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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar. 9, 2008

    Default Finding the pony in a manure pile

    As person who is a low level (I'm talking amoeba) eventer, I get (and seek!) a lot of advice. I also get a lot of unsolicited advice and I get a lot of comments that are outright insulting.

    That's ok, I am not a shrinking violet. However I'm curious how other people have handled (or handle) this. The biggest problem is much of the advice is diametrically opposed, I mean 180 degrees. One person will insist a method (or saddle, or type of feed, or supplement) is the ONLY way to do it, and person B will (and have) accused me of gross negligence for even dreaming this is the correct approach.

    Ok, I'm exaggerating a little, but here's my issue. I have mentors I trust, and despite what others think I didn't totally fall off the turnip truck yesterday. What I would like to do is find the pony (the helpful advice) and dismiss the horse apples that seems to come my way. I do have a great deal to learn.

    When someone is just insulting I know the best thing to do is be polite and take the high road. What I'd like to do is not get mad, but see if there is anything of value in the comment, take what is good and ignore the rest.

    Some days that's a tic harder than others.

    We have a firehose of information, much of it conflicting, coming at us. How do you sort out what is best?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct. 14, 2010
    Horse Heaven


    My first trainer told me that there are many ways to work with horses and that at her barn she has chosen x,y,z so that everyone is on the same page and the horses don't get confused.

    After reading your post - I am grateful to that first trainer!

    I decide what mentor I am going to trust most. And knowing that diametrically opposed methods for doing the same task can result in the same (hopefully positive) outcome helps me relax.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov. 16, 2004
    NE Indiana


    I liked the way you put it - a fire hose of information coming at us. It can be overwhelming if you don't stay focused in the beginning. Stick to your mentor's advice and as you grow in your own knowledge you'll be able to make your own decisions and feel confident about it.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb. 16, 2005

    Default Danger

    For me, too much information or input can be confusing and overwhelming. I would suggest you select a 'few' sources to listen to and follow, mainly.

    Your trainer - I don't think it's a great idea to hop from trainer to trainer, or you find yourself exactly where you are. Certainly, you can enjoy different trainers for different disciplines, if necessary.

    Recommended books and dvds, if you learn that way
    School of experience - trust your gut more.

    Clinics - I think clinics are great if you have a regular trainer, otherwise the confusion enters the picture again. Clinicians only see you for a 'minute in time', and really don't know you or your horse.

    Good luck to you...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct. 17, 2009


    Quote Originally Posted by clk View Post
    I have mentors I trust, and despite what others think I didn't totally fall off the turnip truck yesterday. What I would like to do is find the pony (the helpful advice) and dismiss the horse apples that seems to come my way. I do have a great deal to learn.


    How do you sort out what is best?
    I think you answered your own question: Trust the sources that you know to be trustworthy. That should be your primary source of guidance.

    Horses are a sport that has nearly as much acceptable witchcraft as science and don't fall prey to every gimmick. When someone gives you "advice" think about where it is coming from. Has that person been there and done that? Do you think their horse(s) are in excellent form? Sometimes great advice about horse care will come from people who are not UL riders but who have been around for a long time, done a number of different "jobs" (such as grooming, managing a barn, exercise riding at the track, etc.).

    If someone tells you about something that piques your interest but you aren't sure if it's hocus-pocus bounce the idea off your trusted advisors or do more research (look for studies about the effectiveness of a certain supplement, etc. - Many are available online).

    There are also a lot of good published resources. Eqqus magazine has good horse care information including info about new studies, etc. Practical Horseman has some really great information about conformation and riding tips.

    In the end, do NOT forget to trust your own common sense. If someone tells you that brushing the horse's forelock a certain way will make his tail grow faster and that sounds fishy - it probably is. If a treatment modality sounds painful or questionable, it might be - ask your vet for more information. And remember that there are a lot of very good snake oil salesmen!
    "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals" Immanuel Kant

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May. 12, 2008


    Quote Originally Posted by Justa Bob View Post
    My first trainer told me that there are many ways to work with horses and that at her barn she has chosen x,y,z so that everyone is on the same page and the horses don't get confused.

