03 October, 2007

Is horseback riding vegan?

The simple answer: no, it isn't. No leeway, ifs or buts. Unlike some, I really do not believe that it is a gray area.

To use any animal for our amusement is exploitation, and hence, not vegan. Others would likely argue that horses do, in fact, gain pleasure from the activity. However, do you see horses queuing up to be rode, yelling "Pick me! Pick me!"? No, of course not.

Would you enjoy carrying personnel on your back at various speeds whenever said personnel felt like it? Would you like to be periodically locked up? Would you like to be "broken in" during the early stages? I'm guessing no. Moreover, as to any "bond" that exists between the human and the horse - an apparent bond also exists between dogs and dog fighters.

And, to the welfarist line, whether the horse is treated fairly/kindly/companionably ("happy horse riding!") whilst being ridden is utterly irrelevant as he or she is still used. Period. That is, the defining characteristic of veganism is that we do not believe that animals should be considered property, and therefore we respect their needs and wants that demand that we do not exploit them.


  1. Excellent answer.

    Let's say, for argument, the horse does like to be ridden. What will happen when he or she gets tired? All animals sooner or later suffer from fatigue. And if you're 15 miles from the stable, guess who was to walk the 15 miles back? The horse, with you on its back.

    Even this is a moot point since we never can have a horse's consent anyways.

  2. This has been up for debate among vegans, usually with hypothetical circumstances, but debated nonetheless. I don't condone it, but I'd like to point out that for some people this isn't a black and white issue and some vegans, under certain circumstances, don't view it as particularly un-vegan.

    1. some who like to say they are vegan partake in honey. that is not what a vegan. they don't eat wear use any species for anything

  3. Dino-
    Hi, I'm Meg. I'm 17/f & have been a vegan for almost a year now. I heard about the site on VF & would love if I could be an author. I have a ton of annoying omni friends so I guess I'm a good reference for questions that omnis tend to ask. e-mail: flying_feels_like@yahoo.com

  4. Last year I bought a beautiful mare that I intended to ride in the dressage discipline. When I first met her at the training stable , I could see her wild, independent spirit. Within weeks she started leaving her body, gazing into the distance and started to disconnect. Even in the least aggressive form of dressage...whips and spurs are still standard practice. I couldn't do it. It broke my heart. Because of her...I bought a small farm in Sonoma County and brought her home. She's free. She spends her time with the other farm animals that have been rescued. She babysits two baby goats during the day. Shakes fruit from the pear and apple trees for all of them to share, and runs free. We are closer now than ever before. She is my friend, and I don't use her anymore.

    1. Janet,
      I am so warmed by your comments here. I am a new horse owner (although in my late 50s) and vegetarian, aiming more toward vegan. I bought an off-the-track Thoroughbred -- he's only six years old and, like many, has an issue with stifles, but is otherwise very healthy. He has a playful, cheeky, but very sweet personality and I had planned to do very light dressage with him, if he could be trained, but only W/T/C -- nothing that would further damage his stifles. I talked with the vet, the stable owner and several others about not riding him much at all, as he is on 24/7 turnout with our other retired Hanoverian (whom we adopted, a retired hunter/jumper with some arthritis and likely damage from jumping too much in the past). I have been thinking more and more about this issue of not riding much. Since both horses were moved to the private farm, where they have 12 acres to run free (wooded and open, with streams, too), they have been so happy. The Hanoverian no longer has temperamental issues that we saw in the riding stables) and trots over when he sees us, lowering his head for the halter. The reason, we just 'ground walk' him, bathe him, take him to clover patches (outside the paddock) groom and give him lots of TLC. He's one happy horse now. When I arrive, he 'whinnies loudly' to me. The young thoroughbred is on a nutrient supplement (natural) and I have only ridden him at a walk or slow trot) or on very short local trails for no more than 25 minutes. However, I know he's much happier when we just 'ground walk' him, as he gets enough exercise on the farm and has good company with other Arabians, as well as the Hanoverian.
      This issue is really pressing on my mind at present, and -- like many -- I am seeking input from others who are educated, humane and feel the same way. The stable owner is an endurance rider, and does not see things the same way. I am considering all options, but I honestly feel that the thoroughbred should not be ridden much. I actually feel guilty when I put the dressage saddle on him and ride him. My entire mind-set is changing. In youth, one wants to canter and gallop, or jump. However, I see how many horses have joint problems, most of them caused by humans. Point in fact.
      So, to arrive at the stables and find both horses running up to see us, wanting to be with us, and enjoying our company is a life-changing event. I wish I had my own farm with 20 acres, but alas I do not. While I enjoy riding, I do not feel the happiness I used to in the saddle, knowing that the horse is sweating beneath the saddle pad and does not need me on his back. I don't mind just walking him under saddle to give him a good workout, when it's slow and on a cool day. My joy, at this age, is just to be with my horses, caring for them, and seeing them run free in the paddocks.
      I would love to hear back from you with a little more information on your horse(s). I am only a very amateur rider; I enjoy riding, but the humane issue is now taking over from that enjoyment.
      A friend (also very humane) said to me recently, "We don't have to ride, caring for a horse can be like caring for a large dog -- that is, one that is well cared for -- and doing the best for it, but not riding.
      I am concerned about the horses being a little bored. We can't offer as much room to run (that is the 25 or more miles they may normally travel in a day in the wild), but with enough acreage, and good grazing, plus visits to play with them, should they not be happy enough? You are so fortunate to be able to keep your horse(s) on your own property.
      I would love to hear further from you on this subject, if/when you have time.
      Please respond to: reginaldcorvus@yahoo.com
      With many thanks, and blessings to you and your animals.
      The goats are a great idea too.

  5. That's a lovely story Janet- I'm glad she has a happy home now :) If only more people were like you!

  6. What if after riding the horse you have the let the horse ride you? :-)

    Yes, I'm being facetious.

  7. ok im sorry people who think using whips and spurs on a horse is a form of abuse is rediculous! i have been in love with horses ever since i could remeber! i have a bond with horses that most people dont have. I do not beat or force my horses into doing what i want them to do but to ask them politely with patience and consistancy they will understand. step by step with a praise and reward they learn soo nicely. and sometimes some horses need a little encouragment with the spur or a whip. these items are not ment to use for forcment or any harm but for enforcement. everyhorse is different. and different horses need different things when training. so i think you PETA should understand that its not spurs or whips that do harm but the people who dont know how to use them..

    1. Having a “special bond with a horse” is probably a lie. Everyone wants to/can have a special bond with his or her horse, or along with most other horses; but it’s not possible to have a ‘special bond with ALL/MOST horses' in general. Yes, horses are more than just horses. They are companions, friends, and family. If you say you use patience, I’d expect you to never have to use a whip or spur on a horse; and you just admitted you did. Whips and Spurs are what hurt the horse and make them think “Better obey, don’t want to get hit or have spurs smash into my sides.” Even the mention of using one for any reason is wrong. I ride my horses bareback to avoid hurting their back with a comfortable cotton stuffed pad that makes it easy to bare my 115 pounds. I have not one ever used a whip or spur on my horses, I don’t even own any. If my horse does not want to go through a gate, I simply climb off and lead them through after showing them that it’s okay.
      You admitted you used a whip or spur sometimes for “encouragement”, it’s NOT encouragement. If you put one part of a whip or spur on a horse you’re abusing them to force them to go do something that YOU, as the rider, want. Your “encouragement” and “bond” are false truths to cover up the fact you still force a horse to do what they don’t want to do.

      "Encouragement my ass." as some would say.

    2. You obviously have no idea what you're talking about, Snow, and it doesn't sound like you know anywhere near as much about horses as you think you do.

      Spurs and whips are not a punishment. They are an extension of the body- nothing more. I can use my hand to hit, and I can use my hand to pet. The same principle applies to whips and spurs. Can they be used improperly? Yes. Does that mean the use of them is abusive? No more than petting a horse is.

      If I tap (and when I say tap, I mean tap, soft enough a baby wouldn't mind it) my horse to ask him to do something, how is that abusive? All I'm doing is asking him something.

    3. I hope that's a joke. A hand can be used to pet or hit, yes. I'm trying to think of anything you can do to a horse with a whip that is non abusive or pain causing. Silly argument. Are you brushing the horse with the whip? Maybe whipping him/her an apple off a tree?

  8. This is a subject that i have just recently thought about looking into.

    I have been riding since i was 8 and i am 18 now. I have my own horses and have been vegetarian since i was 12. Last year i decided to become a vegan due to ethical reasons.

    I can understand how people can see it as exploitation of animals but lets put it this way..
    People are no going to stoop riding horses and so i feel it a waste of time trying to change them. I feel that it is more worth while to concentrate on meat, dairy, egg, leather, fur, wool production.

    In my opinion i have a bond with my horse, we understand each other. She is well fed, wormed, feet and teeth taken care of, had clean living conditions. What more could they want? She has a fairly natural life, goes out in the field everyday, eats naturally. She enjoys being ridden, her face lights up when she goes for rides on the forest.

    To be honest horses are my life and so are my beliefs. I do all i can to eliminate animal cruelty in my life. Horse riding is not A worrying concern, i believe i am doing no harm!

