There’s so much advice out there in the horse world, some of it great, some of it awful, and anything in between. We only need advice when we don’t know what to do, so how are we to decipher good advice from bad unless we already know the answer?!? And why would we need advice if we already knew the answer anyway!
There’s never a shortage of advice when we have a question. Passing on advice and helping people makes us feel valued, increases our confidence and can even raise our status in society! Who said helping people was selfless!! (says the one who’s career is based on helping people – I should probably be careful here hey!?)
Have you noticed how you never get one piece of advice? When you have a question, you generally get advice from multiple different sources and much of it conflicts, so you end up more confused than when you started.
How do you decide which advice to follow?
It’s tempting take the piece of advice that sounds the easiest to follow. Sometimes that’s going to work out well. Other times it’s the opposite of what you need to do. The thing that’s easiest is often the thing that’s most similar to what you’re already doing, but what you’re already doing is what got you into the problem in the first place…
There’s a few ways to evaluate advice.
There’s the advice itself, does it sound like a good idea? Is it possible for you to implement it?
You could choose the most commonly heard advice, because if everyone says so it must be true!
You could go with advice of the person you like and trust the most, though this isn’t always the person with the greatest knowledge on the subject
You could evaluate the experience of the person giving the advice.
The last 2 are the ones I’m most interested in, as they can be the most confusing. In my world the biggest cause of distress for an owner is when their vet and their hoof care provider disagree.
The owner is stuck in the middle with a decision to make. They trust their vet, and they trust their hoof care provider, but the advice they’re giving is totally opposite. Is there a way to know which way to go?
One way that could help is to look at the experience of the professional. I don’t just mean who’s been practicing the longest, but what have they been practicing?
If a vet is really against going barefoot, how much experience do they have of transitioning shod horses to barefoot? It may be none at all, in which case, while they’re able to advise on shoeing strategy, they’re not drawing on experience when it comes to barefoot advice.
In fact, I’m not sure anyone, regardless of their qualifications should be advising on going barefoot, if they don’t have any experience of it. That doesn’t make going barefoot wrong for your horse, it makes them the wrong person to advise you about whether or not your horse can go barefoot.
I wouldn’t advise on shoeing because most of my experience is with barefoot horses. I can, and do advise on improving the hooves of shod horses, as I know about hooves, but that’s not the same thing as knowing about shoeing.
I’ve even advised some people not to go barefoot, or to reshoe their horse. On one occasion I had to talk the vet into shoeing the horse as he really wanted the horse to be barefoot (that counts as one of the strangest conversations I’ve had).
On another occasion where I strongly advised someone not to take the shoes off, they did anyway because the farrier advised it.
Finding out why someone is advising something is really important. It could be that they have different priorities.
In the first case the horse’s well-being was improved by reducing the stress in the owner’s life. In the second case there was an undiagnosed lameness in a hind leg.
Doing something that could introduce a second soundness issue probably wasn’t going to help the problem.
That second case was a wonderful example of knowing who advice is meant for. The lady with the lame horse, needed advice on conditioning the hooves. She never asked me directly but would hide round the corner to listen to conversations with the client I had on the same yard.
The problem there was, my client had a 6yo always barefoot, and rock crunching cob. The advise I gave for the cob couldn’t have been less suitable for the lame, 20+yo thoroughbred who was just out of shoes.
When getting advice, putting it in context, and getting perspective on where the advice is coming from makes it much easier to decide which advice is right for you.
Making sure the person giving the advice knows what’s important to you is another way to make sure advice suits you. Do you want results as fast as possible regardless of how much effort that entails, or is a slow and steady path more suitable?
It’s important to that you trust the person giving you advice, but trusting them doesn’t make them an expert in what you’re asking them about. You may have the best saddler in the world, but that doesn’t mean you should take their advice on hoof care.
Never be afraid to ask someone what their experience is!
Are you in the lucky position to have all the professionals you use agreeing?
I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below