Saturday, February 4, 2012

No Advice

One of the things I've always liked about the Mark Rashid clinics I've attended, including the week-longs in Colorado, is that Mark has a "no advice" rule.  Unless you're specifically asked by a clinic participant for your advice about something they're doing with their horse, you're not to offer your opinions or comments about what others are doing.  No "rail carping", as I call it.  Now, in the horse world, as many of us have experienced, rail carping is a commonly practiced art form, with superiority, condescension and a bit of contempt thrown in, and more often than not it's based on limited information and is disrespectful to the person and horse involved, and their specific issues and struggles.  Rail carping is easy, perhaps that's why it's so common.

Now, I always appreciate thoughts, opinions and comments from family and close friends - even family and friends who don't know much about horses - their opinions deserve to be taken into account because they know me well and care about me, and I include well-wishing blog friends in this as well - all of you who've left thoughtful and caring comments - even those that question what I'm up to - are very much appreciated.  What really steams me, though, is people who assume that they know as well or better than you what you should be doing or what your path should be, and then characterize it as "I just wanted to help" - that's not what it is, it's just plain old criticism, and unwelcome and not useful, and sometimes even destructive.  If you wanted to help, you would have helped me when I needed help - by helping with horse chorses when I was incapacitated for almost 6 weeks after my accident, or by staying nearby when I was trying to get back into riding again after my accident, or by riding with me on the trail when I needed someone to ride with.  That's what a real friend does, and I've been fortunate to have one (but unfortunately only one) friend at the barn who was always willing to ride with me anytime, when I couldn't go far or at a gait above a walk - I wish there were more like her.  I'm still hurting from the inappropriate comments from rail carpers I found out about third-hand - it's amazing how destructive of self-confidence comments like that can be.  All of us, all horse people, should take a pledge to avoid rail carping - what do you think?

27 comments:

  1. I pledge to avoid rail carping!

    And I totally agree! Sometimes I will ask for advice, but more often than not, I get unsolicited advice. What works for you and your horse does not always work for me and mine! I may try it, but don't be offended if it doesn't work and I find another way.

    Although I am sure I have been guilty a time or two myself, I know that I mostly keep my thoughts to myself, basically because I am a newbie and I don't have much advice to give. I don't think I give advice as much as share what has worked for me, and usually I preface what I say with that.

    Consider your self fortunate to have a friend like that an just ignore everyone else. You keep doing what is best for you and your horses!

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  2. Kathleen said at a clinic that there was a "no-wreck" talking rule. She found horses would react to the negative energy from the conversations about those bad times.

    Is it any surprise we would have a similar reactions to negative, useless comments?

    There are few friends who are truly helpful, I have certainly found myself emotionally stranded many times during our tough times. But those few friends can bridge huge chasms. Thank goodness.

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  3. Well said. The world would be a much better place if some of the folks in it opened their mouth half as often and engaged their brain twice as much before doing so.

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  4. Great post. I've gotten so much unsolicited advice over the years I've started asking those who give it when their next clinic is.
    I know how much the negativity hurts and annoys me so I've made a pledge to only make positive comments when I'm talking to someone else about their horse.

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  5. Unfortunately "rail carping", or malicious gossip, is absolutely standard human nature; it isn't limited to horse people. One of the hardest lessons I've had to learn is that no matter what I do or how well intentioned or well thought out it is, some people will be critical and hostile, openly or covertly. The answer, hard as it may be, is not to wish for less criticism but to be aware that the only answer is to be truly yourself and take what comes.

    Kate--you are doing a good job here--with your horses and in your life. "What do you care what other people think?" This is a quote from Richard Feynman's first wife, which I use to comfort and fortify myself when other people get me down. I do understand how hurtful it is, but the answer lies in our response (or lack thereof), in my opinion.

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  6. One of the advantages of getting older (66) is having a longer/larger perspective on my life. One of the lessons I learned is never to give advice. If someone asks, I'll give my opinion for them to consider, but I never give advice. "Have you considered...?" is different than "You should do...!"