  9. It's so adorable when people use "belief" as a basis for an ethical stance. We're not discussing an imaginary guy in the sky, fuckfaces. This is ethics. Meanwhile, just because a child doesn't object to being molested doesn't make it right. Similarly, just because the horse is not objecting to the only fucking exercise he's allowed, doesn't mean he enjoys having your ugly behind riding his back. Let's pretend that you're not the fucking centre of the universe and get some fucking perspective for a fucking change.

  10. @ Person who is "in love" with horses: You go back to fucking horses just like Peter Singer, and the rest of us will go back to being ethically consistent. Kthx.

  11. Hose owners feed, shelter, often clothe, pay vets, farriers, dentists, ect. All this adds up to thousands of dollars a year. I would love to work an hour or two a day and have all my needs and wants taken care of.

    Those of you that say its "using" how much do you know?

    1. "I would love to work an hour or two a day and have all my needs and wants taken care of."

      None of the horses needs or wants are being taken care of. A wild horse doesn't need shelter, a dentist or a farrier.

  12. I am an ex-"horse lover" and now a horse respecter. After many arguments I finally agree that horses have always been my slave and forced to be my friend! The bond and special closeness we shared doesn't stop the fact that I owned him and he did whatever I wanted him to including his social life.
    Question: If I rescued a horse or had to care for my old horse for the rest of his days, how would it be unethical to ride him for his exercise. I have a Siberian husky who I bought from a breeder. I now know this was wrong, but I continue to give her my best care and she is walked regularly. I see riding a horse as providing exercise. It would be cruel to keep a rescued (not bought) horse in a stable or a small paddock without getting regular exercise by trotting and running. I cannot keep up on a leash so the best way is on his back. Help me out. Any ideas?

    1. A horse will get plenty of exercise just by being kept in a large paddock. They don't need to gallop.

  13. "Hose owners feed, shelter, often clothe, pay vets, farriers, dentists, ect. All this adds up to thousands of dollars a year. I would love to work an hour or two a day and have all my needs and wants taken care of."

    The very same argument was used by African slaveholders to justify slavery. They argued that because slaves were fed, clothed, sheltered and treated medically their situation was favorable and they enjoyed bondage. Of course, this did not excuse the fact that they were slaves denied the basic rights of freedom and self-determination.

  14. It is because many people ride horses that there is not as great a problem with horses who are bred for racing being killed if they are not fast enough as there is for greyhounds. The domestication of horses changed them in a fundamental way. Like dogs they do enjoy the company of humans and I have known horses that obviously enjoyed being ridden. What I'm saying here is that the enjoyment of riding horses keeps many horses housed and fed. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. While it would be best for horses not to be domesticated for human entertainment (see eight belles last week at the Kentucky derby) horses who are well taken care of by humans for selfish reasons are still better than dead horses.

    1. If no one rode horses there would be no horses bred. That means there would be no horses killed.

  15. HAHAHAHA oh my word... this stuff cracks me up... I ride horses, all the time.

    Are my horses always happy about it? not really. but they like having a job to do. I go out and run around the field with them too. and we play.

    have any of you ever seen horses in the wild?!
    there is a leader. and they listen to her. she says run, they run.

    they don't care. MOST horse owners care for their animals better then themselves. the horse gets exercise whenever they are in the field, being ridden or not.

    have you ever had a really fat friend? lol did they want to go excersize? NO but when someone encouraged, heck even forced they did, they became happier because they became healthier.

    and for the most part we find the jobs that the horse obviously loves. and we stick to that.
    I have a horse that loves contesting and another that loves jumping.

    get off your soap box people and start talking about things you actually know anything about. because you are proving your ignorance with this one.

  16. Happy Riding Horses Are Still Slaves.

    Horses belong in the wild. Domesticated horses should be lovingly cared for the rest of their living days and prevented from further breeding into the horse industry. Domestic horses should not exist. Millions of unwanted horses are slaughtered. Many horses experience abuse and neglect from their owners. Taking good care of a horse is no justification for ownership. Horses, like all other animals should belong to themselves, experience self determination by finding their own food, travelling where and when they want to, choosing their own herd and mate and being free. None of this is possible under house arrest in a paddock or stable. Slave horses must do everything their master requests of them -go left, stop, run, sleep, wake, eat now, do this, do that. No matter how happy they are, they are not free. They cannot see their mother if they want to, nor their children, or visit a stream, or leave their enclosement at anytime they choose to.

    Adding to this, it is immoral that we humans have altered their biological make-up to suit our egotistical desires and fetishes. The true original horse from which all domestic horses derived from today is the Mongolian horse who is now on the brink of extinction. We have mutated this beautiful wild animal's DNA through forced breeding to cause them to be docile and submissive, larger, stronger, cuter, colourful, faster and whatever else we wanted them to serve us for. If horses really wanted to be with us, we should ask the non-adulterated, non-mentally conditioned wild Mongolian horse to come with us and leave his family and his wild home so that we may ride on his back and kick him around.

    I used to be a "horse lover", but now I am a horse respecter". I spent all my non-school hours playing with my horses and riding them in the rocky desert hills until after dark. The horses were my love and my life. Then when my new partner explained to me that my beloved horse was my slave, I argued back angrily that we humans share a natural symbiotic relationship with animals and share a mutual benefit and friendship. Jeff explained that the benefit is not mutual, as in nature, because the horses does not need us to survive. Nor do we need them to survive. The definition of a symbiotic relationship is a scientific one where two species depend on each other to survive. In other words, one species could not live without the other one. Horses do not need us at all. Our use of horses is purely for our benefit, pleasure, companionship, sport, amusement, profit, and gambling addiction. When free horses become annoying or interfere with profit-making animals and when the race-exploited horses don't run fast enough anymore they become dog meat. After long discussions with Jeff I came to the enlightening discovery that my horse really is my slave. This really shocked me, but now that I know, I can’t believe I couldn’t see the obvious.

    Even if the domestic animals could be made to be happy whether they be bred for food, transport, or companionship, they are still property, they are never free. It comes down to rights. Slaves/property have no rights. Happy animal slaves are still slaves.

    Some African slaves in America were much loved by their masters and even considered to be a member of the family. They were treated very well, got medical care, good food and bedding and even company. A slave man cannot leave the property in search of social company. He has no access to relatives. He cannot make any free choices of his own. He is completely dependent on his masters as if he were a child. The same goes for other animals on farms in or in our homes as companions. Even if the slave is very happy, he is still a slave.

    Slavery is immoral, no matter how happy the slaves are. All slavery of humans and non-human animals should be abolished.

    Kind regards, Desert Girl.

  17. the people who are calling horse riding slavery are the same people who would kill a person before a rat

  18. That is ridiculous, A. Anonymous!

    I would never kill anyone -human or non-human. That was a rather irrelevant and violent suggestion. Where did you come from? I thought this was a site for vegans? You must have an assumption that people who stand up for animal rights must be violent or at least very angry people. The opposite is true. I have never met a violent vegan. Vegans by definition represent non-violence. In times of true emergency such as a burning house, naturally we rescue the child over the pet, but not because of inequality. In such emergency situation we may have to even decide between two human beings. We must make a choice about value. We value the person we know over the stranger we don't know, etc. We value the child over the cat. This hypothetical does not apply to everyday situations like owning horses. Our life does not depend on keeping horses captive and riding them.

    Slavery of horses and slavery of humans, what's the difference? Slavery means living property. How is a horse not property and not a slave? Why is horse property not an issue for you, but human property is?


  19. Alright, all you people arguing that horseback riding is cruel and not "natural"...what about owning a PET? Dog? Cat? Gerbil? Lizard? Guinea Pig? Fish? Rabbit? Rat? Ferret? Parrot? Let's see, I could go on and on.

    Seriously, you people talking about horseback riding being cruel probably have NEVER experienced it. Does cruelty happen? Unfortunately, yes. But as some have already said, MOST people take care of their horses. And yes, they are bred for specific sports and sometimes that can get nasty, but guess what...IT HAPPENS. Deal with it. Seriously, it's not like you are going to change the breeding industry for racing, jumping, rodeo, etc. So, why worry about it so damn much?

    I am a vegan now. Just became one and I have ridden for 15 years. The best times of my life, riding. I am a jumper and while many of you might think that it is "unnatural" for a horse to jump over fences, you're wrong. In the wild, when a horse comes across an obstacle such as a fallen tree, what do they do? Oh right, they fucking JUMP IT! There are many wrongs that are done in ANY sport and the tragedy with Eight Belles at the Kentucky Derby was heartbreaking. People get greedy and they push their horses to the breaking point, yes, it happens. But I am not going to be made to feel guilty because I just so happen to love to jump horses. I LOVE horses...period. It is all in how you take care of them. My horse lives outside and gets to run around and play and eat and have a fucking blast. Then I get on him and ride him and he all out gallops over the fences and he usually doesn't want to stop because, guess what? He's having a fucking blast! No, horses cannot TELL us how they are feeling, but when you know your horse well enough, you have a connection. Yes, it is for our enjoyment as humans. But so is a goddamn cat or dog!

