We all know that the equestrian industry can be at times judgmental and intimidating. Whether this is the same across other sports or just specific to ours, I have always put it down to just competitiveness to an extreme level. However with the emergence of social media and the security of a computer screen to hide behind, negativity has risen somewhat further. And whilst there are several social media movements preaching about supporting one another, this still continues but behind the screen and in real life.
I saw an article in Horse and Hound about a woman who received derogatory comments about her type of horse at a dressage competition. This struck a cord with me because I believe that if you are putting yourself out there and trying, not even necessarily doing well, then who cares what anyone thinks. But also, my horse Milo is also a chunkier type, similar to that of the horse in the article. We all ride/compete because of a love for the sport which stems from a love of horses. No matter what type horse you own, you should be proud of them and what you have achieved together. I believe there is a difference between derogatory comments and being overly sensitive. Sometimes it is appropriate to comment on someone else at a show, in particular where horse or rider welfare is concerned. Although you would think as adults, or not even adults as I have seen children capable of being kinder with words, we could decipher between when a comment is appropriate or not too. I felt so upset for the lady in the article as she had to leave the arena in tears, I can only assume the comment was made by someone who was of a high status? I wish she had gone in there and smashed the test but I really can’t blame her for not.
What builds this judgmental attitude? Is it the nature of the sport whereby we are constantly judged? The competitiveness around competitions which is fueled by expensive horses and prizes? What can be done? I think the issue is far more complex than just a simple hashtag movement. Whilst it isn’t the greatest crisis in the world, it is important to help each other. Our sport is hard, it is long hours and a lot of work for very minimal amounts of glory. We have all experienced (I hope!) what it is like to be on a team and be included and supported, something which as humans we are drawn to. So why not encourage behaviour like that from everyone whether you are competing against them or not. I know every horse isn’t to the taste of each person, but to feel that your opinion on that horse is so important you have to tell the owner… how do you expect them to take that? We all feel the same about our horses, for most people they are their world, no one is going to take derogatory comments from a stranger about their horse, no matter who they are.
Should there be implications for people that make unkind comments like the person in the article? For some people, unless their behaviour has a sanction, they will ever learn that they are wrong. Some know they are wrong and yet still are wrapped up in self importance and just don’t care, which is sad. Should show centers step into the issue? When they are struggling for numbers, can they really afford to have people drop out on either side of the issue? It’s something that you would just assume was not an issue, however it does seem to be. I only hope that through media coverage incidents such as this are alone and hopefully occurrence will decrease.