Humanity and Horses

Bloggers are generous people.

One of the things that never fails to kick my blood pressure through the ceiling is reading a “comment”  that complains that the blogger’s new post isn’t quite what the reader “wanted.”

A lot of horse people write about our happy experiences with our horses right along with the not-so-happy. We talk about problems with equipment, we bitch about the weather, we whine about how hard it is to keep the Russian olives in the pasture, we wonder for the 3,000th time whether we should even have horses at all.

We wear our hearts on our proverbial sleeves, and we let you take a peek for free. Call it stupid, call it what you will–but the one thing you can’t call it is selfish. I think one could make the case that all horse owners are generous people–we certainly don’t keep horses around because they’re a good financial investment. Ahem.

Mugwump’s been posting about Natural Horsemanship lately, and some of the comments on her blog have been jaw-droppingly rude…everything from complaining about the topic du jour to more personal attacks.(Fortunately, Mugs is quite capable of coming up with amazing coffee-snorted-out-the-nose troll retorts.)

Anyway, she brought up something this week that I’ve been thinking about ever since I read her post. She noted that back in her day, everyone knew someone who had a horse who was willing to share a little expertise with the noob rider. She mentioned how everyone from the vet to her farrier to people she rode with helped her learn what she needed to know to become a better rider and keep better care of her horse.

Now, it seems, the world is full of people who have to pay clinicians and trainers in order to get that advice. I have absolutely no problem with people who are in the horse business to make money–more power to ’em. But I think the lack of community spirit–a willingness to help out our fellow woman–applies to a lot more than the horse world.

Back when I was a kid, the neighborhood parents weren’t afraid of hollering at the kids on the street if they saw we were doing something dangerous or stupid. My parents knew that the Reiners two doors down wouldn’t be allowing us to watch R-rated horror movies in their rec room on Saturday afternoon, and they trusted the other parents to tattle on us if we’d really screwed up.Our families swapped plates of Christmas cookies and garden produce. We stopped to talk if we ran into each other on walks.

Once when I was a newly-licensed driver, my accelerator got stuck (which, needless to say, scared the holy Moses out of me). I had to stomp on the brakes to prevent the car from lurching out into an intersection, and (with surprising presence of mind) I brutally threw the gearshift into park. Someone immediately stopped to help me–even though the guy had no idea who I was, he was able to calm me down (over the screaming engine) and fix the problem.

We call helping at accidents “being a good Samaritan,” but accidents (fortunately) aren’t a daily occurrence. Isn’t sharing our knowledge also being a good Samaritan? What about taking the time to offer someone the gift of a kind word?

Late last quarter, I was making my usual pit stop before the 75-mile slog home. I always use the same bathroom on campus at the same time, so I wind up seeing a lot of the same faces. On this particular day, I could hear someone in the stall next to mine. It took a minute for me to figure out that the weird noises I was hearing were muffled sobs.

The sobs continued while I washed my hands. I debated. Had I seen this girl before? I couldn’t see anything but her shoes.

I thought about how much I had been looking forward to getting to the barn early to feed the horses–the weather was windy and cold, and I hate feeding in the dark.

I told myself that it was probably just a student who hadn’t done well on a final. Then I thought about the students I’ve had who’ve had problems a zillion times worse than a bad grade. I thought about what it would be like to try to console someone who was crying because they didn’t want to go home to an abusive boyfriend, or what it would be like to try to comfort someone who was crying because she’d lost her best friend to a drug habit.

I ended up telling myself that the sobbing girl wanted privacy, or she wouldn’t be locked in the bathroom in the first place. And so I dried my hands and left.

The truth is that what I really wanted to do was clear my throat and say, “Hey, are you OK…?” But I was too embarrassed to break through that invisible wall that seems to have sprung up around all of us these days.

I ask my mass media students if they’re comfortable with the idea of living life in the virtual world–sitting in a box in front of another box (just like I’m doing right now, in fact). The classroom is always full of head-shaking when I ask that question, but I know that in a couple of minutes I’ll see another five kids sneaking looks at their smartphones.

