The Question of How and Whether to respond - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 70 Old 06-18-2010, 07:18 AM Thread Starter
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The Question of How and Whether to respond

The Question of How & Whether to Respond
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, 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.

Comments please

PS This article took a lot longer to write than an hour.
mind and Foxhunter like this.

Last edited by xxBarry Godden; 06-18-2010 at 07:20 AM.
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post #2 of 70 Old 06-18-2010, 07:47 AM
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Bravo, once again Barry.

I have also had moments when I have made the decision to back away from a thread and leave well enough alone.

Unfortunately, the internet, while being a marvelous invention, leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation too. I know I have certainly misread things said to me at times, as well as being misread myself. Its times like these that I do my best to take a step back, a deep breath, reread and find the wisdom in what has been written. It is a skill that slips at times, but one that I think more people need to try to employ.

There are people on this forum who have an incredible amount of knowledge to share. It saddens me to see these people being blown up on by a member who could so easily just breathe and find the wisdom.

I try to avoid being too condescending in any of my replies as well. The last thing I would want is for someone to shut down to any possible advice, simply because of the tone of one of my posts. I have, however, on many occasions seen advice and suggestions be thrown back in the face of posters and I can more than understand the frustration that that incurs.

I guess my general philosophy as far as this forum, and the whole horse world in general, is that it is never a good time to stop learning. No matter how much you know, there is always more to know!

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post #3 of 70 Old 06-18-2010, 07:47 AM
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I think it is possible to reply in a manner which is not offensive most of the time. I find that if I read something that I do not agree with or something that could be dangerous like the example listed above, then offering Constructive Criticism is the best way, instead of just criticising, over advice (only if it is asked for) on ways to improve or possible alternatives. I think this is how we reach a compromise between telling the truth and being nice. I would also provide reasons why something might be unsafe. I find it is better to be specific in a reply, rather than use generalisations. For example "your horse is a bit pigeon-toed" instead of "your horse has terrible legs" If I am offering advice or tips that come from my own experience I usually say at the end that it may have worked for me and my particular horse but all horses are different so might not respond as well to the methods I have used.

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post #4 of 70 Old 06-18-2010, 08:43 AM
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What struck me most about the example you mentioned Barry, and I did follow that thread, was that the OP gave very little information about the situation that brought them to ask that question. I think some of the responses called that out but the OP then didn't elaborate much at all.

So in a way, to me, it seems the OP isn't interested in really learning the answer to their question but rather wants the magic pill that will work with all horses, in all situations at any age...instantly. And that lack of interest in truly learning may be what turns some members away from answering in a "not sarcastic" manner.

Some HF members, from what I can discern from daily readings, learned what they learned through years of hard work, blood, sweat, sacrifice and tears. And for someone to 'waltz' on to the board and ask, in usually very poor grammar and spelling riddled with text speak, for the 'answer to the test'...well...I do understand the tonality of some of the responses.

So perhaps a way to approach it as a respondent, is to ask for specific details and if they are not forthcoming, tell the OP there is no way to offer any advice at all. I would do it this way except I, in no way, would ever be qualified to give anyone advice on horse training. I've read tons but given the limited number of horses I have owned in my lifetime, I don't have near experience of many on this board.

But when I do ask for advice, I thoughtfully read each answer, consider all opinions and then, hopefully, come to a conclusion that works for me and my ponehs.

Last edited by Jake and Dai; 06-18-2010 at 08:45 AM. Reason: spelling
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post #5 of 70 Old 06-18-2010, 08:44 AM
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Very well put Barry. I think it seems that most of us here strive to be respectful in our replies, but we're all human too. I personally try very hard, but know I'm not the best communicator in the world, and also realise how easy it is with this medium to understand or take things the wrong way.

I think reading & writing posts with the attitude of charity and respect, and keeping in mind that we really don't have a good grasp of the actual situations, regardless how many words are given is important. As is keeping in mind, no matter how right we feel, that virtually everything is just a matter of opinion, and others are entitled to theirs.

...And then there's also the matter of getting through to those who we may feel are wrong. Attacks & putdowns only tend to get people's hackles up, kill any chance of actually communicating with them. If you want to change people's attitude it's also best to attempt it respectfully & objectively.
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post #6 of 70 Old 06-18-2010, 09:02 AM
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That was a great read Barry. I want to point out though, that in those several paragraphs, you laid out several thoughts and opinions regarding many hot topics on this forum and never once were your points inflammotory, rude, accusatory, degrading, flippant, or in anyway shape or form out of line. I believe that any reader can follow one of your comments and not become offended.

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post #7 of 70 Old 06-18-2010, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Barry Godden View Post
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.

Comments please

Probably the best answer too.

I give a very general answer to where a problem may lay but pretty much won't say any more unless I know for a fact they will understand what I would say. These would be those that are already doing dressage for some time and would understand the nuances I would describe.

To the rest well NOT replying is probably the best and if they have an accident they will learn. There was no internet when I was learning and I had no coach/instructor either.
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post #8 of 70 Old 06-18-2010, 09:27 AM
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Wow! That was honestly one of the few longest posts I've ever read, and I could probably read, and re-read this again. Very well put.

- If today was your last day, and tomorrow was too late, could you say goodbye to yesterday?
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post #9 of 70 Old 06-18-2010, 09:46 AM
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Barry, I really enjoy your writing style and your insight. As for that particular thread, and for many many others, what the general membership isn't aware of is what goes on behind the scenes concerning a problem that we see develop. Quite a bit of input is contributed by the moderators and, in many cases, there is a dialogue of PMs to the member(s) who are involved.

The decision to close a thread or to remove one is not made lightly (except in the case of one that is obviously inappropriate). Once brought to our attention, either by a member or another moderator, we may watch it carefully for a while before acting on it. Sometimes it gets out of hand faster then we can react. We try really hard not to curtail any thread or any member's input unless it gets beyond a level that takes the thread off target or becomes abusive.

In any case I just wanted to give some insight as to the process that went into the closing of that particular thread and others that most members are not even aware of. Moderators give their time for free so that all members can be comfortable to post questions, answers, and advise.

I'm not arguing with you, I'm just explaining why I'm right.

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post #10 of 70 Old 06-18-2010, 09:56 AM
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Barry, I smiled while reading this whole post! I never get tired of reading what you have to say, nor do I get tired of the way you present it, subtle sarcasm included.

I think Jack and Dai hit it close enough on the head--those are the ones ones who come and post ten or twenty word questions and expect a "blind faith" answer (faith that the OP knows enough to know what they are doing, and then use a certain amount of caution) and get the details on how everything must be done. However, they're not really looking for help.
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