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Debate: Should Vegans Ride Horses?

We pick out some popular debates in the vegan world and tackle them head-on. This time we ask, if you’re vegan, should you ride horses?

If you treat a horse with respect and care, is it okay to ride?

Riding a horse does not necessary abuse or exploit that animal. Many riders love horses, and treat those animals with respect and kindness. Being vegan is about minimising suffering to other living creatures, and if riding horses does not cause the animal to suffer, then how c an it go against that basic principle?

Michelle Whitham Jones is a long-term rider. She says: “My husband and I had just decided to move from vegetarianism to veganism when we bought our horses. We believed we were very ethical horse owners because our horses were looked after very well and received a great deal of care and attention from us. Later, we acquired our rescued Mini-Shetland Ben, and nursed his sweet itch scabs with plant based remedies.

“Our horses do not have metal shoes. We ride without bits because of the harm that they could cause and because I don’t like the thought of metal bits in mouths. We have managed to find a source of vegan saddles and bridles so our horses don’t have to be dressed with leather either.

“Our horses live out in four acres all year although they can choose to use a field shelter if they need to. We still treat our horses with the upmost respect and care but we are also safe, our horses can’t choose to communicate with light kicks or bites like they do in the field with each other, we use humane training techniques which never involve whips or pain of any kind.

“My horses are healthy and together we coexist in a very pleasant, cruelty-free way. I am happy to discuss my view of veganism and I am also aware that there may be some dramatic about-turns in the future, but for now, I am a free thinking, liberated horse owning vegan, and I am fine with it.”

 

To use any animal for our own entertainment is exploitation, and therefore not vegan. Exploitation does not necessarily mean abuse, it means using someone else for your own benefit.

Jemma Crosby has been vegan for two years. After being involved in dressage for several years as a junior rider, she recently gave up the sport. She says: “When I became vegan, I stopped riding horses – in the same way I stopped eating animals and wearing wool and leather. When you become vegan, you stop exploiting animals, and that may involve giving up things you have previously enjoyed doing.

“I believe animals are not ours to use. For me to go to a riding school, and pay for the ‘use’ of on the horses for a ride meant the horse was being commodified, and someone was profiting from that horse. I don’t think the riding school owners should make money from using that horse, in the same way I don’t think a farmer, for example, should make money from selling meat.

“For me, veganism is about animal rights, and the steps some riders will take to reduce harm to the horse i.e. not using a metal bit, or a whip, are animal welfare steps. It is better than treating the animal badly, but it does not actually adhere to the vegan ideology. I accept that many riders do love horses, and do treat them well. I also believe if someone rescues an abandoned or abused horse,
it is good to give the animal a good, safe home. I’m not blinkered, and realise as long as we live in a world where people do use animals, there will always be a need to provide sanctuary.

“But I don’t believe vegans should buy into, or promote that market by ‘buying’ or ‘owning’ horses. Ultimately, using a horse for riding, you are exercising control and ownership over an autonomous, independent animal, and that goes against everything veganism is about.”

 

 

We have presented you with two sides of the argument, but what do you think?

Have your say below…

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Pat on February 13, 2018 at 12:29 am

    We don’t ride dogs, but they live a life every bit as controlled as that of a horse. They go for walks on leads, and aren’t able to go where they want to and at the speed they want to, They spend almost all of their time inside a house. A horse on the other hand, can be loose outside for long periods. My horses are confined to their boxes only when we’re expecting the hoof trimmer or vet out. The rest of the time they can go into the barn, the run-in or the greenhouse (they’ve recently taken over the greenhouse for the winter).

    So who has the worse life? Taking your horse for a walk on a lead, which I have heard some people advocate, doesn’t really give them much exercise, and they probably won’t get a lot of exercise munching their way around a field that’s just a few acres in size. I sometimes ride one of my horses, but the other two are not sound. All three horses are rescues. I have non-leather tack and riding boots.

    i spend about $1000 per month caring for my rescued companion animals. I’m tired of self-righteous vegans who condemn me for gently riding my horse. People seem to think that horses have to be beaten into submission. Nonsense. My mare is very willing and likes to get out for a snoop around the neighbourhood. We both find ringwork very boring so we don’t do that. But I do not think that I’m exploiting my horse. I think that many vegans are narrow-minded and judgmental, passing judgment without knowig the whole story.

    • Natty on March 22, 2018 at 3:45 pm

      Pat I think you’re missing the point.. you act as if you’re just gently exploiting this creature, when any amount of exploitation is wrong. I mean do you expect your children to carry you around.. if so I’d actually like to see that.. saving a creature is one thing but capturing and containing a creature is another altogether.. you’re probably the type of person who says something like: “well humans have been doing it for so long that it should be ok.” But you don’t realize that there is no world anymore where we need to depend on animals for anything.. take care of your animals don’t exploit them..

      • Lily on June 4, 2018 at 6:42 pm

        Natty – comparing Pat riding a horse to riding a child is, very obviously, comparing apples to oranges. Riding a 1000lb animal vs riding a 50 lb child – really? If you have arguments to propose, please at least let them be intelligent. I am vegan and this is an issue I am still exploring so I stumbled onto this article and unfortunately found your response.
        What is most disturbing is your immediate judgement of Pat. THIS is what is keeping people from being vegan. You cannot propose to help change people’s understanding of a situation by judging them. Please consider how you sound. I too want the whole world to be vegan but your way is going to do just the opposite.

  2. Omar on June 20, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    I completely agree with Pat and Lily. Riding a horse is not exploitation at all. It can’t be compared to riding children. For horses exploitation means horse racing, or a life where all they every do is be ridden or stay in a barn. But surely the conditions described in the article and by Pat are those of a healthy partnership between horse and human.
    Pat, well done for your love of these rescued horses and for the time and energy you spend with them. This is true love of animals and has nothing to do with exploitation in my opinion.

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