This Forum is a multinational club of horse lovers who all speak English - or a variant of it. It works in a very simple way ie that someone creates a post in which a question is raised or a statement of opinion is made. Then the Originator Posts it as a new thread and comments are invited thereupon from contributors to the Forum. Some of us regularly stick our necks out and get the ball rolling by posting either some personal advice or some comment. The thread then will either take off or it will fade away. Some hot topics, especially those involving principles or theories, go on for weeks and generate an impressive number of viewers. The thread then becomes almost a thesis on what to do or what not to do. There are other lighter sub-forums but there is something on this Forum for everyone .
On some days I spend an hour a day composing a reply when trying to answer a question only to discover that the actual style of the writing of the answer is sometimes as difficult as thinking of the answer. Nevertheless the effort is mostly worth it because in the process of contributing to the Forum I have made some ‘ether’ friends across the world. I like this club.
Every now and again I spend an hour or so thinking up a response only to decide not to post it.
Sometimes I see a question to which I might have a contribution to make but I deliberately pass it over. There was one such example recently. I spotted that a very new member of the Forum, who had not previously contributed much to the debates had asked in very simplistic terms “how to break a horse.” As most experienced horse people would say instantly, that it is usually a job for the professional but even this route can be fraught with pitfalls. Certainly there are few amateur riders who have the time, the facilities, the knowledge and the experience to initially school and then back a young horse. I always think the term ‘breaking’ is in itself a sign of ignorance about what is involved.
But for some reason the naivete of this question hit some of the regular contributors to the Horse Training sub forum in the eye. A young inexperienced rider schooling an un-backed horse is an accident waiting to happen. The outcome could be disastrous for both rider and horse. One or two of the responses were caustic and if a reader would normally recognise the typical writing of the contributor, then there would be no doubt as to the obtuse meaning of what had been written.
I personally had looked up the original questioner’s profile but there was absolutely no information on it - even the gender of the individual had to be assumed. I could see from the occasional posts she had made that she was a young person and might recently have acquired an even younger horse - of whatever shape, size age or breed. Yet she obviously felt that a quick answer could be found on the Internet to what might become a significant problem for her. Sometimes young people ask the most puerile questions - ie what colour should I wear on my boyfriend’s birthday? OK, in such cases, I can smile. But in this instance, although I chickened out of replying many of the others felt that this was too serious an issue not to make some response. However sarcasm is notoriously difficult to express in writing without giving offence - it is to be avoided unless all of the readership is sophisticated and has a similar sense of humour. Mea culpa - I know I personally have been guilty at times.
The moderator had been watching the posts and the plug was pulled on the thread. This doesn’t happen very often. I suspect one or two members felt aggrieved especially those who knew they had been a little incautious in their responses. However the fact remains that there was a point to be made about a serious matter. If it were indeed a young woman who had made the posts, then her parents should not have acquired an young unbroken horse without first working out how the horse was to be backed.
However, perhaps understandingly from the supervisor’s point of view, the moderator then invited the young woman to ask the same question again. Who would be expected to reply? Most of the contributors who generally speaking reply to this sub forum would have stood back - the subject is too hot to handle, especially with this young lady.
Now I am well aware that it is extremely important not to be offensive on this Forum. But sometimes when saying to someone: ‘you are naive’ it takes a lot of skill to avoid giving offense, especially to young people. Short succinct answers seem to be the rage, but they also tend to be either uninformative or cryptic or non-committal. We have an unusual mix of members on this Forum. Some have horse handling skills, some have writing skills and quite a few can do both for most of the time. On the other equine forum which I occasionally visit it is noticeable that the membership is predominantly young. There is very little in depth discussion on anything except perhaps the colour in vogue at the moment. But there are lots of photos and LOLs OMGs, IMOHs, and other short speak notations. I rarely post to it because, compared with HF.com, the other forum is immature in content.
I do feel that this latest ‘incident’ highlights an underlying problem. To give advice over the internet about how to handle a horse, very often in a sophisticated way, can be dangerous if it falls on the wrong ears. For a questioner to seek advice without having bothered to give details of his/her own situation is misleading and disingenuous (oops = not candid/insincere). Yet at the same time it is also wrong to make the Inexperienced (oops = novice, naive, young, precocious, self opinionated, over confident), feel publicly embarrassed because that seems to bug them disproportionately.
How do we reach an acceptable compromise? Truth sometimes hurts, although if we can be subtle with our horses, should we not be gentle with those to whom we inevitably leave our horses. Being condescending is similarly a problem that I personally do not always know how to avoid, but I am aware of it.
Incidentally Monty Roberts makes it policy never to reply to specific training or handling queries over the Internet, partly because he finds that the questioner never portrays a true and accurate picture of the situation. That is a pity really.
PS This article took a lot longer to write than an hour.