Growing up, most little girls dream of owning a pony. Braiding pink ribbons in their hair, kissing their soft noses, feeling the freedom that comes with having four legs take you wherever you want to go. Only a small percentage of us were actually able to live that dream. And it’s glorious. Barn friends that become your best friends. Soft nickers and stomping feet become music to your ears and the smell of a dusty barn and old leather becomes home.
It’s a fairytale…
Until one day, it isn’t.
Like waking up next to Prince Charming 25 years down the road, beer belly and gray hair hitting you like a ton of bricks. What was once friendly, comforting and easy is no longer. It’s a sad day when you realize the equine community is broken.
Here’s why: There is a general lack of compassion, education and humility between horse owners.
It’s no secret that the equestrian community is riddled with divides…
Barefoot vs. Shod
Natural Horsemanship vs. Classical Training
Blanketing vs. Not Blanketing
The list goes on. You name it and you’ll find horse lovers willing to argue both sides relentlessly. However, what could easily be an educational conversation about our differences in opinion quickly turns into a heated argument full of judgment and ridicule.
The fact of the matter is that nearly every single one of us wants what’s best for our four-legged best friends. We have strong feelings and opinions about their care for all the right reasons—the love of the horse. But why does the love of the horse have to trump the love of your fellow horseman?
I see it happen all too often; a well-meaning individual reaches out to their fellow equestrians for guidance, advice and assistance. But rather than embracing the opportunity to educate our friends, lifting them up and appreciating their willingness to learn, they are torn down in an instant.
“How dare you sit on your 3 year old! Don’t you know they’re not done growing until 6?!”
“What do you mean you haven’t had your horse scoped for ulcers? That’s borderline neglect!”
“You obviously don’t know what you’re doing, seek professional help!”
Maybe it’s the passion we have for these animals. Maybe it’s the amount of time and money we pour into this hobby, this lifestyle. Maybe it makes us heated, closed-minded, condescending and a little angry.
But when we shut down our friends, mocking their shortcomings instead of appreciating their willingness to ask questions and grow as equestrians, we stop the cycle of education within our community and we put the very horses we love so much at risk. When people fear asking for help, worried about the judgment that will ensue, they stay quiet, safe in their uneducated state, making uninformed and potentially harmful decisions for their horses.
Education should not come with arrogance, it should come with a sense of humility. Humility from the realization that there is still so much unknown, humility from understanding how easily one’s knowledge can be shared with others and how much growth we can achieve as a community if we just change our way of thinking. If we simply welcomed educational conversation and encouraged our friends to ask questions instead of ridiculing them when they do, we would see increased educational development in our community. If opinions and ideas could be spread freely and without hindrance, horse owners would be better able to make informed decisions and provide superior care for their horses.
So, next time you jump to passing judgment on your fellow equestrians, think of it as an opportunity to share your knowledge and to create a better, more informed community for horses and their people everywhere.
About the Author
Lindsay Gilbert is the owner of Transitions Sport Horses, based in Lexington, KY. She specializes in repurposing OTTBs for careers in eventing, jumping and dressage. She also publishes a blog chronicling her road to the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover.