Rehabbing Charroed Horses- Introduction
Hanaeleh is one of the few rescues that is calling attention to the abuse of the charroed horses. Unfortunately, we see this type of abusive training in so many horses, especially in the Southwest. I have written about the abuses that these horses on Hanaeleh’s blog: Charro Riding: Cruelty Behind the “Dancing.”
Working with Charroed Horses
We have gotten in charroed horses into our rescue, and, to be honest, most of these horses are so abused that they rarely are completely rehabilitated. The problem is that the abuse done to horses who have been charroed is not only physical, but also mental and emotional. The horse only performs because he is scared because of the repercussions of what will happen if he refuses or does not do what is asked. When the horses fight back, they are abused even more, or forced to undergo more mental torture, like having their head tied high or low for literally hours at a time.
When I boarded at a local stable I saw charro riders do this to their horses. One man would tack up his horse with a short martingale, then leave him for several hours tied to a post so the horse would run around the post one way, which would shorten the rope and he would be “stuck” until the man came back. We complained to the manager, but that did nothing, so when the owner left the property, we made sure the horse “somehow” was untacked and made his way back into the stall. When the man complained, we informed him that it was illegal to leave a horse tied without water.
Another man would come out late at night and tie up his completely untrained horse to the roof of the stall overnight- so the horse would have no food or water at all that night, and his neck muscles would be so fatigued that he would be less likely to buck or fight when the man tried to “train” him the next day. We untied the horse every single night. He finally moved the horse to another facility to where he could abuse him without meddling women telling him what to do.
Calling Out the Abuse
Ultimately, the problem with charroed horses is that it seems to be just a few people who are calling out this torture. If we had more people look upon this training with the disgust and horror that they should, this abuse would stop. Some people believe that it’s a “culture” issue- certainly there are abuses in EVERY culture, so this is a ridiculous argument. Culture should never be a reason to allow abuse. It IS possible to teach a horse to piaffe without resorting to the cruel practices that are so often part of the charro culture. It IS possible to train a horse without causing lifetime repercussions of fear.
Unfortunately, until enough people stand up against this form of abuse, we will be asked to help rehabilitate these horses. Horses end up at Hanaeleh because the owners dump them at the auction when they are too lame to be ridden (like horse Legolas), when the horse is too emotionally devastated to ride at all (like the pony Zebedee/Ash), when horses are left to starve to death (like the horses Ulysses and Nevada).
Issues with Horses Who Have Been Charroed
Charroed horses are, from my experience, started too young. They have shoes put on when their feet are not finished growing, and often by people who are not certified farriers. As a result, these horses often have hoof and leg issues.
Some of these horses have been beaten from the head down to their hooves. The horses are headshy and often react violently when we try to work with their legs and feet- especially their hind feet. This is because they are hit on the legs in order to get them to “dance” (which really is just an exaggerated piaffe). Smaller horses are often used for tripping, so trying to get them used to being around ropes is difficult, because they are afraid that they will lassoed and thrown to the ground again. In addition, they are often whipped and hit in the head both from the saddle and on the ground, which leads to a fear of whips as well.
When working with charroed horses, you have to be prepared for a fight-or-flight response. This means that the horse will try to run away if they feel threatened, even when they are tied. This is why I say that we almost never completely rehabilitate a horse who has been charroed- because if we are able to rehabilitate them physically, we often have difficulty rehabilitating them mentally and emotionally. Most of these horses live the rest of their lives either broken completely and unable to ever emotionally bond with anyone, or they can never get over the abuse and they may react to a situation even several years after the initial abuse.
The first thing you have to do when you get a horse you think might be charroed is to discover what his triggers might be. I go into this more in my next blog post: Rehabbing Charroed Horses- Identifying the Abuse and Triggers