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Feb 14

To Shank or Not To Shank

IMG_0981I have been around the horse industry for quite a long time now … and I have watched horses being shanked in almost every environment from schooling barns to shows to private facilities.

I think it is safe to say that all of us want our horses to be relaxed and easy going in their demeanor.  The reality is that they get frightened, jacked up, angry, excited and can become quite the handful at times.  This is what a horse is … by nature … it’s a fearful, excitable creature.  Somewhere, sometime, someone made the decision that an effective way to bring this frightened, excitable creature back into a calm and happy state was to put a lead rope or chain over the cartilage of the horse’s nose … and pull violently.  Most of the time I hear the handler say things like “settle down” or “calm down” or “easy” … all things that when put together with the action seem very counter to one another.

I wonder what we would think if we got punched in the nose for getting excited or afraid.  Would this bring calm?  Would this bring you back to your happy place? Would it enhance the relationship with the one doing the punching?  Where did we get the idea that this would be good for the horse?

I believe in discipline.  I believe in physical contact … administered with appropriate pressure on the appropriate body part for the appropriate infraction.  It is more like a “bite” than a “beating” (and I’ve witnessed that too).  I understand these are very large beasts and can become dangerous at times.  I understand we want “control” of our animals for our safety and the safety of the horse.  Shanking is bullying … plain and simple.  Shanking is a fear driven response or an anger driven response not a tool for bringing  a horse into a calm and focused partnership.

There are tools we can use to calm a horse who has become difficult to handle.  The key is knowing what triggered the behavior and dealing with that first.  Eliminate the trigger … eliminate the behavior.  It sounds simple but many horseman miss this.  Resorting to predatory, abusive tactics with never get us what we want.  It will never enhance connection, relationship or partnership … and will never truly calm a horse.

If you need some of these tools, watch this site for clinics I am doing this year in your area.  Come and ask lots of questions.  Knowledge is power in dealing with horses.  Our horses will always let us know the quality of the knowledge we carry into the relationship … are we listening??

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