Every day, we’re bombarded by information. When the first radio broadcasts came crackling over the airwaves at the beginning of the last century, there were many thinkers (mostly people who sold books and newspapers, mind you) who lamented that the quantity of information unleashed on the public would be more than the average person would be capable of processing. They were also gravely concerned about the quality of that information, without the influence of their impeccable editorial standards. A generation later, similar quality and quantity arguments were proposed by radio people, as they wrung their hands with worry about television. Not surprisingly, the same panic occurred over 500 years ago, when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press.
Every time there is a marked increase in the quantity of information available to the public (usually due to technological innovation) the same tired old arguments are trotted out. Now we have the internet; and, not surprisingly, people are concerned.
That being said, at the Breen house we spend a lot of time on the internet surfing various equine-related sites, and to be honest, there are quality and quantity issues. In other words, there’s a lot of it out there, and a lot of it is horse crap. But, I propose, that the ratio of good to bad information, is likely about the same as it has always been. There was a time when all of the amassed knowledge on the subject of horse training and care was handed down orally, from trainer to trainer, or elder to apprentice. There would have been some life changing information in there, as the domestication of the horse was a massive step forward in the development of human culture, but there would have been nut jobs, who insisted that we ought to be riding antelope, or ostriches, or panthers, or some other creature, instead. The folks who were actually able to accomplish this domestication would have been the first equine superstars, and I have no doubt cavemen would often complain about how many clams their cavewives were spending on their clinics every other weekend.
The oldest known written work on the subject of horse training, was by a Hittite (yup, the Hittites from the Bible) named Kikkuli in 1350 BC. He was the first clinician to have a book to sell at his weekend clinic. I’m sure that there were various similar works, but his clay tablet stood the test of time, while other (lesser) works were eventually used to level a table, or thrown at an invading army.
There were scores of books written by horse people between 1350 BC and 1440 AD, when the printing press was finally invented, but they all had to be hand-copied, and distribution would have been extremely limited. Not to mention that almost no one could read anyhow. The printing press was the first legitimate platform for the mass distribution of horse knowledge, and it led to an explosion of information – both good and bad. Fast forward through radio, TV shows, instructional tapes and DVDs, to 2010, when Eric Schmidt (Google CEO) hushed a crowd with this statement, “Every two days now, we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003.” His concern was that most of that data is un-edited, user driven data, which is think-speech for horse crap. Sound familiar?
So, now we have more information available to us as horse owners than at any time in the history of the world (and double that, by this time next week), but how do we decide what is actually useful and healthy vs. information that is useless, or even dangerous? The answer lies back at the beginning. Look to the people who can actually do the job. The first Troglodyte to hop on the back of a member of the equine species and stay there didn’t have to convince anyone that he was an expert – he was the guy still on the horse. No one bought books written by Kikkuli’s roommate, who “knew a guy who could ride pretty well.” The proof is in the pudding, as my grandmother used to say. Don’t take riding advice from people who can’t ride, and don’t take horse care advice from people who don’t have healthy horses. It’s funny how often the local “expert” on equine health and diseases is the owner whose horses have had them all.
The good/bad information filter has always been the same, whether the information is word of mouth, carved into stone, or stored in megabytes. Just like Grandma used to say – look at the source.