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The mental health of horse people (or lack of)

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  • The mental health of horse people (or lack of)

    Ok. I will admit this sounds a bit as an attack. Well, it was intended to sound that way to hopefully gain attention as well as spark a dialogue.

    As the majority know, I have just recieved my Master's in Counseling. This by NO MEANS qualifies me to say what I will say, nor, conversely does it disqulify me. I mention it to properly disclose who I am so that nobody can attack me from a manipulative perspective (you can see I have been on this bb for a while [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img] )

    This is how I see it. You can agree, disagree or not participate. I do want a good discussion, one without trolls and one without personal attacks. These are my only two rules. If people fail to comply, I will lock the thread.

    It has struck me that the majority of equestrians are rather dysfunctional as a whole. I realize that the word is one that is thrown around a lot, so let me place it in a working definition for this discussion: Dysfunction is when people either lack healthy emotional skills, refuse to obey other people's boundaries, do not have boundaries of their own, and who shut other people out of their lives simply because they do not agree completely with other people's philosphies.

    Granted, this is the definition I am using for the sake of this thread, but if anyone adds to it, fine by me...just keep it obvious so that others can follow.

    Based on this definition, I have good reason to believe that our equestrian world is full of dysfunction and I would like to know what others in this industry think. I would make a bet (virtual of course!) that per capita, this industry contains more people with personality disorders than most other hobbies/businesses. I do not know this for a fact...it is merely specualation derived from 23 years being involved with horse people.

    I also want to know why the majority of us just accept "that's the way it is" because we are too afraid to fight the ridiculous personalities that try to control some parts of this industry.

    Believe it or not, there is no person I am thinking of in particular as I write this!

    My background is hunter/jumper and therefore that is my reason for placing it in this forum. If this needs to be moved, please do so, Erin et al!

    Alright, please play nice but please also be forth-comming. Your honesty will be more helpful!

    On deck....GO!
  • Original Poster

    #2
    Ok. I will admit this sounds a bit as an attack. Well, it was intended to sound that way to hopefully gain attention as well as spark a dialogue.

    As the majority know, I have just recieved my Master's in Counseling. This by NO MEANS qualifies me to say what I will say, nor, conversely does it disqulify me. I mention it to properly disclose who I am so that nobody can attack me from a manipulative perspective (you can see I have been on this bb for a while [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img] )

    This is how I see it. You can agree, disagree or not participate. I do want a good discussion, one without trolls and one without personal attacks. These are my only two rules. If people fail to comply, I will lock the thread.

    It has struck me that the majority of equestrians are rather dysfunctional as a whole. I realize that the word is one that is thrown around a lot, so let me place it in a working definition for this discussion: Dysfunction is when people either lack healthy emotional skills, refuse to obey other people's boundaries, do not have boundaries of their own, and who shut other people out of their lives simply because they do not agree completely with other people's philosphies.

    Granted, this is the definition I am using for the sake of this thread, but if anyone adds to it, fine by me...just keep it obvious so that others can follow.

    Based on this definition, I have good reason to believe that our equestrian world is full of dysfunction and I would like to know what others in this industry think. I would make a bet (virtual of course!) that per capita, this industry contains more people with personality disorders than most other hobbies/businesses. I do not know this for a fact...it is merely specualation derived from 23 years being involved with horse people.

    I also want to know why the majority of us just accept "that's the way it is" because we are too afraid to fight the ridiculous personalities that try to control some parts of this industry.

    Believe it or not, there is no person I am thinking of in particular as I write this!

    My background is hunter/jumper and therefore that is my reason for placing it in this forum. If this needs to be moved, please do so, Erin et al!

    Alright, please play nice but please also be forth-comming. Your honesty will be more helpful!

    On deck....GO!

    Comment


    • #3
      Okay, this is just my opinion based on people that I have come into contact with in the horse world. I have found that in general the people I have met in the horse world that have the most money are the most dysfunctional. I have no idea why this may be the case, but the people I have met who really have a lot of money, are the nuttiest, and the most difficult to deal with. Many of them act like they are always owed something...that they somehow have priority because they have more money. If my observations were applied on a large scale, there are more people in the horse world with a lot of money, and therefore a larger group of dysfunctional people. Now, before anyone flames me, there are MANY people with a lot of money that are very normal. I've just noticed that the people I've met in the horse world seem to be more dysfunctional the more money they have.

      Comment


      • #4
        My mom said many times, in despair, "I have never met more bad people than in the horse world." And Ian Millar said something like "I don't know whether the horse world attracts such eccentrics or creates them, but there certainly is a large amount of them."

        I've noticed the scarily huge amount of "dysfunctional" horse people too. Going along Ian's line of thinking, maybe it doesn't attract the difficult and troubled people but creates them? I have found that there are more "bad" pros than there are amateurs (maybe that's just because I've actually had to deal with pros but anyways..) and pros obviously have more stress since they're making a living off of the horses and not solely enjoying them. Perhaps that line of business is so stressful and unstable and taxing that a large number of them "go bad." And I don't envy them for having to deal with the kind of people described above. If you're around enough strange and/or difficult people all the time, that mentality may rub off on you.

