This is a very interesting topic. My husband always says that he thinks that horse people are wackier than most. I tend to disagree.
Have you ever been to a Little League / Pee Wee Football / etc. game? Watch the parents. Its scary.
How about those of you who work in the Corporate world? Wacky people inhabit that neck of the woods as well - all the way from those who are constantly clawing at each other over trivial items to many of the senior executives sitting in corner offices thinking that they are the company and that everyone is there to serve them.
What about big sports? Both the coaches and the players have their, um, difficulties (Daryl Strawberry, Latrell Sprewell (sp?), Bobby Knight, Tonya Harding etc., etc., etc.).
And then, of course, many of us have dealt with the less-than-honest car dealer, real estate agent, stock broker (just to name a few).
I don't mean this to sound as if I think all people are wacky / dishonest / dysfunctional. I just think that there are dysfunctional people in all areas of life. I don't necessarily think that the horse world has the corner on the market!
Based on personal experience I clearly do not think the horseworld has any market on 'disfunctional' individuals. In fact, the great majority of my experiences with other horse enthusiasts is positive. I will include in those positive experiences reading the posts of many of the contributors on this board, which, however, is really cyberlife rather than real life.
I also agree with Horsefeathers that there are far fewer 'fuctional' people anywhere aka the 1950's tv version than most of us have been led to believe.
Hey, the majority of equestrians make their living doing something else and the horses are for "fun". Lets turn the question around and ask what "non horse careers" do dysfunctional horse people have in common?? [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img] [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]
It seems to me a lot of dysfunction is rooted in ones environment and the choices one makes to change the environment- are you a victim or a fighter.
??? That is not to be confused with a person who couldn't hit the floor with their hat or a person who is TRUELY ecentric!!
Dr. Horsefeathers post summed it up well, IMHO. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img] [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]
In my experience, the horse world looks rather like a representative sample of the rest of the world with respect to the incidence of mental health "issues." I encounter people suffering from varied psychoses, delusions, and personality disorders in about the same proportion in horses as I do outside of horses.
I've been lucky to have met some of the most sane, reliable, rational and competent people I know through horses, and I count a few of those among my very best friends.
I've never perceived anything inherently healing or, by contrast, crazy-making about horses. I have noticed, however, that people who come into the sport with mental health problems react to horses in different, individual ways. For some, horses bring peace. For others, their horses suffer as a result of the rider's inability to control impulses.
Interesting topic, pacificsolo. One of my aforementioned best friends, by the way, has been a clinical therapist for over 15 years, and based on her descriptions of colleagues' behavior, I've come to the conclusion that mental health professionals are among the most dysfunctional people around. I'm neither kidding nor exaggerating. You people are nuts! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img]
Those who said people in the mental health industry are nts are correct!
Without going into a long story, I will say in my defense that I ran from my calling for six years before begining my studies!
I love my chosen proffesion, and I am aware of the pit-falls. There are many programs that accept people in terms of their grades (GPA and other measures)but forget to actually give any testing instruments to determine whether a person is stable enough to become a counselor. There are a lot of weirdos in this proffesion, and I'm sure I'm one of them! I am somewhat stable but by no means normal!
I am wondering if anyone has noticed that horsepeople have certain "rules" that defy logic and reality. I am thinking of a particular person who owns a boarding facility that is by far the most serene place I have ever been. The catch is that with over a hundred acres of available land, 17 horses and a natural spring that collects in a pond, the owner will not allow the horses more than 6-8 hours of turnout. NOT because these are show horses (most are pets or retirees), NOT because of the lack of grazing (she has to mow quite a bit) and NOT because the horses do not get along (I call them the "get-along gang"). So, why does she insist they not be allowed turnout? Because she herself feels that they LIKE their stalls and that if they are out after dark, something really bad might happen. I asked what this bad thing might be, and she stammered and said it was something of a motherly instinct!
OK! Horses somehow manage to keep themselves alive at my friend's barn and all over the wild west! This is her own neurosis and the poor horses are suffering for it! She even said they are like her children! NEWSFLASH! Horses are capable of taking care of themselves! She has so many horses with stocked up legs yet she refused to believe letting them outside longer might help.
Anyway, sorry for the rant....just another perspective!
While I definitely agree with your basic premise (oh, the tales I could tell about the neurasthenic riders I've known!), I had to respond to your example of the barn owner who restricts turn out.
After subjecting my horses to barns with limited turn out, I moved to North Carolina and found a stable able to provide as much pasture time as wanted. Much to my surprise, neither of my beasts will tolerate more than 5 or 6 hours outside. They will graze happily for awhile, then begin galloping and rushing the fence, demanding to be taken to their stalls (which they do, incidentally, love.) I think part of their reluctance to stay outside is due to flies, but for what ever reason, they truly do reject the notion of living outside. And I would be extremely reluctant to turn them out at night when no one would be around if they started to run. (Maybe it's the horses who are dysfunctional??? No one would ever confuse my Thoroughbreds with self reliant mustangs, that's for sure!)
