‘Haters’ fail to tank OTTB Connect, new day

Laura Holmes, the founder of popular Facebook group OTTB Connect, announced her decision to keep the group up after a tense week with critics.

Laura Holmes, the founder of popular Facebook group OTTB Connect, announced her decision to keep the group up after a tense week with critics.

After an onslaught of hateful comments and personal email attacks drove Laura Holmes to announce this week she would shut down her robust Facebook page OTTB Connect, a popular site with 22,000 users, a new plan was announced.

The page, which is a go-to resource for people buying, selling and saving Thoroughbreds, will continue with new rules governing the behavior of users offering comments. Personal and snarky attacks will not be tolerated, says Holmes, who has spent countless hours removing insulting comments calling other users “stupid” and worse.

“One of our number one rules is that people need to be nice,” Holmes says. “Being rude to others will get people kicked off the page. All we ask is that people treat others they way they want to be treated.

“We had a new Thoroughbred owner who wrote in, asking a question about the change in color of her horse’s coronet bands after he stood in the water. She’s a new owner and just didn’t know that water can change the color. We had people write in saying things like, ‘Are you stupid?’ and ‘How long have you been around horses?’ I felt so bad. It’s not like we’re born knowing the answers to these questions, and there’s no reason for people to be snarky or rude.”

Holmes and other administrators of OTTB Connect unveil simple rules. Rule No. 1: Be nice.

Holmes and other administrators of OTTB Connect unveil simple rules. Rule No. 1: Be nice.

Holmes told Off-TrackThoroughbreds.com in a telephone interview that after spending countless “thankless” hours trying to patrol the site for rude comments, and receiving many derogative comments attacking her for her management of her page, she announced Monday night that she would take the page down.

“I’ve spent all of my free time on this effort. I’ve even gotten in trouble at work for being on the phone because of (the page),” she says. “And when I saw people complaining on the page … it was the final straw. I’m trying to enjoy my life, ride my horse when I can, and when I get these horrible messages, it makes my blood pressure go through the roof.”

Two days after her announcement, which garnered over 800 comments pleading with her to keep the page, Holmes and page administrators agreed to proceed forward with caution.

Posts to the page will, for the time being, need to be approved first by page administrators. And, people who violate rules, or make over-the-top comments, will face being banned.

With all the rancor finding its way to the page, Holmes says something has gotten lost. “This page was started to help rescue-groups network and help horses,” she says. “That’s our main goal. So we’re asking everyone to follow the simple guidelines, which are pinned to the top of the page. If they don’t like it, they can leave.” ♦

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32 responses to “‘Haters’ fail to tank OTTB Connect, new day”

  1. Pam Mahony

    Hi to all. I just found out about this group from this thread, and I am glad I did. I have always owned OTTB’s and I love them Several have come to me sound and happy. Others have come as “old warriors”, looking for a soft place to land. Right now my retirees’ field has both in it. — One aspect of the OTTB topic that is important to me is the future of horses with no future as a riding horse and little hope of finding a home as a companion horse. In other words, horses whose future is on the slaughter truck, headed to Mexico or Canada. — I am a proponent of humane euthanasia for such horses. A quiet passing surrounded by caring people (usually after a big meal of good food) is my goal for all horses who have no future but slaughter. Unfortunately, this is not a popular topic, nor is it an easy goal for raising the needed money to pay for the euthanasia and burial of the horses. — I am mentioning this because it is a worthy way to help OTTB’s who otherwise would end up in horrific circumstances. When donating to OTTB rescues, please do not forget the forgotten.

    1. Patty Hamilton

      Pam, you make a good point. If a horse is suffering and can’t be helped by vets or treatments it is best to put it down humanely. With caring people by its side to send this horse to his/her final resting place without the horrific monstrous slaughter house pipeline. Starting from the auction, feedlot, transport to Mexican or Canadian’s slaughter houses. Where the only treatment these horses will receive is cruelty that most of us can’t even image the pain and suffering these poor horses have to endure. This is beyond words. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

  2. Jon

    I think that Laura needs to make room for reasonable counter opinions stated in a proper manner. My wife has shown me things on her FB page that I have disagreed with her and her followers on. The danger of making the range of the opinions on the page very narrow is that is excludes legitimate alternatives that could work. The idea of putting information and alternate opinions out there is to show that one solution is not the answer. In reality, we as TB lovers, should be focused on the one goal of eliminating the abuse and slaughter of the horses we love.

    1. Elizabeth Haley

      I agree…there are some narrow minded views on this page and rather than keep an open mind they just want to argue.

