In July, Horse Junkies United launched an equestrian anti-bullying campaign called #RideAboveHate. It quickly gained popularity on Twitter with many equestrians tweeting the new hashtag – even those that engaged in bullying themselves.
However, like every new thing, #RideAboveHate slowly lost momentum, and bullying was back in full swing.
Everyone was so gung-ho about it, preaching acceptance and non-judgment, saying how equestrians shouldn’t be judged on what they can afford, whether they show, what their tack or horse looks like.. and then, just like that, it went poof.
Bullying happens every single day whether it’s at school, work, in other social environments, the barn, or online. In fact, I would venture to say that bullying is at its worst when it’s online because of the ability to say vicious, mean things to someone without revealing one’s true identity.
There is a difference between stating your opinion and being downright mean. There is a difference between teasing someone and taking it too far. There is a difference between constructively criticizing someone and being incredibly hurtful.
I, and others, see it everyday on Twitter. Riders are attacked for their horse and its jumping ability. Riders are attacked for their appearance. Riders are attacked for what they can and cannot afford. Riders are attacked for their attire, their tack, the breed of horse they like, their barn. It is literally rampant. If Twitter goes a day without having some type of drama, it’s a miracle.
I have not been immune to bullying either. Ask.fm, which is a popular way for people to ask anonymous questions of others, is also a huge medium for bullying. I’ve received tons of hateful and, quite frankly, hurtful comments on Ask.fm. Below are just a few:
- “i don’t think your horse is high enough quality to be considered an actually show horse he will never take you past schooling level in reality”
- “I don’t really think your horse qualifies as a “show horse” sorry”
- “god your horses look fresh off the slaughter truck…. you seriously need a job to get some better horses hun, thats pretty embarrassing XD”
- “we all know your family’s broke as f*ck, but 5k is freaking hilarious, even for your situation #thirstyAF hahaha XD”
I’ve been called ugly, had my horses called ugly, and also been told I spend too much money on myself and not enough on my horses and because of that, my horse looks malnourished (Note: My horse was underweight and had zero muscle tone when he came to me on lease last year. It took a long time to get his weight and muscle tone up as we had to experiment with different food/supplement/forage combinations. Additionally, I lost riding time due to him having two injuries in three months that both took at least a month of stall rest to heal. His muscle tone, that we had built up over the spring and summer, suffered as a result. I acknowledge that my horse looked, in my personal opinion and my trainer’s personal opinion, terrible. But, we were doing absolutely EVERYTHING to get his weight up and muscle tone increased. Just because a horse doesn’t look his greatest doesn’t mean the owner/rider isn’t taking action to fix the problem. Also, some horses are just hard keepers and will never have adequate weight/muscle tone due to health issues or disorders it may have.)
I would be lying if I said these comments didn’t hurt my feelings. I know that I shouldn’t put stock into anyone who is saying something to me without revealing their true identity, but when things get nasty, it’s hard not to take it personally.
My question is – why do we do this to each other? What is it that makes a person able to be so mean, rude, and hurtful to another? Some would say jealousy; others would say boredom. There’s probably a million different theories as to motivation and the ‘why’ of bullying, but we need to stop.
As equestrians, we should be supporting each other. Our sport is known as one of the most dramatic. Every non-horse person I have spoken to thinks that the horse world is too dramatic and that horse people are crazy.
And to be quite honest, I can see where they get that opinion from.
Horse Junkies United had an amazing idea, and it really worked… for about a month. Why did we forget so quickly? And what can we do to get that support and sense of community back?
We cannot keep bullying each other and tearing each other down whether it’s on the internet or in person. We can constructively criticize each other’s riding. We can state our opinion without tearing down a person’s looks, character, or horses. We can tell someone they are wrong without attacking them to where they are driven off of Twitter or contemplating suicide.
I challenge all of you to speak up when you see someone being bullied. I challenge all of you to show your support to someone who is being torn down. I challenge all of you to think before you tweet or speak. Bullying is a huge problem in this sport, and we shouldn’t judge someone based on their discipline preference, access to money, horse(s) they own, or anything else save abuse or neglect really.
Many will say the best way of dealing with hate and negativity is to ignore it. While that may be true, what kind of example are we setting if we don’t speak up? By ignoring it we are letting the perpetrators get away with the behavior, and that isn’t right. We need to stick up for ourselves and for fellow riders. Bullying can be severely detrimental to one’s self-confidence and enjoyment of this sport, not to mention it gives the rest of us riders a bad name. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met that think equestrians are crazy. While we may be to a certain extent, some of this stereotype is due to the bullying and mean behavior that occurs more often than it should (though I would argue it shouldn’t happen at all).
So I’m asking all of you to take the time to do something about bullying. Even the smallest gesture helps. Stick up for those being bullied. Do your best to avoid perpetuating the negative behavior. It may be scary to stick up to a bully as they tend to turn on those who oppose them and start to cut that person down, but you absolutely will have supporters – me, for example.
I want #RideAboveHate to come back and not be some fad we all follow just because it’s popular at the moment. It should be an all-the-time trend.
Let’s strive to get that going.