    After reading your post - I am grateful to that first trainer!

    I decide what mentor I am going to trust most. And knowing that diametrically opposed methods for doing the same task can result in the same (hopefully positive) outcome helps me relax.
    I recently audited Catherine Haddad clinic. She told one student that there is more than one way to get the result, but since the student was at her clinic, she was assuming she wanted to learn Haddad's way.

    Understanding that, I take everything everyone tells me under advisement. That term of 'under advisement' may be a few seconds if I think their idea is crazy or abusive, or it may be something I incorporate into my riding. I almost always take the ideas back to my trainer and ask her opinion. I always at least nod and smile when people give me advise. Some of the people I deal with, I hear a lot of crazy things so I'm pretty used to the nodding and smiling part.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan. 16, 2002
    West Coast of Michigan


    I sure am glad I "came of age" when there were no internet BBs.

    A good mentor is invaluable in becoming expert and avoiding the pitfalls in ANY area of expertise.

    And, archaic as it may sound, BOOKS can be a wonderful source of information. I probably had read 40-50 books on horses before I ever got on one for the first time--it was the ONLY connection I could give myself with horses when I was a kid. Well, that and Breyer models.
    Click here before you buy.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug. 4, 2009


    I learned by observing keeping my mouth shut mind open.
    Then over a period of time from watching at every show event and clinic lesson private farm schooling etc what seemed to work and what didn't for horses[/I].

    Books are great but Doing is best teacher..and asking A Good Question one that opens doors to more thought.

    I know this sounds silly but thats how I learned no one person, BNT BNR Clinician Owner etc has all the right answers for every horse, its a collection of life experiances and you pick and choose what works best for the horse you currently have, what works best for that horse and rider combination now in the moment.

    Its a life long process that never stops...enjoy the journey.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar. 6, 2006


    Usually - my go to is run everything by my coach of the last 10 years. She was a working student when I was born, and took her OTSTB Intermediate back in the late 80's early 90's. I board at her farm, and my pony could not be happier. She's open to new ideas - but is very much from the camp of "if it works for that horse - then great". That said, she'll also tell me if something I want to try is probably useless/dangerous/stupid.

    I go to clinics, I have a couple of favorite clinicians that complement the coaching style I am used to.

    I'm always learning - but am bright enough to be able to tell what is worth learning and what is useless at best.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul. 16, 2003
    Guthrie, OK


    Havings started at OP's level many years ago and coming from a totally different equine background, I understand completely where she is coming from!!

    Here is what I have learned over the years, so maybe you can save yourself some mistakes along the way, or at least recognize them. In no particular order...

    EVERYbody has something to offer. Ie, you can learn something from everybody. Even if that something is that you DON'T want to do what they are suggesting!!

    There is more than one way to accomplish the same thing, even on the same horse. And definitely on different horses. Horses change. We change. Situations change. What works in a controlled situation of a dressage arena may not work as well in a stadium course or on cross country, or what works coming to a "big" (relative term) vertical may not work when coming to the same fence off a bend, down a grade, up a hill, from light to dark, or dark to light. So definitely try to accumulate a "tool box" of ways to do things.

    Early on, too many "tools" can get confusing!! So keep it simple early on!! Stick to ONE program until you have that nailed. Or until it isn't working for you. When either one happens, it is time to try something different.

    If you are riding with somebody different and what they are asking you to do is not working or just seems to not "be right" do what one of my early instructors told me to do: "fake it". Meaning fake that you don't hear them or understand what they mean or that you can't get the result and don't do it. But at least try it once (unless it seems abusive/cruel); you never know--it might be just the trick.

