Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Setting a good example?

My Internet is finally back. It was gone for 49 hours thanks to our rotten, ridiculous PNW weather. For those of you who don't know, we've been hit with a blizzard/ice storm for a week plus now. And that just does not happen here! So we are all miserable and mostly housebound. I made it as far as the grocery store 2 miles away today - that was my big accomplishment, and it wasn't fun. See, I grew up in the Midwest, but they know how to deal with snow there. Here, it just sits on the road in big unwieldy lumps with car tracks intersecting it. What a mess!

Anyway, stuck in the house with very little to do given the lack of an Internet connection, I have been watching a lot of TV. Yesterday, I watched a bunch of Animal Planet. Now, the first thing I want to say is that I'm thrilled AP exists and that they publicize animal issues. I think they are doing a very good job educating the public about what abuse looks like and how, yes, you do need to stick your nose in and file a report. I believe those shows have heavily contributed to creating a society that is much more likely to report cruelty and I'm happy to see the hard working animal control officers recognized and lauded (they so often get unfairly bashed because of their role in euthing unwanted pets - um, bash the asshats who dumped the pet, not the person who has to clean up the mess! Do you really think anybody likes having to put animals to sleep?). However, despite the many wonderful things these shows have accomplished, I have to say, a few horse-related episodes and I was ready to punch the TV.

Did anybody else see this stuff?

1) The paint colt dragging the "professional animal behaviorist" across the yard and into the barn. I mean, dragging. I thought she lost her grip at one point. Lady, there is an invention called a stud chain. It is called that for a reason. I assume the reason Mr. Colt had not yet been made Mr. Gelding was that ownership had yet to be legally determined. Fair enough, but there's nothing illegal about giving him a come-to-Jesus meeting and teaching him to lead. Were they really afraid that viewers would think that a little basic horsey discipline would be perceived as more cruelty? Hell, do it off camera if you must, but don't put a rank colt taking you yard-surfing on TV for all to see. Of course, she did possess a "carrot stick" so perhaps that explains the utter lack of any control over the animal...

2) Then they adopt out the paint colt to two little girls who say they aren't going to saddle him until you can't see his "bumps" anymore, meaning his ribs. But they want to get him used to stuff, so they put a tom thumb bridle on him ('cause that's a colt breaking bit...) and one scrambles up on him bareback. No helmets, no adults present. And I'll bet $50 that colt wasn't three years old yet - honestly, he looked like a yearling. Narrow as a board fence. This is supposed to be kyoooot, I guess.

3) OK, then we have a starved Paint mare that is rescued and rehabbed and adopted out to a nice enough family - except the kyoot happy ending, again, is two kids riding with no helmets. First, older kid is led around the yard by mom, bouncing like a flapping sack of potatoes and hanging on to the horn for dear life. Clearly we are not believers in riding lessons. Then little brother is popped up behind the saddle. As the horse walks away, it's obvious he's listing to the left, at least six inches off center. Nobody's concerned! The mare, bless her heart, does appear to be a total saint who is so happy that these new owners of hers have jobs that she will calmly tolerate whatever without blinking.

4) Moving on, we have a starved Arabian with hind leg weakness. First of all, they rig up this deal to keep his pastern from buckling over...with a bungee cord with hooks on both ends attached to a brace above the hock and the front of his shoe (Did you guys see this? Have you ever seen anything like that?) My first thought was, OMG, he is going to go down at night and get tangled in that shit. Well, I must be psychic because the next scene, he's all banged up and bloody 'cause he went down and got cast overnight and nobody found him until morning. I don't know, maybe a vet really would prescribe a rig like that (if you're a vet and you have, tell me about it), but even if they did, wouldn't you put that horse on a foal cam and turn up the sound so you knew if he went down? Anyway, after that they put him in a sling and, tough old shit that he is, he pulls through.

5) Finally, they rescue what looks to be a rather nice Thoroughbred mare and she pops out a baby. Baby is bedded down in shavings (strike one) and Momma has a loose nylon halter on her in the stall (strike two). They get adopted out to a home where baby has a nylon halter on in the field and is dodging cement blocks lying in the yard. Actually, all of these horses seem to have nylon halters on at all times - in the stall, in the field, etc. Why?

Now, the defense to this is: It's TV. It's entertainment. A non-horseperson wouldn't pick up on any of this as questionable or wrong. And normally I am one of those people who thinks that if you are taking your behavioral cues from TV, you have bigger problems than TV is responsible for. Still, you wouldn't see a "good guy" TV character plop a child into a car without a car seat, would you? You wouldn't see the character that you are supposed to like send his kids off on dirt bikes without helmets. People would scream if that happened. And this isn't fiction - this is non-fiction, educational television - so I think they should get it right.

What do you think? Did you see these episodes? Do you think it's important that TV shows of this type set a good example in all ways or are helmetless bareback children on green colts OK in the name of artistic expression?