Thursday, May 15, 2014

Don't Should On Me

Have you ever made a mistake with your horses? Or with your dog? Your kid? Your husband?

I mean a big one?

You know what I mean, a colic caused by, sheesh, breathing the wrong way. Or lameness you missed. Or founder because you fed too much or too little. Maybe you had a habit of letting the water run dry. Or went ahead and fed that slightly moldy hay because you didn't have enough money to toss it and the horse picked through the really bad stuff anyway. Maybe you rode the horse really hard when neither of you were in shape for that twenty mile trail.

How many of us have found out too late a dog who lives on a chain becomes aggressive? Or that keeping Max in a crate for twelve hours a day and then through the night is the reason he peed in the middle of your bed, ate the remote and attacked your neighbors dog at the dog park? What about  loose dogs hit by cars, dogs trusted with babies put down when they bit one, dogs we bought on impulse, grow up into out of control maniacs, jump on great-aunt Edna and break her arm?

Even the little mistakes, saddles that caused galls, collars that damaged tracheae, hiring the wrong shoer, trainer, vet, not knowing when our companions were too thin, too fat, to rude, too sore, not knowing what a bit did, or which leash to use...

I know I have. Most of my mistakes came from ignorance. Some came from negligence. I'm not talking acts of cruelty, I'm talking trusting someone else to take care of business when I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that things weren't right.

I have learned, at this point in my life, to be diligent to the point of paranoia. I study, I learn, I think. For the most part, my pets, my livestock and the humans in my life are safe from harm when they are in my care.

The thing is, I made a butt-load of mistakes along the way. Some have come from simple ignorance. I just didn't know. Some have been caused by blindly accepting training tips, riding instruction, feeding and health care advice from people who didn't give me the right information, or only part of the knowledge I needed.

I have some serious sorrow that I live with from some of my mistakes. I also have gratitude for getting away with others. And, because of my very sick sense of humor, I can even laugh at some of the mistakes I've made. There was "The Incident of the Smoking Tortoise," but I digress.

What has never, ever helped me in my sometimes painful education is being Should On.

As a matter of fact, in my fiery youth, when anxiety, anger and stubbornness ruled my thought processes, being told "You should..," or "You should have," would do nothing but
My brain would slam shut, the guilt and remorse I was already feeling would roar into a fireball of defensiveness, and I would start slinging blame everywhere but at myself.

Being should on made me stick to bad training, insist on using equipment or methods that were not only not working, but potentially harmful, but most of all, being should on caused me to shut out information and advice I desperately needed -- from the people who were shoulding all over me.

"You should have known."

Well, I didn't. Chances are, the mistake has taught me plenty, and I probably should on myself several times already.  Instead of stating THE STINKING OBVIOUS, offering ways to avoid making the mistake again might be a better solution.

"You should have checked your gear."

Duh. I'd rather have you laugh at me. Tell me stories about when you forgot to check your cinch.

"I learned the hard way to make sure all three cinches were cranked down before I went down the fence."

A sentence like that will go a long way towards getting me to say,"I was taught to be able to slip two fingers between my cinch and the horse," and open a discussion.

"You should have seen that coming."

If I had, my dog wouldn't have jumped my friend's dog when they came to visit.

"I read this great book, xxxx, and learned to read my dog's warning signals and body language. Now I can catch him before this goes south. Would you like to borrow it?

So please.

If you don't should in my yard, I won't should in yours.


  1. "Shoulding" on people is one of those lessons that we should have known better about. ;-)

  2. This may relate back to the conversation about "helping" other horse people.

    Or maybe for me, I like to see them make mistakes as long as it doesn't hurt the horse because it is how *I* learn best.. not by being told how I should or should not do things.

  3. "Shoulding" is pretty useless. I tend to go with "Oh, I heard about that happening to someone else/happened to me, this is what they/I tried".

    By the way, doubt you can do much about it but thought you might want to know that the jelley blue book ad. was taking up half the screen on my kindle fire with no way to close it (refreshing the page made a slightly smaller version with an x show up...Twice). Don't know if it's affecting any other platform.

  4. And just as bad as "You should have..." is "If it were me, I would have..." It didn't matter what I did, my father's sentences always started with that and made me feel that whatever I thought I had accomplished I did it wrong.

  5. I so need to forward this to my husband! Ha! Well said *as usual* ;)

  6. Ugh - that's beyond annoying. We all make mistakes, we're all human...and hopefully everyone learns from them, or at least makes a mental note about it.

    My horse flipped over backwards on me when I was 14 because I was too trusting of my instructor and didn't speak up when I knew she was pushing the mare too far.

    I was told I "should" sell her before she killed me. I had no intention of ever selling her, and all that did was make me resolve to prove everyone wrong and show them what I knew the horse could do!

  7. Yikes GreyDrakkon...I didn't know anything about it..I'll try to figure it out!

  8. I was sooooo so ignorant with my first horse as a teen. I can't make it up to her but I can do things the right way now. I try not to "should on" anyone and hold my counsel unless asked.

  9. My story is much like "Promise's"

    "You should sell that horse before he kills you, or worse, leaves you in a wheel chair" (still wrapping my head around that sentence)

    My horse is not for sale. Not now, not ever and every time someone says something like that to me, I work that much harder to prove to them (or me) that he really is the greatest horse that ever lived.

    (He is the greatest- he just doesn't know it yet)

  10. How about "you should have known your city cat wouldn't make it in the country." Thanks mom, now I feel so much better about him not coming home.

  11. Yeah, there is a lot of "should" in the horse world: don't share information until it's too late and you have a chance to demonstrate your general superiority. As my mother once said, don't think you're better than someone just because you had a chance to learn that the other person didn't get. It's something I keep in mind whenever I talk to beginners, and appreciate when people who have been in the saddle since they were in diapers talk to me.

  12. I got a free puppy once that was an English Pointer/Aussie cross. From almost the day I brought that dog home at 6 weeks old she growled at people other than me or my husband. It was so shocking and weird to hear a cute little puppy do that. I stuck with her way longer than I should have as she showed more agressive behavior and at about 2 yrs old she finally bit someone, a friend no less, a serious bite in the lip and I've never ever forgiven myself for letting it happen. We had her put down as soon as the quarantine was up. When my aunt heard about it she said "you should have put that dog down a long time ago." That was five years ago and it was pretty much the end of our relationship. The words 'should have' are very destructive when said to a person who knows all too well what they should have done.

  13. "mugwump said... Yikes GreyDrakkon...I didn't know anything about it..I'll try to figure it out!"

    And today it was perfectly fine. Computers and their ilk are bizarre.

  14. I know how it feels to be should on. It implies that there is something innately wrong with me because I didn't have the perfect witty comeback or the ability to predict the future. I have made tons of mistakes. I hate making mistakes. I don't need someone to rub my face in Should after I slip up. It adds insult to injury.

  15. Well said Mugs...well said.