  3. Laura Holmes

    I want to truly thank everybody for the support and kind words. We may be strict but that is something that helps everybody who uses the page, not us Admins (heck, it just makes MORE work for us!) We are happy to provide a place for people to learn and to help find homes for these incredible Thoroughbreds.

    1. Kathy A

      Laura, is the page still up? O looked for it on FB, but I can only find the Florida group.

  4. Susan

    I’m a racing person who has also transitioned many of our horses into new careers. I give Laura a lot of credit for the amount of time and efforts it takes to manage the page. I have never felt unwelcome on the page. And although the page is for OTTBS, I do feel that those with racing backgrounds can provide some understanding of the difference between track life and off track life. Even with minor concerns such as why their new horse doesn’t stand still for mounting is easily explained by the safety measures at the track. Sometimes, just a little bit of insight allows the new owner to understand a horse’s behavior is related to previous training and requires a little patience in teaching them a different way.

  5. peg

    I followed this group on Facebook and enjoyed reading the post. I felt I learned a lot. Then I saw some posts that this group was just for people that owned or formerly owned offtrack thoroughbreds and others didn’t belong there. I do not own a horse. I felt unwelcome so I stopped following the group.

    1. Laura Holmes

      Peg there were never such posts. Part of our goal is to educate and promote the breed. We have lots of people on the group who don’t even own or know much about horses but they enjoy reading the stories. Everybody is welcome to be a part of the group no matter what their background.

  6. Belinda

    As a former admin of OTTB Connect, I want to commend Laura Holmes as well as the other Admins on the site. It is a VERY difficult job to keep 22,000+ opinionated (mostly women) horse “experts” happy. We all have our own opinions and ways of doing things. We’re all strong and independent. And yet, NONE of us know everything, despite what we may think. Every rule on the site exists for a very good reason, they are not random. Laura and the others spend hundreds of hours a month monitoring and mediating on the site. They only remove what they know in the past has caused problems including what detracts from the purpose of the page…to help rehome and create a better life for thoroughbreds. Most of the members are fabulous and incredibly helpful so I know with the continued help of those individuals the page will continue to be successful! Great job Susan on this article and Laura and the Admin Team for all your hard work!

  7. christine

    I am a member of ther page on facebook I don’t own a ottb but I do have a quarter horse that came from a kill buyers lot and even though its meant for ottb I use it for my girl also its a great help….. thanks for keeping the page open

  8. Candi Cooper-Towler

    I would never have found my OTTB, newly half-blind and waiting in WV for a non-racing home, if not for OTTB Connect. My thanks to Laura and the other admins who helped Sherlock find an adoring person of his very own and a new life in Colorado.

  9. Christina

    Never heard of this site and as the owner of an OTTB (first horse!) will check it out! Sounds fine with me if she cracks down on “free speech”…it’s her own personal site, isn’t it, and just as I wouldn’t choose to have folks come to a party in my house if I didn’t want them there…I mean, it’s not like she’s stopping people from holding a rally in the town square!

    I am sorry to hear that people can be so mean to newbie horse owners with what seems like a “dumb” question. You’d think they’d want to be kind and welcoming and help out the horse via helping the owner. Some people just have to show off all the time, I guess…or form cliques…and sadly the horse world offers lots of opportunities for forming cliques.

    Will go track down her site now 🙂

  10. Kristin

    I’ve been a follower of OTTB Connect for a while now, and I’m in support of Laura’s choice to keep the page open in it’s new format. It still must be a ton of work for her to moderate and approve posts, etc., and it’s admirable that she takes her personal time to do that. I’ve seen the change in tone on the page in the past six months and have to say, with this transition in structure I’ve really come to appreciate the new direction she is going with it. It’s just a more positive page now, plain and simple. Anyway, thanks for giving her the recognition for her hard work, Susan … and Laura, keep it up. You’re doing a great job and helping countless horses and OTTB owners in their lives together.

  11. Sharon Van Haele

    I’m so glad Laura has decided to give it one more try. This is a wonderful FB page and I am truly thankful for the resource. And very, very thankful for the time and energy Laura and friends devote to the page. I’ve gained so much knowledge and tips and tricks from the interaction of OTTB owners! I find that most of the people who are rude are the people who like to think, and try and make others think, they are experts. The true experts are kind and supportive. They don’t have to prove themselves in their own minds by putting others down. And any good horse owner knows if one way isn’t working, then try something different. This page helps me discover what others have tried and been successful with from home remedy fly sprays to training. And it is really special seeing how many people love the OTTB!!!! Thank you Laura!! You are appreciated!

