If you want good advice, should you ask someone who knows what he or she is talking about – and, if appropriate, has the qualifications to prove it – or would you seek the opinion of a stranger?
It looks like a no-brainer, but that’s what’s happening in the horse world. Look on any internet forum or Facebook group and you’ll see advice being dished out on everything from problems with livery yards to feeding and veterinary issues.
In many ways, the internet world is wonderful. We can discuss and debate issues, make or reconnect with friends and generally open our minds.
But it’s a mixed blessing that, when a horse’s welfare is at stake, can be downright dangerous. A vet friend drew my attention to a FB group aimed at horse owners in my part of the world, where members with seemingly little veterinary knowledge and no qualifications were advising the owner of a horse suffering from bad sarcoids to try various home remedies.
I tend to read, note and keep quiet, but on this occasion my friend dictated an answer on why this poster should consult her own vet and I posted it on her behalf. Hoping that it was a one-off, I trawled through some other pages and sites, only to end up thoroughly depressed.
Well-meaning advice on nutrition included a posting that the best way to add ‘oomph’ to a lazy pony was to keep him stabled most of the time, cut down on hay and feed him racehorse mix. Then there was the lady with the ‘fizzy’ TB who wanted to know how she could quieten him down.
Replies centred on recommended products to promote calmers and low energy feeds. Both can be useful as part of a correct management regime, but when another forum member queried how the horse was worked and kept, a different picture emerged.
The TB’s owner kept him on a yard with limited turnout and the owner’s strategy was to turn out mares on one day and geldings on the next; horses who weren’t turned out stood in their stables all day. The lady also said that she could only ride at weekends in winter.
What this horse needed was a different regime. Correct nutrition is part of that, but if only his owner had talked to a proper nutritionist rather than relying on strangers, no matter how well-meaning!
Let’s all use the internet and everything it offers – but in the right way. If your horse has a health problem, talk to your vet and if you want to know what to feed him, be equally careful whom you ask.