        Comment


        • #5
          I have found, at least with my junior peers, that many juniors ride for the theraputic benefit (although we don't necessarily call it that!) of escaping some sort of dysfunctional behavior--albeit siblings, parents, or other troubling situations.

          While some will argue this point with me I expect, horses bring some sort of stability. They don't (normally) have extreme mood swings, they can't be emotionally abusive, and they provide a sense of control and self-confidence. A lot of people who have problems seek this in their lives and this draws them (subconsciously) to riding I think....

          **~~Emily~~** proud member of the junior clique!

          Comment


          • #6
            I didn't start out with problems, being heavily involved with the horse world created them. Although I do wonder whether I had some sort of mental problem to begin with, choosing such an expensive sport (kidding... I think). [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_rolleyes.gif[/img] But I'd say it could go both ways- that dysfunction could be a result, or that dysfunctional people are drawn to the sport.

            But wow, I just noticed this. I've been riding just under four years and I already know 4 or 5 highly dysfunctional horse people. In my whole life, I've met one person outside of the horse world that could truly be labeled that. Weird.

            ~Erin Lizzy
            Visit my Website!
            Erin B #1
            erinbardwell.com

            Comment


            • #7
              But a psych major. Anyway, I think maybe we develop the personality disorders in this sport as a defense. Mostly I think the problems come out of lack of confidence and lack of communication. This of course is just an idea, but it seems to me, personally, that all the issues I've had in the horse-world dealt with me having one idea and the other party thinking something completely different, which resulted in each of us thinking the other was completely dysfunctional. I'm not sure anyone can follow what I'm trying to say, but hopefully you all get the idea!

              Comment


              • #8
                I couldn't agree more. I know so many people in the horse world who are quite dysfunctional. They can't go a day without boasting about money, their horses, etc. and some even go out of their way to make themselves look good for others. Don't ask me why. Sure there are show offs in every sport, but it seems to be very present here.. One of my old friends (or trainers, I'm not going to say) brought all of her problems to the barn. Debt, divorce, family problems, etc. and all of us had to bear it. Eventually this drove me away, but it is way unhealthy for those who still ride at that barn. And the gossip! Gossip is SO bad around here! Is it like that with anyone else? Every show I go to..gossip,gossip,gossip. Every time I go to the barn to ride (or it used to be this way, I haven't noticed ANY gossip at the new barn) gossip,gossip,gossip. Anyway, my opinion probably doesn't mean much, but that's just my two cents..

                Laura & Uno
                Laura & Casey

                http://photobucket.com/albums/v97/bluedinosaur/

                Comment


                • #9
                  The more involved one becomes in the horse world, the more disenfranchised one gets from the 'real' world.

                  Most of the pros in the industry have no real education to speak of, many of the sport's highly-touted participants are troubled (and wealthy), the sport, independent of the people who populate it, is deemed as that of kings, we tend to anthropomorphize our horses and thus they soon become our surrogate children, friends, partners -- why is anyone surprised that many in the sport aren't able to achieve a balance between what is, essentially, a 'hobby', and what constitutes a 'real life'?

                  I'd query, though, pacificsolo, whether the definition of sound mental health really compares apples to apples or apples to oranges. How many of us know avid golfers, hockey players, hell, business people, who've similarly excluded from their lives that which doesn't satisfy their passions or ambitions?

                  Perhaps the only conclusion is that we're all kinda wacky.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Heidi, I was thinking the same thing - about people who are passionate about other sports, etc. I would think they're just as crazy as us, right? [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_eek.gif[/img] [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img] [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_cool.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

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I agree about the show off thing--I can't help it but I like to show off to prove myself. DOn't know why!

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Supahstah, your opinion DOES matter! And thanks to the rest....good beginings!

                        Keep the dialogue comming! Understanding a problem is at the root of healing it!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          My favorite saying, which I've stuck on my computer monitor at work is:

                          Surgeon general's warning: horses are addictive, expense, and can impair the ability to use common sense.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            We can veer here from the clinically diagnosable, i.e. my schizophrenic sister, who would have been helped immeasurably by exposure to horses in her youth, to the profesionally 'idiosyncratic', my former boss who was a passive-aggressive dink extraordinaire, who'd fart loudly in meetings with Important Industry Folk as a measurement of his power.

                            My point is, there are dysfunctional people in every sport, every occupation, perhaps in every family.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>my former boss who was a passive-aggressive dink extraordinaire, who'd fart loudly in meetings with Important Industry Folk as a measurement of his power <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                              **~~Emily~~** proud member of the junior clique!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>about people who are passionate about other sports, etc. I would think they're just as crazy as us, right? <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                                I sincerely don't think so. My sister was in ballet big time. She went to a special academy where they danced and did theory all day, and had special tutors for the kids in school. She went to a lot of competitions and overall, as my mom and her noticed, the people were not nearly as dysfunctional as horse people. Of course there was the whole eating disorder problems, but riding has that too and WAY MORE. I do ballet and jazz dance too (and used to do soccer and synchro swimming), competitively, though not nearly as intense as my sister, and have noticed the same.

