Monday, August 27, 2018

the problem with gimmicks

Sometimes I get a little frustrated, a little hot under the collar, by what I perceive as the questionable strategies used to market products to horse people. Or some of what I consider disinformation masquerading as "scientific fact" spread about the "right" versus "wrong" ways to go about horse care, management, and ownership.

Why do I care? On one hand I think science already has enough of a credibility problem these days and it bugs me when it gets twisted into dubious conclusions used to manipulate consumers or make horse owners feel guilty unless they buy a certain type of product.

trying to find the path to being a good horse owner like.....
On a completely different level, tho, I want to share a story about an old horse I used to know years ago at a trail barn.

He was owned by a guy who loved horses, spent a lot of time at the barn, and handled all sorts of farm chores with his adult kids, one of whom also rode. The guy didn't do a ton of riding - mostly just weekend trail rides spent chatting and socializing with his riding buddies. Meanwhile, the horse .... wasn't particularly sound. It seemed like something in the shoulder: the horse looked like he had a flat tire when he walked, and it worsened over the course of a ride.

The vet thought it was maybe muscular and that more purposeful conditioning on the flat surface of the arena would help. But the owner really wasn't into arena riding. Found it boring and monotonous, didn't really like it so he didn't do it. Instead he brought out a chiro and massage therapist, and learned how to do some of the massages and stretches himself to try to help the horse. But mostly he'd still just do his thing: once or twice a week taking the horse -- still lame -- out on the trails for a ride with his friends.

One day, I finally unloaded about it to a friend. About how unfair it was for this poor lame horse. About how the guy really ought to do more to help the horse, but seemed too clueless (for instance: he brushed the horse's mane with a metal scrub brush and you could hear all the hairs breaking off! I cringed every time!). And that people like this really shouldn't even own horses if they weren't going to do what the horse needed to be sound.

hacking out ain't for everyone, but it's an important part of my horse's routine
My friend, who was a vet tech and had seen all sorts of slices of the horse world well beyond the lesson barns and show barns I've mostly known, waited for me to finish venting all that hot air, before offering a completely different perspective.

As far as she was concerned, this horse had it made. He was living the life. The horse had a safe home, was well fed, and received regular care. Plus his owner loved him, petted him, talked to him, brushed him (metal comb and all), and massaged and stretched him and gave him treats. And in exchange, all the horse had to do was hobble around the woods for an hour or two each week, and really only if the weather was good.

My friend asked: ultimately isn't that what really matters? And couldn't I think of any other horses out in the world who would trade places in a heartbeat??

This might sound stupid, but that perspective kind of blew my mind. I had literally never thought of it that way before.But as soon as she said it, I knew it was true. And it occurred to me, if this guy shouldn't be allowed to have a horse like good ol' Blue, then what happens to Blue? Who takes this old lame trail horse? What are his future prospects if he loses this safe home?

And meanwhile, what happens to this guy who loves horses and is offering this safe home, even if he's kinda clueless? Is it just, "too bad, so sad, no horse for you buddy until you get more educated on the 'correct' way to own a horse?" Or. Ya know. Do we look around us at the untold hundreds of horses across the country just desperate for a home, and figure, "Eh maybe Good Guy Greg here is a fine enough owner for his nice quiet, albeit kinda crippled, trail horse."

i'm pretty sure sometimes charlie wishes he could just be one of the shetlands and do nothing all day except for the occasional pony ride haha
My point with sharing this story is: We're basically all doing the best we can with our horses. Even if we all kinda do it a little differently. Can it really be considered "wrong" care if a horse's basic needs are met?

Sure, whether in real life or in blog land, we can probably all think of countless examples of a horse who.... maybe isn't really 100% sound. Or who is receiving care (whether that be diet or hoof or stabling or whatever) that doesn't align with our own standards. Or seems like a bad match for the owner. And how many times have you seen someone make a choice with a horse that you would not have made, then it went poorly and you're just sitting there like, "See I knew it! You should have listened to me all along!" It happens, right?

Horses are fragile. And riding is a contact sport. Yes it is possible to cause injury to them by using poorly fitting or inappropriate equipment. Yes, a bad judgement on hoof care can cause injury. Yes. Poor riding can cause injury. Yes, the wrong decision by a vet can cause injury to the horse.

Also, tho: Yes, horses are 100% capable of being injured even when you do everything "right." Just like there are costly mistakes that could be avoided by different choices, there are also just... senseless tragedies with horses. Riding accidents. Pasture accidents. Even stall accidents. Random missteps or cardiac episodes. A twisted gut or a virus that crossed the blood brain barrier. Or, ya know. Age. Arthritis, fading eyesight, a system that slows and eventually stops.

oops, might need to revoke our horse owning license here, riding across a frozen stream is too risky!!
I live in fear of losing Charlie. I get a sinking, heavy pit in my stomach even just thinking about something happening to him. Words aren't enough to describe what he means to me. There isn't any metaphor strong enough to convey what it would mean to lose a horse. Just ask any of your friends (or members of this wonderful blogging community) who have had to live through it.

