Horse tug of war

fburton

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"Horse tug of war called off after welfare concerns raised"

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-27729133

Not having seen what actually happened, I'm not sure how I feel about this. If the horse was succeeding in pulling against the rugby team, then how is this any different from when a horse e.g. pulls a plough? On the other hand, if the horse was being pulled backwards, or struggling to maintain footing, then there may indeed be welfare concerns.

What do people here think?

Oh, and as for the owner-company's comment "He weighs just over a tonne and believe me when I say, if he didn't want to do it he wouldn't" - if the horse didn't want to do it, what would he actually do??
 

Elbie

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By the looks of the picture it looks like they are treating it like a normal tug of war, with the horse pulling one way and the rugby team pulling the other.

The owner says "shires had undergone 1,000 years of breeding to pull loads". Well yes but generally the loads they are pulling are not being pulled back!

I'm not sure I could watch it
 

Jesstickle

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I don't see why it is any worse or better than expecting a horse to jump showjumps or get in a trailer or chase a polo ball about or run in a race. They are all weird things horses do to suit us because they are marvelous like that. I can't see they will have done him any great harm.
 

hayinamanger

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I saw this on the news last night, it was not easy to watch.

Initially, the horse was unable to move the rugby team, he threw himself into his collar and appeared to be quite agitated, moving sideways because he couldn't go forwards. He got them moving, but it had all the ingredients for a disaster imo, the spectators looked very vulnerable stood behind the rope at the ringside.
 

fburton

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I don't see why it is any worse or better than expecting a horse to jump showjumps or get in a trailer or chase a polo ball about or run in a race. They are all weird things horses do to suit us because they are marvelous like that. I can't see they will have done him any great harm.
Harm is one thing; fairness is another. Everyone here would condemn this activity if the horse was being harmed. I suspect everyone would also be against it if was causing psychological distress without physical harm.

Fairness is about how the things we expect horses to do relates to what they either naturally adapted to do (like running) or what we have trained/habituated them to do. If a horse is trained to jump or walk into a trailer, then it's not unfair on the horse to be asked to do these things from time to time, even though they may not be entirely natural. We hope they may even learn to relish such activities. Similarly, if this horse was trained to pull a plough, it is quite fair to ask him to do that.

What may be unfair about this situation (I don't know for sure because I wasn't there) is if the horse was being expected to do something he wasn't trained for in the proper patient and sympathetic way. That he looked agitated suggests this may have been the case.
 

amandap

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Along with whether the horse was trained to pull a rugby team was he trained to cope in that situation?

For me it's pointless entertainment but that's just me. I don't see the point of those man v horse races either.
 

Welly

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Hi, my husband and I saw this at the Royal Cornwall on Thursday it was billed as the Lizard Stallions Vs the Cornish Pirates . The idea was a tug of war between George the shire stallion and the Cornish Pirates rugby team. Both my husband and I watched and said at the time it was not cruel, because it was stopped, but not entertainment and would not want to see it again. Such a proud horse who tried his best, but there are limits !!!
So on Friday evening the local BBC said that due to some adverse comments about the display, organizers of the show said that they would not continue with this display and that a vet had checked George and he was fit and well this was followed by a VT of the event..
This sounds all well and good but the video they played was not what I watched in the main arena on Thursday, we watched George pulling and straining and not moving forward one inch in fact at one point you could see the strain on his back and his hind legs were out at least 45 degrees to his body. The video shown was of another tug in the morning using less rugby players.
As always never trust what you are told and see by the media!
 

amandap

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This sounds all well and good but the video they played was not what I watched in the main arena on Thursday, we watched George pulling and straining and not moving forward one inch in fact at one point you could see the strain on his back and his hind legs were out at least 45 degrees to his body. The video shown was of another tug in the morning using less rugby players.
As always never trust what you are told and see by the media!
Gosh that is very deceiving and misleading!
 

LittleRooketRider

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By the looks of the picture it looks like they are treating it like a normal tug of war, with the horse pulling one way and the rugby team pulling the other.

The owner says "shires had undergone 1,000 years of breeding to pull loads". Well yes but generally the loads they are pulling are not being pulled back!

