Mansplaining in the Barn

WM Nube Hat

Thirty-five years ago, I stood with a group of women protesting a murder sentence given by a judge in Denver. The defendant shot his estranged wife in the face, point-blank. The judge gave a ridiculously light sentence, saying she had provoked her husband by leaving their marriage. Then in this week’s news, reports that a judge gave a puny sentence to a Stanford swimmer, found guilty by jury, of three sexual assault felony convictions. Even after an extremely eloquent statement from the victim. Sometimes it feels like we’ve made very little progress indeed.

Why would a horse blogger speak up on this issue?

Partly because after I was raped, I didn’t tell the police or anyone else. When my rapist was finished, he mansplained–in a paternal, sarcastic tone–that no one would ever believe me. I crumpled into silence. Well, I got my voice back.

And secondly, because when news about sexual violence hits, we’re sadly reminded of our own pasts, or of those we know who’ve been hurt, or we have a backward flutter of relief that it wasn’t us. Even if the intimidation doesn’t rise to the level of violence, when there’s a verbal assault or insinuation, the threat still hangs in the air and we can’t trust that line between talk and action.

So what do we do when our hearts hurt, when we need peace, and a friend to lean on? We go to the barn. Some of us have escaped to the barn all our lives.

But there’s mansplaining in the barn, too. If you choose a positive training method, you’ve heard it.

Mansplain means “to explain something to someone, typically a man to woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.” Lily Rothman of The Atlantic defines it as “explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer, often done by a man to a woman.

Mansplaining is generally served up a with a dose of White Male Privilege. I got in trouble for using that term this week, so if you feel any better, use the traditional term: The Good Old Boys Club. Either way, it’s that person who likes to be in charge, but can only feel good by putting someone else down. It’s the leader who dominates with fear, as if showing disrespect to others is a sign of strength.

Some examples:

The cowboy farrier who told my client I was babying her horse and all any horse needed was a cowboy to ride him. Or the rancher who looked at his twelve-year-old mare, crippled beyond painful imagination, and proudly proclaimed, “We use ’em hard.” Or the sheriff’s deputy who repeated again and again, to a long-time horsewoman, that horses don’t need water; they can live on snow. Or the old cowboy at my book talk who told me that his horses weren’t like mine; his horses had to work.

Or the thing I hate the most; a “natural horsemanship” video trainer, who holds a wild-eyed horse’s lead rope short enough to be able to attack the horse’s face with his celebrity-whip. All the while he’s crashing on the horse, he’s playing to the audience and verbally disrespecting the woman–it’s always a woman–in the same way that he is disrespecting her horse. She nervously agrees, sharing her horse’s fear and confusion.

I don’t feel the cowboy magic. I am sick of seeing spur rowels and steel tie-downs on terrified horses. Tired of horses being shown who’s boss, by riders who’s insecurity masquerades as bravado. Dominating temperaments are so ingrained in our culture, so common, that sometimes we get contrite just to stop the mansplaining short of a bigger fight. We’ve been taught to hide ourselves in plain sight, in a cloak of silence.

To be clear:  I have nothing against cowboys. For crying out loud, Ray Hunt was a cowboy. What I hate is a bully.

And it turns out that the FBI does, too, moving animal cruelty up to a Class A felony, the same as murder and arson. It isn’t that the FBI has gone soft for kittens. Statistics show a majority of violent crime begins with animal abuse. If they see cruelty as a precursor to worse violence, shouldn’t we?

The second reason I know this is a big deal is the number of emails and comments I get from riders who resist being told by trainers that fear equals respect and that we must have our horse’s respect at all costs. They’re relieved to find training methods that value intuition over violence; thrilled to experience an even better response from a horse for NOT being a bully. They understand that a horse can clearly tell the difference between kindness and weakness.

The best horse-people know that rodeo isn’t the highest form of horsemanship. They train with gentle hands, take good care of their horses, and show respect for others. Having compassion can sometimes be as challenging as riding a bull, but they lift the conversation above name-calling and innuendo, and stand up for others, patiently holding space for them until they can stand up for themselves.