I would do literally anything to keep him safe. And try to make decisions every day that not only seek to keep him healthy and happy -- but that also aim to help him thrive in his day to day life.

And I have exactly zero doubts that every other rider I know feels similarly. We all want the best for our horses. We all take steps in this direction. And we all want our horses to be happy in their jobs, set up for success, capable of performing optimally, regardless of what our actual performance goals are.

And it fucking drives me nuts when companies try to sell a product by manipulating this most basic principle of horse ownership. The "scare tactic" or "pain point" approach to sales. The marketing campaigns that don't just say, "Buy our product bc it'll magically fix all your horse's problems and probably solve world hunger too!" But take it a step further by saying, "Buy our product or else Bad Things will happen to your horse and you probably don't love him enough anyway!"

this guy. i <3 him. just want to make good choices for him.
It doesn't even have to be extreme to fall into this category, IMO.

Past examples that have set me off include the Lighthoof article in Horse Nation last winter that described the dangers posed to your horse by frozen ground. Saying that frozen pastures filled with sharp muddy peaks could damage your horse's hoof in less than an hour (omg!). And to avoid that danger you shouldn't turn your horse out on frozen rutted ground. But if you don't turn your horse out, you'll have to hand walk him for hours and hours every day or else he'll colic and die (oh no!). Altho all that could be avoided if you just installed their surface solutions product in your field to stabilize and reduce areas of choppy mud.

Yes. That was actually what the article said. That was the logical progression used to sell a product. Not that the product is super cool and makes life easier around the farm -- but that without the product you're risking injury, illness, or even death to your horse.

Or like. Another marketing gimmick we hear all the time now: It's not just about how new technology in protective leg wear for horses is more breathable, lighter weight, and less likely to carry water or debris, while still offering superior protection against blunt trauma. No - it's not just this. Rather, it goes a step further to say that boots without this new technology or materials are dangerous to the horse bc heat trapped on the surface of the leg during exercise has been Scientifically Proven* to weaken the internal structures of the leg by causing cellular death. You can tell it must be true bc if you wrap your arm in neoprene, your arm gets hot too! Boom, cellular death.

oops, there we go again riding through frozen water, and with neoprene boots too. sheesh, when will we ever learn?!? but then again, maybe if we combine the neoprene with cold weather we'll cancel out the dangerous negative effects from both?!?
Never mind that the research here.... doesn't actually support the full conclusion made by boot companies. The testing they did of cells in petri dishes exposed to high temperatures doesn't fully account for the body's ability to transfer and regulate temperatures and heat internally, independent from surface temperatures on the body. The boot companies will tell you that heat generated internally in the structures during exercise gets trapped when the leg surface is covered by a non-breathable material like neoprene. And that since the heat apparently can't dissipate in any other way (like via the circulatory system! imagine that!) it builds up to dangerous levels in the tendons and can lead to a soft tissue injury.

Therefore, if you want to be a good owner and love your horse, you shouldn't put neoprene on your horse. Only the best for ponykins, right?? And hey, even if you only ever do light dressage schools or are weekend warrior trail riders like Good Guy Greg from earlier, those tendons are probably still generating enough heat to make neoprene dangerous, right?? Not worth the risk!!

Or like.... even the mildest examples of this type of marketing are still kinda head scratchers. Raise your hand if you've heard that silicone hair products like detanglers or shine sprays are actually bad for hair bc they are drying and cause breakage? Like.... even if that's true, does it really matter?

Brushing through a knotted tail with no product can also cause breakage. The horse rubbing an itchy bum, or rubbing out braids, can cause breakage. Shampooing too often can cause itchy dry skin and breakage. Grabbing mane when you get left behind at a jump can also cause breakage. It happens. But if you love that silky smooth slick feeling that only seems to come from a product containing silicone.... eh, go for it. Why not.

I mean, Good Guy Greg is probably still out there brushing his lame trail horse's mane with that metal scrub brush, right?

somehow still not dead yet
I guess my point is.... it's probably not the frizzy thin tail that's gonna do your horse in. Or the clipped whiskers or the single jointed snaffle (omg the nutcracker effect tho!) or the non-anatomic girth. Or even the neoprene on your horse's legs (you monster!).

Spending extra money on a product bc you think it might help in even the smallest possible way in keeping your horse healthy and happy is totally fine. Buying that expensive feed through supplement even tho it's not regulated and there's limited research on the actual benefits is fine. Keeping your horse on a normal body work routine even if you're not convinced it makes a difference is fine. Calling your vet out for every single bump and bruise is fine.

There is legitimately nothing wrong with spending money to feel like you're doing your best for your horse. I have zero judgement on that. And obviously if you feel like something isn't right with your horse and you believe the problem can be fixed by shopping? Have. At. It.

Bc shopping can be awesome, right? There's something fun and satisfying about getting that fancy new shiny thing anyway haha. You want that latest technology in boots? Or the pasture surface system that's going to clear out all the deep mud from high traffic areas like gates and run-in sheds? Sounds good to me!

ok tho, i admit, sometimes i *do* buy stuff just for the trend factor lol. helllo berry jacket and matching bonnet!! 
If you have personal opinions that dictate how you make choices for your horse, that's great too. Seriously.

But FFS, don't tell me it's because not buying that thing or making a choice that diverges from your opinion is somehow bad for my horse, or just generally "wrong." That somehow this season's hottest trend was actually a major discovery in horse care that completely changes everything we thought we knew previously.

Don't get me wrong - I love that companies are leveraging new research and smarter technologies to develop better products. It's great that there's so much awesome information out there for the discerning consumer to review. And it's easier today than ever before for those consumers to share their thoughts and opinions and experiences with how a product worked for their horse.

But just say no to marketing gimmicks that prey on the insecurities of your every day regular horse loving amateurs who just want to do good by their horse.

the key to having fun with horses? uh, just having fun with them. like tailgating with the ponies at an event! also. thermal wraps on horse legs are definitely bad. except when they're good.... like these therapeutic back on track wraps lol....
We all want to do right by our horses. We all want to make good choices for them. Sometimes we have to balance those choices bc of limited resources or competing priorities elsewhere in life. And obviously we all have different lines in the sand when it comes to what we consider optimal in terms of nutrition, training, hoof care, turnout, maintenance, etc.

And like... if you're having problems or your horse isn't doing well or something is wrong, then by all means, go forth and explore options to make changes etc. But if everything is pretty peachy and you are happy with how your horse is doing? Cool, man. Cool.

Horses are hard enough as it is without having to also deal with all the hype from the companies just trying to make a buck...

So I just don't buy into it. Do what works for you and your horse and your own personal set of circumstances. And if that includes using cheapie neoprene boots from Amazon or cutting your horse's mane with scissors or galloping wildly through the snow on a crisp winter day or enjoying trail rides on your horse who couldn't pass an FEI jog up?? Have at it ;)

Am I the only one who gets riled up by this stuff? Have you seen anything lately that really annoyed you or made you scratch your head and wonder whether that marketing team has literally ever actually seen a real horse before?

60 comments:

  1. I love this post. All of it. I am a low gadget person and some of these things going around FB drive me nuts. Like the cold weather and leaving horses out. Or the barefoot fanatics.

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    1. ugh like. i get it. horse people have strong opinions. ask two horse people, get three answers. it's always the way. and like, opinions are all well and fine and all, and everyone should do whatever they want with their own critters provided it's with that whole "striving for health and happiness" thing in mind.... but like. damn. the zealous evangelism of some of it really turns me off!

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  2. PREACH! If I hear one more person freak out about how neoprene boots are going to make my pony's legs fall off, I'm going to scream.

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    1. honestly it's amazing he even still has legs at this point, charlie too!! clearly it's only a matter of time until the worst happens. and like, all those old schoolies from my barns growing up who wore the cheap neoprene splint boots... i'm sure any day now their legs will also be falling off!!

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  3. My favorite: science has proven. Um..what science? Where is the study?? How was it performed? What was the study size? How was it run? Ugh...

    If it makes you feel good to do something for your horse...shoe/custom saddle/neoprene boots/fuzzy stuff everywhere/supplement...go for it. As you said, all we want to do is the best we can for our horses. I could do with a whole lot less "holier than thou" attitude in the horse world about it. In my circles I find the treeless, bitless, barefoot crowd to be the worst at this.

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    1. the sad fact is that there IS science happening, there ARE studies, and often they're very GOOD studies. but the studies are conducted with specific explicit methodologies and arrive at conclusions related to those methodologies. this is all well and fine, but someone marketing a product or whatever will go through those conclusions, over simplify the parameters, and draw overly broad proclamations that are ... ultimately not actually supported by the research.

      like that study that went around last winter about only riding at a walk in temperatures below 20*F. there was a REAL study that this assertion was based on. the study DID FIND that there was measurable negative changes in respiratory systems of the horses after exercise in cold temperatures. but..... uh.... the "exercise" sited in that study? 5 MINUTES of canter at 6.8-9.5 meters/sec. also known as: breezing mother fucking race horses haha.

      like, call me crazy, but that seems like way more intense "exercise" than your standard adult ammie flat school. and like... maybe there's a lot of space on the scale between walking and... ya know... galloping for five minutes. but hey. science has proven exercise in the cold is dangerous for your horse! so best not to risk it, right? lol...

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  4. The boots thing is the WORST. It drives me literally crazy. I begin frothing at the mouth and shouting like the crazy guy at my local bus stop. I wish this sort of thing would stop.

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    1. i mean, this entire blog post is basically the verbal reenactment of said crazy person at the local bus stop.... it's just like. so nuts. i get why companies promote this stuff bc they make money from it. but i DO NOT understand why supposedly objective or independent horse owners amplify the message....

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    2. austen we tested the outside of the boot for temperature and determined aliens are real

      get on board

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    3. rotflmao at Megan's comment.

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  5. i really like this post, A LOT. and I love the very true anecdote about good guy greg and his slightly lame trail horse.

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    1. thanks haha. this post has been bumping around in my head for ages now. it's so easy for us to get so so so micro into GOOD vs BAD, while kinda forgetting the big picture. like, you can have the nicest most expensive and "scientifically proven" equipment in the world and still ride like a bag of bricks on your horse's back. like, it's all relative, right?

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    2. I tell myself this all the time with spicy. and not just about the newest and greatest gimmicks... but spicy got a bunch of extra days off last week and I started to feel guilty and then I was like "... he doesn't care if hes not ridden. in fact hes probably shoveling hay in his gullet right now."

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    3. ha yup. like i mean, i can overthink anything and obviously if i'm out there making big giant plans and signing charlie up for big events etc, then i feel a lot of responsibility for making sure he's adequately prepared for these happenings -- both physically and emotionally. but i also try not to get bogged down in all of that, bc then i end up getting too stuck in day to day expectations and pressures and stresses that... ya know. are maybe a little over the top haha. bc yea, like you say, the horse is usually jusssst fine and having a good old time eatin his hay and grazin with buddies lol

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  6. Thanks for this. It was the reminder I really needed, lately.

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    1. good!! sometimes we gotta shut that echo chamber down every now and then and remember that we're just doin the best with what we have!

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  7. "Not buying food will kill your horse probably" - some scientist maybe

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    1. "if you chop their feet off entirely you'll never have to worry about shoes again!" -- actually that crazy lady who did these things....

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  8. Sometimes I feel the harder I try to do the right things the more likely I am to do harm. And don't get me started on info out there -- that shit is shady. Research proving one thing or the other can be convincing until you find that next article that completely disproves the thing. It is so easy to accidentally murder your horse these days because of too much information, ugh (after spending the week researching 'natural' ways to help treat/prevent ulcers I may never google again).

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    1. ugh yea. for me, that's really tough. like i never wanted to be a cynical person. but there's just so so so much garbage out there now. and literally everybody has their own ideas and experiences and ideas on how horse keeping should be. but i mean. if i've figured out anything, it's that horses are seriously fucking versatile. like if you look at how charlie lives in maryland vs how a Dante lives in san diego.... their situations are wildly different. and yet both horses seem by all appearances to be doing quite well!

      so like, clearly horses can cope with a lot of different conditions. we just have to figure out what works for us. which, let's be real, isn't always easy either haha!

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  9. LOVE THIS. I hate being made to feel like a bad owner by companies when I can't afford the newest fad. Do what works for you and your horse, because what works for someone else may not be the best thing for you.

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    1. ugh yea the shaming that goes into buying expensive products is intense...

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  10. AMEN.

    There are too many things to account for for some of these things people are claiming "science says". Well first of all, where is the actual scientific study? Because most of the time they don't have the information to back up that claim BECAUSE IT WAS NEVER DONE.

    The whole booting thing too, is weird. Well if you are somewhere that is 100*F every day, well finding the coolest boots/everything is probably something you would want to focus on just for general comfort, but when you live somewhere else that isn't like that - does it REALLY matter THAT much.

    The only thing I truly judge people for, is when they are ignoring the clear signs from their horses about saddle fit. If you a) have the money and b) want to compete, why won't you actually use a fitter or do what they are telling you to. The way your horse is behaving under saddle is a HUGE sign that your saddle doesn't fit and it is hurting them! Like....whhhyyyyyy?! It doesn't even need to be perfect, because it never is, but your pony is in pain!

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    1. yea i think you hit the nail on the head esp with your last point: like, the whole thrust of the above argument is that if everything seems well and fine, then great - don't worry about all the hype out there. but if there is a problem? that's when we need to evaluate further, and also where it becomes more challenging to separate the wheat from the chaff. so many companies want you to believe that if you buy their product it'll solve all your issues, but it's usually not that simple.

      the most commonly touted miracle solutions (saddle fit, ulcer medication, dental work, etc) are common for a reason: they're great places to start whenever there's a problem.

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  11. It's definitely frustrating as a conscientious owner to read these things. Like, I'm mildly intelligent (most of the time), but not particularly science-y. If I'm looking for a product for my horse, I like read the reasons behind it and when all I can find is like this convoluted bullshit that's supposedly scientifically proven, I bet real annoyed. LIKE JUST TELL ME THE PROS AND CONS and I'll decide for myself.

    I dunno, this is the same reason I don't watch the news. It's all negative and the world is ending and biased bullshit. I hate it.

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    1. ugh yea, and you're definitely not the only one who kinda feels exhausted and numb to the whole thing. like that lighthoof example above -- to me that was such a shame, such a wasted marketing opportunity. bc the product *does* seem cool, seems like it would be a great addition to any farm if you have the budget for it. but that whole feeling was totally obscured by their ridiculous argument that without the product winter would manage to murder my horses! like c'mon ppl. c'mon.

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  12. I've seen a lot of marketing nonsense from companies and their sales reps working at a tack shop. The hype happens for people products, too- "this helmet is certified to FIVE INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS!!" or "These breeches are PROVEN to be grippier than the other brands!!" It's easy to get excited about new technology and new products (and it's FUN!), but at the end of the day the horse could still keel over and die in the pasture, your helmet isn't going to make you a better rider, and you're probably better off spending the money on training for yourself or the horse instead of gimmicks or gadgets.

    On the subject of horses living their best lives, I had to re-evaluate my perspective when I worked at a therapeutic riding center. We had horses who were slightly lame all the time, horses who had 3 hooves in the grave, horses who had a mild, persistent cough- they all had some reason for ending up at a TRC. Could we have injected them and scoped them and had All The Treatments? Sure! (Well, not really, because this was a place on a shoestring budget.) But the horses were fed, sheltered, groomed, given regular vet and farrier attention, loved on in exchange for a couple of hours' work at a walk per week. In the three years I worked there, we never had a horse get any lamer and we only had two (of ~25) colic and die (at ages 29 and 27). There are many ways for horses to live good lives.

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    1. omgosh i bet you see EVERYTHING at the tack shop haha. and honestly like a lot of it doesn't bother me too too much. i feel like most consumers are pretty accustomed to products promising the moon and the sun and everything in between. i think it's the marketing that instead is designed to prey on the consumer's insecurity about their horse care, since horses ARE so fragile and they can't always speak for themselves and it can be so so so hard to know if what we're doing is working. so i think that's when we get more susceptible to the marketing that's like, "do this or you are BAD >:("

      also, great point about the therapeutic clinic. like sure, on one hand someone could be like "omgod but those poor horses should just be left to their retirements in peace in some idyllic field somewhere!" but... uh... who is paying that bill? i think it's a really truly wonderful thing for a horse to be useful even if they're not like, grand prix FEI horses or whatever. and the organizations that have jobs for these older or not-so-sound horses are so often really great homes.

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  13. A fellow boarder gets sucked into this trap all the time, and it's gotten to the point where the rest of us just smile and nod because reason is not her friend.

    In the 11 months I've been at the barn, she's gone through 6 saddles and just bought a new one. Not cheapo saddles either- County, Subben, and all new ones. She buys the newest saddle pads, the newest boots, her horse is on like 10 supplements, etc. What she won't spring for? Lessons, which is really what she needs. She's terrified to ride the damn horse, and therefore doesn't do it well. It's sort of painful to watch.


    But I would absolutely love to be that horse. She gets all the finer things in life in exchange for carting the owner's rag doll self for 10 minutes 3x/week (yes, I'm dead serious), and only if it's not too hot, not too cold, not too windy, and not raining.

    As for P, my $20 saddle pad works better for him than my $150 Majyk Equipe one I just bought a few months ago. Go figure...

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    1. ugh yea i feel ya. i'm also a big believer in, "yea that money is probably better spent on training." at least, that's typically been my approach to shopping for most things. but ya know. whatever. some ppl are proud leather snobs or what the absolute latest nicest equipment possible, and can't tolerate the idea of anything less, so to them, that's a worthwhile expense. ain't nothin wrong with that! but like... i still haven't found a saddle that will ride the horse for me lol.

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  14. Well said as usual Emma!!!

    It is so hard, because like you said, we all want the best for our horses. And I like science and science supported products. But like you said, their just aren't that many- or they stretch the true based off the findings, or they make it sound like something entirely different. I'm not a dumb dumb in science- I was a bio major and chem minor! BUT, who has the time to wade through all that crap??

    A friend of mine on FB just shared an article about how awful 3 piece bits are, and how they aren't mild at all like people think. Apparently they put pressure on the bars on the mouth and tongue- TOO MUCH PRESSURE. But like, then what IS a soft bit? WHY IS IT SO CONFUSING!

    Then I have to panic about whether I am actually hurting my horse when I try to help him. Are the BOT quick wraps TOO HOT? Did I put too many blankets on? Too few? Is he missing an essential supplement?!? It's enough to drive anyone insane.

