Updated: Feb 27
We all started somewhere. No one was born knowing how to put harness on or knowing the order of operations for putting a horse to a vehicle. Depending on where you first experienced driving you may have been taught very different orders of operations for things or different names for parts compared to someone that was taught in another area. It doesn’t make one way or the other right or wrong (as a lot of “internet trainers” and “facebook experts” will have you believe) it’s just different.
When getting advice on the internet I recommend doing a little digging before you take information from just anyone. Not to say judge a book by its cover, but yes, judge the book by the cover. When you get 500 people responding to a question with all kinds of advice it is very easy to pick the piece of advice you want to take and run with that. It is also easy to feel like you’ve been berated and beaten down. Before you take a comment too seriously, have a snoop on the person’s profile. Ask yourself some questions…
Does this person have driving pictures on his profile?
Do the pictures she posts with horses look like she and the horses are happy?
Does this person’s turnout look eye appealing even to the untrained eye?
Does this person have a lot of driving posts or only a few?
Does this person seem to focus on driving and driving related topics or do they share a lot of political posts and other drama-provoking things?
Does this person project positive energy in his posts?
Something I’ve only recently learned and wished I had paid attention to sooner in life was that my facebook profile is like a giant online public resume. I want people to take my advice, I think I generally have good advice, so I treat my online presence these days in a way that I hope makes you want to keep reading what I have to say.
In the age of social media it is easier than ever for someone to call themselves an expert with nothing to back it up. There are very few requirements for being a “horse trainer” in the USA… No national licensing or regulations outside of showing and basic animal husbandry practices required by most states (which isn’t much… water and food, maybe a tree, in most places). So now those who already had a lack of education can also sit behind their keyboards and call themselves experts when, in reality, they know nothing *insert image of John Snow -if you know, you know*. #JohnSnow #GameOfThrones
Don’t be afraid to do some digging. Look through a person’s profile before you take their “advice,” after all it IS an online public resume, essentially. You wouldn’t hire someone to work for you without a resume. If something doesn’t feel right, your gut is probably telling you something and you should listen.
Also, if someone is beating you down online, absolutely do not let it get under your skin. Here’s a picture of me driving the very first vehicle I could afford:
I was fresh out of college, I had no money, a ton of student loan debt, I ran a boarding barn to pay my bills (and you know how many bills you’ll pay running a boarding barn), and all I wanted to do was drive my own horse. I was lucky and managed to buy a very nice horse thanks to a small inheritance I had, but after I blew every dime I’d been able to put together on the horse, I couldn’t afford anything to drive. I purchased my first carriage: “The Sticks”.
I was so proud of The Sticks. I was so proud that I had my own driving horse. I was so proud to be dragged around behind that horse. I posted a picture on my facebook of my beautiful horse and my new cart that I was just SO HAPPY to be DRIVING and it was all MINE!
Next horse show I went to with my coach at the time, whom I groomed for and navigated for, someone (a friend of a friend or something like that, let’s call him jerk-face) made a joke about my picture I’d posted on facebook of my cart and how it was not fitted correctly and he laughed at my pride in my turnout. I didn’t let him see it in my face in that moment, but my heart was so broken. I felt crushed. I was so hurt. Here I had shared something that had brought me so much joy and this person, that many referred to as an “expert” shot me down right then and there.
I decided I’d do more in the world of driving than that jerk-face EVER would. Honestly, I’ve never even told anyone about this story. It was around 2012, I believe. But with every lesson I took, I thought about how I’d be better than that person that brought me down. Every time I drove The Sticks, I thought about how hard I’d worked to have The Sticks and I drove it and practiced and saved until I could buy a 4 wheeled carriage. I kept jerk-face in the back of my mind not as a reminder of what I wouldn’t be, but of what I WOULD be.
Guess what, guys? I am confident in saying that I’m driving more now than jerk-face ever has in his life. I know he’s never driven a four-in-hand… so there. (I had to have that little bit of high-school drama llama moment, sorry.)
I am not ashamed that I started my driving journey with my own horse in The Sticks. I’m proud of The Sticks! She still sits in my yard… mostly for decorations and flowers -her days of driving a long past. But I remember the pride I felt when I drove her with my own horse the first time and I remember how one person with one comment could hurt me so much.
I have vowed to do better. Social media makes it even easier for people to say mean and hurtful things. Its very easy for “experts” to gang up on people, attack them, beat them down, and make people not want to drive anymore. I want better for my driving community. I want you to know I will never judge your turnout and I will never beat you down for trying to drive and for trying to learn. Look for experts that build you up, not ones that tear you down. Listen to the people that give you advice to build you up, not break you down. If someone is going on a tirade about how what you are doing is unsafe and you need to stop right now, just pass on that one. If I see you doing something I think is unsafe, I’m going to tell you, but I’m also going to make sure you know that I appreciate the fact you were out there trying. I’m going to explain the WHY behind the safety point. I’m going to make the conversation positive, uplifting, and when we get done, I’m going to hope you’re anxious to get back out there and trot on, again, but this time with my advice that’ll keep you safely trotting on towards your dreams.
Raise your hand if you’ve been a victim of social media expert shaming and tell me how you felt from it. What are you doing now? And if you’ve been scared to ask for help online again, reach out to me. I want to help, and this is a judgement free zone!
Also, joing my positive-vibes-only Carriage Driving Support group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/300805798582554/?ref=share