    Chill the hell out, people, and focus on the REALLY important issues like horse slaughter, puppy mills, and dairy farms where the animals are actually being harmed and killed.

    1. Wild horses evolved in open grasslands where there are NO objects to jump over.

      A wild horse will normally only jump an obstacle under three conditions 1) it has no choice 2) it can see clearly what's on the other side and 3) the obstacle is very low such as a fallen log.

      A horse will never deliberately choose to jump an obstacle.

    2. That is simply untrue. My filly at 2 months old would hop back n forth over a river for fun. Tucking her legs and rounding her neck and back. Same as any good jumper position w/ a good rider atop.

  20. Whether it's ethical or not Luke's definition basically makes owning a dog "not vegan". People share company with animals for enjoyment/amusement and not all enjoyment is exploitation. "Would you enjoy carrying personnel on your back..." well, ummm...do we not carry children on our back? Do we not give "piggyback rides" with big ole grins on our faces? No these are not the same I'm just pointing them out to illustrate what I believe to be another weak argument on Luke's part. I could go on relating being "broke in" to child discipline or relating "locked up" to a job or anything else we as humans don't want to do but I will instead stop soon and let your creative juices flow.

  21. "Whether it's ethical or not Luke's definition basically makes owning a dog "not vegan"."

    Actually, one of the main things with veganism/animal rights is eventually abolishing pets (through neutering). That doesn't mean that having one and taking the best care of it as you possibly can is bad, as just killing them is unethical. You can take care of a horse perfectly well without riding it, unless you keep it locked up in a stable all day.

    I think the people who say their horse "loves" being ridden or "loves work" (animals cannot even comprehend "work") are severely anthromorphizing their animal's behavior. To me, if a horse truly loved being ridden, it would come to the human with its saddle in its mouth. It would also have to live on lots of land, so that the reason it likes being ridden isn't just because that's the only way it gets exercise. You would also have to do many non-riding activities so that the horse doens't like being ridden simply because that's the only way it gets attention. It would also have to receive no rewards, praise, treats, etc. during or after being ridden.

    I highly doubt a horse who has plenty of human interaction and land to run and play in would voluntarily choose to be ridden.

    "People share company with animals for enjoyment/amusement and not all enjoyment is exploitation. "Would you enjoy carrying personnel on your back..." well, ummm...do we not carry children on our back? Do we not give "piggyback rides" with big ole grins on our faces? No these are not the same I'm just pointing them out to illustrate what I believe to be another weak argument on Luke's part."

    Why did you write this statement when you admit it is not the same? A human voluntarily picks up another willing human (one that is able to comprehend what is happening as well) and carries him on his back. It would be more like if the person riding on the other person's back threw a saddle on them and jumped on without their consent and made them parade around in the direction they want to go. Sure, they may tolerate it, but that doesn't mean they enjoy it.

    "I could go on relating being "broke in" to child discipline or relating "locked up" to a job or anything else we as humans don't want to do but I will instead stop soon and let your creative juices flow."

    Again, you cannot compare human things with animal things. We discpline children the way we do to help them fit into our society, and they themselves are able to comprehend this. Horses cannot comprehend why we want to ride them.

    We humans are also able to comprehend working for a living and why we do it. Horses cannot comprehend "work." Horses in the wild do not pull heavy things, get jobs, carry other animals on their back, etc.

    I, personally, have no qualms with horse riding, as, truthfully, I am not a vegan, nor am I for animal rights. But if I were, horse riding would definitely not be an ethical thing to do, as it is completely unnecessary and only done for human enjoyment or to exert dominion over an animal (making it more "tame" so it can be a good "pet," etc.), or a way to exercise the horse when it is kept in inadequate conditions.

  22. People need to learn something about the sport before they call it "cruel".
    It's a great sport and since people are animals, too I guess we shouldn't watch football or basketball or any type of other sport. We're using animals for our amusement aren't we?

  23. Please...everyone--check out:

    and then check out:

  24. For 8/8/08 8:36 AM Anonymous said...
    Hi...everything you jsut said is being done..it's truly amazing.

    Check out:


    We are a newgroup of horse people.

  25. First of all, African slaves are NOT the equivelant of horses. The desires people have are COMPLETELY different from the desires a horse has. And what do you want us to do? Just let them run out of the stable and get hit by a car or starve to death? I take better care of my horse than I do myself. A horse doesn't want independence, a horse wants a leader and safety. Nobody has the money to buy a farm and horse companions for their horse. I suggest you stay to bitching over things you actually know about.

  26. Hi there Roro. It is wonderful that you care so much about your lovely horse. I also had a horse I grew up whom I loved very much. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Of course no-one would expect any domesticated animals to be turned loose or released into the wild. This would be dangerous for the animal and also to the ecology in which they would disrupt. We created these animals by breeding them therefore we should be obliged to care for them and give them the best life possible for their entire natural life. We should however stop breeding them ever again.

    Second note. Of course horses are different to human slaves. It is only an analogy to reveal similarities in their exploitation. No matter how well cared for or how loved a horse is or a human slave, they are still slaves. That is they cannot make any choices of their own, cannot socialise when they choose and with whom they choose, are utterly dependent on their masters for food, shelter medical care, affection, exercise, they have their children taken away, etc, etc. In these ways, companion/sport horses are very similar to human slaves. Yes they are different, but they both have no basic rights no matter how humanely they are treated. Thank you.

  27. DINO
    u r so MATURE! excuse me i know i prolly cant change ur thoughts but seriously u shouldnt be talking shit when u have no idea what your talking about.

    people who love horses take care of these horses as if it was a their own child! ok we care to their every need , and excersing a horse properly , is no form of abuse. a horse enjoys his owner ( more so a Partner) . horses enjoys that partnership ok b/c if you actually knew anything , the horse sees his owner as another horse ( the dominant horse)

    most horses LOVE THEIR JOB OK! u can feel it and see it! so please go finds something else to protest.. , maybe something more important like fuckin horse slaughter. bitch


    Note you said "Like Children" When you tell your kids to exercise, you don't ride on their backs. Riding on any living creature's back is cruel. You guys talk about "They are well treated" that's true, but that still doesn't give anyone a right to ride on their backs. If you want the horse to exercise why don't you let him run around? WHY DO YOU have to get on his back? The Horse can walk him/herself. Every living creature have a problem with someone on their back. You raise your children but you don't let them work for you, right? A lot of people have flawed logic.
    It reminds of a scripture in the bible "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel"

  28. Hi kuhsum11, you are defending "humane" horse slavery with much aggression.

    Treating our horse slaves with respect doesn't make it right. Happy slaves are still slaves! Horses should not be our property. Like us, they should be FREE.

    Please do not use violent language on this forum. Thank you. There are other welfarist animal forums you can join that have discussions with which you would agree. This is an abolitionist forum where we do not focus on the 'abuse' but the 'use' itself on animals for food, companionship & clothing, etc. You are welcome to debate and disagree, but please do so with curtesy. Thank you.

  29. Um, I can see both sides of this issue... on the one hand, no, horses don't "come to you with a saddle in their mouth," so arguably it's not consensual. Yet I find this argument inadequate. On the other hand, forcing someone to do something is not always unethical. In fact, it's often the most ethical thing there is! For example, forcing all children to go to school. Lots of kids drop out, and lots of children want to run away from home and would if they had a better place to go (which they usually don't).

    I can certainly see the merits of particular individual interactions with horse riders I have known. My roommate used to do dressage, and I love hearing her talk about horses. But I want to know about the institution of dressage and whether it is inherently exploitative. Is it possible to have institutionalized horse-racing and not involve exploitation? But then again, corporations exploit their human workers all the time - does that make owning a corporation non-vegan? For me... I would avoid accusing individual horse riders of exploiting their animals because I don't know them personally... however, I can certainly educate myself about the industry and point out where it is exploitative and challenge that. I think that, just as we need higher standards for human parenthood, we need higher standards for human-animal companionship.

    Interesting discussion. I don't approve of institutionalized horse-racing at all. Nor do I approve of selective breeding, which all competitive animal training does. Is it possible for dressage to exist without selective breeding?

  30. Hi Luella,

    Thank you for your thoughts.

    Perhaps when you say the word “exploitation” you actually mean “abusive”? The moment a horse is property, they are exploited. Whatever their purpose, it is exploitation. The word exploitation simply means “use”. I am not opposing abuse of the horses, but the use itself which is inherently wrong.

    There is a distinct difference between caring for a human child and caring for an adult horse. Children depend on their parents for their survival and their relationship is natural because they are the same species. When children grow up they leave home and become independent. They are not living in a situation of slavery where they are the property of another and cannot make any choices for themselves, as is the case for horses.

    There is also a distinct difference between a worker in a job receiving a salary in a corporation and a slave. While having a job might feel like slavery, it really is nothing like it!

