Horses are an integral part of Amish culture. What the car is to non-Amish America, the horse is to the Amish. A horse is a car, friend, pet and worker all rolled into one. Most Amish that I've met take very good care of their horses. Of course you hear occasional reports to the contrary, but there are bad apples in every bunch.
An Amish man in Kansas recently explained his horse philosophy. I found his insights interesting so I thought I'd share them with you:
"The nature of the person driving often comes out on the horse. You'll see a person who is mean and then the horse becomes kind of mean" So a mean owner means a mean horse, an impatient owner means an impatient horse, a calm owner means a calm horse and so on.
The Amish man, named Jacob, is a horse-trainer and a family man. The main family horse was one they bought from a non-Amish dealer and it had been subjected to some harsh conditions, something Jacob had to correct. The harsh conditions had made the horse a "balker." Re-adjusting the horse to a calmer environment took a lot of patience.
"Horses will teach you patience. It takes a lot of patience...lot of encouragement. I did not want to use a whip on him. I saw he had been whipped before.... he had been overwhelmed with a whip and that is why he was a "balker." I knew right away that to teach him to go for me, I did not want to use a whip. So I just kept talking to him and encouraging him without hurting him. Basically I had to retrain him and the kids get along fine with him now and drive him. He's a really good fast horse, or you can take him for a leisurely drive."
Ponies are a great way for Amish children and teenagers to become acquainted with equines before moving onto their larger brethren. The youngsters - as Jacob says - learn a lot of patience and skill working with ponies.