A special reminder to horse-women; we ARE the horse world. We’re literally 80% of the competitors at shows, and the percentage of pleasure riders is probably larger. At the Olympics and other world competitions, women compete–not in “ladies” classes–but as equals to men. And we frequently win. Women are a huge financial power; we outspend men by far. Instead of that being a joke, we should take it seriously. Money is power.

And perhaps the most world-changing women’s trait; we understand, usually first hand, that fear and domination do not equal good leadership. We know that just like intimidating women and kids doesn’t create a trusting relationship, neither will harsh training techniques create a committed equine partner. Fear will never be a dependable motivator as long as the victim has a heart beating and a breath to move forward.

Horses teach us to elevate the conversation; that a small, well-timed ask-and-reward is always kinder and more effective that a huge fight.

So the next time you find yourself standing in a puddle of mansplaining, take a breath. Put a smile on your face and speak the truth: “Officer, that just isn’t right.” Or take your horse’s reins back with these words: “No thanks, you’re fired.” Stand up to bullies and hold your ground with your own calm, but equally proud proclamation: “We don’t do it that way here.”

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

Anna Blake

0 thoughts on “Mansplaining in the Barn”

  1. I love the post! Respect is #1! I work to share that with our ponies, it does work. I share that with a newly married couple… respect each other, don’t “tease” with words that are harmful. Build each other up… not just people, but your four legged friends as well. Yes, remembering to say, good job and thank you sometimes falls to the wayside… but work harder to remember. Everyone will be happier. Anna, your journey has not always been an easy one, but because of that journey and your talent for words, you are able to help others see things a different way, you help others know they can overcome, it just takes hard work a smile, and a barn full of friends that don’t judge and love you unconditionally!

  2. Thank you so much!
    I just had a man take care of my house when I was gone for a few days he proudly told me that he had thrown something at one of my dogs because the dog had provoked him by not wanting to eat his dinner I fired him and won’t let him anywhere near my house again he told me I was unreasonable .

    • Oh jeez, if we only had a nickel for every “unreasonable” (or “hysterical”) women’s response… What is it that people think punishment is the answer to every action? Thanks for commenting, Diana.

  3. Unfortunately there are many women out there like that, too. They are even harder to deal with, because they are supposed to be like me. I hate bullies be they men or women. And I love the comfort of my barn. Thanks so much for writing the way you do, Anna…you stir up such passion.

      • I agree, Anna and AJ, being mansplained by a women doesn’t change what it is, a form of abuse. It is “unreasonable!” Thanks for your excellent and thoughtful posts, Anna.

  4. You know I had a recent experience with a cowboy which made me uncomfortable so I spoke up just to have a woman do the manslaining for him. That was interesting. Since you gave me permission to slow down and lower my expectations, or perhaps ignore the expectations of others, I have so enjoyed hanging out in the pasture grooming my horses while they graze. We tried ponying around the property and I nearly burst with the joy of watching him really trying to understand. He’s such a baby, but a good baby. Thank you for your support when I came up against this issue.

    • Oh wow, Susie, I love to imagine you ponying that little boy along. Good for you! And may we all speak up! Thanks, and give that boy a scratch for me. Glad to hear you’re all doing well.

  5. I am so sorry this happened to you and all vicims. No one should experience that (except the judge who would then be a better judge because God always pulls good out of bad. This article is that good!) Thanks for having the courage to share here; that is good medicine.

  6. Great column – I remember the whole “mansplaining” thing – was married for 12 years to someone who “might not be right – but was NEVER wrong! Thankfully, that was a long, long time ago – and I’m with you (& everyone else here) I speak my mind! Only wish I had learned how to do that when I was younger – could have saved a lot of frustration, to put it mildly. AND would have had much more time with horses.

  7. One of the things that bothers me the most is being spoken down too. By anyone. It got to the point that other women in my office knew that the minute a client said “Honey” or “Sweetheart” I would be done with them.
    Luckily I haven’t had that happen in any of the barns I have worked in or boarded at. By men or women. The barn is my happy place. My church. And, just like in my professional life, I will not tolerate being spoken to disrespectfully, or having someone mansplain to me. And I am raising my daughter to be the same.

  8. Thank you for sharing your pain…. I love rding Dressage and my school horse, Harley, has taught me to gently aks him what I would like to do and he responds. Also working with rescues at DEFHR, these abused horses geta new lease on life being trained with a gentle and loving hand.