    The horse is a slave, is property to another, does not consent, is a prisoner, can never leave their enclosure at will, can be bought and sold, is valued only while useful, not for the value of their life, must be told what to do, can make no personal choices about their social life, who they mate with, are stolen from their mothers, conditioned to live a life serving humans, completely dependent on humans for their food, safety, medical care and well-being, and finally, can be legally killed by their owners without any reason necessary. Many long-loved horse companions end up on a truck to the abattoir where their final experience of life is one of extreme violence and terror. All of these conditions for horses are blatant violations of the most basic rights to life, liberty and happiness. Whether a horse is loved, humanely treated, or abused, is not the issue. They should never be our property. We wouldn’t expect humans to be our slave property, we shouldn’t allow this to happen to other animals. Horses, like us, should be free.

  31. I have been vegan for over a year now, and I have been lifelong horseback rider. There are many problems with this issue. Both sides can go to extremes that almost contradict the point being made in the first place.
    Yes, horsebackriding can (not always)be cruel. Yes they can be exploited and made so called "Slaves". Yes, in nature they should roam free.
    So how do we solve the problem? Take a every existing horse and release them into the wild? Even considering that most of them used to being cared for by peole and may not now how to survive on their own, and could possibly starve to death? How about we do that with all animals. All of our dogs and cats should be free to live as they want? Sound a bit extreme to you? I think it does.

    Horse are athletic creatures. They need exercise. They also need loving homes. Most people cannot afford to have vast pastures where a herd of horses can roam free, although it would be ideal.

    I have a horse I rescued who was severely traumatized and only allows me to handle her. This came from me building trust in her that I was not going to harm her. A long time ago I thought I could turn her around and be able to ride her. One day I decided that wasn't going to happen, being that she has many psychological scars. Luckily she lives in a a big corral where she has lots of room to be a horse with a horsy friend.
    However this does not mean I think there is something wrong with riding. Like many of you have emphasized before, most people with horses love their horses and take excellent care of them. An important art of taking care of your horse is exercising them.

    I invite many of you to research successful horse trainers, such as Pat Parelli and rough and touch cowboys like Clinton Anderson. While their methods differ they all put across the same message. These men fully understand the way a horse works in nature and how they understand things. They all come from a horses perspective, in terms of needs and fears. They truly know what they are doing, and they all want whats best for the horse.

    Sone of you think that horsebackriding is a selfish sport and I do not disagree with you. I definitely for it for pleaure. You know what that pleasure is? Having a bond between person and animal that is so beautiful and wonderful, that you would not be able to communicate with another human being on the same level. It isn't like that every single time, but when it is you know that they are on the same level as you. Of course they do not always want to work. I don;t blame them, how many of you have lazy days?

    I am all for animal rights and welfare, and most of my friends think I am an extremist. But to come to the conclusion that riding is an evil exploitation would suggest that owning any animal as a pet is wrong. Who doesn't want an animal for personal selfish reasons? Do you ever stop to think that some of those selfish reasons provide that animal a good quality life?

    And lets face it, a horse who is well taken care of by being fed properly and exercised is probably so much happier than a neglected horse stuck in a tiny corral it's whole life.Horses are built to move, and when done properly riding can be exhilerating experience for horse and rifer alike.

  32. Hi, this is a really interesting discussion. I am somebody who has loved horses my entire life and started riding 10 years ago. Recently I have started thinking about whether this is ethical, as I live by the credo that all individuals deserve our respect as fellow sentient beings.
    I think it is generally wrong when, instead of looking at something on a case-by-case basis, we attempt to generalize/categorize an entire behavior. There is certainly a big difference, in my mind, between somebody who builds a relationship with a horse, part of which may involve riding, and somebody who forces a horse to behave in a certain way using cohersion, pain, etc. Now, of course you can argue that horses do not choose to live in a stable. However, you could also argue that human beings do not really choose to work, etc. But it is a necessary part of our society. We are all slaves to some degree.
    Another point I have to make is that, I have seen with my own eyes, examples of horses who despite living essentially free with other horses in a more or less natural condition (in huge, huge pastures with acres of land, equal to the size of a herd's territory in the wild) still approach humans, probably mostly for food, but also in some cases because they view this human as another horse, and since horses are sociable creatures, they want to interact with the human. As to whether horses enjoy being ridden, who can say? Who can say as we do not know what constitutes enjoyment for a horse and whether horses even experience enjoyment as we know it. However, I can say for certainty that I know horses that do not have an aversion to being ridden. After all, how could I, assuming that I am not using any tools that inflict pain, etc., which I am not, force a horse to do something it had an aversion to doing? I could not. Obviously, horses are much stronger and swifter than I am.
    Successful training methods of horses involves using the horse's own body language and communicating with it that you are its herd leader, and will therefore keep it safe. Once this is understood, the horse will obey you as it would obey its herd leader in the wild (a requirement for the horse's survival). So, in many ways, horseback riding is no different than the natural interactions that occur between horses in the wild.

    1. "I have seen with my own eyes, examples of horses who despite living essentially free with other horses in a more or less natural condition (in huge, huge pastures with acres of land, equal to the size of a herd's territory in the wild) still approach humans, probably mostly for food, but also in some cases because they view this human as another horse, and since horses are sociable creatures, they want to interact with the human."

      Wild horses see humans as a predator. They would never deliberately approach us.

  33. Desert Girl,
    You should try lunging. My ex- race horse (rescued from the track ) has loads of energy, and he can get it all out b being lunged. Its the same as being ridden, but he doesn't have a ton of weight on his back, and he seems truely happy when he can get exersize without a bit and saddle and all that junk.

    And for everyone else, I have ridden horses for 7 years, and been a vegan for 2. Only 4 months ago did I realize what I was doing to these horses when I watched some get broken in. Their spirit was slowly, bit by bit taken away from them. The methods used to train them were far from cruel, but they just don't belong under a saddle. It has taken me WAY too long to realize that. I know that the movie, Spirit is a child's movie, but you should really watch it if you are not sure weather you want to ride horses or not because of ethical matters. Also, make an appointment to watch horses in training. Go to the race track, and horse shows. Watch the horses ears, and their behavior. It will help.

    P.S. PLEASE feel free to email me if you have problems with my veiws. my email is


    1. Ally -- thank you for your post. I also have an OTTB (aged 8) whom I feel will welcome a short ride,but I stop after 15-20 minutes to avoid any pain in his back. I only ride very lightly (English) at walk and a little trot. I have also begun lunging for exercise to help keep him fit. A short session (either a brief ride or lunging -- both no more than 20 minutes) is all they need. All else is play, pasture and good care. He is a happy, playful horse, full of comedy and fun, and he knows I know that he is happy with just a little work.
      I can tell from his behavior. He is a good, trustworthy horse, and when I go to put him back into the large pasture with his friends, he often does not want to go in. He seems to really enjoy our being together. I think you need to 'read and understand' your horse. I have another horse that truly loves to jump. He doesn't mind if he's saddled or untacked and running free in the pasture. He will jump any obstacle in a field because he loves it.

      Please look at the website of Alexander Nevzorov...the amazing Russian horseman. It's an eye opener. I am working now 3/4 ground work (including play, hand-trotting and hand-walking, and 1/4 riding, but only for 15-20 minutes.

      We all wish we had 50 or more acres, but most of us do not have that space. The best we can do is to love and care for our horses, let them be horses with their herd members (or other animals) and keep them safe and well.

      Working or exercising them for 20 minutes a day or every other day, keeps them healthy and keeps their muscles strong, helping prevent injury. It's no much for them, when they have 23-1/2 hours off to play, run, rest and socialize.

      Give horses run-in stall in a/barn, and you will find they come home each evening to rest and choose to be with their human friend.

      Blessings to you.

  34. Hi Ally,

    Nice to meet you Ally! Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

    Thanks for the tip on giving exercise without riding. I haven't seen my old horse for a few years but am about to in a couple weeks. He is interstate, living on a big paddock and will stay there for all his life. He is only ridden occassionally, which I think is a good thing to get out of the paddock and go and explore. Stuck with a domestic dependent life, I think regular riding is good for a horse to relieve boredom as well as provide exercise, much like getting a walk as a dog. But I strictly believe horses should not be bred for riding, bought for riding, or used in competitions like horse sports or racing. I support rescues and free adoptions of horses, similarly to the adoptions of cats and dogs.

    Huge congratulations on going vegan -that's wonderful! I've been vegan for 12 yrs now! You're doing well to discover that horse ownership is slavery! It took me some arguments with my (future) husband to finally work that one out and I was a vegan for 8 yrs at that time! I delivered my horse when I was thirteen and he became one of my best friends. I read books on training horses and broke him in myself when I was 15. Because I had raised him from birth and was really an oversized pet, it was an easy transition to becoming a riding horse. I have witnessed horses being broken in using "cowboy" methods that involve cruelty and using the gentle approaches too. They both work, but of course no matter how gently it's done, the act of training a horse to do what we want so we can exploit them is wrong. My horse and I had a wonderful friendship, but of course he was my slave. I did not realise that until 5 years ago.

    Yes I did watch the movie Spirit and it made me cry! And this is before I realised loved cared for horses are our slaves. I really love that movie and its message of FREEDOM -something I have a fascination for.

    PS- I just hosted my first Earthlings screening tonight. 3 friends came to watch. It went well. I will do it regularly next year.


