I want to share some thoughts on an issue that I am extremely passionate about. It may be a little off topic from my usual posts, but it does relate to my daily life working in the equine industry. I have been in the equestrian world ever since I can remember. My first equine friend was a palomino pony named Shorty. I took riding lessons through high school. I had my own horse until I moved away for college. I have been an amateur riding instructor, stable hand, barn manager, and now professional hoofcare provider. I have seen the angles of the horse world as an owner, a student, a barn staff member, and as a professional.
A friend of mine shared a post on Facebook the other day that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. How many of us have experienced equine professionals making us feel stupid or foolish? I have witnessed riding instructors screaming at their students (and not just to be heard at the other end of the ring). I have had farriers and vets throw big words and scary opinions at me in order to intimidate me into doing what they say, OR ELSE. I have watched professionals of every type strike and yell at horses with anger. I have held horses for farriers while having to listen to bragging stories of how they put both owner and horse “in their place.” I have been told by multiple vets that “I wouldn’t do that if I were you” and “that horse will never be able to _______.” Fill in the blank there because I know you’ve heard it, too. One vendor at a barn I managed scoffed at me when I mentioned I was looking to hire new stable hands, “Well you won’t get any guys to work here because no guy wants to work for a woman.”
My experiences are common and not even the worst of what I have heard from others. What is it about the equine industry that lends itself to ego and power? Why do people keep returning to equine professionals who treat them condescendingly?
Equine professionals tell us that they need us to succeed, and so we believe the authority on the matter. We know we don’t know all the ins and outs, we don’t have a degree, and so we trust those who do. This is a great system when we choose someone trustworthy to work with. There is nothing more frustrating to me than a horse owner who always takes the cheapest or easiest route. I don’t think anyone should be practicing backyard medicine. There are too many horror stories out there of people who don’t know what they are doing seriously injuring themselves or their horses. But there are a lot of people out there who are doing an amazing job without the support of “professionals,” who are forging new paths and trying new things.
*Note: Farriers, trimmers, trainers, riding instructors, and veterinarians are KEY to the equine industry. Every horse deserves a team to support them. Every owner deserves professional help for any issue they face. I am not advocating for a lone wolf type of attitude. The whole issue is ego – no one can do this on their own and no one has all the answers.*
There is much more to say on the subject, but I’ll end with this:
Don’t allow others to belittle you, no matter what degree or experience they have. Everyone should be treated with respect and kindness. Find an equine professional who will treat you and your horse in a compassionate manner.
Don’t let your questions go unanswered. Find equine professionals who will help you to understand what you want to know, who will join you in advocating for your horse.
Step away from the egos, from those who seek power over others, and consider what would be healing, kind, and helpful for you and your horse.