    WATCH, LISTEN and LEARN. Keep your ears and eyes open. Watch other people's lessons. Audit clinics if you aren't sure you want to ride in them. And if you are riding in them, attend the entire clinic, not just be there for your part. You will learn more from watching others make their mistakes than you can imagine. In medicine we have what we call "bone piles", referring to accumulated mistakes we have made. It is wise for me to learn from YOUR bone pile so as to not add to my bone pile if at all possible. Same applies to riding. Seeing someone make the same mistake you have been making usually makes a bigger impact on you than you just being told to fix it over and over and over.

    File things away for future use. You may not be doing leg yield yet but you will one day. So when you read or watch a lesson about it, pay attention, take notes, etc for later. So when the day comes you do start leg yeild it is not totally foreign to you.

    At your level, basic horsemanship and riding is the most important thing. Not fads, trends, etc. As long as your horse is clean, shiney, has good cover over its ribs, is well shod/trimmed, your tack is clean and fits reasonably well, and your horse is sound enough for the level, it really doesn't matter what feed you are feeding, what supplement you are/are not feeding, etc. For your level if you are needing special feed, supplements, injections, special shoes, etc, something IS very wrong.

    You seem like an intelligent, reasonable person with a good head on their shoulders and with a good deal of common sense. Go with your gut. I think it will steer you right.

    Good luck. And keep it simple!! It is supposed to be fun!

  11. #11



    If you ask 10 different horse people the same question, you may likely get 10 different answers. So be careful asking for advice ;-) But agree with the others, trust your gut and listen to your horse. If they react negatively to an intervention, its probable that the method or the way its being applied doesnt make sense to them. Taking a deep breath always helps.

    My story: I grew up on a Quarter Horse ranch (not ours) riding Quarter horses and Foxtrotters doing 4H and rodeos, as I got older I transitioned to Pony Club and Hunters, mainly Thoroughbreds, I took a huge break for school and grad school, got back in the saddle a few years ago and am now a die hard Eventer, have had 2 wonderful but unsound TB's and just got my first WB prospect.

    So as I have grown and gone through different disciplines I have felt like I fell off the Turnip truck many times over. What I have learned is that horsemanship has many names but horse sense runs deep throughout.

    In sorting through information, couple of pointers I picked up:

    Know your horse
    Trust your trainer (they know more than you do)
    Know yourself

    In reading tons of books, posts, reviews looking for answers the information that was most helpful came from people who had horses similar to mine, with similar issues.

    Two good horse sense books: Horses Never Lie by Mark Rashid and Beyond the Track by Anna Morgan Ford, useful for OTTB owners.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul. 29, 2005
    Out in The Country


    Oh I so understand your grief too.

    You have to stay HUMBLE and take in everything - and then think it through. STORE away the stuff that is new and interesting but may not apply at the time. TOSS the crap you think through and decide is what it is - CRAP. And then practice and try some of the things you learn that may apply to a question you are working through.

    You then have an arsenol of tools to use as you work with different horses and different issues.

    That said - Humility doesnt come natural to most of us especially when horse people talk to each other.

    I just went through this with myself. I was in a clinic with a high level eventer trainer. She said a few things initially that were not really "fair" in that I wanted to explain or argue - she made a comment that something I did was "Parelli crap" and had me do some things with my horse which my dressage trainer has been trying to get my horse to STOP doing. And she made a comment to me that if she knew this horse better - she might not have said it the way she did. BUT I bit my lip and thought about it later and the truth is - even though the way she said it was not really fair - she was right - I was getting in my horse's way. It actually is part of his problem. He requires the rider to be SO quiet you cant even communicate with him in some ways. THAT is the problem. Most people cant ride him well enough to have a safe or semi enjoyable ride on him. But I was there because he jumps XC so well and he moves pretty - I just cant stand it to go to waste.

    And I was schooled back to remember some things I already knew. And that makes this harder. Because sometimes we KNOW something but we are not DOING it. So that can be irritating.