  35. I personally don't think there's anything wrong with it, as long as you realize horses are living creatures who have their own wants and needs and you're kind to them. Riding doesn't make every horse unhappy. Some of them love it. I'm sure there are others who don't. As for horses being our slaves... you might say that, if all you see are the people who treat them as such. Many people would rather die themselves then allow their beloved pets to suffer. So, I think it's a matter of what your own horse's wishes are. I'm vegan, because I don't think any animal should suffer for the sake of humans. There's no reason for it, and it's sickening that people don't see it. But riding a horse isn't necessarily making it suffer. Those are my thoughts.:) If I offended anyone(and I don't see how I could have) I'm sorry. Of course, for those horses who truly are unhappy being ridden, don't do it. You can have plenty of fun with horses without riding. Just go for a walk with him, and enjoy his company!

  36. "Thanks for the tip on giving exercise without riding. I haven't seen my old horse for a few years but am about to in a couple weeks. He is interstate, living on a big paddock and will stay there for all his life. He is only ridden occassionally, which I think is a good thing to get out of the paddock and go and explore. "

    Oh my God. Okay. SO I am a vegan of a year who has been riding since I was six years old. I now own a 30 acre horse farm with six horses (soon to be seven!) ranging in age from 6 to 27. My horses have their feet done every six weeks, I spend $60 on feed for my geriatric every week, their teeth are done every six months, they are massaged by a professional masseuse every three months and visit the chiropractor every six months. It doesn't end there.

    I ask from them in return for a wonderful life with their friends with different paddock rotations, being turned out with their bffs, rugged when it's cold, hosed down when it's hot, bathed when they want it, brought in if there is a bad storm ...

    In return I ride and handle them. I ride my mare and my gelding. Maybe one hour a day, five days a week. We go to rallies and competitions sometimes, we go trail riding every week or so with some friends, out for three or four hours. And you know what? My horses love it. My geriatric is a rescue whose face lights up if he sees a saddle, he is ridden sparingly due to his age and some gas in one of his joints but has to be taken for a little walk occasionally because it MAKES HIM HAPPY. He smiles, he feels useful, his eyes are bright and it keeps him alive. My vet even advised it.

    My horses have a wonderful life. They get everything they need and everything they want. They run to the fence each morning for morning carrots and cuddle time, they call to me when I come home. They are not slaves, I am their slave!!!

    Your comment about your horse living in a large paddock only showed your ignorance. Horses need their feet done regularly, their teeth filed, they need to be checked at LEAST twice daily, they need human companionship. Maybe it wasn't so once but they are domesticated. Their lives are longer, safer and healthier for it.

    I live in a horse dominated neighborhood and three doors down is a vegan animal shelter. The proprietor of the place is well known in our state as a vegan ... and as a top, top level show rider. We love and respect our horses, they want for nothing (unlike some horse dumped in a paddock.) To suggest otherwise only proves ignorance.

  37. This comment has been removed by the author.

  38. Hi there Mads, thank u so much for your thoughts and story.

    Just to clear up something: my horse is being cared for by people everyday in a large paddock! He is rugged and fed and given apples and dates. There are two other old horses there one is 35!!! He has a very good life.

    I had the very same arguments as u when a good friend challenged me on my beliefs about our relationship with animals. Mads, you are clearly an excellent horse owner, one of the most responsible people I have met! As you must know, to be a horse in these days cared for by very responsible owners is a matter of luck. Many, many horses are unwanted when they get older. Thousands of them go to slaughter. Most race horses and greyhound racing dogs get killed in the industry. Why? Because our society thinks of them as resources to be used, not as sentient beings with interests and feelings. The same is true for pets. While we love them as our family, many other pets are killed in shelters -millions of them. We simply cannot support the pet trade.

    Play switch the species. Would it be ok to keep humans as companion pets? Does it make it ok to keep humans as our property so long as we give them the very best of care? No it's not, that's why it's illegal. Ownership of another human being is immoral. Apply the same scenario to the very well cared for and super-happy horse and you'll see that underneath is an animal who has no freedom. No ability to make any personal decisions about his life, where he goes and when, stop, go, turn, gallop, sleep now, eat now -none of those decisions are his, who he sees, cannot ever see his family, is forcefully taken from his mother, cannot choose his own mate, etc, etc. The long list goes on for the happy horse companion slave who has no freedom. Happiness does not change the fact that horses are our property.

    Happy New Year!


  39. Well... I certainly don't think horseback riding is cruel! I've been reading through a lot of these comments, and I noticed someone mention going to a show, and watching the horse's ears. I've been to a lot of horse shows, and the ones that looked ticked off are either having a bad day, like all animals have, or they're just annoyed another horse is too close to them. I love walking out to the pasture and seeing my horse lift her head, prick her ears forward, nicker, and come running up to me, promptly nudge me, then run off, stop, look at me, and wait for me to chase her; we play tag. That same horse I can get on, no saddle, no bridle, and ride around on with no fear of being hurt. If she's afraid of something, like walking through water, and I just go walking in ahead of her, she follows me. She trusts me.

    She has a shed in her pasture, and her little horsey friends that she's the boss of. She can go outside when she wants, and she can get shelter when she wants. She eats all day, and sleeps when she wants. Sometimes I go sit with her while she's sleeping, and she'll very quietly rest her muzzle on my leg. Horses don't lay down to sleep unless they feel comfortable and safe.

    I show my horse, and when she get out of the trailer, she prances around, ears forward, and is happy to see other horses (sometimes, when she's in heat she's evil), and gets even more excited when she's in the show ring. When she does well, she knows it, and holds her head high. I've seen arabian stallions at Scottsdale, and let me tell you, they certainly love to show off. They're male, it's what they do.

    Horses in the wild don't choose who they see, they don't choose when their mothers get sick of them and make them stop nursing, and mares certainly don't get to go around and pick what stallion she gets to mate with. They don't mate for life, they mate with the stallion that's in charge of their herd.

    I would also like to know your definitions of "slave" and "property". I don't force my horse to do anything. She's a 1200lb animal, if she doesn't want to do something, she isn't going to do it, and if she doesn't want me on her back, she'll buck me off, and if she wants to kill me, well she would and could do it quite easily. And, quite honestly, just because there's a piece of paper that says I "own" her, does that really make her my "property"? I have never, ever thought of my horses, or my dogs, or my beta fish, as my "property". I think of my laptop, the light on my desk, and my cell phone as "property". Technically, you are your parents' "property" because you can't do anything without their permission until you're 18; does that mean all children are slaves, because they have to do what their parents tell them, and if their parents say they can't be friends with someone, they can't be?


  40. I'd like to add one more voice against this. I've been vegan for almost a decade now, and I've also been a horse owner for almost a decade.

    My horse's happiness and well-being is forefront in my mind - he lives in the largest paddock I can afford, lives with his best friend, he wears no shoes, he has a treeless saddle, bitless bridle, and on the two days a week I actually get on his back, we go out for adventures in the forest. The other five days of the week, I take him for walks like a dog, play herd games with him (a la the Parelli programme), let him graze, and let him run at liberty with his friends.

    Is he being exploited when I get on his back? I guess it depends on your definition of 'exploitation', but I don't think he is. I've spent enough time around horses (25 years) to know when a horse is enjoying himself. My horse in particular is very opinionated, and if he felt in any way violated by my presence on his back, he'd buck me off and go on his own adventure (and he has before, alerting me that we need a stronger relationship).

    Nowadays my horse trusts and respects me, and having me with him (by his side or on his back), is a source of comfort and security. When we are out on the trail, his eye and neck are relaxed, his ears are forward, and his strides are long (no tension in his back).

    I've started a blog on the subject of being a vegan equestrian (which, no, I don't believe is an oxymoron): http://veganequestrian.wordpress.com
    I'd love to hear requests for particular topics of discussion (non-leather saddles, particular horse behaviours), but please, if you want to continue this particular argument, leave it in here.

  41. I have been a vegan for over 3.3459 years. Check out my cousin and our horse. Please comment!


    -Terrance McClaren

  42. If you all think that horses are slaves, you must think that children are too because GOD FORBID they MAY have to do some chores once in a while. This is ridiculous. It is people like you who make other laugh at vegans.

    I own several horses who were all rescued from horrifying conditions (neglect cases, slaughter houses etc.) They are cared for, fed, watered, have all the veterinary care they need, and above all-they are loved. Every horse I own should have, and would have been dead had it not been for me. They now live out their lives on more than 200 acres of pasture where they can run and play and just be horses....and to say that I abuse or enslave them is ABSURD.

    I do ride. I love riding, and so do my horses. They love to leave the pasture to go sight-seeing. Think of it this way-my horses are on 200 acres...if they didn't want to go riding, they would make it impossible for me to catch them, but they don't. They stampede towards me whenever I pull up.

    When I ride, I have never beat my horse into submission...and any rider who attempts to do this will fail. These are 1000+ lb. animals we are talking about. If they don't want to do something-they won't! My horse could turn around and kill me at any instant, but he won't. I have built his trust in humans, and we mutually enjoy one another's company.

