Only few weeks after a gang bullying Brits on social media caught public attention, a similar case of lamentable human behaviour online has shown its ugly head. Keyboard warriors have started their next crusade in shaming and bullying an amateur dressage rider that competed in California last weekend.
Instead of blaming the failed national show system, which allows novice, amateurs riders to compete at levels they don't master, or instead of questioning the trainer's motivation to send such an inexperienced student into the show ring, the person in question has been crucified by self-acknowledged horse-loving superiors.
Eurodressage's columnist Eva-Maria Broomer shared her thoughts on the latest incident of equestrian cyber-bullying.
Eva-Maria Broomer: “It’s an outrage!” - on social media and self-reflection
We all think we love our horses. Every single one of them. And, therefore, the hardest thing to admit to ourselves will be that we also hurt them. I very much doubt that this is deliberate, nobody gets up in the morning with the explicit intention of inflicting pain on their mount. The simple fact of the matter is that we make mistakes. From inexperience, from ignorance, perhaps thoughtlessness, lack of awareness, an inability to control negative emotions like frustration or fear, or simply because our bodies won’t quite operate in the way our minds intended.
We have all seen some examples of very unfortunate riding shared on social media. We are outraged and disgusted. “Yet another example”, we think “of an innocent horse being made to suffer!”, and it gives us a small sense of satisfaction that we can hit the “share” button and vent our feelings, because, we feel, this way we can “make a difference”. “Name and shame”, we think, so that this person has pointed out to them the errors of his or her ways and will thus transform from horse abuser into a caring and sympathetic rider.
But will they? If faced with an onslaught of outrage and comments like the ones we have seen on social media, is recognition of the errors of one’s ways and subsequent self-transformation really the most likely outcome? I doubt it. In the face of attack, the most natural of responses is defensiveness. Perhaps upset, perhaps anger, perhaps a mixture of the two. Quite likely also defiance. None of which are productive responses that are in any way going to improve the situation for the horse, nor the person’s riding.
Expressing our “outrage” serves primarily one purpose: it makes us feel better.
I entirely agree that we need to take a long and careful look at equine welfare in dressage. If we don’t, it will undoubtedly mean the end of what used to be more of a form of art than a sport, a thing of beauty. It is encouraging to see that an increasing number of professional and knowledgeable riders and trainers are speaking up and are working tirelessly to take dressage back to its roots, which is to teach a horse to use its body in a way that allows it to remain free of pain. To dance with us.
But with that comes the need for humility, for a recognition that we are all on a journey, a journey littered with errors, some of which even cause unintentional cruelty.
-- by Eva-Marie Broomer