I object to the notion that it's always my business to speak up when I disagree with something. I only know my small corner of the horse world and that only as much as a part-time ammy can.
It's a simple fact that I repeatedly choose the same kind of horse--short coupled, hot, intelligent--and thus I have developed a certain skill set that helps me within those parameters.
I certainly see many, many people handle horses in ways I would never choose to. As long as it's not my horse in question, I generally keep my opinion to myself. It's certainly possible that they have a handle on the truth that I do not. I'm open to trying new things and seeing different ways of training. I'm fascinated by watching different people work. I certainly recognize that the objectives I'm trying to achieve through straight dressage training are not the same as eventing, which has little in common with show jumping, and almost nothing with the breed show world or rodeo circuit.
Good horsemanship is good horsemanship. I can learn from almost any discipline. I love finding where horse worlds converge--hearing about forward energy from a hunter trainer or expecting proper ground work from the Clinton Anderson crowd.
Currently, I describe my training philosophies as a sort of Denny Emerson/Mark Rashid mishmash of listening to the horse and learning to remove all pressure and expectations. Fast is slow and slow is fast.
Obviously, this isn't the hot trend in the competitive world. The people at the top of any sport have a certain set of practices that they use to produce their athletes. Either a horse can deal with them or the horse falls through the cracks. This is for the simple reason that only a certain type of horse will work in their specific environment and they don't want to waste time on the ones that aren't going to pan out.
That's great for them. I guess. I mean, "falling through the cracks" at that level still generally means landing in a pretty ok place. Just because Boyd Martin can't make you an Olympic horse doesn't mean you can't still be an amazing Big Eq packer.
It's less great at the local level--people go ride with big time trainers and clinicians and learn their systems. Just like at the top, some horses make it and some horses don't. The problem is here--what happens to the ones that don't?
Courage hardcore flunked out of a program with a good trainer because it wasn't a good fit for him. That doesn't make him a bad horse, but it means that if I was committed to that program, I would have needed to get rid of him. I didn't. I found/created a program that works for us and we're slowly moving to a place where Courage is a productive member of equine society.
But that's our journey. As a blogger, the constant creation of written content pushes me to think about the process with my horse and analyze it more critically than if I just showed up to ride a few times a week.
If I watch another rider do things I find offensive with a horse, that doesn't mean the horse is being abused. It doesn't mean that my corner of the truth invalidates the corner another rider has. If you're a "pressure Pressure PRESSURE AND PERFORM" sort of rider, well, I find you kind of offensive. I think you're actively undermining the good training you have put on your horse, and I'm 99% sure you're going to whoop my ass at every show we go to. That's how the world works.
Should I speak up? Should I call you out because your experience is different than mine?
Probably not. After all, I'm the queen of fail photos and I'm not really the best at anything in particular. While I see as you frying a perfectly nice horse, you see as me wasting the potential of my horse who ought to perform at a higher level. And hey, if you're happy with your results and your horses are reasonably sound and well fed, bully for you.
We're on different paths.
Lest I sound like I hate everyone who beats me at shows (which is certainly not the case), let me also interject that I see the same or worse from people who wouldn't be caught dead at shows. Underfed or morbidly obese horses, blind commitment to an ideology no matter how it negatively affects the horse, or a complete lack of discipline that creates dangerous situations that horses get blamed for.
Whatever the flaws of the competitive horse world, there is the same and worse to be found in the backyards of people who would never go near a show. At least the show ring demands a presentable, blood-free animal with some basic skills. There is nothing like a public spotlight to pressure someone into cleaning up their image.
And of course, that's not to say that you have to show your horse to be a good horseman or decent human being. There are many different ways of addressing the same problem and rather than worry about which sphere to address it in, I say it's more important to learn what we can from everyone we meet so that we can make the best decisions possible for the horses we are responsible for.
Instead of claiming my chosen type of horsemanship is DEFINITELY the best and then sticking my nose in situations that are none of my business, I choose to watch a variety of people work and see what outcomes they have. Some are good. Some are less so. The horse never lies, does he?
Furthermore, there are definitely situations in which I will speak up--if I know someone looks up to me and respects my opinion, I will do my best to point them in a good direction. If a friend or equal directly asks for my opinion, I will give it with the understanding that it is, in fact, an opinion. I have been in the position where I worked for a trainer and a client of the trainer asked for my opinion--in that instance, I defer to the trainer.
Plain and simple, my philosophy is this: I will always strive to do my best to do right by my horse. I will endeavor to push those around me to do the same and to hold me to a high level of accountability. Beyond that, I would be hard pressed to speak up. I don't believe horse welfare is improved by snark, catty attitudes, and condescension.