Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bad Reputation

The last few lessons I have had on Gem have been…awesome! Last week we did a lot of loping and we actually loped over poles! No kidding! Gem was a star! I am feeling much better about my balance and seat. Still working on my hands, but LA says that that has improved also.

Last night’s lesson was OUTSIDE! The temperatures were around the 26C mark....in MARCH!! We did another loping exercise where we loped down the middle and had to yell out which lead we were on without looking. This is much harder than it sounds! There are little tricks to start you on the proper lead. One of them is to ever so slightly bend your horse’s head say to the left while cuing with your left foot – that makes your horse reach with their right leg. Gem was a speed demon last night. I really had to work at keeping him from galloping up and down the paddock. It must be Spring fever. Actually, I sort of like going fast….. :-)

At burger and beers last night, I heard something that hurt my feelings but also made me a bit angry. Jean was at the barn late Sunday afternoon with visiting out-of-towners who wanted to meet Stu. Her friends were standing just inside the barn in front of Gem’s stall as Jean was bringing in Stu from the back field. One of the other boarders, who I might add used to compete in jumping but only comes out sporadically now to ride, rushed over and shut the top of Gem’s stall door and told the visitors to be careful because he was a “nasty” horse. Jean heard this as she walked Stu in.

I was astounded when Jean told me this and perhaps a little disappointed that she didn’t stand up for Gem. Yes, Gem can be mouthy and I think this is something that will always be a work in progress. But, nasty? No. He is not vicious, does not destroy property, and doesn’t kick. He has never charged at another horse, although I will admit there are certain mares that he doesn’t like in lesson. He did nip the shoulder of one of the ladies who cleans his stall because she wasn’t paying attention to him. He was reprimanded, rightly so. In general, he is well mannered and he waits for the barn help to invite him out of the stall, he comes when called and he doesn’t mind other horses walking by him when he’s in the cross-ties. Unlike this boarder’s horse, I can use my voice to have Gem “move over”, “walk up” or “back up” when he’s in the cross-ties while I groom him. I have explained to staff and LA that Gem knows the words “come”, “wait” and “NO!” I think I have done a pretty good job at making him easy to be around and the barn help appreciates it and likes him. I think I have been a responsible owner. This boarder has barely seen Gem in the 3 years we have been there. Why would she say “nasty”??? Grrr!

My immediate thought was how to save my horse’s reputation through some nastiness of my own! :-) There is a phenomena called the ‘black dog bias”. The colour black throughout history has been associated with evil, mystery, death and superstition. Animals that are black have a harder time getting adopted. I wonder if the boarder who made the negative comments about Gem has a subliminal aversion to black animals. Perhaps she saw him reach out over his door and assumed he was being aggressive because in addition to being black, he’s big. Who knows.

It is so easy for a horse to get a bad reputation, whether or not it's deserved. When I first became involved with horses and particularly when I started to board, I heard all sorts of negative stories from other boarders about some of the other horses. As I have become more confident around horses, I have found that the ones that I was told were spooky or biters or buckers were not actually as bad as I was lead to believe. In fact, DH had a horrible reputation when I first arrived and now that I have gotten to know him, the opposite is true. Someone must have seen him acting studdy when he first arrived at the barn and marked him as unpredictable. I guess, like anything, it depends on who is delivering the comment and what level of nervousness THEY have as to the level of negativity in their comments.

As an example, one of my classmates is a bit of a scaredy cat. She has never mentioned a terrible experience so I am not sure why she says the things that she does. She seems to focus on how spooky or out of control or disrespectful a certain horse is. She has mentioned a few times that Gem is spooky because she saw him jump to the side last year(?) when a golfer popped his head up over the wall while we were out on a trail ride. I jumped when I saw the golfer, for cripes sakes!! Anyone not in the know, would probably believe her. But for those of us in the know, it is apparent that she is nervous of everything. You can't stand too close to her in class because she is afraid that your horse will either bite or kick whichever school horse is is riding. She will only ride dead broke horses. She will not ride in the arena when it's raining heavily or the snow is sliding because she doesn't want to risk whatever horse she is riding spooking. Now, this is not a new rider; she has been riding for 20 years, and owns her own horse, which is recovering from injuries and unrideable. It's unfortunate that she is fearful, but in making these negative statements about the other horses, I believe she is trying to justify her nervousness....at the horse's expense.

I don't know what your barn is like, but mine brings back memories of high school in so many ways. :-) Making a negative comment about horse or person not only travels through LA's facility, but seems to jump from barn to barn. It is so easy for an unjustified comment to be made and stick, perhaps impacting the sale of a good horse or making a BO hesitant to accept a new boarder. I can honestly say that I try not participate in perpetuating negativity towards other horses or people at the barn. I am there for a good time, not to spend my time on negative gossipy conversation. The people who have to work with Gem on a daily basis like him, and that's the most important thing. But still, what if circumstances change and I have to move Gem. Would I be unwelcome at another barn because my guy is "nasty"?? ... Makes you think, right?


15 comments:

  1. It's funny, when I put an ad on craigslist to find a new boarding facility, I put in that I didn't want a show barn, and I was looking for something drama free. I've been spoiled by my drama free barn.

    I find most people who have something negative to say are projecting or are insecure. And most folks with experience don't take them seriously when it comes to horses.