    Besides, carp are just fish with big mouths who suck junk off the bottom of the lake.

    Dan

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  7. Amen! And if I were closer I would absolutely have done your chores! and ride with you , and chat on the trail! Hail yeah!

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  8. I want to post this at my barn. I feel like lips flap too often with brain not fully onboard. I made a vow in the last year to be more positive about everyone and everyone's rides and everyone's horses and you know what with my positivity my horse has blossomed and done better each ride. Attitude really is everything.

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  9. I'm sorry those people on the rail were able to hurt your feelings. It's plain old dirty pool. Stick to your guns, ignore them and take your energy from the people who care. I have the utmost respect for the way you have planned out your next steps with the horses. You know what you are doing and why you are doing it. All for the right reasons! There are some nasty people in this world and the older I get, the less they can get to me. They are simply not worth it. Keep your glass half-full.

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  10. I am so sorry you are going through this, Kate. I admire your thoughtfulness and the way you are always trying to be a better person and a better horsewoman. You are right -- we all should pay attention to our actions and make sure we are not doing any "rail carping" of our own. It's an easy habit to slip into if you aren't conscious of how hurtful it can be to others.

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  11. I agree with you 100%. We are able to avoid most of this because we have our horses at home - and it is one of the things we really appreciate about that. It's easy to say "ignore the pond scum sucking remarks" but harder to do.

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  12. Fantastic post! I think there are a lot of barns that could use a "no rail carping" sign at the front gate.

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  13. I agree completely. Unless you are the trainer, or the person is putting them self in tremendous danger there is absolutely no reason to remark on their horsemanship. And when you do remark it should be encouraging, not condensing.

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  14. Have to agree! It goes on, and on, and on! I left our Endurance club some years ago, because of it. "I didnt have the right horse", or " I wasnt doing the right speed" and loads more!
    Plus there was the usual, " you dont want to do it like that! You should do it like this!"
    Finally, after 8 years in the club, I told them where to stick it!
    But things never change. Even now, there are the odd few, the "in my day" people!
    God forbid.
    Any way, you have struck a chord here Kate! Lets have no "Rail Carpers"

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  15. I'm pretty good at keeping my mouth closed unless asked. Mostly, because "rail-carping" as you call it makes me crazy, especially considering the people who do it have never ridden my horse and usually have no idea what they're talking about. There used to be a girl slightly younger than me that used to "tell me" every time Missy picked up the wrong lead (as if I didn't know), by tell me, I mean call out loudly "WRONG LEAD!!!." It made me crazy. Finally, I resolved the problem one day by asking her if she wanted to ride my horse after I was done. Let's just say THAT ended THAT!

    I'm all for NO RAIL-CARPING!

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  16. You've hit on a problem that I think is more widespread than anyone wants to talk about. And you're totally right. It's none of their business. I've been to so many barns where there's this underlying pressure and competition and even though people are friendly and helpful to your face, there's so much judgment under the surface. At one point, I moved Silk to a different barn because I was so tired of the attitude of the other boarders. I immediately felt a return of positive energy in my horse and I found the fun that had been lost due to all that rail-carping.

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  17. As you are healing from your fall physically and emotionally, the very last thing you need is anything unkind or unhappy. Try to focus on your inner thoughts, your one helpful friend and your own horses. The unhelpful people will suddenly disappear - like magic, they will fall away, be busy when you are at the barn, or change their tune. Give them zero time and attention. Give yourself and your horses happy attention. It works everytime.

    I am using this tactic with a non-human entity right now - the state of my pastures. I am ignoring it and just focusing on riding. It is working. I am finally sleeping at night and it seems like my horses are happy again because of our fun rides.

    Focus on your body, your horses and your one helper and all will be fine! Good luck! Your good kind energy is stronger than their weak, ignorant, unnecessary words.

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  18. The absolutely WORST things about horses (regardless of the discipline) are the people who are "experts" and have absolutely NO problem stating their beliefs loud enough for everyone to hear.

