Being a blogger can have it’s ups and downs. On one hand, it’s fun to share everything with people… you often find a lot of common ground and camaraderie in both the triumphs and the struggles of day-to-day horse ownership. You also have a really detailed journal of sorts, which can be fun and really helpful to look back on. For some of us, writing can even be cathartic, in a way. And then of course, there’s the other end of the spectrum: sharing so many details, good and bad, can leave you open for a lot of criticism. I think just about every blogger, and honestly probably most people that are active on any kind of social media, have probably encountered this.
It’s easy to sit here behind a computer screen and judge someone’s situation, especially when it comes to photos. I think we’ve all been guilty of it at least a few times. But unless you a) know someone’s horse b) know someone’s story c) have a really good understanding of their sport… can you really get an accurate assessment of the situation from a photo?
I kinda feel like, for me personally, there are a few things I will always judge someone for:
- Hurting a horse, either intentionally or via gross negligence.
- Being a jerk to a horse.
- Acting like you’re perfect when you’re not. That’s just annoying. Don’t do that.
Things I will not judge you for:
- Your leg slipping back
- Your hands being too high/low
- Your release not being perfect
- Looking down
- Making mistakes
- All that other minutia that is just a part of riding
The vast majority of us are amateurs. We don’t get to sit on a ton of horses or spend 6 hours a day riding. We aren’t perfect, but I think it’s safe to say that the majority of us are trying to be better. Some of us have demons to work through, or issues that have plagued us forever. We make mistakes. I also know that what is correct for one sport is not necessarily correct for all sports, so I’m not going to sit here and criticize someone’s barrel racing or reining or endurance photos when I quite admittedly do not have a damn clue what I’m looking at.
For the most part I’ve dodged personal criticism a lot more than some other bloggers, probably because my horse is pretty simple and there isn’t a lot of major struggle for us aside from my own continuing education. For that I’m grateful, because I’ve seen some of the messages that strangers have had the audacity to send to other bloggers, and it is shocking. FYI, internet – it’s ok to express concern if it’s warranted, but it’s not ok to be an complete asshole about it.
This past weekend on Instagram I posted a picture from XC schooling that is not classically correct – we’d gotten a longish distance to a wide fence, so I stayed in a safety seat and let Henry work it out.
Someone thought it was appropriate to send me a message telling me that it was a horrible photo, that I was ripping my horse’s mouth off and slamming him in the back. I had no business jumping and should be ashamed of myself. How could I possibly be proud of a picture like that, they asked.
Ah, ever-so-kind internet stranger… let me tell you why.
I’ve always hated that damn fence. It’s wide, and I’ve found it intimidating. When we first schooled it a year ago I had a tendency to panic and either chase my horse to the base or curl up into fetal position and provide zero assistance, making his job really difficult. It’s been a while since I jumped it. So we galloped down to it and got a slightly long distance… not perfect. But here’s what happened this time: my horse was confident enough to go anyway, I kept my eyes and body up, I kept my balance back so he could easily get his front end up, slipped the reins as much as he needed, he was able to make a huge effort without me impeding him, and we galloped away in balance together, horse happy and looking for the next one like it was no big deal.
Was it perfect? No. Of course not. But any eventer will tell you that XC is not about being perfect. When a sport involves galloping at speed over solid fences, with varying terrain, out in the open, foot perfect rounds are few and far between. Being an effective XC rider is about learning to have good instincts in a less than perfect situation – something that has not been easy for me (especially when it comes to sitting the eff up, because laying on the neck and staring down at the source of my impending doom is a favorite pastime of mine). The fact that this fence happened the way it did, we both handled it safely and without issue, and didn’t miss a beat… that did more for my confidence as a rider (and spoke more to our progress together) than 100 perfect fences would have.
So, to circle back to the question – how could I proud of that? Well, I’m pleased that I’m finally able to canter down to a jump that used to make me crap my pants, get a meh distance, and have no issue handling it in a safe way – a way that actually helps instead of hinders my horse. Who, btw, is a badass and jumped the absolute crap out of that fence, which is why I posted it in the first place. He’s amazing, with or without me. If you want to judge me for that, go ahead, knock yourself out.
I’m not quite sure what some of these Internet trolls think they’re going to accomplish by making rude comments to random amateur riders regarding their skill set or lack thereof. I think I’ll go with what my trainer says, but thanks so much for the fun and abundantly helpful critique. *insert much eye rolling here* PS – if you were trying to hurt my feelings, you’re going to have to try a lot harder than that. There is literally no one on the planet who is more critical of my riding than I am.
At the end of the day, we don’t know what each other’s struggles are as a rider, and sometimes we don’t really even have a full understanding of each other’s sports. You see people criticizing hunter riders or eventers for their “equitation” in a photo (god, can we STOP with the idea of one exact perfect position already? I hate it.) all the time. Sometimes though, there’s a reason for what you’re seeing in one still frame. This is just as good a reminder to me as anything else… maybe we should take a minute to consider things before we pass judgment.
Well… unless you’re mean to your horse… then all bets are off, you jerk. 😉