What does "I DON'T KNOW" Sound Like?


Have you ever wondered why so many horse people avoid saying "I don't know?" 

I like to ask questions. Always have. My parents encouraged it, but I'm sure I drove some teachers crazy in my youth. Before the World Wide Web, there were less opportunity and options for knowledge. I had to find answers from books or the people around me who seemed to have lots of experience. Problem was, my intuition often sensed the answer wasn't complete or didn't match the reality in front of me.

Have you ever gotten an answer that doesn't sit right with you? I don't think most people do it on purpose, with intent to deceive, it's just that many, especially those that feel they 'should' know the answer, tend to avidly avoid saying "I don't know".

So what does an I don't know sound like? Here are some examples I have heard over the years.

The most common version is rote repetition:

"It's always been done like that." "This is the way I was taught so it must be right." "That horse is just being bad." "That's a vice." "Red mares can't be trusted." "Just knee her in the belly if she blows up." I could go on. I won't.

Then there's the imaginative anthropomorphisms :

"She ran out of the show ring because she was trying to protect me." "He thinks there are monsters in puddles." "He's trying to trick you." "He's just faking it."

The truly mis-educated:

"Oh that's okay, my horse does that too." "All horse's feet smell like that." "You can ride him at a walk, but this horse doesn't know how to trot."

The all too common evasion:

"You don't need to know that yet." Or when a certain president answers, "I just think it's a nasty question."

I now know that I have even heard full blown elaborate untruths given instead of simply saying I don't know. 

And once, after a 15 minute doctor appointment that turned into an hour of frustration, the physician finally said to me, "I don't know. There, I said it. Are you happy?"

I wasn't.

What would have made me happy was "I don't know but I can try to find out," or "I don't know because there are many things in medicine that are unknown."

This is also true of horses and horse care. We are now so blessed to have access to vast amounts of information ... up-to-date, relevant, intelligent answers to horse questions are all over the internet. But beware. ALL those other answers are still out there too, offered by well-meaning people who likely don't know that they don't know.

So listen to your gut. If you feel a twinge of discomfort, confusion ... hear when the answer wasn't an answer... hear the unspoken "I don't know", just smile and keep asking questions elsewhere.

by Anne Louise MacDonald




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