So a blog about cyber bulling/ internet ‘trolling’ has been a looooong time coming but after a small blow up on our Instagram, I thought it was needed ASAP. Bare with me whilst I get to the point, but for anyone who didn’t see or doesn’t follow our Instagram – I’ll summarise what happened!
My background is horse riding. I’ve ridden since age 4, done dressage since I was 8 and represented Great Britain internationally since I was 12. I have won my fair share of International competitions and currently riding at Prix St George/Inter I. I am a rider first and a clothing brand owner second. I love to inject my riding experience into the brand as everything has been tried, tested and is high performing and I find that being a rider helps me provide the best clothing I can! So I often post photos training and share videos of my own horses.
A couple of days ago I posted a small snippet of my lovely horse Gee (Guinness B) misbehaving a little on our Instagram. Everyone sees Gee being picture perfect normally, modelling with his floppy ears and beautiful face and talented legs for Black Heart social medias, but what they don’t see are the ups and downs of training a young, talented, quick thinking stallion. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an angel in horse form (yeah, I’m biased!) but like ANY horse on the planet, he has his moments! I’ve recently been teaching him his changes and some horses get a bit excited learning these and Gee is one of those. He’s fit, athletic and very clever and finds flying changes fun which isn’t a bad thing but just needs a bit of management.
The video (see our Instagram @blackheartequestrian) was posted as a light hearted snippet, to show off our non-slip Sculpture leggings more than anything, but to also show that even a supermodel like Gee isn’t perfect and that although the majority of social media tends to show the perfection and the good bits, there is still the bad.
Initially the post got a lot of positive comments but all at once it was absolutely flooded with negativity and actual abuse. Comments ranging from ‘it’s because you yanked his mouth’ to ‘WTF is the rider doing’ and ‘Rough hands and poor riding make them naughty’ and the list goes on.
I was absolutely stunned as for me it was a cheeky, light-hearted video where I genuinely didn’t think I’d done anything wrong, so I initially deleted the post. But, I am a little feisty in personality to say the least and soon realised that even though cyber bulling is a major issue in general it’s especially rife in the Equestrian world. Equestrians are notoriously opinionated and judgey (come on you know it’s true) but I decided that in the case of Black Heart Equestrian’s social media, enough is enough and awareness is needed on the matter and that I could be in a position to tackle some of the trolling.
I re-uploaded the video and debated disabling the comments to avoid another influx of negativity but decided to see what was said and face up any trolling. However, the support that came through after posting stories explaining why I deleted and re-uploaded, was physically overwhelming.
I had 100+ DMs from people who had received abuse themselves, some that supported us or even just liked the fact we were openly talking about it when many others might brush it under the rug. Additionally, the post received nearly 200 comments, all bar a few being supportive and understanding. I was shocked at how many people suffer cyber bullying and trolling on their posts and it has got to stop.
We are Equestrians, part of a small community who love our horses like children and probably put them first over most people, including ourselves. We clean their poo, we clean their coats, we spend hours with them in the freezing cold because numb fingers are worth the horse going into a clean bed with fresh hay and water. We suffer vet bills, falls, getting bitten, rained on, slobbered on, heartache and disappointment but that’s part of being equestrian and worth it for the squishy soft muzzles, floppy ears and that horse smell that you want to bottle up and make into a candle (or maybe I’m just a little weird) so in my opinion the LAST thing we need are strangers making nasty, hurtful comments.
My video was less than 30 seconds of our 45 min training session and a SNAPSHOT. It was funny and I thought it represented a touch of reality all horse riders could relate to. I wasn’t asking for training tips or a quick riding lesson on Instagram. I am fortunate to have the benefit of great training with international Grand Prix riders who are very knowledgeable and experienced, who know me and my horses extremely well and are helping coach me to make my grand prix debut soon.
But here are a number of internet coaches out there who feel they are qualified to make nasty and hurtful (and in the majority of cases, incorrect) comments on the basis of a 30 second video snap shot! Of a horse and rider they have never seen or ever met. It does make me wonder why we all bother travelling the length and breadth of the country for lessons with qualified coaches and riders?!
Ok, in the video my heels may have gone up or I may have leaned forward to calm him down, but so what? Who really cares enough to actually spend their time leaving a nasty comment? Who else is sitting on top of a fresh, young 650kg stallion? No-one knows what happened in the preceding 40 minutes, the day before or, basically anything other than a quick video clip. One troll, after offering a particularly nasty opinion, then admitted she didn’t actually ride herself! Some have suggested that I don’t wear spurs to ride in as I am clearly hurting him (it’s compulsory dress at FEI Prix St George) or that I shouldn’t have a bit in my horse’s mouth as it’s cruel (again, a bit is compulsory at my level of competition).
No ‘one size fits all’ approach works with horses and I believe real equestrians will know that you adapt to every horse and every different situation that you may be thrown into. But the biggest thing for me is that you shouldn’t be quick to judge what you don’t know. No one knows our horses as well as we do and therefore no one can tell us what we should or shouldn’t be doing in terms of care and actions. We don’t go out of our way to ride badly or do something wrong to the animals we love like children and the negativity has got to stop. If you wouldn’t go up to someone in person and say it, then don’t say it online. And before posting something negative, just sit back and think, why am I saying this? Is it constructive or helpful in any way? If not, don’t post it. It is as simple as that.
Trolling is an insecure, coward’s way of feeling important and in no way represents us and I really hope we can raise awareness and try to stop this together!