I'm not saying you are right or wrong.
Unless you are thoroughly involved with at least 3 other sports( like auto racing,airplane flying etc.) I don't think you are qualified to say that we(horsemen)are more dysfunctional than and other privledged wealthy group.
I really don't think horse people as a whole are more neurotic than the general population. Rather, I think humankind is a lot more neurotic than most realize. Oh, I may KNOW about all the problems my horsey friends deal with.... but that's just because we're very open about it. I'm sure my oh-so-professional and pulled together work colleagues have SCADS of mental issues... it's just not something you talk about.
I do think at the upper levels of the sport you may see more mental health issues than the general population. But I think that's true in any sport at the elite level. You get a population of very driven, very competitive perfectionists, and you'll naturally see more anxiety, eating disorders, etc.
I don't think the horse world is any different than any other odd assortment of people. (As Heidi pointed out, my coworkers and even members of my own family have been the "oddest ducks" I've EVER met!)
As a sport, I think that horses provide a recreational opportunity for the vast majority of participants. I participated in fairly high level gymnastics for 10 years and I can truly say that I found that world much more dysfunctional. Gymnastics really has no "recreational" aspect to it once you start competing. Kids are pushed incredibly hard because the time frame is so small for high level success. You would be amazed at how kids are treated by coaches, and how the parents turn a blind eye to this and other problems. I'm not saying everyone is like this, but it is a little disturbing to see the physical and mental pain and suffering a pre-teen endures for the slight chance of success later on.
I think horses contrast gymnastics and offer so many levels of enjoyment for many people, and would say that the MAJORITY of horse people are just horse-crazy, but otherwise "normal" individuals. That said, the world is a scary place and there are many unstable and dangerous people from all sports, professions and walks of life.
Most serious hobbists, horsey and non-horsey, are usually a little left of center. In fact, has anyone met or know anyone else who is completely non-dysfunctional? I sure don't. The horsey group as a whole attracts lots of folks from various socio-economical levels and out of that group of individuals I believe it's the trainers that are a little kooky. Anyone with barely an education can hang out a shingle and advertise themselves as a trainer (unfortunately).
However, the screwiest bunch of folks I ever ran across was the dog show group. If you've seen "Best in Show" the characters were so typical of the folks that did the dog show circuit. Really, really weird. They make the horsey bunch look normal. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]
While I agree that many of us in the mental health field enter it for our own self-cure reasons (read, yes we start out pretty nutty!) As one matures, hopefully, one is able to give up on those dysfunctional reasons to help people. Then the challenge becomes, do I really want to stay in this very stressful, depressing line of work when I have solved my own challenges and don't "need" to?
I began to feel like an emotional prostitute, renting out my very intimate empathy and mental skills and that was icky.
But then I realized that, hey, there were other reasons I went into this. Like, I enjoy hearing other people's stories, and I know life is bearable, and hope is something I can point out to people. Did I really want to re-train in another field when this one pays well enough to keep my horses!
Well, in this journey, I did re-train, as a coach/trainer- I have all the paper to prove it. But guess what- I actually like psychiatry better. At least there we acknowledge that we are working on our psychic problems. Coaches are often called to work on their student's emotional issues without acutally being allowed to come out and say "the reason your horse is tense is because you are so uptight!"
Blessings on all, dysfunctional as we are, keep in mind what is really important in life and the other stuff will sort out.
And the other maxim is, a problem shared is a problem halved, a pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled.
WA. The Evergreen State Where The Horses Are Forever Green
Missed out renting BIS last night, can't wait to see it next weekend!!
A friend is in it, they filmed it up in Vancouver and he would talk to me on his cell all the time from the set and his drive to and from.
I have to agree, the dog show and breeding world IMHO is far worse.
Helps me see the horse world in a more humourous light that is for certain.
I am waiting for Chevy Chase or someone to make a Horse Show spoof like BIS!!! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]
I am involved with other sports intensely! My father owns an invitation-only basketball camp where a huge number of the stars you see today were scouted out from. I know these people can be dysfunctional...but NOT on the level as equestrians!
I particpated for years in theatre/music and as eccentric as many are, none can compare to the horse folk I know and know of!
