That stigma will always be placed on cowboys, just like Dressage or Show Jumpers are stuck up princesses spending daddys money, team ropers whip their horses everytime they miss and all barrel horses are crazy and out of control.
Even back when the times, the horses and the people were tougher there was an appreciation for the ranch horse. There is a book written by the late Will James from the 40s called "Horses I Have Known".
When he speaks about the tough dirty ones there is admiration for them. Granted Will had the tendency to over exaggerate in his stories but you get the point.
I consisder my husband to be a good cowboy, and the one thing that I have noticed about good cowboys that I admire is the ability to see the good in all their horses. My husband can appreciate and can find something good in every horse he rides rather than pick them apart. He had horses that would try to peel out about the time he would get something roped, he would take a few turns, sit on his coils and let them hit the end. Instead of getting mad and harpoon the **** out him, he would just giggle get by the best he could and love the things the horses did well.
Ranch horses may not be rewarded in cookies and lengthy grooming sessions, but after a long hot day of mashing cows we might unsaddle in the shade give them a drink from the ditch, before making the long trot back to trailer were the ice chest awaits on the back of the flat bed. And that is enough for them.
Abuse simply isn't tolerated. Even riding a sore or lame horse is a big no no as as owning a saddle that will sore a horses back. Bsms, if the guy that did that to your horse worked anywhere that I know of he would of been ****canned in a hurry. Word gets around quick and he wouldn't of been able to work anywhere within earshot.
I am not saying that cowboying is all butterflies and sunshine. They expect a lot out of the horses, but they appreciate it too. A cowboy in the simplest terms is a caretaker of livestock. Horses are not only livestock but a partner.