Blog .:. August 2008 12 Entries

Gustav must have made the national news

31 August 2008 Comments

As I was about to head out to a Labor day barbecue today, my mother called. Apparently Gustav made the national news. She was worried.

We established I have a plan in place. I got a couple numbers from her of people I could stay with in a couple different cities. I reminded her that there was the possibility of the cell phone towers losing power (I hear they did when Allison hit) and that if she couldn’t reach me, that was probably the reason why. I did not say “it won’t be because I’m floating in a ditch somewhere,” because parents have no sense of humor about some things.

When my aunt called twenty minutes later, I did tell her I wouldn’t be floating in a ditch, and she laughed. She had some additional contact numbers for me. It appears my mom called her. Oh, joy. Apparently my mom is still worried. Once my aunt, who lives in Hawaii and goes through this sort of thing all the time, established I had a plan and it was reasonable, we talked about important things, like politics.

Given my mom’s sudden worried call, I thought maybe I missed something on the news. Had Gustav turned towards Houston? I stopped watching the news because the newscasters were driving me crazy, and I really only check the NOAA site morning and evening because there’s no point in checking it more often than that right now. I didn’t think I’d missed anything, but who knows? I checked; I hadn’t. Luckless Louisiana is still the predicted target. That might change, but it doesn’t seem likely.

I am a little relieved that I don’t have to worry about a horse right now. Out of curiosity, I did some Googling to see what resources are available to horse owners. I’m a little surprised at how decentralized the information is; you almost have to know the answer before you search. Otherwise, you have to pick through lots of general articles, hoping they’ll mention a specific organization or location to contact for assistance. That’s… not helpful. Don’t get me wrong—there is a lot of very useful information out there. But the decentralized nature of the information makes it hard to find, especially for someone in a hurry. You might argue that horse owners can’t afford to be in a hurry—should be planning days in advanced where to go and how to get there—but you know everyone doesn’t do that. If Gustav takes a major jag after Cuba and centers on Houston, I am positive there will be people freaking out about where to go with their horses and how to get the horses out, and how are they going to find that information?

So, we’ll see. I hope my aunt called my mom back and calmed her down, since apparently I didn’t do such a good job. 

Incidentally, I keep waiting to hear one of the presidential candidates has jumped off the campaign trail and headed down to the Gulf. Maybe they’ll wait until after the storm hits, so they can tour the disaster area and get some photo ops taken doing some volunteer work. Handing out bottles of water, that kind of thing. Gosh I’m cynical. Want to take bets on who gets here first and how long it takes them to arrive?

I have to go do something productive now. Like laundry.

Tagged:

Houston, we have traffic

27 August 2008 Comments

Why does highway traffic flow up to the exit, right past the exit, and then, suddenly, come to a near halt? Only, 100 meters later, to speed up again? It’s like everyone suddenly realizes they passed an exit and they all feel the need to slam on the brakes: “Oh my god! An exit! Did everyone get off ok? All the new cars on? Everyone in their lanes? Yes? Phew. Let’s go then!” And off the zoom.

Seriously. I could understand if people were slowing down before or right at the exit, but 100 meters after? I don’t get it.

Not much going on for me; I just ended up in rush hour traffic today and came away baffled. And amused. Mostly baffled, though.

Tagged:

Your website does not say what you think it says

24 August 2008 Comments

The Crossed Sabers/Second Wind Adoption Program (SWAP) website is awesome. By “awesome,” I mean “I could write a book on how not to build a website or establish a business presence based on this one website.” I won’t go into the details here, because, frankly, my opinion of the program being what it is, I am unwilling to say anything that the person behind it could possibly use to improve the site. I hate the thought that she might make the website look legitimate, making it even easier for her to convince people to donate to a program I absolutely would not ever support.

If you think I’m the only one, you should read this thread on the Chronicle Forums. There are over 1,000 posts debating the program’s charitable status, the owner’s ethics and business practices, and negative experiences people have had with the program. I haven’t posted on that thread or verified anything said in that thread, but the sheer volume of discussion should be raising red flags in anyone’s eyes.

But back to the website, because of all the awesome awfulness of the site, the most awesome is this disclaimer (my comments interspersed):

NOTE: Crossed Sabers can not fully guarantee the accuracy of every page on this website which is huge (38,000 files and over 300 pages).

A website as basic as the SWAP site that reaches 38,000 files/300 pages in size is suffering from MAJOR design flaws. What this should be saying to visitors is “I lack any organizational skills and am in over my head with this website.” This is when any reasonable organization would outsource the website and have a professional deal with it. Or, in my experience, most legitimate rescues manage to drum up a volunteer with enough website development experience to tackle the problem. A statement like this tells me there is something wrong in the organization’s infrastructure, and it’s been going on for a long, long time to reach this point.

We do not have the personnel or time to keep it up to date and accurate for every situation as this Stable has always been a dynamic entity, ever changing and improving itself.