  9. Great article Anna. Thank you for sharing your story. Its hard to believe that after spending 28 years in law enforcement, there are still places on the planet that leniency towards a rapist occurs. When it happens on the bench, we all hear about it. However, we don’t hear about when a prosecutor does this, Being a woman in that field was difficult because men were always seen as more capable, but this too is changing slowly. I encourage all of us to tell our stories, because our her-story will change history.

    • Christine, thank you SO MUCH, for sharing your perspective. It does start to change when we tell our stories. Keep up the good work, you are on the front lines and we all appreciate what you do.

  10. I’m so glad to read this and the comments. I always thought it was a weakness visible in me that I was always spoken down to by men and sometimes women. Thank you for reminding me: its them, not me. It’s not weakness to listen and respond with true knowledge that comes from that communication, rather than following out of fear and confusion.
    Thankfully, I was well schooled in mansplaining before I even got a horse and started the learning process on my own terms; and old enough to dismiss what didn’t fit with what I learned by instinct and by listening to the animals.

  11. Anna, I loved your article and found much that I agree with. However, as one of the few, if not the only man who comments on your site, I felt compelled to make a statement. It is not all men who are guilty (as you mentioned once) nor is all women who get what you are talking about. I fired two local well known female trainers who were so harsh I wondered what motivated them. As you know I have a very sensitive horse who had a bad start. I tried to explain that to both of them before we started. But for them it was all about getting the horse to behave whatever it takes. Conversely, I have discovered a couple of men who really do get it. OK, they are older and got into the horse adoration thing like me, in the later stages of their lives(not quite as old as me). You are right about it being a woman’s world, my wife gets a kick out of watching me ride off into the sunset with three other people, all women. But there are some pretty sensitive and warm men out there who really do get what you are talking about, do not accept white man’s privilege, are compassionate with their horses, and never punish their horses. However, I admit, they are not a large number. There, I feel better. Thanks for the great article.

    • My dear Fred, as always, I love hearing from you. Being the exception to the rule is what gives our lives texture and perception, isn’t it? I can count on you and your friends for that.

      Many of us were started in horses with that twisted idea of leadership. I certainly was. Some of us get so bound up in the fight that we lose perspective, or our egos don’t let us get a word in edgewise. Either way, you are right, and I tried hard with my pronouns while writing this piece, to not place too much blame on a certain sex. At least not more than deserved. Mansplaining isn’t limited to men, I’m sad to say. And men like you give us hope.

      Hello to your amused wife and of course, scratch those good mares of yours for me. Thank you, Fred. You always make my day.

  12. Oh yes. Mansplained to by an ex-husband. Mansplained to by the celebrity “natural horsemanship” trainer in front of an audience who taught my terrified 4-year old colt about “respect”. I have high hopes for my granddaughters that mansplaining will not be part of their vocabulary. Thank you for writing this, Anna…but I wish you didn’t have to.

    • Dang, I wish it wasn’t an issue, too. For what it’s worth, I don’t always manage to keep my horses clean of that kind of “respect”. When we know better, we do better. Here’s to granddaughters!

  13. Thank you for speaking up, and letting so many of us feel as though we are not voices in the wilderness of horse (and people) bullying. There is a not-so-fine line between horsemanship and bullying, and most of what I see these days falls farther into the bully territory. It enrages me, and I think uncharitable thoughts about those who are the bullies (man or woman). Until I remember to take that rage and turn it into doing the best I can to offer another way to the people who show up on our doorstep. We can’t save them all, but we sure can keep speaking up, as you have so eloquently done here. I can’t tell you how not only grateful I am you wrote this, but re-ignited I feel too. Thank you Anna!

  14. At the same moment a woman has finally been given (presumptively) the nomination to run for president, and let’s face it – leader of the “free” world, a judge has passed down a six month sentence on a man who raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. (because he didn’t want to ruin the rapist’s life – oh the irony…)

    Thank goodness for those two brave (male) bystanders who witnessed the assault and apprehended the rapist, because I guarantee you, if it came down to the victim / survivor’s word against the rapist’s, I think we all know how the headlines would have differed.

