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I would like to gripe about people who complain about horses being ridden on our roads (and those even smaller-minder citizens who have complained about what they leave behind. My answer to them is as follows.
Pause for a few moments and consider the fate of Homo Sapiens without the helping hoof of his friend The Horse.
There would be no roads or cars
A pretty pointless task really, because you wouldnâ€™t be reading this in the first place, but for the existence of The Horse. There would have been no roads, no cars, no industrial revolution, no modern farming (kicked off by the horse-drawn plough). Mankind without the co-operation of The Horse would be so far removed from where we are today that it is barely conceivable.
Some might argue the world would be a far better place without the internal combustion engine, but that still doesnâ€™t detract anything at all from the importance of The Horse â€“ indeed it adds to it because, just as in pre-motorised vehicle days, The Horse would have remained the only form of transport.
Ipso facto I think it just a tad unreasonable to moan and whine about horses being present on the thoroughfares of Great Britain. No Horse, no Great, just Britannia â€“ doesnâ€™t quite have the same ring does it? Without The Horse, there would BE no roads. An interesting fact, but one I was unaware of until told by a police officer, is that horses actually have Right of Way over motorised transport.
Strictly speaking, when a horse is being ridden along the road, ALL motorised traffic should halt until the horse has passed. I think therefore it speaks volumes for the reasonableness of horse riders that they do not insist on this procedure, but go to some time-consuming and expensive lengths to ensure that they are highly visible on the road and that they, their horse and other road users are safe.
The Horse, quite frankly, has earned the right to a little respect donâ€™t you think? Is it too much to ask to take what are literally seconds out of our busy schedules to slow down and pass horses wide and slow when you meet them out on the road? If your answer to this is along the lines of â€œyes, why should I?â€ then can I suggest that you read an excellent little book by Jilly Cooper called â€œAnimals in Warâ€. It describes in horrific and graphic detail how, in times of war, The Horse has laid down his life time and time again for us in battle. The culmination of the â€œwarhorseâ€ in this country was WWI. Anybody reading what happened to these noble beasts left behind to die slowly of starvation, thirst and suffocation in the mud and horror of the Trenches will, I promise, move the hardest heart to tears.
Just remember, when you next curse some law-abiding citizen for holding you up on the road for a few brief seconds, or your gas guzzler is spattered with horse droppings, or even if you skid on a pile on your motorbike because you were racing round the country lanes too fast to be able to negotiate it and have come a cropper. Just pause, take a deep breath and thank God not only for those hundreds of thousands of brave men who laid down their lives for us their forebears, but for The Horse who bore them into battle, pulled their guns and carted their rations.
And unlike the lucky men who came home, there was nothing like that for The Horse; he was left to die alone, cold and hungry in the mud, wondering why The Man to whom he had been so loyal had deserted him in his hour of need. Makes you think, doesnâ€™t it? So please, when next you pass a rider, slow down, if it looks safe to do so, then pass wide and slow; if the horse is obviously nervous, then wait patiently behind, not revving your engine, until either the horse has calmed down, or the rider signals you to pass.
Following this courtesy and kindness, should you fail to receive at least a smile and a nod from the rider (remember horses can be a real handful, and it is often not safe to let go a rein to raise a hand in thanks), by all means berate that rider and point out that the noble beast he/she is riding deserves better. A nod or a smile costs nothing, as my old mum would say!