Professional Attitude

Not long ago, a reader contacted us about malic acid. In our hair mineral analysis article (September 1999), we said that it appeared to eliminate the white spots on our test horse who had an aluminum toxicity problem. We didn’t say malic acid was a cure for white spots. We simply said that the malic acid could have been the catalyst in the spots’ disappearance. Our reader wanted to see if she could get similar results. She wisely contacted her veterinarian about it, but he laughed at her. I find that inexcusable.

While this veterinarian has every right to his opinion about malic acid, his reaction was wrong. He should have told her he didn’t know a lot about malic acid (he didn’t; he thought it was a sweetener — it’s a souring agent) or asked to see the article and investigated malic acid on his own. He could then offer his educated opinion on what was best for this reader’s horse. His immediate reply should have been, “I don’t know. But I’ll find out.” I respect that. He also could have said he didn’t know and referred her to someone who did. That, too, is acceptable professional behavior.

I have no tolerance for the professional who immediately dismisses things as incorrect because he has never heard about them before. “Not in my experience” is a rejection that makes my blood boil. Exactly what makes your experience so complete’

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from talking with world-class horsemen and veterinarians, it’s that no one has all the answers. I’ve also learned that the more accomplished a person is, the more open minded they are. A true professional takes all observations and opinions into consideration before making a decision. He or she is not driven to have all the answers on the spot. They simply have the desire to help you find the answer you need — whether it is or is not in their “experience.”

In your search for a professional — whether it’s a veterinarian, farrier or trainer — look for someone with the confidence to listen, the intelligence to ask questions and the desire to offer suggestions backed by research and knowledge. Ignore those who boast about training this famous horse or that. If they’ve got solid experience behind them, they don’t have the time nor need to tell you about it.

Look for the trainer who quietly coaches the eight-year-old with her scrubby pony and rubber boots with the same attention that she gives to the kid on a five-figure junior hunter. Look for the farrier who cares about what he’s doing at the moment, not who’s watching. Respect the veterinarian who says he’s unsure about what’s wrong with your horse but then works to find out. And all the while, keep an eye out for the quiet ones. Often, the more capable a person is, the less they feel the need to tell everyone about it.

’Til Next Month,

-Cynthia Foley