    How many times has a trainer told us something WE KNOW and we want to say I KNOW THAT - but the truth is - we might KNOW it but we are not DOING it. Even my dressage trainer who is a judge and competes high level - told me she wanted to yell at her trainer - YES I AM HALF HALTING HIM - and after 4-5 MONTHS she realized one day - OH, I think she was right.

    So the second day of the clinic I had a lot more fun after I thought it all out and put it into perspective.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar. 19, 2003
    Palestine, TX


    Quote Originally Posted by clk View Post
    One person will insist a method (or saddle, or type of feed, or supplement) is the ONLY way to do it, and person B will (and have) accused me of gross negligence for even dreaming this is the correct approach.
    I don't have any real advice for you, but as a new mother I am discovering that this problem, which I once thought isolated to the horse world, is everywhere! I suppose that people are outspoken about their passions, and defend things even more aggressively if they are only 95% sure about them. That little bit of doubt in ourselves and our methods causes us to rationalize, and the more followers we can find, the more we close that 5% gap. Someone who says, "I do it this way," but doesn't push it and is open to you using other methods... I'm more inclined to listen to what they have to say.
    Proud Momma of *Capital Kiss* and Bottle Rocket!

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun. 24, 2004
    South Park


    Learn to stay away (or smile and nod) from people who use a lot of "ALWAYS" and "NEVERs" in horse related conversations. Except for a few safety issues, there are sooo many ways to handle all facets of horsemanship and riding (as you have found out) that those come up as red flags for me.
    "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb. 4, 2012


    I have this EXACT same issue!

    Compared to many at my barn, I'm still a "newbie" - I've only be back to riding for five years (rode a little/off and on as a child) and jumped into horse ownership a year ago. Now, I consider myself a quick learner and I read everything I can: books, articles, as well as forums. I took a few research classes in college so analyzing the quality of information is something I think I can handle

    But I completely get where you're coming from with having to handle information coming from so many directions - EVERYONE in the horse world has an opinion and it seems like most are pretty comfortable sharing those opinions . I agree with everyone above about finding that mentor(s) that you trust and sticking with that. A trusted mentor is worth their weight in gold. I've been really lucky to find a dressage trainer and jump trainer who not only are both very knowledgeable in their respective areas as well as general horsemanship/horse care but both complement each other well in their training methods.

    And yes, the hard part is dealing with the snarky comments, even insults. I'm not sure I have much advice there - only sympathy. It's something I deal with too. The fun part is people who think they know your horse or your situation better than you do ... or not.

    Best of luck, I'm sure you're doing great!

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Sep. 30, 2007


    I hear many different things too (I board at a primarily western place and have sifted through a great deal of information- some useful to me some not). Pick a good ethical trainer who has happy horses and who puts the welfare of the horse above all else. Find excellent support folks for your horse (farrier, vet etc). Use your brain and consider where the advice is coming from and does it make sense for you and your horse. Good recommendations re the great resources out there, including this forum. Good luck!

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Oct. 23, 2000
    charlottesville, Va

    Default There are many ways to reach your destination

    What works best for me is to take in all the different methods, tricks, tools and put them in my "backpack". When I sit on the horse, I have a way that I typically ride and train. If the horse and I aren't in agreement or communicating well, I open the backpack and pull out someone else's suggestion/training tip/method and see if it works for this particular horse. If it does, then I sit and think about WHY it worked. Is my philosphy not a match for this horse, is it too young/green/immature to do what I am asking, does it need to have a different job that suits it's temperament, conformation, personality? Sometimes, you just need to hear something explained in a different voice for it to make sense, right? Same for the horse. Other times, you may need to try two or three different ways to get something across to your horse. Do you remember learning to write? Big fat pencil, lower case letters, and paper with the dotted lines. Then you might have traced the letters with your fingers, or the teacher held your hand to help you make the letters. Think about this when training your horse.
    Shoulders back, hands down, leg ON!

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