    Also, it's not like bearing the weight of a human is difficult for these animals. Any good rider knows that they should not weigh more than 10-20% of their horse's body weight-meaning, its about the same as us carrying groceries into the house. Oh, wait! Is that exploitation too??? So sorry, I'm such a terrible person for having my children do any work! How dare I endorse slavery!! :-X

    I suppose my employer is enslaving me as well, right?? I mean, making me work 40 hours a week in order to eat!! Jesus Christ, what is wrong with our government, I can't believe they're not stepping in to stop this!

    Also, what do you suppose I do with these horses I own-who are domestically bred? Set them free?! *Humph* Yeah right! Only if you want a bunch of malnourished horses with overgrown hooves running around! These horses could never survive in the wild-they don't know how to! Besides, If we stop riding horses, what purpose do they serve? Ruining pastures and sucking down thousands of dollars each year?! My horses give riding lessons (which they enjoy) to pay for their keep. I could not afford them otherwise, and they would all be sitting on some dinner plate over in Europe by now!

  43. Oh, I also forgot to mention that because these horses are domesticated, no they do not have freedom 100% of the time. They can do whatever they like, however, the 23 hours of the day that I'm not riding.

    If I am caring for something and it is living on my income, there are rules that will be followed. Animals are the same as children. They should be given time to express themselves, but there are also rules that must be enforced to keep themselves and others safe-as well as to teach them right from wrong.

    I'm sure a lot of you people own pets. Do you also think it is wrong to punish a new dog for chewing up everything in your home! I bet you don't think so! If you do....I'd sure hate to see your house. But OMG Its compromising his freedom!!! Please....

  44. Lastly (one more thing. Sorry, guys) I'm trying to figure out how Desertgirl (as nice as she seems in this forum) can claim to love her horse...you haven't even seen him in years! I couldn't imagine. Do you even know if he's still alive?? If he died tomorrow would you be there, by his side? :-/ What a shame. You may think that I'm "abusing and exploiting and blah blah blah" but at least I'm there if my horses ever EVER need me.

  45. You're going to lead yourself to believe that there is no bond between horses and humans? Or humans and dogs? We give them a safeguard from disease, from hunger, from the elements, and from anything that can cause them harm. In exchange for our care they allow us to train them for our use and enjoyment. It's as simple as that. Horseback riding is just as cruel as sending a child to school.

  46. Yes, some people don't treat horses as they should. They don't care for them or give them love and support. I'm vegan and I care for my horses. They were rescued from slaughter houses. Yes, we didn't get together at first, but now, when I go out to the pasture they run over and even nicker. They don't seem sad. Some people do make it so horses don't enjoy trail rides. They won't let the horses eat or drink. My family and I let the horses look around and eat as they please. I love my horses. I think they would rather stay in a clean stall for a few hours every night with food and water than be on their way to a slaughter house. Yes, it would be great if horses were still wild, but no longer is that true. If that really was the case, they'd be hit my cars and hunted by stupid humans... I love my horses and I try to make them as happy as possible.

  47. Tracy Vanity24/2/11 2:15 AM

    "In exchange for our care they allow us to train them for our use and enjoyment. It's as simple as that. Horseback riding is just as cruel as sending a child to school. "

    They "allow" you? What choice to horses have in the matter? Horseback riding would be just like sending your kid to school if you rode your kid to work first before sending them off. Horses should be in the wild in the first place, the only reason they aren't is because of humans so now the only alternative is to care for them if they cannot live in the wild due to domestication or lack of habitat to roam free but in no way does a horse "owe" you anything because you feed them and give them a place to sleep. Do you expect a dogs or cat to perform some task in order to "earn their keep" too? If that is your mentality, you shouldn't have any animal companions. They don't exist for your enjoyment anymore than you exist for someone else's.

  48. Horse riding, when done correctly, is rewarding for both horse and rider. Yes, it's true that some horses are treated badly, but most are valuable members of the family. Riding a horse is like taking your dog for a walk.

    In reference to your "whilst being ridden is utterly irrelevant as he or she is still used" comment; have you ever seen those kids who take their dogs for walks and they might be on rollerblades or a skateboard and their dog is pulling them along? Isn't the dog also being used? But they always seem to enjoy it, don't they? It's because they have a bond with their owner. It's like giving a friend a piggyback. It's fun, you're taking them on a ride, challenging yourself, experiencing things with them. Don't

    Animal rights groups tend to focus on the worst aspects of horse riding. Whilst there are some cruel riders, the majority put their horse's needs first, but sadly, many people see only the bad side of equestrian sporting, and form their opinion purel on that.

    You have a pretty weak basis for your argument, seeing as you obviously don't ride horses. Maybe you should take a deeper look into horses before you go around declaring what is and isn't right.

  49. Horsepower1357911/3/11 3:38 PM

    i strongly agree with you. well said

  50. Horsepower1357911/3/11 3:51 PM

    I agree with you to some extent...but allowing horses to live in our backyards as pets that just get to hang around and eat grass all day is just not a wise choice in the world we live in. When a horse isn't ridden or exercised they become ornery and difficult to handle-even if you're simply trying to tie him up to groom him or pick out his hooves (which is necessary for their health). Also, if for any reason one day you could no longer take care of him/her and were forced to let them go, a gentle, well-trained horse is much more likely to be sold to a loving home (as opposed to the glue factory) than a scruffy wild one who cannot be ridden. As beautiful as it would be to have horses still able to roam freely and posses their natural wild spirits, it's just no longer feasible.

  51. blueeyedvegan12/3/11 9:52 PM

    As Horsepower13579 said, I do agree with you to a certain extent. I am a vegan who believes in animal rights. Yes I do own animals, and yes I do ride a horse. Am I exploiting my pets? I guess you would say so. However I do not believe I am. I would very much love to have all the horses, and every other animal on this planet in their natural environmet, but due to the fact that human kind has destroyed this it is no longer possible.
    I am going to jump to a conclusion that you do not own a single animal. Right? I would like to point out that you are contributing to the suffering of animals in shelters who need a forever home.
    Yes as you said horses should be in their natural environment running free, but you must understand that this is not possible as I mentioned above. Moreover, as you said, "no matter how nicely you treat them you are still treating them like objects". Are you serious? My gosh, so as you are saying, that if I was to help my grandmother bake cookies I am exploiting her? We both benifit from this activity, just like a horse and owner benifit from riding. And need I remind you that to believe in animal rights, you believe that humans and animals deserve the same treatment. So this just confirms my example.
    I understand where you are coming from with your opinion, but I must say that it is flawed. Good people in this world develop a bond with their animals that is very strong, to the point many believe their animal is their son or daughter. If animals did not wish to be living alongside humans there would be much more chaos. But is there? No not really.
    Unfortunatly some people in this world are awful examples of the human race, and do not treat animals with respect.
    In conclusion to your opinion, there comes a point when extreme animal rights is ridiculous. This is not to say that human kind should abuse and exploit animals for their own benifit.

  52. horse_racing29/3/11 4:06 AM

    I am 100% agree on what you have said...

    herbivours animals should be treat the way they should be.
    not like a slave to earn some money and popularity.

  53. Thanks. Someone's got to set these prejudices straight...

  54. Ok i have two horses that i bought before i became enlightened. I will never sell them and they live in as natural an evironment as i can possibly provide for them. However in the wild horses travel miles per day which is vital for their foot health (no foot no horse)! When i started to realise how we exploit horses i started to treat them very differently i did not use headcollers when tending to them and let them choose to be with me or not. They started to get extremely fat due to no longer being ridden and having more access to grass as they had more room. Due to being fat and only walking on grass their feet began to suffer. So i started leading them out for walks in hand to try to stimulate their feet and to help them lose weight. After doing this for a number of months they started getting frustrated that they could not trot or canter on the beach as i could not keep up. I then decided i would ride them in a passenger fashion, let them choose where to go (within reason) and i rode in a headcollar and bareback. Eventually i started using a synthetic treeless saddle to ride as they were getting some pressure issues from my bony bum. So i eventually went full circle and i am now back riding and in my opinion my horses are happier and healthier for it.

  55. Hayleymac9310/5/11 10:32 PM

    As much as I wish that horses could roam free and live in their natural habitats, the selfishness of humans over the years has destroyed any possibility of this. I'm against horse racing in all it's forms, show jumping, and any other form of 'sport' in which humans receive money for the hard and unwilling work of horses. However, as a vegan of many years, and a vegetarian for many more, I see no harm in having happy, healthy horses living at my property. I don't claim 'ownership' over them, I simply care for them; they have the company of other horses, a warm rug, and nice food to keep them full. Yes I ride them, (synthetic and rope tack, of course) in the bush land around my area. If the horses are thirsty, they can stop and drink. If they're hungry, we'll stop and let them pick at the grass. And to your point, "
    Would you enjoy carrying personnel on your back at various speeds whenever said personnel felt like it?", I answer yes, I carry my young child when she's tired, obviously.. And how is horse riding different to walking a dog? It's exercise for both human and animal, and as we know, a healthy body is a healthy mind. I'm out, cheers.

