East Devon Riding Academy
Horse Riding Lessons & Ethical Horsemanship.
Countryside Activity Centre near Sidmouth & Lyme Regis
Our horses and ponies live outside in small herds. They are bought in to the stables shortly before they are needed to work and turned out again immediately after they have finished. They are groomed before and after every ride, tacked up 10 minutes before a ride and un-
Horses are not physically or mentally designed for confinement. They need social contact, space to roll, room to play and groom with each other, the freedom for natural posture and movement and a little and often forage based diet. Our management allows our horses to fulfil all these natural requirements. Our horses are not expected to cope with an erratic workload, with riders on and off all day and they are treated as individuals. They do a maximum of 2 hours a day each, in a maximum of 2 sessions but this depends on the individual, as some are limited to 1 lesson a day. We have water available in the arena and allow the horses to drink during lessons.
In the days before cars, stalls were needed to house the large number of working horses. Lining horses up side by side in a stall just bigger than the horse provided a good solution for humans living in towns and cities, where there is limited space. Horses were a main mode of transport and replacing a stable with stalls meant more horses could be kept in the same space. In stalls, horses face a wall and are tied up, often by a rope running through a ring, with a weight on the bottom of it. The horse can then move its head to reach water or food (if provided) but only if they pull against the weight attached to their head. They cannot turn around and often can’t lie down. Things have moved on a bit since the 1800’s though! Stalls mean horses are kept tied up, they can’t move, they can’t see outside and they are often dark, with limited airflow. The list goes on as to why they impact negatively on a horse’s welfare. Sadly stalls are still in use in many riding stables today. For ethical reasons we do not use stalls, even though they are allowed by the licensing authorities and even accepted by the British Horse Society at their approved establishments. There is less room in a horse stall than a human prison cell.
Learning to ride is a journey, not a destination. We teach people to work in partnership with the horses, communicating with them in a kind and harmonious manner. We do not believe in crude, bullying riding, nor riders holding on and hoping for the best. We want our riders to be safe, enjoying their hobby on happy horses that are free from pain and discomfort.
East Devon Riding Academy strives to offer and practice ethical riding and horsemanship. But what exactly does this mean?
It means that we acknowledge the horse is not a machine, an inanimate object or unworthy of being considered. They have not chosen to be in their job and they deserve to have their own life too. We want them to be happy and free from pain and discomfort. We work hard to ensure that providing customers with a service does not impose upon the horse’s innate needs and they still have the freedom to be a horse. Our horses have choice, we listen to their communication and if necessary we act on it to ensure their welfare is optimised.
We are the solution for those people who wish to enjoy their hobby but don’t want this to be at the expense of the horse. For the people that recognise that the horse is far more than a four legged bicycle and has thoughts, feelings and needs of its own, we offer many ethical learning opportunities .
ETHICAL RIDING AND HORSEMANSHIP
All of our tack and equipment is chosen for maximum comfort of the horses and ponies. They are all ridden in bitless bridles. Horses have very sensitive mouths and even when the utmost care is taken by the rider not to pull on the reins, and even when the ‘mildest’ style of bit is used, there is still potential for the rider to create uncomfortable pressure and pain in the mouth. Removing the bit removes a source of discomfort for the horse. We do not strap their mouths shut with different nosebands. We do not use gadgets that force the horse into holding their body a certain way. We do not ask or tell our riders to whip the horses. Kicking and whipping towards other animals is illegal, it is not accepted in society nor towards other people and we believe horses should not be exempt from these morals. Whipping and constantly kicking a horse in the ribs is cruel and not necessary, there are much kinder methods of riding that don’t inflict pain on the horse and these are the methods we teach.
TACK & EQUIPMENT
As a provider of tuition in riding and horsemanship, we are in an influential position when helping people with their hobby. We do not want to start children or adults on their journey with horses, giving them the impression that riding is all about them and what they want, regardless of the impact they can have on the horse. We do not want to perpetuate the endemic view that it is acceptable, even normal, to pull horses in the mouth to steer, to whip them to move or to bounce on their backs in the quest for a goal. We are heartened by the increasing number of people who already have riding experience but who choose us to help them further their skill and knowledge or help them return to horses after a break. These people are often seeking a more harmonious partnership with horses, they want to understand equine behaviour and they gain a huge sense of achievement by riding softly and with respect for the horse. Most people don’t want to ride unethically, they don’t want to pull and kick and they are wowed when we show them they don’t need to. Treating horses as machines is widespread but it doesn’t have to be like that and we aim to show people the amazing relationships people can have with horses WITHOUT the need for abuse, bullying, stress and pain for the horse.