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    1. You are very lucky. I have only been at two boarding facilities - one where I started my lessons, and my current one with Gem. I have experienced the same negative type comments at both places. I don't understand why people can't be happy for other riders and their horses. Thank goodness for blogging!!! :-) I totally agree with you about insecurity. But, I think the negativity spreads regardless of who takes it seriously or not.

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  2. I can't think of much I'd find more irritating than hearing that my horse was being called "nasty". Well, maybe if I'd heard they were calling her ugly. Don't call my horse ugly!!!

    Barns can be so high school and the horse community is so small that rumors can spread fast! Our barn owner really works hard to keep things drama free but I honestly always wonder if that's truly possible lol.

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    1. I know, right?! It p**sed me off big time! Completely unjustified in my mind. My BO tries, but nothing seems to stop the flow of gossip or drama. I have heard that our barn isn't bad compared to others.

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  3. First of all, just look at his sweet innocent face. How could you possibly call Gem nasty. All horses have their own personalities, some are more precocious than others. I prefer a horse with a mind of his own. The person who called him nasty is most likely an unhappy fearful type who feels better about herself by being negative towards others. And I agree that Stu's owner should have stuck up for Gem. You probably would have done it for Stu, but maybe she didn't want to start something up with this woman.

    Rumors travel fast through barns. I've been at show barns and almost drama free barns(because there is no such thing as truly drama free) and I'll take a barn where everyone just wants to ride and enjoy their own horses and be friendly and caring to the other horses in the barn. That said, as long as the workers and barn owners like Gem, let it slide off your back for now. If it comes up in the future I'd say something to her about minding her own business.

    I feel sorry for the horses that get undeserved reputations. One barn we were at had a huge draft horse whose owner fell off hit his head and died. No fault of the horse but that horse was forever branded a murderer and rogue. He did nothing and was one of the sweetest horses I've ever met. Another stallion reared in his stall and got a bad rep as an attacker. Well, I'd have attacked the worker too if he came in with a pitchfork and was poking me into a corner. Again, a very sweet misunderstood horse, who used to put his head on my daughter's shoulder and fall asleep. I think a lot of people have nothing better to do than cause drama and make situations worse than they are.

    Great rides on Gem lately. Sounds like you're both having a great time!

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    1. Aw, thanks. He does have a sweet face. :-) Like you, I prefer that he has a personality that he's not afraid to show. I have to admit that I was a little hurt that Jean didn't stick up for him, particularly when she said to me how wrong the boarder was!! You are right...I have to let it slide off my back. Your examples of the draft and the stallion are what I am talking about. Sad. It's just not fair.

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  4. Even if you don't have any other horses around, if you have any sort of people around at all there will be drama. I had to confront a neighbor who thought it was a great idea to feed my horses all of her lawn clippings...(!!) The first time I asked her not to do that, I added the (slightly fibbed) excuse that one of my horses had foundered before and that we had to watch what he was eating. "But I used to have horses and they loved lawn clippings," she said--her feelings were obviously hurt--here she was trying to do a thoughtful thing, and I was telling her to knock it off. This is a bit of a different example than name-calling, but it's still standing up for your horse, and it is important to do that if the "stereotyping" puts them into a bad situation. It's really unfortunate that horses get labeled this way--from my experience it also happens all the time with people, too. Human beings can be real blockheads sometimes! And PS--I've always been partial to black horses. I've heard about the black dog thing as well, but I thought that was just because there were so many black dogs.

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    1. You know, it still amazes me how people think YOUR horse is public property, to do with as the please! I have actually had to tell people not to touch my horse because I didn't appreciate them disciplining him. BTW, I didn't know about black dog bias until I started doing volunteer work at a shelter a number of years ago. Black dogs and cats tend to take longer to adopt due to subliminal prejudices and the fact that they do not photograph well.

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  5. I think Breathe makes a very good point, what people say about others says a lot more about them than the being they are talking about. That's part of why I try to never badmouth anyone. (Try being the operative word there.)

    It's sad how negative words and thoughts can become reality over time. If you expect someone to be a certain way for long enough that's exactly how they turn out.

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    1. Agreed. Like you, I try not be negative. I would rather focus on positives. I also agree with your last statement. I would add that if someone is told that they are stupid enough times, they will believe it and limit their possibilities.

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  6. I have seen that kind of behaviour in livery yards here too, and I agree that it tells you a lot about the person who's making the comments. Unfortunately, it can have a very negative spin-off, because horses with a bad name generally don't get treated as nicely as horses that everyone thinks are sweet. I've been in that situation and it was hard. I think you have done a wonderful job with Gem, there are many horses who knock their owners over and don't move or back when asked.

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    1. You know, you are right. Horses with bad reputations are automatically approached in a stern way where the sweet ones get the cuddles and soft voice. For someone who was green when Gem and I partnered up, I think I have done a pretty good job with him so far, and I appreciate your recognition. :-)

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  7. I hate politics. I keep my own and don't rely on a barn/yard but I've noted that horse people on facebook also badmouth each other over little things and it hurts people. We were at the centre of such drama last year and it was very frustrating, annoying and hurtful. I feel your pain Wolfie.

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  8. I don't understand why people have to be so hurtful. Such a waste of time.....

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  9. I guess there's barn drama everywhere. Such a waste of energy! Sorry that happened.

    I hate when people who don't know my horse make assumptions about him because of his breed. Maybe you can take the opportunity to address the commenter about how wrong she was next time you're at the barn together... find a way to show Gem off being a solid citizen and point it out. ;)

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