  56. My equines will try and push each other out of the way to be bridled first, donkey tries to lift me onto his back with his head, then grab my leg with his mouth and run off with me when i get up, without saddle, bridle, halter or anything. Pony opens his mouth to accept the bit, he was never trained to do this. Riding/driving can be made fun for the animal with patience ,gentle hands and willingness to listen, because animals really do talk in their own way.

  57. Thoroughbred21/7/11 7:50 AM

    Well said. One of my old champion showjumping ponies was a fence jumper... he jumped every fence on our property except the boundary fences. He knew where home was. He also went out on the side of the road for a graze when we left the gate open one night, we came home & shut it, and in the morning when mum was leaving for work, there he was, this little white face screaming to be let back in the gate to come home!! (I still don't know why he didn't jump the gate, but the point is, he knew where home was). He was free to leave the family at his own will, but he didn't as he knew he was a special part of our family. He'd also follow me round when I was training an eventer over some fences... I'd ride along side the jump & he'd follow and actually jump. He loved it. Many stories to back you up bro.

  58. Thoroughbred21/7/11 7:54 AM

    You need to see a pyschiatrist. You really do need help, and fast. Come to my place... you'd go off your nut seeing all the happy horses lining up to get attention.

  59. I get the not eating animal products, wearing animal products, testing,abusing,etc..but there is seriously a point of excess to be a "Super Duper Vegan club member". I could expand in my rant but I'll just stick to the cruelty of riding horses. Horses have been breed for centuries to cooperate with humans and actually enjoy it!! Just like golden retrievers have been selectively breed to love water and fetching. This is something that cannot be reversed. That said it has actually been proven that horses are more at ease after they've been trail riding that day. A two thousand pound horse has no issues with a 150ish pound person on top of them, nor does it hinder their well being. If fact, as a few have stated their horse are very eager to be riding and the expressions reflect so. You believe what you believe, but at the same time some of you guys seem to have your fingers in your ears living in a godly state of opinionated ignorance while others are trying to lay down a few facts for you.

  60. Horseback riding is not explotation. As somebody who has grown up with horses their entire life I can say yes, there are certainly those who mistreat their horses, but I would argue that the vast majority of equestrians do not "exploit" their animals. 

    "However, do you see horses queuing up to be rode, yelling "Pick me! Pick me!"? No, of course not."

    I have to disagree with this statement the most. While horses lack the physical ability to speak, I have seen numerous horses who display obvious signs of excitement and interest when they know they are going to be ridden. Growing up, I had a mare who would come running to the gate if I went into the tack room and took out my saddle. When going to a horse show, she would rush onto the trailer without any hesitation and once we got to the show, she would "strut" around with her ears forward the entire time.

    I also raised a young colt. The "breaking period" consisted of my ten-year old self scrambling onto his back while he ate. Learning to carry a person was hardly a bother to him, the first time I sat on his back he looked back at me as if to say "Oh, hey" then went back to eating.

    Man and beast can coexist peacefully, and I believe that riding can be an enjoyable activity for both horse and rider without the animal being "exploited".

  61. So you won't mind if I come and take the horses if you don't claim ownership over them?

    Horses are just as competitive as Humans, they enjoy the challenge, the competition the stimulation, they do the same thing out in the bush except in these circumstances they have someone to tend to them if something goes wrong.

  62. Sensorium885/10/11 3:57 PM

    "However, do you see horses queuing up to be rode, yelling "Pick me! Pick me!"? No, of course not."

    They don't say this simply cause they can't. If you go to a barn where the horses are respected and all there needs are met, you will see them showing signs of wanting to be interacted with or ridden. For example, my one friend will grab her saddle and go straight to the paddock to tack up her horse sometimes. Her horse will necker very happily and run over to her. If she didn't want to be ridden, she would not run over if she saw the saddle. Horses are smart enough to interact objects with certain activities. An example of this is say you walk into the paddock with a halter and lead rope. If the horse doesn't want to come in, once they see the lead rope they take off and you have to chase them. They know that the halter/lead rope means that they have to go inside and possibly do work.

    I suppose horse back riding is technically not "vegan" but just cause its not vegan doesn't mean it's a bad thing.

  63. Come and see my horse - then you'd understand.

    It's actually how hilarious some people can be!

  64. Tracy you are batshit crazy.

    Lololol your analogy between riding a horse and riding one's own children is asinine. I'm 125 lbs. I'm pretty sure my 1500 lb mare who was specifically BRED to be a ranch horse can carry my weight.

    P.s. this may come as a shocker to you but animals and humans do not have the same rights. Though I am all for the ethical treatment of animals and strongly opposed to cruelty and abuse, most domesticated animals have been created via selective breeding to PERFORM specific tasks for humans. Most dogs were bred to serve specific purposes such as herding and hunting, and cats have been used for centuries to keep vermin at bay. So yes, my dog earns his keep by being my loyal companion, and my barn cats "earn their keep" by catching the mice in my grain room. All my animals receive food, shelter, and have more access to health care than many people living in industrialized nations. So please do not say that animals are being "exploited". You should find more pressing issues to worry about.

  65. You people are all nuts. Get over yourselves. It's not about the animals its all about you. "Look at me, I'm a vegan, I'm morally superior to you." This gives you power in life that you are lacking in other areas but this is a false power because anyone except for other vegans can see right through it.

  66. Ever heard of symbiotic relationships? The horse gets protection from resource scarcity, competition and predation. We get entertainment and, in years past, practical work value. To an extent it is the same as the relationship between humans and dogs, especially where dogs have aided humans in survival and had a functional purpose other than today's companionship. The horse or dog even get humane ends to life by the vast majority of owners who love their pets unconditionally. There is a small subset of the population who treat animals poorly, and for that they deserve the book. I agree there: ethical treatment of animals is important. But to focus on the human-to-horse aspect without actually seeing from the horses perspective is ridiculously one-sided and I can understand why you come to the conclusions you do. My criticism is that you are being narrow-minded in other words, and failing to fully comprehend the relationship between human and non-human animals (in fact, symbiotic relationships exist among all sorts, they aren't special to homo sapiens).

    The fact that the horse does in fact benefit from this deal completely goes out the window on you lot. The extent that you look from the other animals' perspective is to simply start with "they don't consent" and that is that, no ifs no buts, nothing more to be said. This is quite absolutist and fundamental. Life is not that simple and you are deluding yourself if you think it is. Anyone who thinks they have a clear-cut sense of right and wrong immediately rings alarm bells for me.

    Animals may not have the ability to talk like we do, but there are other physical signs you can look for to determine whether they are in distress or enjoying themselves. Would you refuse to walk a dog that was highly excited because "you might be forcing it against its will"? After all, you cannot know what it wants because it isn't telling it to you in English (or whatever language you are familiar with). That entire point is ridiculous about horses jumping up and down yelling "pick me".

  67. I think this is one of those times some within the Vegan community go a bit too far in their zeal for me and don't sound that reasonable. I have to get up and go to work most days. I have to cook and clean and take care of my family when I sometimes would rather being doing other things. Are they abusing me? Sure, people can ride in abusive ways but owning and riding horses is not necessarily abusive in itself. Horses like dogs, cats, and others have evolved in situations of domestication. There like with cats and dogs are positive benefits from this too. Horses like us receive shelter, medicine, food, and many form truely bonded relationships with the person or people in their lives. My friend adopted a mustang from a program where the wild habitat is insufficient to sustain them. It was malnourished, covered in scars from fighting, and had worms. Its life expectancy in the wild was only a few more years. Today its a glossy, sassy family friend that was gradually exposed to carrying just a blanket, then saddle, then weight and now doesn't seem to mind walking around with her daughter on its back a bit several times a week. Sure you can say that its not their natural life but then again our natural life not that long ago was living in caves and most of us didn't live to see 40. This is not to say horses shouldn't exist in the wild just that there are plus and minus either way. I think some might prefer the domesticated life once they experience it depending on conditions and treatment actually. Just like my dog I am sure would be miserable if I released her to the wild.

  68. Wow this debate is really heating up. I personally have to agree that horse-back riding is not cruelty, for most people. However, I think some riders treat their horses cruelly, by over-working them, being too forceful, and neglecting them physically. The whole thing about horses not wanting to be stuck on someones property is a little ridiculous to me, personally. I knew a horse that got out of his stall once, but didn't even try to escape. He just sat there, looking around. Yes, some horses are neglected, but that depends on the owner. I went on a cruise and we saw this poor horse pulling a cart with foam all over him. I was at the verge of tears. So, if you ride correctly, and don't work your horse to hard, I think riding can be enjoyable for the horse and the rider. I just wanted to say that these are MY beliefs. Not everyone has to have the same beliefs.

  69. We have two horses living on the land we live on. We are not riding them because we are all still getting to know each other.....still gaining each other's trust. We give them access to as much food and water as we are allowed and day by day we are getting to know one another. At some point, they may come to understand that we will not harm them. That we are here to care for and love them. At some point, they may allow us to climb on their back and we will run together. There are symbiotic relationships in nature.......that is nature; a symbiotic relationship among all living organisms......plants and animals alike. Is riding "vegan". I don't know. But your intention will make all the difference. The horse does not serve us, just as we do not serve them. But that does not mean that we cannot give to each other. If a human and a horse come to together and form a partnership, I see no harm in that.