    Yes – I’m spelling it out. Sorry to be crass, but sweeping the details under the rug helps no one.

    This week has been hard for me too Anna. I was a teenager out on a “date” who was raped while unconscious. Yes I chose to go out that night. Yes I chose to have some of the first alcoholic beverages in my young life. Sadly, the rape resulted in pregnancy. For thirty years I blamed myself, and have told almost no one. The thought of calling out my rapist never even occurred to me at the time.

    What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger I guess. I sure hope the young women out there of voting age will carefully consider the current state of gender issues when heading into the polling booth.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience and sometimes life does give us a voice. I keep hoping that the world is changing for the better, and I agree with you, in the barn or out in the big world, we can’t let bullies win.

  15. Thank you for providing a space to address the issue, and I apologize for carrying things from the horsemanship realm into the political realm. I saw the connection and could not help but point it out – without the subtlety your writing is graced with however.

    This post seemed even more relevant as I just finished your (first) book a few evenings ago. I will be passing it on to my riding friends – you can be sure. 🙂

  16. You can never rely on a horse educated by fear. There will always be something he fears more than you. But, when he trusts you, he will ask you what to do when he is afraid. Antoine de Pluvinel (1555-1620) One of my favorite quotes.

  17. WOW! such a timely subject………….I had just been in touch with my saddle maker due to one of my stirrups (only one) constantly coming apart. Luckily it only happened at a walk or or course it could have ended with a nasty accident and therefore should have been taken seriously! Every email from him was just another way of him saying “you’re doing it wrong”, culminating with the icing on the cake “You need to find and old cowboy type”. I gave up, quietly, went to the tack store, spent $20 and bought another pair of Blevins sliders…. that actually work. Mansplainers are not worth much of my energy. It was however well worth the $20 not to listen to him insult my intelligence over and over again.

    • SNORT! I notice at almost 62, I get a lower level intelligence insult than I used to when I was younger… just in case I’m deaf I guess. but then it’s easy to confuse not listening with deafness, so who knows? Great comment!

  18. I’m not sure if you’re just bashing men in general or making a valid point here. I agree with most of what you’re saying. I am an FEI Official in 3 disciplines, and i will tell you, from a horses’s viewpoint there is a ton of (equine) bullying from aggressive female riders, every bit as much as from men, moreso in the discipline of dressage. I am truly sorry for what you personally had to endure!!

    • I suppose if you’ve ever been bullied, it might be a valid point. If you felt male-bashed, I apologize. I worked hard at my pronouns in this post, but that mansplaining term is defined, by that USUAL direction of use. That said, it’s a behavior that is certainly not limited to men. I hear you about women in dressage; it’s a riding discipline that often falls short of the ideal in practice. I assume you work with Eventers as well, so lots of work that’s hard on horses. If this is your first stop at my blog, you might have like last week’s post better. It was titled “Women as Predators”. (Intended to bring a smile, Bill.) Thank you for commenting, thank you for the work you do, and have a good summer ahead.

  19. Hurray for this post but I must say I take perverse pleasure in playing along a bit, you know,
    “really? do you really think so?” and slowly and sneakily leading the poor fool mansplainer into totally contradicting him/herself. Life’s little revenges.

  20. Wonderful article! The verdict really upset me and I have signed many petitions to remove the judge from the bench! We need to stand strong against these kind of injustices. The current political situation is a fine example of this dangerous abuse of power bullying, promoting hate, pulling people apart etc. I too was almost raped, and if people had not happened along I would not be writing this post! I was a dumb trusting teenager. I did not go to the police of fear of being blamed. Animals are so amazing and seem to be the higher intelligence we need to respect!

    • Just in case you didn’t see it – this is the SECOND case where this judge has been lenient (to put it mildly) Cant remember all the particulars, but I believe it was another case of college athletes that got off easier than they should. (google it – I bet its out there in the Ethernet!!!)
      And Anna – you are absolutely right – the lower level intelligence insult happens more the older we get! Strange how women of a certain age seem to lose their intellect more than men of the same age!!!
      On the other hand – there are certainly lots of great guys out there – obvious from the couple that comment here!

