One of the most telling traits of competent professionals is that they’re assured but not arrogant or condescending. They don’t have an answer for every question, and they’re not afraid to say so. If they disagree with someone, they can state clearly why without being disrespectful or mocking.
Respect for others actually cuts to the heart of the matter, and it starts with respect for you, the owner — the person paying the bills. Any professional that ignores that fact isn’t worth hiring. Good professionals deserve respect for their expertise, of course, but not to the point of hero worship and blind faith. It might make you feel secure to think that your professionals hold all the answers, but it’s unlikely to be true.
One of the two major areas where owners and professionals often clash is the issue of restraint. How you choose to interact with your horse is your business, but you aren’t justified imposing this on someone else. Some horses can be dangerous to work on, for many reasons. Regardless of the cause, however, it all boils down to the same scene: A professional trying to work on a horse determined to flatten him. The professional is there to get a job done, and he has a right to a reasonable amount of safety. If you have strong personal opinions about methods of restraint, make them known ahead of time, but realize that the professional has the right not to work on a horse they consider improperly restrained for the situation.
The second touchy area is when owners offer suggestions they’ve obtained from other sources. No matter how much they would like to, no busy professional can keep up with every theory or method pertaining to their craft. If you have more time to research a problem in depth, you may indeed come up with some useful information. However, because you may lack the specialized training and experience your professional has, you may not be able to sort through what is useful and what is nonsense — and there’s probably more nonsense floating around than solid information.
If you would like the professional you’ve hired to consider your suggestion, present it to him professionally. Print out what you’ve found, including the sources, and give him a chance to read it. You can’t demand a change, but you have a right to ask hisr opinion. A professional will respect your input and take the time to consider your suggestion and give you an honest opinion. If he doesn’t, you may want to hire someone who will.
-Eleanor Kellon, VMD