Did any of you see the first episode of Under the Spell of Horses on Horse and Country last night? I did and was left with a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth. It told the story of three different groups of horse people in Argentina. There was a community of Gauchos, a polo player and breeders of polo ponies, and the rubbish collecting cart horses in Buenos Aires.
I didn't agree with a lot of what the Gauchos did. When selecting wild Criollo horses, they penned them in a narrow chute and forced a bridle on them. Saying the ones that would "lead" would be the easiest to train. The poor horses were absolutely petrified. They then sent them down a really steep and slippery chute for a disinfecting bath. Way to make a horse break its leg! Later on they were at a festival and rode one of the recently rounded-up horses for the first time. The crowd just laughed as the horse bucked around in sheer terror. As for the polo pony segments - I was horrified. They wrestled a foal which was only a few months old, to the ground, and sat on the poor thing. When he got up, he looked really scared. They said that was a non-violent method. They also shoved the ponies onto a truck like a handler would a racehorse into a starting box. This was after saying they practised natural horsemanship. The "horse factory" they visited produces one thousand foals a year, but only a very few of them make the grade for polo. It (rather unsurprisingly) failed to say what happens to the rest of them. At least I was pleasantly surprised at how well looked after some of the cart horses were, and that they had a vet on hand to treat them 24/7. However, some of the injuries they sustained on the job were horrific. A horse had one of her ears cut off, and another beaten on the eye and left blinded.
Next week, it's Morocco. Hopefully we won't see anymore horse abuse.