By Cindy Hale
Friday, May 7, 2010
Have you noticed? You can become anyone on the Internet. Not only is this true for matchmaking sites, where a lot of Romeos and Juliets purport to be someone they’re not, but it’s also true in the horse world.
We’ve all had some fun grazing through the online sale ads for horses, playing the, “If I had $20,000 to spare, which horse would I buy?” game. After a little bit of practice you can figure out which ads are discreetly highlighting only the good characteristics of a horse and downplaying (or downright ignoring) the horse’s faults. It’s not often that you discover an online ad that reads: “Smoky is a great all-around horse. He has won numerous high point awards in both western pleasure and hunters. Unfortunately, Smoky also has navicular, bad hocks, an assortment of stable vices and he rears when you ask him to canter.”
I’ve come to realize that some horse people present themselves online in similarly misleading ways. I suppose there’s no real harm in someone hiding behind a screen name and claiming they raise Arabians from imported breeding stock when in actuality they have only a mini-donkey in their backyard. Eventually their lack of actual expertise will out them. But when a supposed professional’s website is full of misleading information, or outright untruths, then I start to get upset.
For example, I recently visited a website created by someone who used to ride in our area. Aspiring to become a full-fledged professional trainer, this person boasted all kinds of accolades and achievements on her resume that are, let’s just say, “Over inflated.” I’ve tried to figure out if she’s just ignorant—and really doesn’t know the difference between a blue ribbon at a local show and a championship at an A-rated show—or if she’s purposely embellishing her accomplishments to solicit clients. You know what? I’ll just have to ask her. My, won’t that be an interesting conversation!
This experience has been an education. Riders and horse owners who primarily use the Internet to search for instructors and trainers must be extremely vigilant. They need to confirm claims of championships (ironically, most horse show results are available online) and check credentials. Otherwise they could become seduced by a lavish, colorful website and think they’ve found someone with a remarkable background in horsemanship. But in reality their chosen guru is nothing more than someone with a dusty pair of boots and a vocabulary of jargon.
For better or worse, the freewheeling anonymity of the Internet is here to stay. We have to be extra careful and a little bit skeptical. Despite what they might say, most guys that troll dating sites are not Brad Pitt’s long lost twin brother. Most horses offered for sale online are not the heavenly creatures described. And not every horse trainer with a website is the world class professional they claim to be. Or so I’ve learned.
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