Good lord: it’s not even accurate! No professional business I have been in touch with would ever allow inaccurate information about their business to persist on their own website. There are a million and one solutions to this problem, but SWAP hasn’t figured one of them out. You can gloss over the second half of the sentence, because it’s all marketing speak. The important information is in the first half of the sentence, where the program acknowledges they are misrepresenting themselves on the web by failing to maintain accurate information on their own site. That’s… how do people read this sort of thing and still think “I want to donate”?

We do try to make sure each page is up to date and accurate but the best thing to do If you have a question, is email or call us.

What’s that saying about the road to hell and good intentions? Professionals do not “try” to make sure their company-owned and -operated websites are accurate; they make it happen. Sometimes at great expense, but they make it happen.

Additionally Crossed Sabers can not guarantee anything that anyone says about us on line or any where else, we have no control over other people and their websites, forums or ads. I’m certain it is mostly people trying to help us help horses but some things have been grossly inaccurate and did not come from CSS or SWAP.

On the surface, this is a true statement: no one has much control over what anyone else says on the web about them. But the question visitors should be asking is: why, exactly, is this being posted? What has been happening elsewhere to make the site owner this defensive? What are these “gross inaccuracies”? Because I’m me (cynical and suspicious), that sort of statement makes me leap over to Google and start researching. Go ahead: go Google Crossed Sabers or SWAP. See what you learn.

Again, if you have questions about us, our services, our company structure, how we are licensed, how we pay taxes, how we do things or anything at all, please feel free to contact us, call xxx-xxxx-xxxx or email us at xxxxxxxxx@xxx.com or xxxxxxxxx@xxx.com.

It’s not hard to extrapolate from the previous sentence to this one and realize that people are questioning the business, their services, their company structure, their licensing, something about their taxes, and how they do things in general. Could a legitimate business be questioned on such a comprehensive front? Probably. Would such questioning stand up for such a length of time that they would feel the need to make a statement like this on their website? Not in my experience.

Also, if you read the COTH thread, you’ll find out some of the responses people have gotten from SWAP when they did contact her with questions about things as basic as the tax deduction she says people can claim when donating their horses. SWAP’s own responses wouldn’t reassure me about the legitimacy of the operation, that’s for sure.

To clear up some serious confusion, all horses that have been placed into homes through SWAP have done so by an adoption contract and application and if they were sent to another rescue for placement were done so with a signed contract that governs care, adoption, release of ownership and governs resale thus protecting the horse forever from slaughter, abuse and neglect. If any past owners would like to see any of those documents, we have all the originals in our files.

More practices that must have been questioned by the general public if such a big deal is being made about it here. If I were considering donating to or working with this organization in any way, this would be making me very nervous: is there anything people aren’t questioning? And why would horses donated to SWAP be moved to other rescues? Is that common? What happens to the fee the person donating paid to SWAP—does it go to the new rescue? Does it stay at SWAP? If it stays at SWAP, then SWAP basically pockets the money and hoists the responsibility of dealing with the horse on another rescue. That would be… well, you can draw your own conclusion. More questions are being raised than this “disclaimer” answers, though.

Any and all original owners of horses that have been released to other rescues have been informed of such actions as a courtesy, not because it was a contractual requirement, because once a horse is donated, it is owned by SWAP and Crossed Sabers with no contractual conditions.

Hear that? Once you donate a horse, SWAP owes you nothing. Not a thing. They can do any darn thing they want with the horse, including foisting it off on another organization, and you have absolutely no rights. Now, I realize that some rescues take in abuse cases, and in those cases you could argue that the prior owner shouldn’t have a right to anything to do with their horse once it’s surrendered. But SWAP likes to make a big deal about how people donate these great, upper-level horses (with adoption fees to match their advertised talents, I might add) to benefit SWAP. And SWAP’s response is to maybe, if they feel like doing you a favor, tell you about the situation your horse winds up in. If peoples’ eyes don’t pop a little at this part of the disclaimer, I am going to lose all faith in humanity.

All programs and services listed on this website, including SWAP is a part of Crossed Sabers Stable which has been licensed in WV for the last 12 years.

Not according to the COTH thread. I haven’t researched it personally, but I’ve seen several posts on that thread referencing failed attempts to find this licensing. Hearsay, yes. But there’s enough hearsay—true or not—floating around that if I were considering doing anything with this organization, you bet I’d do the legwork to find out if it’s actually registered or not. There’s no way I’d accept a “we say so” from the organization on this one.