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    1. ugh yea it's definitely hard to figure out what to do with all this information. especially when it gets right at the soul of keeping our horses healthy and happy. regarding the bits.... ya know there is a LOT that goes into bit design. and there are a LOT of different bits out there. as far as i'm concerned, the only opinion that matters tho is my horse's. i think the scale of "mild to harsh" misses the point. *obviously* we would all like to be as soft as possible, but if the bit isn't working for the horse we may end up needing to be much stronger with our rein aids than we would like. or, going in the other direction, the horse could end up feeling claustrophobic or backed off the bit. as far as i'm concerned: if the horse will accept an elastic contact on the bit, if i feel like i can slow down if i need to, and if i *also* feel like i can push the horse *into* the bridle when i need to, then, ya know, the bit i'm using works. end of story lol.

      and i try to use that same thought process for everything. does my horse look uncomfortable? is he behaving oddly? does he seem more sensitive or reactive than normal? is he losing weight or looking a little moth eaten or like he's rubbing a lot? these might be signs that he's not comfortable with whatever products i'm using - boots, blankets, diet, whatever. again, as far as i'm concerned, i'm going to try to learn from my horse first and foremost what he needs bc if i try to rely on just outsider advice or whatever, yea. it'd be serious overload haha.

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  15. *slow clap*

    We are all doing everything we can for these beautiful, delicate creatures. It's stressful enough on it's own, let alone while we comb thru to the 300 products that get blasted in the market as life altering. I've become such a critic and generally suspicious of anything new that gets pushed at owners. Ughhh

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    1. ugh agreed. i hate that skeptisicm is my natural reflex now but... damn there's a lot of garbage out there!

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  16. PREACH GIRL!!!!! *applause* Could not agree more! Myler bits are another one. We are all doing the best we can and our horses live THE LIFE.

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    1. yas seriously. our horses all seem pretty freakin well off compared to so so so many other situations that could befall them. i mean, even charlie - who was loved and cared for on the track, but still had to work at the limits of what his body was capable of - certainly seems to be enjoying his relative 'retirement' as a low level event horse owned by an adult ammy haha

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  17. Ooooohhhh so true! Don't get me wrong, I love reading about and seeing new products, because sometimes I need something new/need an upgrade anyway, and so I will buy the latest and greatest because it is something I need, not because it is a fad. Or let's face it, sometimes I just want a pretty new stocktie or sheet because it's pretty haha. I love to shop! BUT, I just cannot get sucked into thinking I'm a better horseperson because I use "XYZ product" or that "XYZ product" is going to magically make my horse an FEI horse etc. etc. Fads are not always worth following!

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    1. dude upgrades are A-OK by me! being matchy matchy bc ya wanna, or buying the latest new thing bc it looks awesome and you have grabby hands.... ain't NOTHIN wrong with that! i don't jump on every trend bandwagon, i don't want every new fad.... but if there's something i *do* want? then hey, why not, right? we're all basically just living out our 12yo fantasies anyway with the ponies, right? my only serious grief comes from the marketing that says we're somehow hurting our horses by not buying XYZ. or that somehow what we're doing is bad or wrong. like, no. the horses are fine. we are fine. neoprene ain't gonna kill my horse.

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  18. omg...can I get an Ay-freaking-men?!?!

    Let me preface my comment by saying I've been riding/working with horses for *cough* 40 years now...and have worked in/been around a multitude of disciplines from calf-ropers to Olympic level dressage to harness-racing to thoroughbred racing and breeding. I've also been a vet tech for a bunch of those years..some in a veterinary teaching hospital.

    All that to say -- EVERYONE IS RIGHT. Lol!!! Truly....no matter who is doing what, they're doing the right thing.

    A quick example: Standardbred people (here in Ontario anyway) wrap bandages the same way on each leg, no matter which side of the horse. If a thoroughbred racing person saw you do that, there'd be hysteria. Wrap to the back, wrap to the back!! The horror!! The horror!!

    Oh geez.....I could go on. lol. But you make the point perfectly....no matter what we do or don't do, someone's going to think we're doing it "wrong". And that's fine to think it...just don't be passing judgement on another person's choices (other than basic humane treatment and welfare....although even that's a slippery slope sometimes!).

    I can't even comment on the insidious bullshit that is advertising and marketing....to attempt to capitalize on people just trying to do their best for their equine partner is borderline unethical.

    Feed supplements are my personal pet peeve...the idea that eleventy-billion potions and powders are going to magically solve all of your horse's problems and, in racing lingo, move them up ten lengths.

    Oy.

    Sorry for the epic-length comment...clearly I have strong feelings on this issue. :D

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    1. lol i love the feature length commentary!! obvi i have feelings about it too otherwise i wouldn't have written, and i love hearing everyone else's thoughts too!

      and your point is so spot on: like one of my good friends comes from the world of saddlebreds and saddleseat riding and was sending us all these awesome shots of those gorgeous creatures at a big show a couple days ago. and my first knee jerk reaction was to see the big stacked shoes and grimmace. which i'm 100% sure annoyed the ever loving fuck out of my friend. but like.... ya know.... that type of shoeing ain't for me. doesn't align with my performance goals or horse keeping ideals. but can i really say that those epic ASBs aren't living their own version of the good life? they get fed, they get care, they get loved. not every horse is destined to live the "natural life" out in some back 40.

      so yea. i'm trying to keep a more open mind about horse life haha, and not get sucked into the latest marketing gimmick trying to sell me on product XYZ....