  12. Susie Ann

    Love that group – but in reality there are too many rules and regulations and it is policed and controlled too much. Often people comment and someone decides its hurt their feelings and in some cases it crossed the line, but in other cases it did not but posts and people were deleted and banned for no reason or warning. And Racing people are NOT WELCOME at all, nor is anyone who will defend racing in any way. They want horses from the track, and love to slam the industry that in many cases gives these people access to these horses so they have second career and often at cheap as dirt prices. They then keep them for a bit ,up the price, and make money (not all cases). As nice as this board is it has problems….and the admins have now created more as people no longer have free speech.

    1. Colmel

      I guess I’ll find out for myself if “racing people” are not welcome. As a former racing person – who has no horses at present – I’d like to think that I’m the kind of racing person that could be of assistance on such a board. Having been on both sides (breeder and owner of racing kids AND owner of former racers), I might have some insights that could help. If I find I’m not welcome, I’ll just mosey on. The point is that if she’s taking the trouble to moderate her site, then it’s her call as to what she does and does not want to allow on her page.

    2. Nicole

      That’s not true at all, I see plenty of racing people in the group on a regular basis. Sure, some people in the group are anti-racing, but by no means is the group as a whole, or Laura anti-racing.

    3. Heidi Carpenter

      I am one of the administrators for OTTB Connect. I just wanted to quickly note that racing folks are more than welcome to the group. Furthermore, all if not most of the OTTB Connect admins are also racing fans. Many of us have worked with or in the racing industry in some form, also. OTTB Connect is not a horse racing group, however. Rather, the focus (and Laura’s reason for creating the group) is the care and support of horses once their racing careers are over.

    4. Laura Holmes

      I have seen a few comments about how the grpup is anti racing and I can’t figure out where this is coming from because we most certainly are NOT anti racing. I myself am a former racetracker as are most of our Admins. We often share stories about popular racehorses or racing interest pieces. We do not allow bashing of the race industry on the group. Of course there are anti racing people on the page, just as there would be anywhere. We also have many race owners, trainers, breedera, exercise riders and jockeys on the page as well.

      1. Diana Levy

        As a member of OTTB Connect and a longtime racing/thoroughbred breeding fan (40+ years), I can vouch that for the most part the group is racing friendly. Often the same people (or their ilk) that caused the problems discussed in this article are the ones that denigrate the very industry that produced their horses. There are many of us that have exhausted ourselves trying to explain that just because you got a horse off the track it doesn’t mean you “rescued” it; that the majority of thoroughbreds that need rescuing got into those situations due to their interim homes after the track. So I would welcome as many from the industry as possible to help us fight the good fight 😀

  13. Ellen Brayshaw

    I’m so glad Laura that this wonderful venue will continue. There are always miserable people who have nothing to say about anything. This site has been a venue for many views on how to solve an issue. The choices are vast which allows the questioner to choose what best suits their needs. Wonderful news this educational opportunity will continue, thank you Ellen

  14. Kim Alexander

    Thank Heaven she is staying with us. I love her page and also value her thoughts and opinions. Hope our paths cross one day!
    Like you, Sue, and many others so dedicated to these horses, we NEED Laura around.
    Thanks, Laura, for all you do.

  15. Victoria Racimo

    Agree. Glad they are staying on with new, strict AND appropriate guidelines. “All the news that’s fit to print”. Writer beware. Write with due diligence for the cause. Then everyone wins, most importantly, the horses. They remain what it’s all about, first and foremost.

  16. Patty Hamilton

    It is too bad that there are people that ruin it for everyone else in our society. Holmes is doing a great service for these horses and the honest heartfelt adopters. Thankfully there are more good than bad. Thank you for keeping your Facebook page open Ms. Holmes. Best, Patty Hamilton

  17. Emma Brady

    I loved OTTB Connect. Some users have been very helpful with my very difficult gelding, and they helped me find a mare I love more than anything and whom I thought I’d lost forever. But at one point, at least 30 users were removed for liking a comment about how the hostility on the group has been frustrating, and I was one of them. When I messaged Laura about it asking why, she said, “you agreed the group was annoying so I helped you out,” and rejected my request to rejoin despite my attempts at explaining. Not everyone meant that the same way. I know I didn’t. If Laura’s reading, I’d like to say I’m sorry for the misunderstanding and I’d like to come back. I never meant to be disrespectful, but I see how it came across that way.

  18. Colmel

    Good for her! I’m glad she’s sticking to her guns and keeping her page open. Quite honestly, before this, I didn’t know the Facebook page existed and I’m quite interested in it. Sad fact that “haters” are everywhere; but I’m glad that there are so many good people out there who will help new horse owners. If we’re to give good homes to OTTBs, it’s going to take new blood. Plain and simple.

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