    Opinions are like rear ends (I'm cleaning it up here a bit--family blog and all): Everyone has one.

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  19. Oh Kate. I am sorry that you were wronged in this way. It really is damaging to one's confidence and takes the fun out of working with your horses.

    I learned about a rail carping incident when I was riding my big mare. She was a ridiculous handful at times, but we had a really good show day. One of the children who was with our group almost blurted out what apparently had been said at the rail, unbeknownst me. Something that started with "she shouldn't be riding that horse..." The child's mother immediately hushed him and then I realized that they had all been protecting me from what was said. It still hurt, but I was grateful for having so many people who did not want me feel badly about the opinions of bystanders. I knew deep down that we had a great day and not one of those bystanders would have been able to make my mare give them the time of day.

    I hope you take those people's comments for what they are worth: ignorant babble. I am sure that they would not be able to make heads nor tails of your horses. Cherish your friend and learn as much as you can from the people who matter.

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  20. Great post... and I hope I haven't been guilty of 'rail carping'. I know I've made suggestions for folks... but I certainly didn't mean to be a busy-body or rude!
    I like the concept of not giving advice unless asked... which reminds me that when I do post issues I am having, I need to be sure to ask for advice, as I do benefit from things folks have to say. Some I toss out, but others bring me something valuable.

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  21. Oh man, I'm ALWAYS alone at barn/riding so I would LOVE to be your chore buddy/trail buddy :)
    The horse world is one especially with many people offering opinions. Some great, some 'meh' and some downright dangerous. It's all about EDITING :)

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  22. The sad thing is that criticism seems to hold onto us with little rubber hands wherever we go--it's the praise, understanding, sympathy, and thoughtful comments that so easily slip away from us.

    I've often wondered why horse handling seems to bring this carping behavior so strongly in people, but I've noticed the same thing happens to me at work. Professors love to talk about how wonderful their OWN lessons are. Few of us seem able to show we care about what our colleagues are doing, and the backstabbing is legend.

    Offering quiet praise to each other for handling an especially difficult situation/student or for coming up with a brilliant exercise almost never happens. Maybe this phenomenon is especially prevalent in any endeavor where teaching/learning is going on...parents of young kids know all about this, too. I remember a few times waiting in line at the pharmacist's with my screaming twins (as toddlers they used to get terrible ear infections). The snide remarks from other shoppers could easily reduce me to tears (as if I weren't going through ENOUGH stress!). People would watch me struggling to get a stroller loaded with babies through the mud and snow without offering to lift a finger to help me.

    We talk about how sensitive horses are to critical discussion (I love Kathleen's rule about "no wreck talk"). Humans seem to be exquisitely sensitive to this sort of thing as well.

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  23. I agree too and sorry to hear you experienced their carping :(
    Yards are notorious for this though, it's like a plaque that touched horse places and doesn't want to go. Perhaps too many envious women involved...It's sad and detrimental for many.

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  24. When I had my first child I was stunned - and stung - by the amount of unsolicited advice I received. I had never experienced anything like it - until I had my first horse. Then I could recognise it for what it was - pointless and confusing at best if listened to. I hope by writing about it you can put it where it deserves and focus on the positive energy you are finding.

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  25. Rail carpers can gnaw at your confidence until it's nearly gone! It's sad that in a livery yard where everyone is supposed to have a love of horses in common there can still be all this negativity floating around. That can be very hard to take and ignoring those comments can be easier said than done. One of the advantages of having my horses at home now is not having to deal with people watching and commenting on everything I do anymore.

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  26. You know, I think that sums up pretty well why I don't hang with horse people as a rule. I have a couple of very dear friends who love horses, but no horsey friends per se (if that makes sense).

    I wish I had read Mark Rashid's books sooner, it would have saved me an awful lot of hurt feelings along the way. Pots and lots of superiority complexes walking around out there; all too *cough* happy to help (hurt?) set you straight. I'll pass ;o)

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