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  19. Do you know how many times I buy something for May, and I think "this is probably more for me then her"?

    It's so hard to tell in the horse world what innovations are beneficial, and which are just fancy marketing tactics. I mean, hey there's even science out there now that icing horses legs can be more harmful then not... and that scraping the water off your horse inhibits the cooling process.

    I'm pretty open to trying things that seem reasonable, but I have found that 90% of things for 90% of riders, won't make any difference. My horse that works MAYBE 5 hours a week? She probably doesn't need "performance level" anything.

    Even when it comes to things like saddle fit, there is so much misinformation out there. I mean county literally sells its saddles on the idea that all other saddles put horses in a ridiculous amount of pain... So people shell out thousands of dollars for saddles that... sometimes don't fit their horses.

    Lots of snake-oil out there people. Make sure you're not drinking all the koolaid.

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    1. yesssssss. that's another huge point that i think a lot of people maybe don't get: the typical adult ammy horse is NOT in "heavy" work. sure, some are. but most.... are not. plain and simple. like when i toured Windurra last year and asked Boyd Martin about his conditioning plans, all of those horses work basically twice a day. once for a conditioning ride - whether long and slow miles, or more intense interval work - and once for targeted dressage or jump school. those horses are WERKING. whereas the typical adult ammy horse that's doing those 5 hour work weeks, often at lower intensities (ie lower jumping or lower level flat work) just doesn't need the same degree of support.

      tho of course, if we want to pamper our horses as if they were upper level elite athletes? nothin wrong with that! have at it! doesn't mean that anything less than that is bad or wrong tho haha

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  20. I am certainly the one that buys things because waiting for my horse to heal is HORRID and I can't do anything about it so YAY THINGS lol. I can absolutely get pulled into the "latest fashions" - more for horses than people, but I tend to be a bit of an impulsive person anyway. Since I know that about myself, I try to not get too sucked in but it can still happen. Does doing all of this help me feel better that I'm doing right by Amber? Yes. I try to assess things logically and do what she needs as a baseline and work from there (my mom continuously tells me I need to oil Amber's feet but like....her feet are so strong and pretty much don't need anything so I don't haha) But will I buy products out of fear I'm not doing something right? No. Those I have no problem putting aside. I honestly HATE that. I'll do the research if I can to see if there really is something to it, but ugh. I hate scare tactics. But yeah, I agree wholeheartedly with your post.

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    1. haha yea i mean, i totally get pulled into impulsively trying to solve all my problems with shopping. i get it 100%. like, true story, this evening i had to go back in a panic and try to cancel the giant amazon order i impulsively placed to try to throw things at charlie's latest ding (post tomorrow fuck my life). it happens and it's a totally legit coping mechanism, even if logically we might think there are better ways haha. the heart wants what it wants!

      but yea. agreed. i hate the fear and scare tactics..... they help NO ONE.

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  21. I can't tell you how much I relate to this post. A lot of my work is with people who love their animals so much. But they can't afford to do what so many of us "expect" them to do in order to be "good" pet owners. So, they feel shame and embarrassment, but they still love their pets and do what they can. And my industry has gone around saying "if you don't do xyz you shouldn't have a pet" for SO MANY years. But, now that's changing. And we understand that loving your pet and "responsible pet ownership" comes in so many forms. Anyway, I get it. And I hate ANY marketing that makes people feel guilt or shame. Because isn't it better to focus on the positive, and just be kind? Anyway, I hear ya sister, and am so glad you posted this!

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    1. honestly i totally bought into the whole "if you will not pay for this, then you may not have that" philosophy for a long time. and admit that there are still many occasions when i think it's applicable. but.... i'm trying to be a little more elastic and inclusive in my definitions these days. a little less..... rigid, less judgmental. bc yea you're totally right: shame and embarrassment are not the answers. and people who would offer happy homes to animals (even if they're "imperfect") are better than so many alternatives.

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    2. Exactly! And trust me, there are days I still judge, lol.

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  22. I have so many thoughts on this...mostly I hate that I don't trust any science related product claims anymore. I'm sure some of the research is good, but my default is to not be motivated to look into it because usually it's questionable at best. I grew up working at a super old school ranch and the horses thrived on the bare necessities, fair treatment, and hard work. I try to remember that every time I'm tempted by the latest and greatest thing.

