I’m sure some of you on Facebook have seen groups like Horrible Horsemanship and Rachet Riders that are maelstroms of insanity. Even staples like OTTB Connect can bring out some really wacky lurkers when a hot button topic is posted. I tend to steer clear of the veritable trainwrecks that ensue when people poll social media for training or medical advice. Before Facebook groups, there were (and still are!) bulletin boards like COTH and HorseGroomingSupplies (although I think that one is now defunct. Or renamed. Or something.). Before the internet, there were other avenues. There are always people asking for/looking to share their opinion. It's human nature.
I’ve also seen quite a bit of advice dished out in my (admittedly brief and limited) foray in the blogosphere. Some of it is requested and well-received – some of it is… not. I do try to make sure my comments are free from unsolicited advice (although I’m sure I’ve slipped up here or there!) – and even if the person is requesting advice, I try to be positive and helpful (while also including the disclaimer that while such and such has worked for me, I’m not saying it will work for everyone). Because
There is nothing wrong with being selective about the advice you choose to follow after deciding for yourself if it comes from a source that is useful. The end of the post was what stopped me in my tracks though – “I do try to keep an open mind to the thoughts of others who are where I want to be or at least are where I am now traveling the same path… DO NOT stress or lose sleep over the thoughts of those who do not understand or are clearly on a different journey.”
Whoa. I took a day or two to mull this over. I am friends with horse people from every walk of life imaginable. From people who pay board in the four figures every month to people who keep horses on a single acre in their backyard and live in a camper trailer. From people who paid more for their horse than I paid for my property, to people with free horses. From people who have won so many ribbons and awards they can’t even display them all, to people who have never set foot in the show ring. People with grade horses, people with registered horses, people with old horses, people with young horses. People who breed horses, and people who rescue them. People who train horses, and people who pay trainers. People who have intense competition goals and have horses come and go until they find the perfect fit, and people who mold their riding and events around whatever their current horse excels at.
And I didn’t mean any of those in a negative way – just as descriptors of a variety of totally normal situations. And you know what? All of those things are okay. Just because they’re in a situation that’s different from mine, doesn’t negate their knowledge. It doesn’t mean they know less, or know more, or are dumb, or are experts.
But, what it does mean is that I’m going to weigh advice coming from those sources against my own scale – and that’s also okay. What works for my dramatic Spanish mares might not work for someone else’s OTTB, or green stock horse, or aged schoolmaster – and vice versa. It’s perfectly fine for me to weigh advice from someone who is on a vastly different journey than I am, and choose to discard it. In the same vein, it's totally fine if someone asks for my opinion, weighs it against their own experience, and then decide to do something totally different.
At the end of the day -- nobody but you knows the journey you're on and is walking in your metaphorical shoes. And only you get to decide if your relationship with your horse is fulfilling. Or whether or not you want to create, trash, or adapt your goals based on... the signs of the moon. Or whatever floats your boat. That's okay. Are you having fun? Are you and your horses safe, happy and healthy? Good. You do you. Don't ever be afraid to weigh advice against your own set of criteria and pick and choose the advice you accept and act on.
But if you're getting dressage tips from a hunter princess? Or suggestions on your achieving the ideal XC canter from someone who never leaves the arena? Or advice on the perfect showmanship pivot from someone who has never set foot in the ring? Or being badgered to take lessons from an "upper level dressage trainer" whose claim to fame is a few sub-50 scores at 4th level? Or being offered ground manners training tips from someone whose horse is a dick to handle? Yeahhhhh. Maybe feel free to smile and nod and chuck that well-meaning advice where it belongs -- in the trash bin.