Being kind is important, vey important. But kindness alone isn’t necessarily enough. Trying to be kind to our horses is often at the forefront of our mind, but sometimes the decisions that we make may have to be wise rather than kind. Imagine your horse is lame and needs to be on box rest. But he doesn’t like box rest. To recover from the injury, he will need to be temporarily unhappy in order to achieve long term happiness. As humans we can understand this, but the horse with no concept of acting now to achieve something in the future will just be unhappy.
This dilemma is summed up beautifully by a story from the Dalai Lama. A student came to him with this story:
“My cat had a flea. But I didn’t want to kill the flea, so I didn’t. Then the cat got more fleas. Then the cat had a reaction to the fleas. So, I took the cat to the vet, and the vet had to treat the cat, and kill all the fleas. What should I have done?”
The Dalai Lama replied: “You were trying to be kind, but you forgot to be wise. To be wise, you should have killed the one flea. By trying to be kind, you caused more pain.”
The same applies with our horses. In some cases, the short-term kindness won’t lead to long-term happiness. Sometimes keeping your horse on box rest even though he is unhappy is worth it for the long-term benefit. The combination of wisdom and kindness means that we retain clarity of our long-term goals, without falling into the trap of seeking short term happiness.
The best we can when we are forced to put our horses in situations that aren’t ideal for them, is to make the best of the situation. So, if your horse is on box rest, find him something to do in his stable. If he is turned out by himself, to stop him racing around the paddock, see if you can find him a horse to go in the next-door field. Make sure you look beyond the short-term kindness to the long-term benefits.