I would like your advice on GIVING advice…. on the internet. As someone very interested in learning from every possibly experience, I look at every picture or video I see with a critical eye. This is as much to hone my own skills as well as to provide possible feedback for the rider. Unfortunately, there are many problems with giving video online. For one, you can only discern so much from video, and even less from stills. Another is that tone of voice and intention do not convey through text. I often see people giving advice that is accurate but received poorly, perhaps due to a poor delivery or recipient misinterpretation. So I feel that this is a pretty sensitive issue. Obviously, if posters request no critique then I am not going to respond with critique. On the other hand, if a poster is doing something obviously or potentially dangerous for themselves or their horse, I feel it is my responsibility to alert them to that (after determining whether others have identified the problem also, as is possible in a Facebook comments thread). But what about riders who consistently post pictures of themselves with poor equitation (e.g. toes down, pinched knees, slouched shoulders), hitting their horse’s mouth over jumps, or not achieving their stated goal (e.g. “stretchy trot” with a completely disconnected horse who isn’t stretching over his back)? Do I say something in a private message? Or should I just shut up and trust that their trainers have got it under control, and leave critique to the critique sites?
Thanks for the help!
Nosy in Norcal
Dear, “Nosy in Norcal”
I, too, am a student of riding, soaking in information and knowledge any chance I get. Sometimes I hear myself spewing out what I think are golden nuggets and sounding like a know-it-all. Quite frankly, I try to stop myself, but those who know me well are quite used to me saying “Oooh, I read somewhere that blah blah blah blah.” I love a good discussion on how to overcome any horse issue, filing away information like a squirrel hoarding nuts in October.Why else would I, who is still struggling with the sitting trot, be watching “How to pirouette” videos? One day it may come in handy, and meanwhile it feeds my horse addiction.
Giving advice is a bit like gardening, and if flowers are wanted one must plant in fertile ground. Meaning; advice not asked for may not be well received. But you knew that, and you are wondering if you can still give advice when not asked to do so. I know the temptation so well. You happen to have the answer, and if they just knew the question and asked you could save them a lot of time and trouble. Knowing how easily people are hurt, the pitfalls of giving unsolicited advice are just too many. And your seeds will just dry up, and no flowers will bloom. Instead find places online where people want training/riding/horse care advice, and have at it. I don’t think you will run out of sites online even if you make it your full-time job. But even in cases where the advice is wanted, please try to be careful, positive and supportive. Often good advice is lost in when the receiver hears blaming , shaming and belittling. Read your advice to yourself before you post it, and remember you now have your neck out too. Do not be shocked if your advice is attacked and belittled, or questioned by others. If you are going to dish it out, you better be prepared to take it too.
Here at Horse Junkies United we feel strongly that all riders should “mind their melons” and wear a helmet every time, every ride. Abuse of horses, malnutrition, illness, any obvious dangers, spur marks, and the like will always, without question, cause all kinds of advice to be given. And as Equestrians we have a responsibility to speak up, and report if necessary, any abuse or neglect of horses. As a general rule I would advise (since you asked) that if your advice is just to improve the rider’s abilities, and they didn’t ask for it, keep it to yourself. Or better yet, give them a compliment since that is most likely what they were hoping for.
If you would like an outsider’s perspective on an Equestrian issue (not Horse Training related) please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m a social worker in real life and my advice will be based on the information provided to hopefully help you out, or at least give you something to consider. Maybe you will think “Wow, never thought of that!” or perhaps “Nope, I don’t agree with that at all.” It’s free advice, a sounding board, and hopefully a way to help you release some pressure and feel better, with the added bonus of potentially helping out another reader in a similar situation.