By Sue Palmer
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
A recent discussion on the Ethical Horsemanship Association (EHA, http://www.ethicalhorsemanshipassociation.co.uk) page on FB (https://www.facebook.com/ethicalhorsemanshipassociation) got me thinking about whether or not EHA is the right name for our association, and whether we are portraying ourselves accurately. I’d be really interested in your thoughts on this – our mission is to help horses (and by default, their owners), and in order to do this, people need to understand what we’re offering at EHA. Plus, of course, what we’re offering needs to appeal to the people we reach – but that’s a separate discussion!
The discussion started by asking ‘What are your ethics?’. This wasn’t a question I’d thought about before, because despite calling the association the ‘Ethical Horsemanship Association’, I hadn’t considered a set of ‘ethics’ that we follow. Wikipedia defines ‘ethics’ as ‘a branch of philosophy that involves systematising, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics). At EHA we encourage a supportive, encouraging environment, which in itself seems in opposition to that particular definition of ‘ethics’. It’s true though that I do believe there is ‘right’ (working towards a better understanding of the horse) and ‘wrong’ (ignoring communication from the horse), and perhaps I should expand on this and state my views, and those of co-founders Simon and Lizzie. What do you think – would it help you to understand more about what we believe is right or wrong?
However, the word we’ve used in our name is ‘Ethical’. One dictionary definition of ‘ethical’ is ‘pertaining to or dealing with morals or the principles of morality; pertaining to right and wrong in conduct’ (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/ethical). This, to me, is exactly what we are about at EHA – discussion and ongoing learning amongst like-minded people around morals in relation to horsemanship, and around what we as individuals feel is right or wrong in our conduct in relation to our horses. The goal of EHA is to offer a friendly, non-judgemental environment in which to have these discussions and in which to experience the ongoing learning, through acceptance that we are all on different stages of our horsemanship journey, and that everyone has something to share that is of value to others, no matter what stage of the journey they are on.
Another point in the discussion on the EHA FB page (https://www.facebook.com/ethicalhorsemanshipassociation) was around the word ‘horsemanship’. The suggestion was that ‘horsemanship’ may not be the best choice of word, since I had stated earlier in the conversation that EHA did not advocate a specific training technique or method. This person felt that ‘horsemanship’ these days generally related to training horses, and therefore our name might be confusing to the general public. I welcome the challenge to my thought process, but again I ultimately feel that we picked the right word. I was brought up with the ‘Manual of Horsemanship’ (as I’m sure were many of you!), and ‘Horsemanship’ there is taken to mean all aspects of caring for horses, including training.
I really appreciate people who are willing to stand up for what they believe, and to have a civilized debate around a subject, and I’ve found it fascinating diving more deeply into explaining who and what EHA is. We agonised for many months over what to call the organisation, before settling on Ethical Horsemanship Association. I listened to piles of audiobooks, we scoured the equestrian press, we canvassed opinion whenever we were in the company of anyone who would discuss the subject with us, and we finally settled on EHA. We think we’ve got it right, we feel it accurately describes what we’re offering. What do you think? If you’d like to take a look so you can give us more accurate feedback, you can join us for a week for free at www.ethicalhorsemanshipassociation.co.uk. Hope to see you there 🙂