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    1. ugh i HATE that i'm so skeptical now. it's not how i want to be. i want to be excited about new discoveries and new ideas. but it's just so so so hard when i feel like some of that trust has been abused. esp when ppl tell me that what i've previously known to be true (like with your past experience at old school ranches) somehow isn't "ok" any more.... it bugs me, ya know?

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  23. Well, if I read it on the internet it must be true.

    Hey, if you read about something and can justify your reasoning behind what you are doing, have at'er. I have no problem with people trying something new if they've put some thought process into it and come up with why it might be beneficial in their situation. However, I will totally judge you for using equipment if you don't know why you're using it or blindly following a trainer's methods without putting thought into how it will help your horse. I don't expect someone to have to write a thesis on why they use a specific bit, but at least know what it is called! (Or even if it is a single jointed or double jointed bit when it's in your horses mouth and you can't see it!)
    I'm the kind of person who always wants to know why I should do something or what the result we are looking F ir is and I get a bit judgey with those who aren't.

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    1. awwwww haha, don't tell me you're judging Good Guy Greg tho!!!! i promise that guy couldn't tell you SQUAT about the equipment he was using or why he used it (other than maybe "uh, it's what i got and it's comfortable?") and yet.... he and Blue seemed to do just fine! that's basically my entire point: maybe i use equipment (and invest in it) to achieve certain ends. but.... a LOT of people don't. a lot of people use it bc... "this is what we use, right?" and, ya know, i think that's A-OK.

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    2. I don't judge those who happily just ride along the trails a couple of times a week with little expectations from their horse. But if you are actively showing and competing, and can't take your bridle apart to put on your bling browband that you won over 3' fences? Yeah, I'm going to judge you on that one. Sorrynotsorry.

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    3. You do you, right? Like that's fine to have a strict structure of rules and expectations for which you believe riders who can do one thing must also pass other prerequisites. I don’t think it’s
      unreasonable that someone competing at what you consider a high level should have an intimate knowledge of their tack. But I can also come up with situations in my mind where they might not actually know that. Whether they’re young kids on school masters or wealthy riders who essentially “catch ride” bc they are just in it for the shows... or whatever right? None of those situations negatively impact me, or for that matter the horse probably.

      I just think it’s slippery slope in the horse world when we start introducing guilt or shame or try to say that if you don’t buy “xyz” you’re a bad owner. A private individual who is sneering from the sidelines bc they’re judging your lack of finesse or whatever? Eh fine. Rail birds are everywhere. But it crosses a line when those attitudes show up in marketing campaigns for nonessential horse gear haha

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  24. YES x1000!!!

    Your Charlie posts are always by fav but I loooove this one.

    While I don't pay much attention to marketing stuff, I do find that other *riders* can be pretty snobbish if you aren't utilizing or wearing the newest X, Y, Z.

    I do the best for my horses and it might not be to the standards someone else would have, but it's important to understand people's experience, financials, and help available (vets, farriers, etc) may be significantly different than what you have available.

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    1. yea agreed. one of the most important things i've learned about blogging is that.... the resources i have immediately at hand (basically on speed dial, if we're being honest) are NOT the same resources available everywhere. problems that to me are solved effortlessly with a phone call are... ya know... handled differently elsewhere. and that changes things, right? like that makes a difference. it's really helped me realize that... ya know... horse keeping IS more highly localized than we might believe just by reading eventing nation or horse nation or whatever. but meanwhile, when we see that fact dismissed, and see folks passing judgement on how a thing "should be" even when that doesn't take into consideration our own personal circumstances... yea that can have a seriously corrosive effect. which isn't really fair. so yea. we all do the best we can. and basically that IS good enough.

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  25. What an amazing perspective, and so incredibly relatable. I've learned to view some horse situations as you've learned to view Greg, but haven't applied it to products like this. As someone who used to work for an equine company, there are SO MANY ways to present information that isn't quite lying, but isn't quite the whole truth either. My personal ad vendetta is against SmartPak (which I love by the way, just not this part) with their ColiCare scheme. Okay yes, the product is probably great, but please don't tell me that I need to put my horse on this expensive product so that WHEN he needs colic surgery I'll have part of it paid for, but don't worry this product will keep him from colicking. I wouldn't say my horse is a surgical candidate anyway, so butt out with your expensive potions.

    Anyway, love love this post. I do what works for me, and sometimes that means expensive things, and sometimes that means we still use neoprene boots (every damn ride). This is a message a lot of people need to read, I think.

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  26. I came across this post a bit late because I'm out of the loop, but the fads and pushing of fads and people looking down on others for not getting their horses chiro or massages etc etc is part of the reason why I quit blogging. Now that I'm out, Fiction gets the bare minimum supplements for his summer allergies and that is it. I have two saddle pads, my bridle is nearly dead, my boots have holes in them...but whatever. Fiction gets ridden 3-4 times a week & we take lessons twice a month and he has never been fatter, healthier, and happier...and I spend way less money on him than I ever did before.

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