Do the ends justify the means? Well … my guess is that many of you readers are relatively well-educated and literate, so you probably had access to a good library and maybe even read a few dystopian sci-fi novels — the moral of most being that, no, the means are most definitely not justified by the ends. If you want a rigorously well-ordered society you have to oppress people. Oppressing people is morally reprehensible; the oppressed inevitably resist. The ordered society falls apart as a result of the means. Let’s all rejoice, then, in freedom and chaos; be wary of tyranny and security, and balk especially at the broad chasm of uncertainty that blackens the space between security and freedom (where most of us live today).
Ah, but this is not a blog about dystopian fiction. Or American politics. This is a blog about my pony.
When I first started riding Eli, I had plenty of leeway to ride him around as I saw fit, but I didn’t own him and didn’t realize I’d be buying him later, so I stuck to trying things that would get him to go in the job for which he had been marketed. I usually rode him in a standing martingale, once or twice in draw reins clipped to a breastplate and pretty much slack–at the wishes of the trainers, which I didn’t question (honestly still don’t). I worked primarily on trying to hack him out as a hunter–go straight, go quiet, go forward. This did not come easily for Eli (except the forward part) but I didn’t try to stuff him into a hunter mode all at once. I did as little as possible. He started to get better.
Circumstances changed drastically within a few years, and I realized I wanted total control over Eli’s fate, so I bought him. And I thought about what I wanted to do with him.
Should I keep trying to pour him into a hunter jello mold? He has the gaits and jumping form. He has a lot of other issues, most of which have now been addressed but not entirely. I’d be mushing myself into a hunter jello mold, too. The issues are not Eli’s alone, but also turn on my shortcomings as a rider. I have a certain level of confidence in my riding, though, obviously. I know I am pretty good with the young horses, and thoroughbreds, and most comfortable in the jumper ring. Eli’s personality wouldn’t present too many issues in the jumper ring, either. This could work.
I made this decision easily, and thought about it for maaayybee half a minute. But what if I hadn’t?
What if I had kept trying to get a hunter out of a horse that simply isn’t well-suited to it mentally? What battles would we have fought? How many times would he hit the standing in the corners? How would we ever figure out lead changes with that kind of pressure? What if I had tried to force my horse into a career that caused us both much more grief than joy? What would the end result have been? I cringe when I think of the adversarial and difficult relationship Eli and I could have developed had I tried to make him into what he had been marketed as. Imagine even that if we could have accomplished a way of going in the ring that would be fitting for a hunter round … at what cost to get there?
This is not to say that I have taken no missteps with Eli, because I am sure I have. But, I have the luxury of asking these questions without having to answer them. I even have the luxury now of being tempted to play in the hunter ring at schooling shows, having accomplished a few decent rounds in the jumper ring. Merely tempted–still planning on jumper classes for the foreseeable future. My horse and I can have fun because we have a harmonious and goofy relationship, built on apples, “forced” cuddling, and trust. Horses are roulette, anyway. There are no guarantees. Their lives are too short to squander on the wrong job, folded into a box of superficial compliance only to collapse. It does not matter what the end result is: it isn’t worth it.
It is not worth it.
If the time you have with horses is almost nothing but struggle, fear, acrimony, and tears, change it. If you don’t know how, get help, or walk away. Imagine how the horse feels. If you want to get thoughtful, think about why the horse resists you. No outcome justifies a broken soul, yours or the horse’s.