  70. I think awakening to the possiblility that animals are living beings and deserve to be treated with responsibility and respect is a positive stance. One also must realize, that judging a person for horseback riding and faulting them is no different than disrespecting an animal. Sure, it is sometimes to a lesser degree, but the emotion comes from the same place. Hate at any level is hate. Anger at any degree is anger. Forgiveness and love at any level is forgiveness and love. It seems counterproductive to make enemies out of people who care for animals by calling them cruel. We are all on the same team here....and if we are honest with ourselves, we ALL have areas in our lives that we could make better. So, let's start there.

  71. Bachgennes8/11/12 3:46 AM

    Saying that human relationships with horses is slavery is ridiculous.
    I am privileged to live with a beautiful 20 year old horse named Poppy that I rescued two years ago. I took him from a situation where his hooves had not been trimmed in years, he was not fed, or even brushed in five years.
    In the early days he was very skittish. Part of building trust was in hand exercise on a lunge line [no, the lunge whip is not actually a whip. It is a directional tool raised or moved different ways to change pace or to send the horse farther away from you]. Later, we began to go for walks. This horse, who had never been ridden in his life, didn't need to be 'broken' or bullied by me to enjoy trail rides together.
    Every morning I feed him hay and grain. I spend almost an hour grooming him; brushing him with 8 different brushes, applying flyspray, hoof oil, picking his hooves, sponging his mouth and eyes. I spend another hour doing things like cleaning his stall and carrying bags of bedding. He has a spacious, run in stall padded with stall matts and 2-3 bags of wood shavings. He gets his hooves trimmed every 6 weeks, wormed every 8 weeks, given shots once a year, and has his teeth filed once a year. In the summer he wears flymasks and is shaved so he doesn't get too hot, in the winter he wears a heavy blanket to keep him warm. He gets the best grain, hay, and supplements I can afford.
    He follows me around without a lead, even outside of fenced areas. He'll even chase me if I run. If I sit, he'll stop and lay his head over my back until he falls asleep. We can stay like this for hours.
    He gets most of the day to himself to do whatever he pleases. He lives with two llamas and two goats on 13 acres.
    And yes, an hour out of the day, I ride him. We go on walks through the woods or down the street to see his friends. I ride him bareback with a halter or bitless bridle. He gets liniment on his legs to help prevent damage to the muscles when he exercises.
    He also happens to love to jump. He will take off running when I'm riding him simply to jump over a log. He enjoys it. If I don't jump him a few times a week, he loses muscle and becomes depressed.
    If he's tired or sweating, I get off. He falls asleep on my shoulder again. He feels nothing bad towards me simply because I exercised him.
    My horse is extremely happy, loved, and healthy. Even vets don't believe he's 20 years old because he has the energy, look, and health of a 3 year old.
    I am vegan, and I love my horse. Riding is an important part of our routine.
    This is my horse. Does he look enslaved or abused?
    http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m9qjaxAeSa1qc2xf8o1_1280.jpg asleep on me
    http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lzs9bthNJj1qc2xf8o1_1280.jpg jumping, ears perked and enjoying himself
    http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m5uue3zdsh1qc2xf8o1_1280.jpg in his favourite place with plenty of grass.

  72. i'm 14 and although i may be young i do have my opinions and i would like to speak my mind realting this subject. i have been vegetarian for about six months now and i plan to become a vegan. i also practise horseriding for more than six years. lately i've been thinking about this subject, wheter it is wrong to ride a horse. i don't really care if PETA or anyone says if it's vegan or not, just if i feel like it is.
    my opinion is that it isn't wrong, at least in the way i and many people practise horseriding. the effort a horse has to put to cary someone can't be compared to the effort that a person has to put to cary other person. the strenght a horse has is much bigger than human strenght!
    whipes, spurs, bridles, all that equipment doesn't hurt a horse when it is used the right way. i mean, horse riders are the biggest horse lovers i know and i think that someone who has never rode a horse couldn't understand that completely. although a horse is broken in it never loses its freedom and i guarantee you that if the horse was in pain the rider would be thrown to the ground really quickly.
    and besides, you can talk about the riding and the whiping and all the "bad" things but what about the good stuff? the baths and the combing and the treats and the peting. i also don't like seeing the horses closed in small spaces but when horses have a big field to run, food to eat, people who give them love everyday they can be happy, even if they have people riding them.
    if horses were that miserable they wouldn't bond with people like they do.

  73. Interesting discussion.

    However consider this. This world, this universe is creation and destruction. In the distant sky supernovae are occurring and destroying thousands of planets at a time. In your body your immune system is killing millions of organisms as it defends itself from bacteriae and viruses.

    Non-violence and non-exploitation are worthy ... but not possible.

    A much deeper understanding of human life is needed. We live in this universe of creation and destruction, and the love that the vegetarians and good people want ... must be found at a much deeper level than the obvious.

    Superficial answers are ... superficial.

  74. People, seriously??? Please, fellow vegans, stop being so self-righteous, and stop puffing up your chests and say how "real" vegans wouldn't ride horses or apparently have dogs (loved the message that somebody wrote mentioning that because somebody wouldn't deign to have "pets" some dog or cat somewhere was going to die in shelter - good point!) Of course horses shouldn't be abused any more than any other creature, including humans. But don't tell me that I'm not a vegan because I ride a horse.

    1. What if you have a dog vegans? It wants to come w/ you to work...some of you do have to work right?...you say, "stay boy" and close the gate to you yard as you head out...you hear a slight whine or simper as you get in your car...Bummer. Poor abused dog?

  75. Were horses ever meant to be ridden? I mean, if they weren't so big and powerful, would we even consider riding them or using them as machines? Do any of your other household pets have "chores"? My point: horses (nor any other animal) weren't created so that their liberty could be taken away, and be forced to carry/pull/push/run/jump, etc., no? And from the vegan perspective, isn't most saddlery made of leather?

  76. Thankfulness to my dad who informed me relating to this blog, this website is really amazing..

  77. I don't actually have a horse, nor am I really interested in riding horses but I'm a vegan and for a while now I've been wondering about this. There are country lanes I walk down and it's horrible with all the farming around but the sight of a horse always cheers me up, because I think 'at least they're not going to the abbatoir!' but there's always been this nagging doubt in my mind about whether it's right to ride them. This blog has really cleared things up for me - from what I've read here I've made up my mind that it's not okay.


    because after reading this topic I'm not sure anymore... You see I don't know how parent can not be superior over a child. In early stages parents decide when and what their child eats, they control weather and when the child can go out and when he/she is supposed to be back, they make the child to do house stuff and if the child refuses to obey it's usually punished somehow so he/she does it eventually. So if it's unethical to some of you to have pets including horses, then I don't think it's etical to have children as well. in my opinion you’re taking things a little bit to far, and it does start being like religion when you speak this way. Don't forget that pet owners are the most prone people to go vegan because they see friends in animals, they understand more than others that animals have their own personalities, needs and fears and can't be treated like unconscious objects. So please don't say that the thing that actually MADE them go vegan is not vegan!

  79. look my horse must hate me. just wait until he passes that corner :)


  80. "No ability to make any personal decisions about his life, where he goes and when, stop, go, turn, gallop, sleep now, eat now -none of those decisions are his, who he sees, cannot ever see his family, is forcefully taken from his mother, cannot choose his own mate, etc, etc."

    Obviously someone doesn't know horses as much as they claim to.

    Horses in the wild are more likely than not found in herds. They have a pecking order, and every horse answers to someone higher. More often than not, they are not permitted to roam where they please. If they stray too far from the herd, either the lead mare or the stallion of the group would chase them down and depending on the situation, drive them away or drive them back into the herd.

    Their movements are dictated by other horses.

    Horses who do not display dominant traits are in need of a leader. And while I'm sure we'd all love to set our horses free into the wild, we can't do that with the horses of today. To set these horses free would guarantee untimely demise.

    I 100% agree with no more breeding. 100%.

    "Forcefully taken from its mother"

    Now even a naive horse lover ought to realize that the mare herself weans her baby from her in the wild. She pushes him away when the time comes, and the baby screams and screams and she will refuse to acknowledge him.

    Choosing its own mate: really? Horses don't have mates. They are breeding machines in the wild. Their instincts (sadly) tell them to breed.

    The mare most often does not choose. The stallion does. If replaced with humans, it would be considered rape.

    To guarantee rights to horses would be to neuter every horse in existence, wild or domestic.

    Or drive them into extinction. Either way.

  81. I don't ride horses at all, but I've been reading this discussion with interest and am leaning towards agreeing with the people who care for their horses and ride them if they get encouraging signs from the horse. I have a question. Someone was saying that horses need all this treatment and their hooves trimmed etc. As far as the hoof trimming, I was just wondering how horses in the wild managed that?

    1. In the wild, because horses are running over all kinds of terrain, the hooves wear down naturally. It's like how gerbils wear down their teeth naturally in the wild, but in cages at home, they need help with it.