This entire disclaimer is defensive. You should always be suspicious when a person or organization says “don’t listen to anyone else, only listen to me.” That’s cultish talk and often means the person is afraid of what other people have to say, usually because other people have the twin forces of reason and evidence on their side. Now, very few organizations have 100% positive feedback about them out there on the web, so that fact that someone, somewhere questions a business doesn’t necessarily mean the business is bad. Legitimate businesses understand this and deal with it professionally. Questionable businesses overreact and attempt to erase all criticism, disparage all nay-sayers, and drown out anything negative with protests of their innocence. I apparently can’t quit with the cliches today, so you know what they say about people who protest the loudest, right?

The whole disclaimer reads to me like a someone typed it while staring bug-eyed at their computer monitor and frothing at the mouth. Maybe “frothing at the fingers” would be more accurate. Anyway: what it says to me is probably the exact opposite of what the person writing it thinks it says. I can only hope that when other people read it, they start asking questions too. Maybe decide to do some research. Research is good.

Me, I don’t have to go that far. The website is screaming “stay away” at me in big, bold, 48-point red-letter font, and who am I to disagree?

Tagged:

I am only going to get myself in trouble

23 August 2008 Comments

Remember a couple months ago when I posted the link to Chan Chan Man, an OTTB listed on LOPE?

He’s still available. And his pictures look as good as they did before. The same trainer also has the awfully-named Magic Crypto, who I would really love to see standing level and moving. And he has Bradluck, who I don’t like quite so much in that picture, but based on Chan Chan Man and Magic Crypto would want take a look at, because it seems like this trainer tends to have horses of a similar type to what I like. If only it were spring already.

Also on the site: Speedy. Couldn’t pinpoint why I keep checking to see if he’s still available, but I do. I like him.

And check out Littlebigred, a chestnut gelding who is fit, fit, fit. Nice looking guy; imagine him with some let down time and then some work to build muscles more for sport than racing. He would be something special—and it looks like he knows it, too.

This girl looks very kind in these photos, plus you can see someone has started retraining on her. Always a plus.

I’ve had one person already tell me I’m crazy for wanting an OTTB (actually, when she heard I was thinking about it, she said she’d give me one of her horses for free first… which I think comes down to “you’re crazy; let me save you from yourself”). But I’m not looking at OTTBs because they’re cheap. I like TBs, even (maybe especially) when they get a little worried. I’ve gotten along well with the TBs I’ve ridden in the past. Of course, those were all trained to some degree—an OTTB fresh off the track would be something else entirely. But I think that’s a matter of being pragmatic about it: plenty of let-down time, some professional training when he comes back in to work, and close work with a trainer/instructor to ensure things continue to go well. We’ll see. I’m not buying now anyway, so I might as well enjoy the lanky guys and dream big.

Tagged: Horses

Political correctness is going to hurt horse breeding in the end

17 August 2008 Comments

I saw a forum post recently where the poster said something like “I should apologize for stereotyping the entire breed…”

I actually laughed. Good thing I wasn’t at work. But seriously: breeds are stereotypes. That’s the entire point of a breed. It defines what the horses should look like, how they should move, sometimes even what their temperaments should be like. Breed requirements basically say, “When you think of an X horse, you should think of a horse like this.”

Of course every horse is an individual and no horse is going to exactly meet the breed standards, but when people reach a point where they are selling X breed horses and their marketing tactic is “these horses are nothing like what you’d expect of X breed!”... well, then what’s the point of calling them X breed? Similarly, when someone says “X breed typically does not do well in Y discipline,” this is not mean or offensive when X breed’s standards and Y discipline’s standards are complete opposites. Really. It is okay for a breed to be good at one thing and not good at another. It is not slamming a breed to point out they are not built to excel at the highest levels of a particular sport.

Most gypsy vanners will not make great cutting horses. I am not a great, big meanie for saying that. It’s biomechanics. (Someone is going to go out and find a photo of a gypsy vanner cutting to prove me wrong. That’s nice. I’ll be more impressed when you can provide me with as many photos of gypsy vanners cutting as I can provide you with quarter horses cutting. Then we can start talking about breed suitability.)

I think a horse’s breed should tell you something about their conformation, movement, and temperament, and when it doesn’t, the breeder is not doing their job with respect to their breed organization. I am all for looking at the horse in front of you as an individual, and being open to the possibility that the horse in front of you may not exactly match the breed’s standards, but I still would not go buy a draft horse and challenge my Thoroughbred-owning friends to a race. Well, maybe I would; but I wouldn’t whine when I don’t win and then claim it’s because the racing officials are prejudiced against drafts.

I realize I haven’t really gotten around to the post title, but I do think this insistence on never, ever suggesting X breed may not excel in every discipline it enters is going to hurt breeds, because people will lose track of the long-term goals with respect to the breed as a whole. You’ll end up with… Quarter Horses, as an example. Put a halter-bred QH and an English Pleasure-bred QH in the same ring and explain to me how a single breed is producing two such extreme types. Don’t you sometimes feel like the AQHA has become more of a bloodline-tracking registry than an actual breed with well-defined and adhered-to standards?

Tagged: Horses

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