      • Well, I hope no one denies that sexism or racism, etc. exists, because it negates experiences that so many people have. We are better as a people when we strive to live up to our constitution and equality can get complicated in practice. As for the age thing… underestimating a woman, at any age, is always a mistake 🙂

  21. Thanks Anna! I love your blogs and this one especially, including your comments about “natural horsemanship.” I started following you after my friend gave me one of your books, Stable Relations. Someday, hopefully, I will have the opportunity to meet you in person, as we don’t live too far from each other.

    • Thank you, Suzanne. When NH arrived on the scene, it got lots of attention because it was attractive to novice riders and was promoted well on video. It was/is hard on some horses and nothing with horses is ever as easy as it looks. I’m glad you liked the book, thanks for reading it. I love to think people share it; it was a labor of love. Look forward to meeting you at some point, thanks for commenting.

  22. This is so well said. I have gone home from riding lessons in tears because the instructor, a European male, screamed at me which, of course, terrified me and my horse. My husband asked me why I put up with that My reply was that he was supposed to be an excellent teacher. As the words came out of my mouth, I realized how silly that sounded.

    More recently, some horse feed I had delivered wasn’t quite right. I soon realized the store was not rotating the bags. I spoke to the manager of the store. His answer to me was that maybe he needed to talk to my husband. That did it. I told him that 83% of the horse owners in the U. S. were women and he’d better get used to it. My husband, while wonderful, is not a horse person.. I told the manager that my husband didn’t own, ride, or take care of the horses, so there was no need to talk to him. I could cite other incidents but that would take forever!
    Thanks for writing this!

    • As a riding instructor, I know two things. I need to have the rider relaxed and the horse relaxed. A client once told me that a previous trainer yelled at her to relax. Yes, SILLY, but most of all, a doomed approach to riding. Glad you got out. And as for the feed store, it’s what I mean about our buying power. I wish I could say I shop at the closest feed store, but I go where I am treated well. Horse owners are interesting; we are a pretty educated group, on the whole. It must be nerve wracking for old school vets, stores, trainers…. Thanks for commenting, Jeanne. And thanks for getting your horse way from that aggressive trainer.

  23. Well said, could not have chosen better words that fear riding boys with cowboy hats could understand.

    My wife and I raised three daughters, the youngest now thirty, and I still can not understand why people can not be respectful.

    Again Thank You for your words from the Heart.


  24. “fear and domination do not equal good leadership” – Thanks for saying it out loud, Anna. I greatly enjoy reading your blog – partly for your wonderfully eloquent writing style, partly for the fact that you are “loud”. Thank you!
    As a trainer myself, I often feel like a therapist when clients come to me after having been brainwashed by a bully cowboy trainer – they are obsessed with dominance! And sadly, this type does a real number especially on women…
    With love from Germany,

    • Isn’t it sad? I do that same therapy work here, so thank you so much for sharing. As for you calling me ‘loud’, well, quite a wonderful compliment. Thank you, and keep up the good work for horses there, and I’ll do the same. Take care.

  25. I groomed at a boarding/training facility for a few years; my ‘expertise’ – or what I was given credit for, anyway – was brushing out, cleaning feet, saddling and round pen work. I was content and my four-legged clients seemed to be as well.

    What broke my heart was the women who man-handled their horses. You sort of expect this crap from a guy, seething impotently while he rips his animal’s face from side to side to prove what a guy he is, but when you witness a woman smackin’ the crap out hers for every misstep and minor infraction, it’s crushing from a different standpoint.

    It’s incredibly reassuring to see how many women value partnership and guardianship over ownership and ‘mastery’, who see the long term benefits to an actual relationship built on trust and compassion.

    • I agree; it’s a special pain when women do it. The few I have talked to (carefully) about their aggressive training methods tell me that’s how they were trained. It seems that some disciplines are tougher than others. I would love to see a day when young trainers were mentored in a kinder way. I also think that lots of trainers evolve through their careers, or at least I hope so. Thank you for your perceptive comment, Lisa.

    • There was a female dressage trainer at the barn where I kept my horse – she was knowledgeable & a good rider – BUT felt she must be in charge! After importing 2 young geldings from Germany (!) & finding that she could NOT be the boss with one of them (personally I believe she was afraid of him) he was sold and apparently made someone a very nice horse! The smartest thing she did was to sell him BEFORE either of them was hurt or worse. My feeling (and I may be wrong) is that very often the person that MUST be the boss is actually afraid of an animal that disagrees with that opinion!

