What a fascinating week this has been since an article from my website “went viral” online thanks to social media and a web-based horse publication. Written by Allana Kereluk, one of my guest authors, “Why I Don’t Do Natural Horsemanship Anymore” had more than 17,000 views on HorseNation.com as of this writing.
This little whirlwind started when a friend shared a Facebook post of the article. I was pleasantly surprised to see something that old from my website show up on my FB timeline. Curious whether the article had been traveling wider on social media, I did a search and found that it had, indeed, circulated among about a dozen people on FB. Interesting, especially for a piece that had languished on my site after a few responses when I ran it in my December 2010 newsletter.
I figured a few more FB shares would be mark end of the article’s second life. But the next day got a nice email from one of the editors at HorseNation.com asking for permission to re-publish the article. Allana gave her blessing and I granted permission with a bit of trepidation. We agreed that while we relished the chance to start a conversation about whether some of these training techniques are detrimental to horses, we fully expected a nasty backlash from the NH hardliners.
We’re both surprised that the comments have been very balanced, both on HorseNationand on social media sites like SnarkyRider (from where it’s shared just under 250 times at this writing). The people who disagree have, for the most part, been polite and sensible. What truly fascinates me is the sheer volume of people who wrote things like “This post really resonated with me.” and “Interesting!” and “Amen.”
And I got a number of very nice private emails of the “thank goodness I’m not alone and someone else thinks the way I do” variety.
I’ve been quite encouraged by the overall civil tone of the “conversation.” I haven’t seen a single really nasty personal attack on Allana. Although, inevitably, there are a number of “she must just be a bad rider/trainer/horsewoman” and “she must just be doing it wrong” type of comments, they’re generally lacking the vitriol I admit I was fully expecting. Even the commenters who scolded Allana, assuming she must have been trying to learn NH only by watching YouTube or the NH training gurus’ DVDs weren’t overly pedantic. (And I can assure them their assumption is absolutely not the case.)
The only FB commenter whose two-cents-worth irked me aimed his disdain at me, not at my invited “guest.” Seems he spent enough time looking at (but clearly not “getting”) the informational articles on my site to pick out and criticize one about using the TTEAM bodywrap to improve horses’ balance. “I can’t [take] this person’s opinion seriously when they promote something like this,” he wrote.
Too funny. Pretty sure he’s not going to gain much traction dissing Linda Tellington-Jones, whose TTEAM and TTOUCH work predates all the “natural” horsemanship marketing geniuses, if I’m not mistaken. Stick that in your Brannaman-wannabe hat and stir it with your $50 orange training stick buddy. (Yeah, that was a bit snarky. I’m over it now.) What I really meant to say was, “Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.”
Seriously, though, I know versions of these “natural” techniques were used by honest-to-goodness Horsemen and Horsewomen for ages before the marketing geniuses turned them into mass-market, dumbed-down, grade-school circus acts. What I have serious issues with is the the lack of knowledge of and attention to posture and biomechanics and correct carriage. Addressing this lack by teaching anatomy and movement and feel and an eye is what I do, one horse and human at a time.
So I’m very grateful to Allana for agreeing to take public the quiet cyber conversations we had been having four years ago and for allowing the re-publication of her piece to a wider audience this week. And a big thank-you to everyone who read and shared and commented and emailed, keeping the topic alive.