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Sikunder’s Law - page 2

It should, because the principles are still the same. Find a famous person. Get them to endorse you. Then use their testimonial to entice the public into trusting you, all the while peddling pseudo science and emotional trigger words. Rarey’s original technique was so successful that it was repeated by all of his nineteenth century successors, men who glorified in calling themselves Professor This or That. The same technique is still being practised today by the stars of the animal entertainment industry commonly known as horse whisperers.

Moreover, also like Rarey, the toxic trainer who injured Sikunder uses testimonials to lure in the unwitting onto her website and to her clinics.

Money not Horses

But this loyalty to money is nothing new. It was revealed in print for the first time back in the 1890s when Britain’s greatest equestrian academic, Captain Horace Hayes (pictured left), went to London to meet the infamous American horse tamer known as Professor Sample.


Silas Sample claimed to have invented a horse taming machine designed to spin four wild horses at once into a state of submission. The machine was a fraud and so was the so-called Professor.


When they met in London, before Captain Hayes could ask a single question, Sample said, “I don’t care what you know about horses. What I want to know is how much money you made last year.”


Sadly, this philosophy of greed is still prevalent, as demonstrated in a recent interview when the most infamous American member of this privileged priesthood was quoted as saying, “A horseman’s talent is reflected in his bank account.”


Thus throughout history, far too many horse trainers have based their actions on self-interest.


Moral concerns

Horses suffer without fault or choice. Or is it our fault and our choice?

For at least 6,000 years humans have had a fraught relationship with horses. They are our companions and our chattel. We love them and cage them, admire them and abuse them.

We cloak our sense of superior species chauvinism by repeating the old lie that horses are ours to do with as we please because they don’t suffer the way we do, don’t think in a significant manner, don’t worry or love, have no sense of the future or their own mortality.

What we love to forget is that the ability to suffer is a great cross-species leveller and by allowing cruel training to continue without any legal safeguards we are aiding and abetting those who torture our horses and pretend to call it education.



As any Long Rider will tell you, there is a timeless mystery involved with the duality of horses and humans. That’s why, when my dreams of making the first World Ride were suddenly facing a tragic and premature demise, I found myself seeking the solace of an unexpected teacher – Sikunder.

This was my fifth equestrian expedition and though Basha and I are two of the most experienced equestrian explorers alive today, neither of us have ever encountered this unprecedented situation, wherein someone effectively derailed an equestrian journey through gross neglect and deliberate mischief.

Yet, I asked myself, what happens when you remove the lyrical aspects of Sikunder’s life? What could I do to those who robbed him and other horses of their moments of majesty?

You have to respect the horse, as there is no dialogue, only silence, which leads to a bond between horses and humans who find a kindred spirit. Thankfully, after weeks of patience, this compassionate horse is beginning to make emotional progress.

Meanwhile, though his actions indicate that he harbours no sense of recrimination, I would like to believe that Sikunder knows I did not intentionally cause him pain. Perhaps in his wisdom, he will someday forgive me for what I allowed to occur?


Profits before Principles

Yet while I struggle, recent experiences prove that equestrian hypocrisy watches for an opportunity to turn any event to its own advantage.

Every time we surrender to evil, we encourage it. When government retreats, crime fills the space. Though history proves that there are countless worthy equestrian trainers, when it comes to the super-stars of the horse whispering entertainment industry, fame matters more than talent. Regardless of where they pitch their tent, they speak the language of money. Their loyalty is to profits, not principles. They should not be our teachers.

Nevertheless, during the last decade there has been an alarming expansion of such unlicensed individuals who claim to be responsible equine trainers. By attending a clinic, watching videos, or even claiming to be divinely guided, these people can tell a trusting public that they are knowledgeable horse trainers.

This is amazing when you consider how strict regulations are for example in England, as ironically, according to Britain’s 1996 Veterinary Surgeons Act, by law any therapist treating an animal, especially one receiving money for that treatment, must have the prior written consent of the owner’s veterinarian surgeon.

Yet will anyone have the courage to call the police and put this law in effect in October? That’s when one of America’s most famous horse whisperers will ignore this existing English legislation before another packed audience. Will someone also please remind the British authorities that the English organization DEFRA, which oversees rural affairs, has long called for the urgent regulation of unlicensed trainers, who champion their own economic interest rather than the welfare of the horse.

Stop Pretending – Start Legislating

Sadly, the equine trainers are not required to obtain any type of official training, nor are they regulated by any governmental overseers. The result is that horses like Sikunder are routinely destroyed by unscrupulous trainers.

These people are on a par with carnival con men selling phoney medicine.  Yet whereas those cruel charlatans have been regulated out of business, the horse whisperers continue to act as though they are above the law of every nation. That’s why it is time to stop pretending and start legislating, because, as Sikunder proves, there is an urgent need to regulate this lawless industry.

So the LRG-AF is calling for the formation of an international alliance of horse owners, ethical horse trainers, academic experts and national governments all working to halt these so-called healers who are hurting our horses.


United Action

It may be true that a man can only see up to the horizon of his own life and that good ideas struggle to find support. In spite of such limitations what is certain is that only an unprecedented alliance of knowledge and virtue can dispel this entrenched evil.


