When you’ve been around horses as long as I have, sometimes you get a jaw-dropping moment from youngsters when you talk about “the way we used to do it.” But sometimes the jaw drops with oldsters like myself when we hear of something that might actually work better than the way we’ve always done it.
We have a young and enthusiastic barn helper. My mare’s back was still a bit damp the other day, so I suggested that she put my anti-sweat (aka holey sheet) under the cooler so the mare could finish drying off in the stall. I explained that the anti-sweat would provide a layer of air that was both insulating and would allow the hair to dry. “Or,” I said, “you can just put some straw on her back under the blanket.” The worker looked at me like I was nuts, and I did a mental head slap, not just because the old-fashioned straw idea seemed so low-tech in this fancy ultra-blanketing age but because I don’t think the barn worker has ever seen straw bedding. I haven’t seen any myself since the last time I was in a broodmare barn, maybe 5 years ago.
(When did kiln-dried chips take over completely from straw as the usual bedding?)
This door swings both ways. We can be resistant to change, even when logic hits us in the face that a new idea or product might work better. “Horse Journal” runs into this at times with our product surveys. Readers sometimes seem to prefer that we pick a product they’ve always used rather than find something new that they might like better. Is it brand-name loyalty or just habit or comfort-level that has us reaching for the same stuff at the tack shop when we learn there might be a better alternative?
At the same time, it’s great to learn that some products still hold up well when going up against new competitors. Orvus is a great (and inexpensive!) shampoo, Show Sheen is the “Jello” (who says gelatin pudding?) of detanglers, and UltraShield stays my own go-to fly spray. On the other hand, how long did it take for zipper boots to become widely accepted in this country, something like 20 years?
I have come 180 degrees (literally) on the subject of cooling down a hot horse, and every time I sluice cold water over my mare I have to remind myself this is the right way to do it even though for my first quarter-century of horse ownership it was thought to be dangerous. We learned pretty dramatically after research was done prior to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, that leaving water on a hot horse is the dangerous practice, not the actual temperature of the water, and that using cold water from a hose while continuously scraping it off is the most efficient – and safest – way to bathe a horse after exercise.
Sometimes it seems that the more things change the more they stay the same. At other times, I want to go hide from computers and cell phones that are smarter than I am. I like, really like, new ideas but I often long for the old ways as well.
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