  26. This is a beautifully written, heart-felt post which had me in tears and nodding in agreement. On many levels. Thank you for sharing, everything. I just wish that there weren’t so many who think that this issue of aggressive horse-handling techniques is more common with cowboys than with so many other disciplines out there. You mentioned that Ray Hunt was a cowboy. Yep, and he taught so many that there was a better way. New follower here, thanks again.

    • I’ve known so many gentle, respectful cowboys, but lately I’m sorry to say I’ve seen too many of the other kind. It’s very sad. And yes, in every riding discipline there are good and bad examples. Most of all, I want to encourage the kind side to speak up! Thanks for your comment, thanks for reading along.

    • Mansplaining in the Netherlands, too? (I am traveling to speak in Oslo this fall and really looking forward to visiting your corner of the world!)

      Thanks for commenting, Caatje.

  27. I think anytime someone uses a term, which puts an entire group into a stereotype category, that it’s generally a bad thing, even if the overall intent and point is intended as a positive empowering message. I think “mansplaining” is a poor, divisive, and derogatory term that should be scrapped, just like any other negative stereotyping term about race, religion, gender, or sex.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got two teenage daughters, and the thought of a man, physically or emotionally abusing them, creates more than just a small sense of anger/protectiveness which rises up within me. And as a man, I’m embarrassed that men are so much more likely to be abusive to women, than vise-versa. I’m also raising my son to treat his sisters and mother with respect, No-Matter-What. Period. But the strength and value of my daughters doesn’t increase because they think less of men, or use derogatory phrasing which snidely assigns a character fault to a sex or gender; their true inner value is reflected by how they treat, and how they respect, others around them; women and men alike. And using disrespectful terms is the opposite of this, and actually lowers their own self-value and strength, because it has disrespect at it’s root.

    The term “mansplaining” is not empowering to women; it merely shows the same disrespect and weakness as the very thing they wish to protest.

    • Thank you, Shawn. I want to emphasize a quote from the blog: “To be clear: I have nothing against cowboys. For crying out loud, Ray Hunt was a cowboy. What I hate is a bully.” Bullies come in both sexes, and this term that you are offended by, mansplaining, is the name of a BEHAVIOR, not a sex.

      I appreciate your defense of what you are doing within your family. Respectfully, this blog isn’t about namecalling a group of people; it’s about encouraging riders to “Stand up to bullies and hold your ground with your own calm, but equally proud proclamation: “We don’t do it that way here.” Again, Shawn. Thank you. I know this is the first comment you’ve made here–welcome and thank you for your sharing thoughts.

      • I appreciate your gracious tone Anna, and i agree that bullying needs to be shut down, no matter which sex is doing it; and I guess my point is really that using the term “mansplaining” is somewhat of a bullying term in and of itself. If someone used the term “woman-splaining” to describe some sort of negative communication style, lets say something like excessive nagging or using a shrill overly-maternal tone to manipulate a situation, then I would consider it just as rude and disrespectful a term. Even if the person tried to justify the term saying, “men can woman-splain too sometimes…” it wouldn’t make the term itself any less offensive to women.

        Anyway, those are my thoughts and comments. Thanks for letting me communicate them here.

        • Yes, Shawn, there are many words out there, commonly used and very derogatory, that would be synonyms for woman-splaining. Again, mansplaining is a verb, a BEHAVIOR that denotes the activity of choosing to assert one’s opinion in a committed way. And I am smiling now; I think you might be mansplaining to me about mansplaining.

          You and I would agree completely IF, and big IF, women and men were seen as equals in this world.

          Until then, I will encourage women to speak up when it’s uncomfortable. Thank you so much, really great comments.

          • Mansplaining about mansplaining… haha… I wondered if you were going to go there with this discussion. Looks like you couldn’t resist. I appreciate the courtesy. Thanks again.

