely homes that they deserve.

  20. This type of “training” is alive & well here too. Unfortunately, I had 2 of my horses injured by someone who thinks like this. i am in the process of trying to take him down.

  21. All I can do is pray that the Karma bus runs over these Asshats, backs up, and runs over them again.

  22. Clearly the horse trainers ( if you would call them that ) in South Africa haven’t a clue on how to train horses. Just as in humans, you want to build confidence and respect. Not torture and breaking down.

  23. Stand up for the welfare of the horse… always. If you see something wrong at an event, at a place..anywhere… take it to authorities asap!

  24. so sad, really feel for that horse. How would they like to b tied like that, day after day, night after night. Dont think they would like it.

  25. I have two friends here in the states where their horses were injured having the same thing done. (1.) Flipped over and left and big ugly indent in it’s spine which could not be corrected. ( 2.) Started pawing, put his leg between the slats in the stall boards and completely degloved it’s leg from the knee down. Both careers were over before they even got a chance to start. Neither owner was aware that this is what the “trainers” did to horses until after the damage was done. And, if you want to feel what having your head tied down feels like, just put your chin on your chest and leave it there for a few minutes. It isn’t long until the muscles in the back of your neck are screaming. Just tying the hair of a little girl to a rope strung over a rafter until she’s standing on her toes, does not make her a ballerina. It takes years of muscle training for her to be able to do herself.

    • And that’s the key factor. It does take a long time to do it right. These so-called trainers want the horse in the show ring and performing at national level…yesterday.

      Bo FINALLY demonstrated impulsion yesterday, and it’s taken months. And I’m not talking anything fancy here, just him starting to get both the concept and the physical development to lift through his shoulder. Yup. Months. Even though he’s level or even slightly uphill. (Grah. I got off him and on this ‘retired hunter’ who has to be five inches downhill. He felt even more downhill than ever. Ugh. Nice horse…sweet temperament, lots of try, forward going attitude, but really hampered by his conformation. I can only think he won hunter classes based off of his jump, not his flat work…he DOES have a nice jump on him).

  26. I guess we have to stop expecting these “wonderful” poses and judging them highly on it in order for it to stop. So, everybody do the right thing and let animals be just that and not our torture toys.

  27. I keep this on one of my computer “stickies”:
    “A horse ‘held in shape’ by his rider is only posturing in a seemingly correct form, usually for the benefit of inexperienced observers.”
    ~Charles de Kunffy

    There’s the whole damn crux of the matter, whether we’re talking rolkur, Western Pleasure (Arab, saddlebred or stock breed), saddleseat, charro “dancing horses,” TWH soring….

    People are not interested in educating themselves or their horses. They are interested in a quick buck and imagined glory.

    Here’s what it SHOULD be all about:!9KO3ozSZERlqWWl4ctmQUKtVMQ–/article?mid=3318&prev=3319&l=f&fid=18


  28. At Mary Olson: That’s a gross generalisation. As a responsible South African horse owner who knows many people who train and keep their horses humanely and with the horse’s best interests in mind, I could take exception. But I won’t. Instead I just want to point out that this and other American blogs often feature cruelty to horses in America, but nobody concludes that all American trainers are cruel or bad.




  30. Jenny Gustafsson

    It’s not okey

  31. Va fan tänker dom med i Afrika? Asså de är ju DJUR PLÅGERI!!!!!!!!!!! Man kan ju faktiskt träna så att hästen går ner på tygel endån.:) min häst går bara ner på tygel om man nu övertalar han!!! Man måste de! Asså man kan ju faktiskt anmäla de till polisen dom kan ta hand om hästen eller hästarna som blir så plågade.:)<3 jag ska faktiskit göra de om jag ser en son bild till.:( synd om hästen….!!!!!:)<3 puss

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