                                Yes, every sport/hobby has their nutcases but I swear the horse world has a much higher proportion. Someone should do a study. But from my experiences and observations, and what I have heard from others, there is something extremely wrong with this sport in those regards.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I dunno, Tosca...Although, I have to admit, it was the parents, not the kids, that scared me from football and cheerleading! I was so relieved when my kids decided not to continue with those two activities, at least for now. I haven't seen any TV Movies about equestrians killing or injuring others to get on a team...

                                  I guess I was thinking of the participants at the very highest level of some of the other intense sports, like figure skating and gymnastics, etc.

                                  Hmmmmm...It would be interesting to see a study done, but I still believe that many sports (and other activities) include participants who are just as we are. They're just not as lucky as we are, because their activity does not include horses. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.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

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Hmmmm...well, equestrians may not kill or hurt each other to get on the team, but they sure will do a lot of bad things to their horses to get ahead!!! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_eek.gif[/img]

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Remember that old cartoon where there was a huge convention room full of empty seats, and only two people sitting there? The caption was "Meeting of Functional Families".

                                      Point being, what we used to label as rude, eccentric, self-centered, etc, we now call dysfunctional. But really, there aren't that many healthy people out there, anywhere.

                                      Get this: one in three people will suffer a real mental illness during their lifetime. Haven't had yours yet? Count yourself lucky or get ready for the dive.

                                      Do horses attract ill people? Hmmm. Most of my horse friends and people at my barn are pretty friendly, respectful, helpful and generally good to be around. Sure, I've met my share of sh*ts in the horse world, but I meet more of them everyday in traffic, pushing in front of lines at grocery stores, etc.

                                      Seems the worst behavior I've seen is where there is added stress- at shows, or where someone's horse is sick, or someone isn't very in control and is scared, etc.

                                      Now, once upon a time I took dance lessons. I really hated the people in ballet because they would smile to your face and talk about you behind your back. The incidence of the silent psycho disease, anorexia/bulimia, is about 75% in the ballet world. These are the girls who pretend its all OK when its not, and so they throw up all their anxiety.

                                      In the horse world, it seems easier to see it coming. And I agree, if you let them, the horses can be very powerful agents of healing.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Wow, this gives a lot to think about.

                                        My first response was, "This, coming from someone in a mental health field!!!" Having been/being highly involved in the mental health, medical and horse fields (on a pro and, in horses, ammy basis) I can say that mental health and medical are filled to overflowing with "dysfunctional people" - hell, it's why most of us go into it - to "help" others (read "help" ourselves or, in another viewpoint make ourselves feel better). That said....

                                        My second response was that I grew up in the h/j/e world. Not particularly friendly, wealthy (but not ungodly like today) show people. When I got into eventing I found very different people. (My sister, the PhD in psychology - oh, yes, we're quite a family! Dad was a psychiatrist even! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img] - said "I thought all horse people were crazy but this is such a nice group!") Now, the people in my barn are all totally nuts. It's actually making me laugh as I think about it. Of, say, 10 core people, (including 2 teenagers and our 2 teachers), at least 3, that I know of, are on antidepressants, at least half, that I know of, are in therapy (and the rest probably should be), at least 2 are the kind of people you have to tip-toe around a little each day to see what kind of mood they're in (including me, we're both very cyclical - it's really nasty when we're in the same week of the month!! Oooooh, look out! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_mad.gif[/img] ) But, we all totally love each other. And, moreso, we totally respect each other as humans and as horsepeople.

                                        My third thought is, our poor poor horses!! It just shows what forgiving beings they are [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img] . Horses so much appreciate consistency. Humans, in general aren't great in terms of consistency. Crazy (more or less) humans are even worse. (And me....well, I do my best to calm down once I'm in her presence - actually, and my

                                        Fourth point, horses totally calm me down. I've been aware since childhood how therapeutic riding is for me. And for others. (For a time it was going to be a dissertation) So, at least if horse people are going to be crazy we have horses to keep us honest. Of course, I'm talking about those I know. I'm aware that there are tons of people who do not allow their horses to keep them honest - who beat, maim, break or sell to their own advantage (sell, please sell).

                                        Fifth (and final, phew) - we are a bunch of control-mongers. Who else would want to get on the back of a huge animal and make it trot in place or jump huge jumps galloping cross country or gigantic pick-up-sticks on poles in a ring for time!!

                                        Read Jane Smiley's article in the Sunday NYT a couple of weeks ago.

                                        I love horses. Thank god for them. Imagine where we'd all be! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_confused.gif[/img] Last night I dreamed that I was galloping on the beach on the pink horse. I've never done that. It was a wonderful feeling!

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