Aug. 6, 1948
Like today, horse welfare was on the mind of many equestrians, and this topic was reflected in the letters to the editor.
I am taking pen in hand and “sticking my neck out” at the same time to relay an incident that occurred at a recent local horse show, our largest and best summer show.
It was a perfect summer day everyone concentrating on the class being judged in the ring. We were surrounded by groups of really enthusiastic horsemen, not much could mar the next few hours (we thought).
The crack of a pole being rapped on a horse’s knees soon destroyed our illusion, of a sporting afternoon—this display was taking place directly in back of the boxes. The gentlemen, and believe me, I use the term lightly, inflicting this measure, was not soon satisfied when the impact of a blow broke the pole in two. With a smile of satisfaction he tossed the schooling device into the bushes.
This went on before each class all afternoon and the scene of the poling was dominated by two professional horsemen, the above mentioned and his rider reputed to have “made” some of the best horses in the country.
They may be “made” to go around a ring or over an outside course but I think an hour or two in the hunting field would tell a different story. Where are the honest hunting horses? Is it true, that rules are elastic enough that all one needs to enter is a horse that jumps?
I would be very interested to know the percentage of entries in some of our shows—going into qualified classes—who have never seen a pack of hounds.
But to return to the original topic. One of the horses that was severely poled, a lovely gray mare, was pinned conformation champion of the show. Any horse deserving this ribbon is assuredly entitled to it, the horse earned it through honest effort—but how about the men who exploit this animal and submit it to inhumane treatment? Do they deserve ribbons, cups, credit, applause? I think not. Yet these are most important factors to someone who makes his livelihood by dealing and showing horses. Surely there is or should be as much dignity in the profession as in any other.
It must be fairly obvious to any judge, by the manner in which a horse enters a ring, goes into his fences, and departs the course—whether his schooling was based on patience or poling. It’s asking a great deal for a man to keep his mind and eyes on the ring and still be cognizant of what’s going on behind the scenes.
However, there always seem to be five or six members of any horse show committee roaring around in station wagons with committee seals stuck on the windshield—looking devastating for sure, but that’s where the looking stops. If encouraged perhaps they could keep a weather eye on what’s going on around the grounds and either put a stop to all such procedures or have the judges notified that such and such a number was poled just before entering the class.
I for one would like to shake the hand of a judge who refuses to pin a horse, even though his performance was perfect, conformation faultless, had he come into the ring after a session of poling.
Don’t you think that lack of ribbons might increase the compliance with some of the unwritten rules?
(Mrs. Frederick C. Hecht)
This article was first published on Aug. 6, 1948, in The Chronicle. It's part of a series celebrating 75 years of Chronicle history.