I’m not in a great place right now. I’m not in a bad place, but I’m still kind of sad about my dog and perhaps a little sensitive. My drum of creative writing nectar is empty and there’s just a little pebble of sadness rattling around in there. So it’s from this emotional place, this sensitive place, that I am looking around on various horse forums (I belong to several) and wondering when we all got so damn rude and why?
I’m not sure I would ever ask for advice on horse forums for fear of the backlash I’d get for my stupidity, ignorance, or fill-in-any-derogatory-noun. Take for example the mom of a toddler who shared a photo of her kid on a horse standing still. I don’t even remember what her question was, because the overwhelming response to her was what an absolute horrid mother she was for allowing her child to be on a horse without a helmet. The level of vitriol that people were slinging was disgusting. To the level of calling into question her ability to properly care for her child.
Then there was the poor woman who posted a cautionary tale about protecting the pads of your dog’s feet. She shared her learning experience when her own dog ran on sand all day and wound up with burned and bleeding paws. Someone was so incensed by her “stupidity” that they went to another forum to publicly chastise her ignorance. That takes a lot of bad energy to take time out of your day, to invest yourself emotionally in shaming someone, for sharing their experience in an effort to HELP someone else avoid the same pain.
“No rude comments please.”
I’m not above having an opinion, obviously, see current blog post riffing on people and their opinions on other’s lives. However, having an opinion doesn’t make me an expert. Just because I have an opinion doesn’t make it a fact. People shouldn’t have to put the disclaimer “No rude comments please,” at the beginning of their posted question. The fact that people even ask questions is a testament to their willingness to admit they might not have the right answer and are looking for feedback from those who may know better. I’ve seen many a post in which someone shares a photo of a swollen bump on their horse, a relatively minor injury, or asks about an odd behavior and suddenly the angry mob shows up carrying their proverbial pitchforks and calls for the original poster to CONTACT THE VET IMMEDIATELY, WHY ARE YOU EVEN ASKING???
Sorry, but as a gal on a budget, if my horse isn’t spurting blood or writhing around in pain, I’m usually going to take the watch-and-wait approach because, well, have you seen a vet bill? Again, the fact that someone is asking means they care and are looking for information, let’s not chase them off with our strong reactions to their question.
I’m assuming the people with the strong opinions and brash way of communicating said opinions must care deeply for the welfare of the animal and want to convey the importance of their opinion on what’s best for the animal. But there is a nice way to be impactful. I don’t think mocking or chastising someone inspires them to better believe what’s being advised.
But what about the fierce opinions on how you ride, what equipment you use? Say, … a helmet? Oh my. See what I did there? Some of you I bet just got hot in the face at the mention of the dreaded helmet debate.
I just finished a helmet review article for Northwest Horse Source and included a whole grip of facts about traumatic brain injuries in equestrians (it’s a lot!). But do you think I have started riding with a helmet? No I have not. It’s my personal choice, I’ve made an educated decision about my riding and risks and lifestyle and choose not to wear one. Yet. I might change my mind at some point. But someone railing on me about it, telling me what an idiot I am and how other people shouldn’t have to deal with the fallout of my poor decision (yep, that is an actual comment I saw on a recent thread debating the topic of helmet use), is definitely not going to inspire me to wear one. Have I mentioned I can be a stubborn ass? Well I think I can put some real-live donkeys to shame in the tenacious refusal to do something for the sheer delight of irritating someone else. Sorry, mom. And my husband. And all my friends. Okay, anyway, we are off topic!
Back to the helmet debate and the bitterness around that, there is a horse subreddit and the actual rules for the forum specify not to debate the topic of people not wearing helmets because “It is a dangerous thing to do and they know it. They’re taking their own risk by not doing it.” Well, well, well, good to see the rules are impartial from personal opinion, oh wait. Oops, never mind. That’s their prerogative, but I think it’s a reflection of the times we live in on social media.
But I have to ask at this point, do you drive your car over the speed limit? Do you smoke cigarettes? Do you drink alcohol? No, no, no? Okay, well you’re a saint, but if you are a normal person you’ve done at least one of those things at some point in your life, maybe you still do, maybe you do all three (Gasp!). Wouldn’t it be real shitty to hear all the time about what an idiot you are for engaging in those activities because they are dangerous? Yes it would. We all do things that jeopardize our health, but that is what’s great about having free choice. We get to make decisions, good, bad or uninformed. It’s not my responsibility to teach every person I run into, in real life or on social media, a lesson. And if someone is asking for advice, I know there is a way that I can offer what knowledge I have in a respectful way. It’s their right to take it to heart or ignore me completely.
Right about now you might be thinking, “Well she’s kind of a hypocrite because here she’s complaining about all these people, why doesn’t she just keep scrolling and not take time out of her life to write a whole damn blog post about it?”
I do keep scrolling. I promise I do. I don’t engage in debating people on Facebook. I don’t rail on them for some perceived idiot move on their part. Not like I’m some Facebook saint, but I just think we could be a little nicer to each other. Yeah, yeah, the old “Can’t we all just get along?” shtick. But I mean it. In my sensitive, grieving, tender heart (mark the date on the calendar, before you know it the sarcastic stubborn ass will be back) we would benefit so much more from lifting each other up. If people don’t want to take our advice, we don’t need to start shouting in all caps because we are annoyed they didn’t take our expert opinion. I’ve done lots of stupid things with my horse, I thank god the people around me were so knowledgeable and willing to help and kind in their guidance.
And if you don’t like this post, you don’t have to tell me. My blue heart can’t really handle rejection right now.
Ride on my beautiful people. And go hug your dogs. Oh and your kids if you have those. Or your cat. Whatever animal you have, give hugs.
Follow me on Facebook, if you ask me a question I promise to always be kind in my response. And possibly sarcastic. Kindly sarcastic.