Being a dick for abusing horses is worse than being a dick for pointing it out. Stand up against animal cruelty.
Violence isn’t the answer
..unless the victim doesn’t speak up of course. And when he does, we make him shut up with even more violence. And this is what kids are taught. Not cool.
We’re all horse lovers until we become equestrians: Kids are desensitized to using force and punishment on animals, and slowly learn to mute that little voice that tells them it isn’t okay.
After that has happened and the kid has grown up, it is pretty much too late because by now.. that person gets reinforced every time a horse responds to aversive pressure.
If others try to make this person listen to that little voice again, she starts kicking and screaming due to that oh so powerful cognitive dissonance. And because deep down, she knows she’s wrong.
Shit runs downhill, so if our esteemed dressage rider and show jumpers are accepted with such bad practices, what can we expect for private horse owners?
‘Blood is cruel, unless..’
‘No blood, no problem.’
‘The Pony Club Kick’
‘That Will Shut You Up’
‘Totilas VS Undercover’
“Horses come towards us, into our imaginary personal space, with their head or feet or body for a number of reasons. This is often a real safety problem for owners, or for people who handle the horse for them.
Horses can come too close to people..
1) Because we are new and they are curious to investigate us. Horses investigate with their eyes and nose and mouth (and for things underfoot with their feet)..
..2) Because they want to initiate play..
..3) Because we have on us something the horse wants (food) and his behaviour of coming towards us has been reinforced by the gain of that resource..
..4) Because we have the means to provide something or do something for the horse that he wants us to do and he needs to be close to us for us to do that.”
Now, before you start yelling at me: I am sure you were quite happy with the twitch in that emergency you had with your horse once. It might be necessary as an ABSOLUTE last resort. I’m just pretty sure most people don’t know that you’re supposed to look for alternatives before you head for that last resort. Let’s be honest, people seem to just twitch for anything the horse might resist, without even thinking they might be able to train. Clipping, mane pulling (yes, just substitute one pain for another), shoeing, mane plaiting…
When it comes to twitching horses, it seems little is known, a lot of assumed and common sense is ignored altogether. The most probable theory is that the pressure on one of the most sensitive parts of the horse causes the horse to release endorphins.
Endorphins get released in numerous situations. Exercise, sex, eating spicey food, eating comfort food, eating ginseng, love, having a laugh, sunbathing, smiling, sudden rushes of adrenaline and -oh!- severe pain. Now, unless you feed curry to your horse right before using a twitch, I’d say pain is what causes the release of endorphins. Not right away, mind you! It takes several moments for the numbness to kick in. Think of stubbing your pinky toe. It has to hurt before the painkillers start working. “The twitch is believed to work through the mediation of beta-endorphins, but there is little doubt that it works because it involves pain (webster 1994). The heart rate of horses when twitched undergoes a transient increase (Morris, 1988) before returning to baseline values. ”
We asked a pain expert what she thought. Here is what she said:
“My thoughts are that subjecting an animal to targeted acute pain will promote the release of a bunch of chemicals/ neurotransmitters. This would be very distracting as it is so aversive, and the animal would protectively immobilise itself in order to avoid more intense pain/ damage (a bit like an animal in a trap). Theoretically these pain chemicals could spread through the body & affect the “pain gate” & would help reduce pain in other areas of the body.”
Most studies seemed to measure the stress the horse was experiencing by looking for stress indicators on the outside , but a study with donkeys and another study with several stallions and geldings (horses) revealed cortisol levels were increasing (more than endorphins!). The animal is in a state of behavioural suppression.
Head shyness and fleeing reactions to seeing a twitch a second time also indicate a negative association with the tool. Stereotypies also release endorphins, so should we just keep horses locked up in solitary, barren environment? It helps reduce suffering but there must be suffering to start with. Animals (and humans) develop tolerance to opiods including morphine, so need increasingly high doses to have an effect. And horses with stereotypies tend to release endorphins by performing the behaviours.. and twitches are less effective with them. So we can tentatively conclude that horses develop tolerance to their own endogenous opiods, needing more in order to get the same effect… so over time, a twitch will become less effective if used regularly. It is also often advised to not use twitches for longer than 12-15 minutes since, in many cases, the effectiveness of the twitch tends to wane after this period, possibly because of neurotransmitter depletion at the level of synapses in the opioid pathways. In addition, there are reports of horses suddenly striking with their forelegs during twitching.
Sources on twitching
-The effectiveness of the twitch in donkeys
– Responses of cortisol and prolactin to sexual excitement and stress in stallions and geldings.
– Preliminary studies on the use of plasma β-endorphin in horses as an indicator of stress and pain
– Equitation Science – Paul McGreevy,Andrew McLean *
– The Encyclopedia of Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare
– The Horse: With a Treatise on Draught (1831)
* Fed up Fred does not support, promote or endorse Equitation Science training techniques
Sources on pain