  28. I am a woman, but kind of in Shawn’s camp. If you want someone to stop talking to you in a demeaning way, or bullying you, it is best to not demean or bully them. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “be the change you wish to see in the world”. I have never known a bully to change by being demeaned or criticized. I have seen a bully change with compassion and love. I have also seen a “bullying” animal change with compassion and love. Most bullies are experiencing their own private pain of some sort or have been treated poorly. I agree, it is hard to see that, and easier to react to them by defending yourself and pointing out their inadequacies, but that generally does not engender change of the type you are looking for. The animal I learned this from was a stray Chihuahua in my neighborhood that I took in. After being on her own for several weeks, she was basically feral and attacked anyone who tried to help her, me included. I was told by several people that I should just have her put down – she was severely underweight and quite ill and as one person told me, “not right in the head”. My own dog was in her last few days of life and I really didn’t feel like taking on this dog, but decided to give her shelter, food and veterinary care until I could find a rescue to take her in (I’m more of a big dog girl). I protected myself so that she couldn’t hurt me by wearing gloves when I tended to her, but I believe my grief for my other dog kept me in a place where I didn’t react to her attacks on me. Because I thought I would only have her temporarily, I had no attachment to what kind of behavior was appropriate for her and I didn’t try to train her in any way. I would let someone who knew more about these little dogs take care of that. Well, I was shocked when one day, she took her little paw and placed it on my hand. She started wanting me to hold her and she started following me around the house with rabid devotion. Over the next year, this dog totally transformed and taught me so much about what unattached love and compassion could do, and I decided that the universe had put her in my life at that place and time for a reason. On our last vet visit, the vet told me he was 150% shocked that the dog he saw that first day could transform into this dog before him – she didn’t even try to bite him when he took her temperature. I started wondering…what if I tried treating the meanest, nastiest humans I encountered the same what I had treated this dog? Protect myself, send them whatever compassion or love I could muster and be unattached to them needing to change in any way to make me feel better. It has been an interesting experiment (still ongoing) and what I have come to learn is that I can really only control myself and my thoughts and the less I need other beings, animal or human, to be a certain way, the happier I am, and the more I see relationships transforming in front of my eyes. I have read and enjoyed your blogs for some time and have never commented before, and took a long time to consider this one before commenting because something unsettled me. I appreciate what you are doing with your work and am sorry for the pain you have endured.

    • Thank you for your comment, Jane. I appreciate you view point. It’s odd to me to be called out for bullying—a turn of position for sure. If you follow my blog, you might remember that I’ve written more than once about having compassion for those who abuse or neglect animals; it isn’t only a private pain they feel but frequently the result of mental illness. It can be a call for help. So yes, I have been on that side of the debate as well, holding a space for perpetrators (and gotten criticized soundly.) So it goes.

      Thank you for sharing the story of your rescue Chihuahua. You have done a good deed, and I know how rewarding that is. Between my personal animals, and the work I do with rescues, and the equines I that I train professionally, I have lost count of the number of animals who have transformed themselves with similar resiliency and I feel blessed to witness such healing in work that I do. They inspire me on dark days.

      In this brief post, it was my goal to encourage women to simply have the courage to say, “That’s not how we do it here.” Not to pick a fight; just to state a fact. As I hope I’m demonstrating, having a different opinion is not a crime. In my blog and in my life, I do lend my voice to the chorus who stand against bullying.

      I find the term mansplaining a slightly amusing synonym for bully. To my ear, it doesn’t have that angry, bitter attacking quality that it seems to have for you and Shawn. I also know that I can’t control how my words will be read or understood. I shared TWO definitions of the term mansplaining just to be clear as to its meaning (which still doesn’t sound hostile to me), but apparently, I still failed. As a writer who delves into the emotional side of issues, word choice is always a challenge. I think we all define words personally, according to our experiences. And I accept the criticism you have for my word use in this blog. Your opinion is noted. The comments on this blog are nothing if not lively.

      Finally, for all that’s visible in these comments, (the vast majority of which are positive,) what is not visible is the large number of personal emails I get from women who do not want to comment publicly. I am deeply touched by their stories and challenges these riders face. I wrote this blog for them.
      Again, Jane, thank you for reading and thank you for commenting. And scratch that good dog for me.

      • Sorry my response is so late, but I appreciate the time you have taken to respond to my comment and I have given that good dog a lovely scratch for you. I love reading your posts!

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