I'm not sure I could watch it

Well actually by the laws of physics whenever something applies a force on something that object applies the same amount of force on the initial object i.e. if you push a trolley the trolley pushes back against you. :)

I'm not really sure how I feel about it, I wouldn't call this entertainment but then I'm not sure I'd call it cruel. How different is it to pulling the dead weight of a plough through heavy going?? Like I say I'm not sure, but I wouldn't say I am entirely comfortable with the concept.:rolleyes:
 

Dunlin

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Obviously there are 2 different stories here, 1 of George not struggling too much and 1 where he was quite agitated and struggling to pull which wasn't shown on the news. If it's 'rigged' entertainment (whereby the horse won't strain a huge amount to pull the men) and the horse has been trained to do that and enjoys it then fair enough.

Something that a horse has been trained to do for quite some time, meaning it's 'normal' to it is fine. Obviously I don't know the circumstances behind this but if it was done on a whim and the horse hadn't done that before I think it's pretty stupid in case the horse gets a fright. I've seen a dray horse get spooked by an overweight cart full of people that started to roll and pull the horse back and it was horrifying to watch that poor animal in such distress clearly confused by why he couldn't pull or even hold the cart, thankfully everyone (and horse) were okay. I'm aware that dray horses are used to pulling weight but I'm not sure they encounter something pulling them backwards and how the horse would react to that. Not much is going to stop a bolting horse least of all a bolting heavy horse.

In conclusion, if the horse has been trained to do it, won't be subjected to lots of strain and enjoys it then fair enough. I personally don't find that entertaining but I'm sure others would.
 

pip6

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I heard this advertised on the local radio for a couple of weeks leading up to the show, & have to say the thought of it didn't sit well with me. Draught horses are bred/trained to pull steady loads that move after the initial tug. A rugby team will not be steady, & there is always the risk because of a horses genuine nature that they will strain so hard to get the 'load' moving they may indeed do themselves harm, even worse if they start to get dragged backward. Given that it is a big agricultural show, with many horse people in attendance, I do not see what they were trying to achieve. Usually they have excellent demos in the main ring and it is a great show to go to.
 

Hedgewitch13

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I actually met George, his carriage buddy (another stallion) and his owner on Thursday. It was quite unintentional, I was having a pub lunch with a friend in Gweek and they pulled up outside for a break. His owner was well aware of what was being said and repeated that George wouldn't have done it if he wasn't 'happy' to. I have to say George looked fine, half asleep under the trees.

His owner also said that if he had been pulling a log and it got stuck or started to go backwards, if on an incline, that would be how a proper working horse (not a carriage horse) would react. They 'get down' and into the collar and pull off again. I have to say both horses looked well cared for and both were well shod.

I'm not sure if I would have wanted to have watch it myself but I did get the impression that George is very much loved and definitely cared for.
 

Cheshire Chestnut

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I personally think it's an abuse of a horse's natural good nature.

I have no doubt he is very well loved and cared for but he should not have been put in that position, it's not fair. I certainly wouldn't have been able to watch :(
 

fburton

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I actually met George, his carriage buddy (another stallion) and his owner on Thursday. It was quite unintentional, I was having a pub lunch with a friend in Gweek and they pulled up outside for a break. His owner was well aware of what was being said and repeated that George wouldn't have done it if he wasn't 'happy' to. I have to say George looked fine, half asleep under the trees.
What a nice bit of luck. :)

I'm not sure if I would have wanted to have watch it myself but I did get the impression that George is very much loved and definitely cared for.
I too have no doubt about this whatsoever. It's not as if any palpable abuse occurred either, and I'm not even sure in my own mind it was an abuse of his good nature. However, my quiet hope would be that the owner will think twice about agreeing to let his horses participate in such event, should the occasion arise again.
 

Hedgewitch13

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No I don't think he will get involved with anything like that again. I will say again though that he totally understood the working heavy horse and how they react to pressure, so I am sure he didn't think George was being abused, but it probably wasn't a wise choice to go ahead with the tug of war. Nice chap to talk to and he had a wealth of knowledge about shires.
 

Houndman

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It could be potentially very dangerous for the human participants. There have been well documented cases of serious injury and loss of fingers from tug of war competitions where they have gone wrong. Supposing the horse suddenly jumped against the rope?
 
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