Monday 12 October 2009

Don't lose sight of the horse

There are legions of experts out there, particularly in the horse world, each with their own opinion. Sometimes (frequently!) one expert's opinion is even completely contrary to another expert's opinion.

If you go to a farriery conference, you will hear one expert telling you that horse's foot balance is best determined by a T-square and that heels must be parallel with it to be balanced. The next expert will tell you that a T-square is not only useless but dangerous, as it can indicate incorrect foot balance.

If you talk to an equine nutritionist, one will tell you that magnesium supplementation is valuable for many horses, and another will tell you that there is no such thing as a magnesium deficiency in horses.

Once you get onto the subject of barefoot, then the opinions become even more polarised and occasionally more heated (!), and if you start discussing training techniques or saddle-fit, then of course everyone has their favourite guru, whose techniques and products are often exclusive of any other method ;-)

With so many opinions, often the only thing everyone can agree on is that we need to do "what is best for the horse" - whatever that might be - and that the welfare of the horse has to be paramount.

So how can you pick your way through apparently conflicting advice and decide what really is "best" for your horse?

In my view, the secret is never to lose sight of the horse in front of you. I've often said to students, if the "expert" is telling you one thing but the horse is telling you another, the "expert" is wrong and horse is right.

That holds good whether you have a saddle fitter who is saying the fit is fine, but a horse who is swinging his head at you when you tack up, or a hoofcare practitioner who is telling you the hooves are fine but that the horse is not becoming sounder, or a nutritionist who is telling you that XX feed company's supplement is perfectly balanced but you can see that the horse was healthier on a different diet (or, dare I say it, a vet who tells you that navicular syndrome is incurable but you can see that there are lots of ex-navicular horses out there performing rather well barefoot!).

There are lots of people who can tell a pretty convincing tale, but if your horse's behaviour or health - or the evidence of your own eyes - are telling you another story, then you should believe that, and not the "expert".


cptrayes said...

I call it "Expert Syndrome" and I even had a publisher accept my book synopsis but I couldn't be bothered to research and write it! Abdication of decision making to an expert makes you feel happier, especially if you pay them, but the horse is always right!

Last year I watched a friend's mare thrash her tail wildly as a saddler who fits for the "stars" fitted a new £2000 saddle. It took a year, but everyone now accepts that the saddle is too narrow for the horse. She told them that the day it arrived - I was so upset they couldnt' see it that I had to pretend to be busy and leave.


Nic Barker said...

It happens time and time again, doesn't it? It certainly is more intimidating taking the full responsibility - probably one of the reasons barefoot is such a tough choice for owner :-)