Something I saw last week on Instagram bothered me a little. Lainey Ashker posted a pic of her before dressage at the Carolina CIC3* and she was wearing a top hat. Normally when I see this I just roll my eyes and think the person is an idiot (natural selection at it’s finest!), but I guess this one bothered me a little more because so many of LA’s almost 5,000 Instagram followers, and fans in general, are kids. You don’t see William Fox-Pitt with a super active Insta and Facebook, creating a bit of a “relationship” with us commoners, even though his wearing of a top hat does trigger the same eye rolling from me. But Lainey is a social media butterfly, and as such her following has the demographic that you’d expect: young and impressionable. There’s a lot of worship going on in the comments of most of her Instagram photos. I think that’s what bothers me slightly more about this one than WFP.
I’m all for people having the right to do what they choose, even if that choice is stupid. But I guess at some point that line is blurred for me when the person in question is what could be considered a role model and public figure. At what point do you think the pros/upper level riders should care more about setting a good example than their own personal fashion sense?
I personally think she looked so much better, and so much smarter, in this picture from showing dressage in Wellington:
When USEventing posted a pic of LA at Carolina on their Instagram account someone made a remark about the top hat. LA’s mom was quick to jump to her defense with this comment:
I have to admit, here’s where my eye rolling intensified to such a grandiose level my eyeballs almost fell out. You’re joking, right? Woo, go ‘Murica! Woo, head injuries are my god-given right! If you make me put a helmet on, you’re anti-America! Everybody wave your American flags!
I’m a little torn here, because LA and her mom are not wrong. It IS totally legal to wear a top hat, and it IS her right to do so. In general I’m a flaming liberal and am all about people being able to make choices for themselves. But I guess the word for how I feel about it is disappointed. I’m disappointed that there are some pro’s out there who, despite having lots of people that look up to them and even borderline worship them, opt for the selfish choice. I’m disappointed that Lainey is only one of many. I’m disappointed that in this day and age where we have seen so many people taken down by head injuries, most of which happen in the “dumbest” of ways, people still choose to go unprotected. I’m disappointed that anyone would choose fashion over safety. I’m disappointed that people are too selfish to protect themselves as much as possible, because if you end up with a TBI you aren’t the only one whose life is forever changed. I’m disappointed that helmets are not mandatory for FEI competition… and yet I’m also disappointed that it’s necessary to force people to wear a helmet. We are smarter than this, aren’t we?
How do you feel about it? Should everyone be free to wear whatever they choose without scrutiny? Should pro’s be considered role models and therefore held to higher expectations? What do you think when you see someone come down centerline in a top hat instead of a helmet?