It happens at least once a day, on that lovely blue-bordered site we all know too well.
“Help! My horse keeps kicking at its stomach and rolling, I can’t keep it up, what can I do?”
Immediately, a squabble of exhausted cries as replies pop into existence in a never-ending chain – “Call the vet!” “VET.” “Get off facebook and CALL YOUR BLOODY VET!!!1!!”
And then, of course, the good old home remedies…
“Give him a beer”
“Keep him moving”
“No don’t keep him moving, that’s bad for him!”
“Don’t give him a beer, put him in a float and take him round the block”
“Don’t you do it you’ll kill him by getting liquid in the lung”
“Give him a massage”
“Touch this point here on his body.”
Just as ever, the horse community reveals just how many different beliefs collide, and hard – kind of like watching t-rex’s smash into each other over and over again, arms reaching out to scrabble with each other but just not quite getting there.
So the good old help-me-facebook post – is it a sign of good or a sign of bad?
Often, those who ask are considered bad horse owners.
How dare they take three seconds to post a question onto a Facebook group created for advice, and reach thousands and thousands of other horse owners and professionals, all with different knowledge and experiences?
Have I made you angry?
Of course, we have all been positioned to launch onto these posts and comment vet, and ‘you shouldn’t have a horse’ and yada yada, but is it really the right thing to do? That’s not up to me to say!
However in my opinion, these posts are pure desperation. Humans, should, help those in need, and those in desperate times are often in emotional states in which their thinking is impaired, because something or someone they love is in danger of being lost, or injured.
How is asking on Facebook for help any different from asking your fellow agistees or friends? Do they turn around and yell at you and ask why you’re asking them when you could be asking a vet? Maybe! But often, even in a very obvious ‘call the vet’ case, they don’t, because they have some prior knowledge of who you are – that you’re an inexperienced horse owner that maybe can’t read the signs of a major illness yet. They’d tell you yes, you need a vet, but they’d do it a hell lot nicer than what you get on Facebook, and I’m sure they’d explain to you just why these symptoms require vet help. They’d help you learn.
There are so many people that have been so lucky to be born into families of horsey knowledge, but what about that up and coming girl who is the only horse lover in their family, and finally has her own horse after years of lessons. Owning your own horse is so different from having lessons, and it can be quite eye opening and stressful!
Or the man whose struggling to keep his head above water financially, but damned if he loses his horse – him asking for cheap recommendations or home solutions isn’t him saying he doesn’t care – it’s simply him asking for cheap recommendations or strategies to help at home, before it gets to taking the horse to the vet.
Yes, we should have money to pay for the vet. But, shock horror, lots of people don’t. Some people live off payment plans. Does that make them not worthy of help and a kind word?
What seems obvious to some, isn’t to others. I beg you to take a moment next time (and there will be a next time!) someone asks for help on Facebook.
Secondly, refrain from touching your CAPS lock!
Thirdly, state your recommendation (Whether it is the vets or not) and WHY.
People forget the why so much! The only way these posts will stop, is if there is education. If you are so sick of these posts, educate the people asking (kindly!).
Fourthly, read over what you said, and picture yourself saying it to your mum. Is it all good? Then press enter!
And if its one of those posts, where the owner is not taking advice, has not responded to kind words, then you may use a little bit more emotion. Because I know, the only reason you’re emotional and caps locking and copy pasting vet fifty million times, is because you care. And that’s a lovely, honestly beautiful thing.
People still post these questions, despite knowing that they are going to get a tirade of angry horse owners cursing them, a tsunami of negativity – but they still do it, because it needs to be done.
There are probably so many more people who write out the question, then backspace it and resist posting, due to the social anxiety that comes to them at the thought of the backlash they’ll receive. They will google and google wondering if the symptoms are normal, wasting precious time, then once they finally realise, and call a vet, so much time has been wasted.
In an alternative situation, they’d ask a horsey friend or neighbour or agistee, and they’d get their experienced advice – and act on it.
But in that situation, where that person is alone and without a support group, it’s a hard scenario. Yes, they should call the vet. But they obviously don’t know that yet, or they would call it. If they got responses on Facebook that went along the lines of “This is colic symptoms, pawing and rolling, please call your local vet ASAP” – then a) they’ll do it, and b) they know for next time.
Let these people learn, without tirades!
And for god sake, if the post is five hours old with 150 comments and 150 angry face reactions, do not jump on the bandwagon! The moment is gone, the situation is dealt with! Don’t be a vulture picking at the remains.
So I empathise, with these people, in most cases. They are usually young or new owners. They usually don’t have a support group. Be their support group. They are asking because they want the knowledge that you, luckily, already have. Link informative articles, good vets, tell them why these are bad signs.
If someones asking for an at home strategy, tell them what you do, and why. If you don’t think it’s a suitable time for a home strategy and that the vet is required, tell them, and tell them why.
Of course, there are those people that don’t seem to put effort into their horse care, but to be honest, these people wouldn’t bother posting on Facebook very often.
Do I think there should be better education of basic horse health? Yes, of course! Not many people seem to read much anymore. Do I know everything? Hell no! Just try something – judge a person AFTER they’ve been advised and done something (or haven’t done something) about it, not as soon as they post a plea for help. Most pleas, the owners do the right thing after they have learnt what the right thing is! And do they post again, about the same thing, in a couple of months? No! If they did, then you have full permission to jump on your high horse! (Not that you need permission – figure of speech).
Let them know:
A call to the vet doesn’t cost anything (They may not know, may have a bad relationship with their vet, etc)
Recommend a good vet in their area (they may not know or even have one)
If it’s a child eg under 18 they often depend on their parents who may not be able to take their horse to the vet
If it’s money related, let them know that vets often do a payment plan
They may need to get their partner to come home from work and drive the float, so they might just want to check that it’s definitely an emergency
There are so many situations – don’t judge before you know. Encourage them to pick up the phone and call, encourage them that the horse needs to get to a vet now otherwise it risks dying – just do it clearly and kindly – because that person is probably on the verge of tears and is so confused as they type this plea for help.
Breathe. Rant over!
In summary, next time you see that Facebook post, take a moment, formulate a response, and encourage the owner to take the steps they need to ensure that horse is grazing peacefully the next day.
- The four stage response – breathe, no caps lock, what and why, rehearse in head to mum
- What is obvious to you, might not be obvious to others.
- A kind word goes a long way
- It’s a plea for help – it’s desperation, it’s emotion – it’s a lack of knowledge
- Educate before you incinerate!
- Those who ask, need your knowledge – be useful, be a teacher, show off what you know!
- If it’s urgent, tell them! Just do it without the rolling eyes emoticons and memes to garner likes on your comment.
- The only stupid question is the one not asked, and the only stupid action is if they don’t act on the answers!
Bring on the fire and pitchforks I’m probably going to get in response to this! (And a loss of followers/likes….)