Lucien...I understand that some horses do not like to be outside, but mine (actually, all of the horses I have owned!) hates the stall! And, I don't much blame him. But, I see what you mean. I guess the woman's need for them to be "safe" is what got me...she didn't care that one chestnut dug a hole in his stall every night [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_rolleyes.gif[/img]
Anyway, my opinion still stands that people in our horse world tend to be more dysfunctional as a whole compared to other "worlds" out there...again, just an observation that some will agree, and some will disagree with [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]
And I know just where Chevy can get his "material" from! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img] [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_razz.gif[/img]
\"Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and, once it has done so, he will have to accept that his life will be radically changed.\" -- Ralph Waldo E
Splitting my time between Brightwood, VA and Oyster Bay, NY
Someone actually DOUBTED that horse people are dysfunctional? You mean they didn't KNOW they were?
What else would you call a family that 2nd mortgages a home so one child can have a horse just so that she can win ribbons and prizes with a total year end value of maybe $500?
What else would you call the trainer who INSISTS that their students only wear certain brands, have certain tack, comes only at certain times, demands total control of the horse and owner's pocketbook?
(Hey, you there! The one who answers in defense/explanation of this trainer - you're not wrapped too tight yourself!)
What else would you call the people who willing obey the trainer described above?
OF COURSE WE'RE ALL NUTS. WE'RE ONLY HUMAN. Our saving grace is that "Dys" aside, we're still "functional" just a little odd, quirky, paranoid, controlling, anal-retentive, or all of the above.
The reason we're drawn to horses is that horses, even more than dogs because dogs could survive w/o us if turned loose (not *well* mind you) horses are truly dependent on us. By caring for them we become centered, grounded. Their very size, majesty, vitality, calls to us in a primitive, instintive way. The routine of caring for them (horses do better on a schedule) creates a pattern in our lives. A consistancy that fosters an ability to transfer our 'center' to other areas of our lives.
You want to see some sane people? Go visit a dairy farm. These farmers get up everyday just to ease animals pain. EVERY DAY. NO VACATION. There is something even more elemental about getting milk from a cow. A daily miracle of watching life-giving nourishment gush forth from an animal.
Dysfunctional? You bet I am. But I can 'mask' it and fit in with the world. Only you, my fellow BBers, know how truly strange I can be.
Has anyone else noticed the presence of undiagnosed depression at the Horse Shows? I really don't know why besides that people with too much money and not enough to do usually don't set boundaries or rules with how they will go with drinking/parting. And maybe all that alcohal has lowered the ceratonin levels in people brains....
Marion aka Long Acre Hats Off's GOOD LUCK CHARM (does that make me famouse?)
I think that we must seperate the types of horsepeople we are talking about when we discuss relative levels of dysfunction, and I don't mean Western vs. Dressage vs. Eventing vs. Jumpers. I mean those who show on the circuit and those who don't.
I think that those who do not show in any of the big circuits, or perhaps do one or two big A shows a year are perhaps more grounded.
I say this becuase in two seperate periods in my life I have either spent time only on the local circuit or only flitting in and out as a spectator, groom/helper, exhibitor at A shows.
In the local shows you tend to see more parents around, more supervision of juniors, more people who's entire lives are not the horses, who do not spend every penny they make and moment of free time that they have with the horses. They tend to be slightly more well rounded in their approach to life (ie shows and showing are not their sole existance for a large part of the year).
At the A shows however - the money, the attitude, the sense of entitlement, the lack of junior supervision, the intense level of scrutiny, the need to keep up, the need to win, and the desire to look some ideal (whether weight, fashion, horse, whatever) seems far stronger and more prevalent.
Very few of the professionals I've encountered have college level educations, ever read a newspaper, or are ever surrounded by people that are not syncophants. They do work incredibly long hours, have to deal with often extremely needy rich women and children who expect them to be father/mother/therapist/coach all at once.
The competitors are not often enough the tough, tenacious hard working, understanding of the value of a dollar, thoughful, pitch in a pinch type of kids or adults. They are needy, too rich for their own good, expect to buy their way into success, too easily awed and drawn into the rockstar-partying lifestyle that is common, and that only seems to help erode their sense of self and their self esteem.
OK - before you start screaming at me - we all know and love those people that do not fit into the above stereotypes. I've found trainers who, although can party like a rockstar, are extremely grounded, keep their juniors in line, and can talk about and focus on a million other things than the horses.
I've found dear friends who show in all the big east coast shows all summer long, but we can have serious discussions about investment banking, child rearing (even though none of us have any) and a dozen other things that are in no way related to horses.
It seems to me, at the end of the day, and at the end of this long rambling post - the people who are not dysfunctional maintain a balance in their lives of friends, interests and pursuits off of the show grounds and outside the barn.
That balance is what I aim to keep - and given my extensive opinions spewed out in a wonderfully random fashion just now - when I start to lose this balance, you all are hereby appointed to slap me upside the head! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img]