Luckily a similar movement is already afoot in Britain, where the Animal Behaviour and Training Council is working with the RSPCA to regulate dog training. This action is being taken because unscrupulous dog trainers are relying on flawed research to justify their methods, all the while enriching themselves at the expense of our animals. Likewise, horse owners need to muster their courage and call for global change.


Nor is the criticism confined to the mounted community, as scientists around the world have been speaking out for years. Sadly these experts have been effectively ignored by a subservient equestrian press. This came about in the late 1990s when the world’s most infamous horse whisperer lodged a ten million dollar lawsuit against an American horse magazine which had dared to investigate a host of scandals attached to his personal life and public actions. Though the magazine’s story was deemed to be accurate, the legal action was settled out of court, with both parties agreeing not to reveal any details of the case. As a result, the mere threat of being sued has frozen the editorial blood of the corporate-owned horse magazines. Predictably, this resulted in the animal entertainment stars being allowed to run rough shod over the public, all the while the truth was suppressed or ignored by weak-willed editors, timid journalists and corrupting advertisers who believe it is better to make money than rock the boat with the truth.


That is why it is vitally important that the equestrian press, which has long been in thrall to these hucksters in cravats and cowboy hats, needs to show their readers they’ve regained their editorial nerve and publish investigative reports detailing how the equestrian equivalent of blood diamonds has tainted the horse world.


Science not Superstition

Nevertheless the International Society for Equitation Science is one such group which has adopted ethical guidelines for the objective study of equine training. These  experts, who are critical of the fear-inducing practices used by unlicensed horse whisperers, need to encourage a new sense of social responsibility and share their findings without any further delay.


Dr. Debbie Goodwin, who is the President of the International Society of Equitation Science, warned, “When training fails, horses suffer and may pay the ultimate penalty with their lives. They can do nothing to remedy this situation. That responsibility is ours.”


Governments, who remain averse to risk and have allowed the horse world to become a battleground of doubt, must  pass laws which regulate the trainers just as veterinarians and farriers currently do.


And legitimate horse trainers need to lead this reform, thereby proving they prize equestrian ethics and personal compassion before profits.


Sikunder’s Law – An Appeal for Equestrian Justice

The LRG-AF isn’t singling out any specific horse whisperer or trainer for investigation We are instead seeking the immediate reformation of this entire chaotic and dangerous industry.


Thus, armed with the evidence of how these predatory humans are harming horses, bewitching the public and avoiding governmental controls, the LRG-AF is calling for the creation of a legal Code of Conduct for horse trainers, as well as the passing of Sikunder’s Law, which would make it illegal for horses to be cruelly treated while being trained.


But that won’t happen without your help and there are four things you can do to help Sikunder and others like him.


One, you can sign the on line petition urging that Sikunder’s Law be passed.

Two, you can share this message with your friends.

Three, you can tell us about other horses who were injured like Sikunder.

You can also make a donation to the Long Riders Guild Academic Foundation for the Sikunder Rehabilitation Fund.


It takes courage to stand up for our horses but tragedy can be turned to triumph if Sikunder’s Law is passed.


Finally – A Word on the World Ride

There are rhythms to a man’s life.


Thus in the beginning it was all saddles and hardship for me. But for the past ten years I have been the chronicler of my tribe, a witness, a story teller. That’s why I woke up one morning and mistakenly said, “World, I know you. You hold no more surprises.”


I had forgotten that equestrian travel isn’t akin to enclosing yourself in a flying machine that transports one like a lump of pedestrian meat to a distant beach. In contrast, as my recent experience proves, there is no guarantee of glory or even arrival when you swing into the saddle and set your eyes on a distant horizon.


Shackleton’s Compass

Consequently when we found Pompeii starved and Sikunder unrideable, when our hopes were shattered and our once proud expedition struggling to survive, I remembered Sir Ernest Shackleton, the extraordinary polar explorer who has so inspired my life.


Before I left London, Shackleton’s granddaughter granted me the rare privilege of holding the brass compass used by this greatest of explorers during his journey across Antarctica. Thankfully, when I did, I committed to memory Shackleton’s belief that blows which don’t break your back, strengthen it.


So it came to pass that when my life had reached its lowest ebb at that horrible French farm, I asked myself how Shackleton, who had survived more difficult, unjust and seemingly impossible challenges, would have reacted? Patience, love, generosity, endurance, humour, compassion and of course bravery, got him through. That’s when I knew that we too had to hold on, for having already overcome so many challenges to get this far, surely fate would loosen her bitter grip and allow us to ride on soon?


Ride or Die

More than half of all humans now live in cities. Yet we Long Riders are a solitary breed. That’s why though the Guild has expanded into forty-three countries, there are still so few of us, for ours are restless souls.


Yet optimism rests at our very core and a light remains shining within Basha and me which makes us want to explore the world before us. Perhaps we are on a quest for perpetual self improvement, looking for fellow horse riders who belong to a new type of redemptive equestrian community?


Regardless, come Spring, Basha and I will set off again, because that’s what Long Riders do – never give up – and insh’Allah I will be astride the fully recovered Sikunder.


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