Monday, June 29, 2015

Propaganda and the Thinking Horseman

Propaganda Types

Let's call a spade a spade, shall we?  We horse folks are barraged with propaganda at a furious rate.  The national elections have nothing on the horse world when it comes to information overload, misinformation, disinformation, and flat-out nonsense.  The list linked above will certainly tweak a nerve or two, so I suggest you read through it and think about it for a bit before you go on with your day.

The Big One in the horse world is also number 1 on the list:  Name-calling/stereotyping

If there's a horse rider/owner out there who has never heard anyone anywhere point to another rider and deride him or her for weight, clothing choices, horse choice, trainer choice, or discipline choice, shout out now.

[crickets...]
A Paint, a Thoroughbred, and an Appaloosa...
What do you think you know about them based
only on their breeds and propaganda?


You're lying if you shouted.  From day one of my riding career I was inundated with critiques.  Everyone in the area of a horse and rider pair seems to have an opinion on the level of talent, overall appearance, or status of the rider's mother's combat boots.  It's nasty.  It's absurd.  It's totally unnecessary.  And it is fostered by some of the Big Name Trainers (heretofore referred to as BNT) in some of the biggest venues and shiniest magazines worldwide.

Whenever I finish a spate of ring work on my English horses and head off for a quick barrel run or pole pattern as relaxation and reward, I hear echoing in my brain one specific trainer's voice sighing, "Yahoo, I hear."  I can see his head shake.  I want to smack him with my riding crop over the distance of 25 years.  At the time, that disapproval took the edge off of really enjoying my down time with my horse.  Now it just irritates the snot out of me to recall my reaction.

How about a little Glittering Generality?

Did you rescue your horse from the jaws of a slaughter buyer?  No?  Then you're the problem rather than the solution.  What breed are you riding?  Is it one of those horses?  You know the ones.  They have either a glowing aura of mystic athletic ability surrounding them or they sprout horns right out of the womb.  No individual differences allowed.

This one takes me back to the same barn, same trainer, who had a couple of boarders intent on owning a horse of a specific color.  They were convinced horses of that color were special.  Why?  Because they'd read all the Black Stallion books.  BNT found them a horse, and it promptly broke several of the female's bones.  Why?  Because BNT was an FA (flaming asswaffle).  Not because of the color or breed of the horse, but because of the silliness of the humans he got stuck with.

Check any horse mag or website, and you'll find  Testimonials on every horse-related subject and product known to the modern world.  Pick the BNT you like best or think is cutest and go with whatever s/he espouses.  You're just as likely to wind up in the dirt looking up at your horse's girth as you would be if you hadn't read any of it.

And of course there's the good old Band Wagon effect.  Put a horse on it, and horse people will flock to buy one.  Set up a page on Facebook, and saps will send their last dollar to a fraudulent rescue effort because Fur Babies. No logic required.  In fact, logic and coherent thought are banned from the premises.

Take, for example, the requirement, propagated by the likes of BNT "G.M." (you know who that is) that all horses in the show pen have to shine like new pennies, their hair must be braided to exacting specifications, and their little chinny-chins and ears must be denuded in order for them to look properly cared for.  The word "proper turnout" comes to mind and makes me cringe every time I hear it.  Think about all those shaved horses' chins, and then read this article:

Research Finds Horses' Whiskers May Be Linked to Specific Brain Neurons

Don't you just feel like a full muck bucket to think that you've been disconnecting your horse's nose from his brain to perpetuate a style someone sold you when you were just a tiny horseperson-in-waiting?  Geez!  What stupidity we humans embrace!

Go through the rest of the list of types of propaganda, and you'll easily find an example of each in your own horse life.

So where does a horse person go for real information?  Well, start with university research sites, if you have real questions about care, maintenance, or behavior.  If you want to learn horse handling, find a trainer or instructor you like and with whom you get along and whose horses look happy and unshaven, and go take a few lessons.  And ride. And hang out with some horses.  And read books by real horsemen like Buck Brannaman and Tom Dorrance, not because they're the in names, but because they've spent decades actually learning about horses from horses.

Caveat emptor, my friends.

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