In America, we have a form of punishment for criminals called “solitary confinement”. Personally, I think that such imprisonment isn’t ‘cruel and unusual punishment”. The criminals given this form of imprisonment have demonstrated that they cannot control their violent and criminal behavior even within the confines of a state penitentiary. They’re in the federal penitentiary because of behavior that is especially cruel, bestial, violent, and of course, always painful.
Say what you will about our criminal justice system, confinement in a prison is better treatment than the criminals inflicted on their victims. It’s far better treatment than that found in prisons of other countries. Prison inmates, in this country, get three meals a day. They are not forced to do hard, manual labor. Depending on the level of security, they can be released for the day in order to work a job outside the prison. They get paid for their work, inside or out. Some of them are allowed conjugal visits. They are allowed books, television, access to a lawyer, access to law libraries, can learn a trade, and are not mistreated. They share a cell with someone else. If they mind their manners and don’t commit crimes in prison, they eventually get out. The rate of recidivism is high. They just don’t seem to understand that anti-social behaviour is WRONG.
We do this to our fellow humans because they committed especially heinous crimes like rape, murder, child molestation, etc. One doesn’t go to a federal penitentiary for not paying a parking ticket. We cannot morally or ethically kill these monsters, no matter how deserving they may be, but we can keep them caged, so that they cannot commit another crime.
From what I’ve heard and read, solitary confinement is the act of confining a criminal in a cell by himself. He has no contact with other criminals. He is allowed outside his cell for an hour a day. He is fed, housed, is not mistreated, and, if he minds his manners, is released from solitary in order to go back to the ‘general population’ of the prison.
What do we call it, though, when the prisoner is an animal, which, by every law in the land, cannot be held legally liable for its behavior?
Recently, a “western equitation” trainer, Tonia, moved a string of horses into a newly renovated barn at the local boarding stable.
The barn is lovely. The stalls are well bedded, level, without drafts. But the doors are kept shut, so that a horse may not stick his head out of his stall. There are no windows in the barn.
These horses are ‘show horses’ or, I believe, being trained for ‘show’. Therefore there is no turn out for them.
It took me several instances of seeing how they are handled before I realized what I was seeing. Mind you, I imagine it for what it appears to be, as I’ve never been in jail/prison.
Tonia and her son are both Western Equitation ‘trainers’. They arrive in mid-morning, all decked out in chaps, hats, boots, spurs (spurs, because Tonia does something called “spur stop’ training, She told me once that it entails spurring the horse to STOP.).
They are the only people with horses in that specific barn. You will hear the big door open, and one of them comes out with a saddled horse.
It is heartbreaking. I’m sorry, but it’s very hard for me to see. The horse emerges from the dimly lit barn, and stops, looking in surprise at the day. You can hear it say, oh, the sun is out. It’s raining. The wind is blowing. Without exception, they stand obediently as the trainer shuts the big door, and that few seconds of seeing the world is all the time they are allowed to see, hear, smell, and feel the outside world.
The horse is led into the arena, which is semi enclosed-you can hear birds and see through the screens. That doesn’t mean the horse is ‘outside’. The horse isn’t even allowed to look around to see who else (meaning a horse) is in the arena. It’s mounted and is almost immediately put into a lope in big circles. The training session seems to consist of lope, jog, lope, jog, in both directions, then a few rein backs, a quick stop or two, and it’s done. The horse is then taken right back to the barn, even if it’s wet (which they all seem to be), stuck back in its cell I mean stall, and within a few minutes, the trainers emerge with another horse, tacked and ready to go.
This is the horse’s life, every day. If it gets a day off, that break is spent entirely inside its stall.
Not once are these horses allowed to roll in the sand, gallop without someone on their back, stand in the rain, swat flies in the sun, play with another horse. They don’t even get to stretch their legs or hang a head out into the aisle to see another horse. They are merely animated machines; living, breathing tools. They are a means to make money, or even worse, something as worthless as a cheap Chinese made buckle or a piece of ribbon.
The trainers train them in an assembly line fashion, and are so efficient that they can have a dozen horses worked and trained in three or four hours, tacking and un- included.
The horses are well fed, cared for, and housed in a very lovely, well maintained barn. Their stalls are cleaned at least daily. They appear to be groomed, if nothing else, they have boots and usually a tail bag to keep their tails clean. I know the hay is good, the grain is better, the water clean and drinkable.
Each horse is worth a lot of money. I don’t know if they stay with the trainer forever, or if they finally get to leave and go to another barn.
Their only crime is that of being a Quarter Horse or a Paint, and so are, almost without exception, docile and obedient.
If you’ve read this blog, you know that I routinely poke fun at warmbloods, Arabs, and Thoroughbreds for being so hot you have to lunge them for an hour before you dare get on them. Their names are almost synonymous with ‘crazy’, ‘spooky’, ‘too hot to handle’ but I can also say that no self respecting Warmblood/hot blood would allow this sort of treatment.
These Western Equitation show horses are kept in prison.
They’re in solitary confinement.
These gentle, obliging horses don’t even get a trial.
How can this not be considered cruelty?