If you’ve ever been to a circus or traveled somewhere exotic, you may have encountered elephants either doing tricks or taking tourists on rides through the forest. How are such enormous creatures trained? All around the world a tragic process is still being implemented by elephant handlers. They start by training the elephant when he is a baby and weighs only 200 pounds. At that stage, they shackle his legs to a twelve-foot length of chain and stake the chain into the ground. During this process many other unspeakable events happen to the baby elephant.
Society points the finger at the individual—to raise a good kid, to be healthy, to recycle, to reduce carbon emissions, to succeed financially—but it’s a deflection to keep us engaged in our own personal choices rather than hold the society at large—our leaders, our institutions our policies—responsible for creating a culture that supports us to thrive.
Aedín is a small black six-year-old quarter horse mare who was saved from the kill pens last year. When she arrived three months ago to live at our ranch she had not been trained or ridden. In horsemanship terms, you would say she hadn’t been ‘broken’. Broken––such an incisively appropriate term for what we do to horses (and people I would add). In order to feel safe on the back of one thousand pounds of wild horse muscle, trainers notoriously intimidate, bully and manipulate their four-legged companions into submission, rendering them emotionally numb and spiritually bereft. Cowboys call these horses proudly ‘yes ma’am-ers’. I call them a tragedy.