I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the online age of equestrianism is both a blessing and a curse. The presence of so many other equestrians online can be amazing as it allows for friendly discourse and an influx of a variety of differing opinions, thus allowing other riders to learn about what other riders are doing and further study the ins and outs and rights and wrongs when it comes to horses. HOWEVER, many people abuse the privilege of being online and use it to be couch jockeys. They do not have the best interests of their fellow riders or horses in mind in doing so. Oftentimes, what they attempt to frame as construct criticism is actually bullying. On no planet is it ever constructive to send a complete stranger (or your friend, for that matter) a comment that just says “your eq sucks, lol.” If you’ve done this before, it is time that you come to terms with the fact that there must be some hole or inadequacy in your life that is pushing you to be mean to strangers. It is not a normal habit to fall into. Unfortunately, comments such as this are a driving force behind young riders being terrified to share their riding progress and editing videos to the point of perfection, thus further promoting the unrealistic online expectations of others. Or, they may delete equine related social medias all together and merely be a bystander, watching others even though they wish that they could post, but they live in fear of the all too common “hate” that seems to come with social media.
Yes, hate is inevitable if you are on social media, especially with a larger following. In no case does this mean that you should just accept mistreatment from others as the norm. They are the problem, not you. Do not try to normalize bullying and tearing other people down. It is not normal. It is a habit that miserable people sink into in an attempt to bring others down to their level of upset. It is not normal. It is not acceptable. It likely will not stop because there will always be miserable people, however, we should not stay idle and put the blame on those who choose to share on social media instead of those who are quite simply just being assholes.
Now, the focus on equitation and the “perfect ride” on social media is also utter ludicrous. As someone who virtually only gets on green, young and fresh horses, there is no such thing as the perfect ride… Especially when you are riding horses that need an education and have problems that are actively needing to be fixed. And yet, people view it as a statement on your abilities as a rider if the 3 year old with 4 months off spooks its first day back or the 7 year old mare with confidence issues squirts forward after a jump. When really, simply put, they are just BEING HORSES. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people making such nasty statements could not out ride a toddler. That is why they make these statements. They often have no riding footage of themselves or have privatized accounts so that nothing they say can ever be substantiated. These very people do their absolute damnedest to hide their riding abilities, as though lack of proof of any sort of experience or ability lends them more credibility (hint: it doesn’t).
So, I guess I am here to say that if you are on social media and want to share your riding, do it. Who cares if your heels come up. Who cares if you have a bad ride. Who cares if you fell off. Who cares if your horse was being fresh one day. This happens to EVERYONE. Even international pros. Everyone has stuff to work on. Everyone has bad rides. Every horse has bad days, no matter how perfect they may seem. Putting on this faux persona of perfection is exhausting and unrealistic, it is time that riders start showcasing the realities of horse ownership and equestrianism. We are constantly talking about how hard, unpredictable and dangerous riding horses can be but yet, equestrians are constantly at each others throats for the very same things when someone showcases a more “real” or hairy moment.
Here is the thing, even if you ride like a potato with legs, so long as you are appropriately caring for and loving your animals and the people around you, you are better off than the keyboard warrior sending you hate even if they have better equitation than Lillie Keenan. No one outside of the horse world gives half a crap if you have good equitation. Frankly, even if you are the greatest rider in the world, you’ll lose all your friends horsey and not horsey if you’re just a miserable sod of a human being. No one really cares about your riding prowess. They care about who you are as a person. They care about how you treat your animals and those around you. They care about the important things. Those who spend their time heckling other riders are likely not the type of person you would want to hang out with anyways. Do not let them stop you. Do not let them dampen your spirits or cut short your journey and certainly do not let them stop you from flaunting the horse person you are. There is nothing better than being able to look back on previous postings and see your personal growth. Do not let mean spirited people strip that opportunity away from you.
It does not matter who you are or how great of a rider you are, I guarantee that there will be someone out there that will find something wrong. Do not take it to heart. It quite honestly says nothing about you as a person and oftentimes says nothing about you as a rider either, because the vast majority of these people go on social media with the intention of looking for problems, so they’ll go out of their way to find them. I’ve seen these haters on the pages of Grand Prix level riders, critiquing them as though they could accomplish a fraction of what these riders have. I’ve also seen some pretty deplorable humans critiquing PARALYMPIANS for being unable to follow conventional equitation laws due to disabilities… Yes, you read that right. Legitimate humans sat from their couches critiquing disabled people who have overcome more than they could possibly imagine and still manage to achieve their goals and make it to the BLOODY OLYMPICS while battling disabilities and overcoming the odds in ways that the vast majority of equestrians could not comprehend.
You are more than your equitation. You are more than just an equestrian. Being a good person matters. Do not let anyone take that away from you and for the love of all that is important, do not base all of your self worth on your equestrian abilities. There are so many more important things, no matter how dedicated you may be as a rider. The most important thing is to be a good person. Be good to your horses, be good to your family and friends and while you’re at it, smile extra big at the troll under the bridge trying to make you feel bad about yourself.
Also, here is my personal offer to you. If someone is being a downright jerkface to you and bullying you, message me and I will go full mama bear in protecting you and trying to make you feel better. Also, another helpful tip for dealing with haters is that if they have some choice info on their profiles, it is fairly easy to find and forward their comments to trainers, parents or barn owners…. most of the haters are children and they do not seem to love the response they get when their real life connections see their real behaviour ;)
Cheers and happy posting!