Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: The land of Enchantment
I haven't read all the replies, but there is a lot of "equipment" that, when in the "right hands", is in no way abusive. However, in the wrong hands it can and often does mean some poor horse suffers physical discomfort and confusion.
I like to believe most riders/trainers keep an open mind and keep learning their whole riding/training career. I have always been at the opposite end of "abusive". But, I figured out pretty early on that not communicating something clearly to anyone, be it a horse or dog or human, is inconsiderate and not doing anyone any favors and can lead to confusion and frustration. It is not "gentle", it is just irritating to the horse. It is only fair to communicate clearly. It is abusive if communication goes way beyond "clear direction". I see no problem with spurs, for example, if the horse is trained to them and their use is limited to communicating. I don't put all communication in the "negative" or "positive" reinforcement category. Of course many things can be broken down to "negative/positive reinforcement", but I think a lot of it can also be described as awareness of what one is communicating while remaining considerate of the horse.
The one thing that I think is often missed in the "horse world" is the horse itself. They are highly intelligent - IMPO, much more so than dogs.
There is just as much horse sense as ever, but the horses have most of it.