If we don’t break through those walls–if we don’t take the time to be generous–won’t we be leaving some of our humanity behind? I can’t help but wonder what that is going to mean for our horses, too.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Humanity and Horses

  1. I am very lucky to have people around me, including my vet and farrier, that are willing to share information, particularly when I first got my horse. Perhaps there is a general lack horse community spirit because life is so busy. We want to instant gratification, we want it right immediately. Instead of investing weeks/years on regular lessons, clinics for an afternoon are the answer to a hectic schedule. It seems that the intricacies and details are not as important. It’s not that people don’t care about the details, it’s just that they are willing to sacrifice detail to get to the end results faster.

    IMO, technology definitely has created some of the walls you speak of when you mentioned how neighbourhoods used to be. I believe it has made people more introverted; you don’t have to interact face to face any more….even shopping can be done on line! Children don’t play out in the street or backyards any more…..video games rule. I find it sad.

    • I think the whole instant-gratification thing you’re talking about here is probably also due to technology as well. That and a lot of us are working longer hours and/or working more than one job to try to make ends meet–many of us don’t have much free time. I know it’s always kind of a mistake to long for the “good ol’ days”…a lot of GOOD things have happened as far as horse awareness is concerned (many have re-evaluated how they treat horses, for example) and the internet has made a lot of amazing things possible…like blogging!

  2. I agree with you about the technology causing people to become introverts. There are a lot of people I know who would rather send an email than see someone face to face or even call them on the phone. I feel sorry for the kids today who are kept to having supervised “play dates” instead of going out on their own in the neighborhood and running with a pack of kids. When I was a kid we had the same kind of interaction as you did, you knew you were being watched by every mom in the neighborhood. And if you got out of line you got corrected and your mother would be made aware of any indiscretion. I think it made us more responsible and more aware of others feelings and how to act with respect. We had decent role models too. I’m sorry for the kids nowadays whose role models come from watching the reality shows on TV (think Snooki, Kardashians etc.)

    The horse blogging community is a wonderful experience because it lets us interact with others who have the same likes/dislikes. I feel connected to people I’ve never met and care about them and their horses. As for whatever rude comments were posted, it goes back to having respect for others. Even if you disagree with someone you can do it with a little tact. Great post.

    p.s. I don’t think I’ve ever told you but I Iove the picture of your cat, it makes me smile every time I see it. I wonder how you ever caught that perfect picture.

    • My colleagues were all talking the other day about the drastic decline in English skills we’ve seen over the past two years. We’re starting to see students who’ve had computers in the home since they were in preschool, and it’s scary. I’ve also seen a marked increase of students who have terrible social skills (can’t make eye contact, can’t listen, can’t pay attention, can’t get along with other people in a peer group, etc.).

      Many of us who have horses are out in rural areas, and (at least in my case) a lot of the people I know who have horses are into showing or other stuff that I could never do. So the online connection is kind of a lifeline for me.

      Re your PS…I think Otto could have his own book deal. He is truly one photogenic dude.

  3. Anonymous

    Fetlock, glad you’re back – missed you.

    Blogging is a lifesaver for me as well. Also, I love the way access to information has been democratized via the interwebs.

    I work hard to uphold proper grammar, despite the general degradation of the language existing nowadays. I think I still have my social skills?! Sadly, there is not much opportunity to use them around here.

    Oh, and I’ve long admired Otto’s backside photo too. 😉

    • Hey Anon–thanks for stopping by. You’ll have to imagine me cringing from an expected thunderbolt from above here, but I’m not a grammar snob. That said, it does bother me a bit to admit that the rules really don’t matter any more. Most of my students don’t read anything besides text messages. It really does come down to the proverbial tree falling in the forest, doesn’t it? If nobody cares, then why should I?

  4. horseideology

    Glad to see you back!

    Actually my summer plan is to start working on a parody-website using dolls to mock popular NH techniques. Something like how this website mocks the Pioneer Woman but with horse training themes:
    http://www.pienearwoman.com/

    Contributions welcome 😀

    • I’ve often thought that it was a shame horses couldn’t read blogs…I can’t wait to see what you come up with! Be sure all of your “products” have great names like “Alfalfa Prod” (a.k.a. “Carrot Stick”) and “Brainy Noose” (“Savvy String”).

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