What is it with tricks? What is it about being entertained by a horse performing like a trained seal that we find so fascinating and so…well…..entertaining, that we as humans just love to watch it so much?
Personally I don’t understand it. I don’t like to see any animal used for the sake of human entertainment. Imagine if we did the same thing to people. How demoralising it would be. “Oh, look how well she comes when she is called and how she rolls over and begs for her food. Clever girl.” There is nothing clever about it. It’s humiliating and disrespectful to the animal. Yet we as horse lovers, love nothing better than to see a horse ‘show’. To see horses perform for our entertainment.
These days, circuses rarely have live animal acts. There are some that do of course but they are getting less and less. We don’t like to see animals kept in captivity. That certainly is the way modern thought is heading, but dogs, cats, horses etc have been ‘domesticated’ for many thousands of years. Many of them are actually very well looked after and well kept so they don’t mind the captivity so much. But being ‘lesser’ animals we expect them to not mind doing our bidding for a scrap of food if they’re lucky, or to escape punishment if they’re not.
It never ceases to amaze me just how willing we horse lovers are, to see these magnificent, proud and free creatures we love so much, performing what are essentially tricks for our amusement. And how often we mistake tricks for real communication.
A trick is after all, the ultimate expression of obedience. We command and the horse obeys. And the harder the trick, the more difficult it is, the more obedience we have over the horse….hence more CONTROL.
Humans love to be in control. Our history, our everyday patterns and responses to our environs prove it. We love to be in control, especially over a powerful animal like a horse. ‘Conquering the wild beast’ somehow makes us feel better about ourselves, more powerful, more clever. So, we like to watch a show, to be entertained by a horse’s tricks because it shows the handler’s control of the horse and the horse’s obedience.
You know, it doesn’t even occur to Shane and I to teach our horses tricks. We’re too busy having an interesting conversation with them. People often ask us to show them our ‘tricks’ and it makes me flinch just at the suggestion. I like my horse. I respect him. I would never expect him to do my bidding to satisfy a human’s whim.
How long can you work with a horse? How long is an interesting conversation?
Tricks are demoralising, degrading and insulting to a beautiful, intelligent, magnificent creature like a horse. We have too much respect for them to ever even consider it.
Oh and by the way, I don’t like performing seals either.