Staying Positive in a Muckpile of Negativity
How do some people do it? How do they manage to stay upbeat and positive when there’s so much need, so much wrong within their chosen field that creates constant pressure on the more sensitive to tackle the tough issues. To make a difference in a bad set of circumstances?
Are there elements throughout the worlds of equine breeding that have a line item to exploit kindness as an integral part of their business plans? Is the thoroughbred world geared towards ruining horses with their programs of starting young horses at such early ages? Does the world of western pleasure pump out way more foals than can be reasonably expected do find homes once they flunk out of the halter class potential list of participants?
I turn to the example of Michael Blowen of “Old Friends” in Georgetown, Kentucky when I get overwhelmed with the scope of ‘unwanted’ horses. Here’s a guy who noticed as a dabbler in race horse ownership while he was still in Boston that “there weren’t enough riding schools in Vermont” to absorb the quantity of spent horses he saw being loaded into vans for that final trip to somewhere. Somewhere turned out to be slaughterhouses. He was appalled. Particularly because he loves horses.
What did he do?
He eventually retired from his writing career as a movie critic for the Boston Globe and with his wife and partner Diane, moved to Kentucky eventually setting up a small rescue for the hardest of all horses to place – stallions! Now mind you, dear reader, he got discouragement from all quarters every step of the way:
- You don’t know a thing abut horses, let alone stallions (true)
- It’s expensive (true)
- There’s too many (yep, there are a ton who are ‘let go’ every single year)
- They’re dangerous (uh huh)
- You won’t find support and you will likely be ostracized (wrong)
- You’ll alienate the horse world here in Kentucky (way wrong)
He plowed ahead and set it up. And about 6 years into it he has found himself surrounded by people from within the horse racing industry who are ardent supporters of his sanctuary. Could they be doing more? Yes. Could they be making changes in their own ways of doing things that could eventually preclude the need for a place like Old Friends? Of course. Does Michael Blowen ever harp on any of that? Never.
He leaves the door open for people to step up and do the right thing – whenever that is that it works for them. I’m sure he would like for there to be no need for a place like his – but until that happens he’s not judging the industry nor the individuals within it.
I think this is a huge part of why the Blowens and their farms are so beloved. They celebrate these ex stud racehorses without saddling them with the baggage of why they’re there in the first place. Mind you, this is a system that works well with the personalities of this haven. It’s appropriate for their work. It wouldn’t work for every rescuer in every situation. But the foundation of why it works in this tricky setting is instructional for all. Here are the nuggets:
- Don’t judge the audience you want to attract (leave the door open for them to join you)
- Don’t publicly bad mouth them (or they won’t step up later)
- Highlight what’s right, this allows you to hint at how things could be improved without negative side effects
- Celebrate, laud and herald every good act, every good decision, every right thing you witness in your work and they help you receive doing it.
Take the High Road
The idea is to publicly stay on the high road, the happy road, and not get mired in the muddy sidetracks of blame and despair. That’s the public face of your efforts I’m talking about. Of course you’ll have doubts and anger and all manner of frustration in private – especially when your own budget is tightening around you and you’re observing the people who created the need you’re addressing living in high style without a care in the world as they ‘throw away’ another spent horse.
Finally, Old Friends stays very visible through their many farm events, tours and activities and through the more popular social media engines. Find Old Friends on their Facebook page. And Little Silver Charm on his Facebook page.
Old Friends, Inc.
1841 Paynes Depot Rd.
Georgetown, KY 40324
Below is a video I did with Michael. It’s a bit long – but you get a tour of the place and you can hear from ‘the horse’s mouth’ what inspires him.