What has happened to “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”?

The world of equestrianism appears to have an exceptional amount of cut-throat, back-stabbing and just plain meanness and drama surrounding it, and I don’t completely understand why.

There are entire social media groups dedicated to tearing down riders’ equitation. Not in a constructive criticism-type fashion, just literally as harsh and mean as you can be.

There are ‘anonymous’ Twitter accounts that do the same thing; make fun or be downright terrible at the expense of someone else, drag a person’s reputation through the mud or otherwise start WWIII via subtweets.

And this doesn’t just stay online, since we all know just how small the equestrian world is, social media makes it that much easier to be connected (for better or worse) and for the bullying, ridicule and drama to carry over into the real world.

But don’t worry, the rise of cyber-drama hasn’t diminished good-ole in-person drama in the slightest.

And again – I don’t understand WHY.

For me, it seems that a lot of the drama could be avoided through good communication, but moreover, people reflecting on the things they have rather than getting their noses in other people’s business or perpetually thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the pasture fence.

Someone has a nicer saddle than you? Cool.  Someone has a nicer horse than you? Cool. Someone has a nicer show jacket than you? Cool. Someone has a _______. How does any of it affect YOU?

I am happy with my horse. She cost me less than a month of board, and honestly, given the choice between her or a high price-tag pony, I’d still choose her.

My first saddle was as economy-priced as it got.  Sure, I yearned for a nicer piece of equipment, but I didn’t try to find fault in everyone who had nice things.  I saved up enough to the point I was able to have a nice saddle myself.

I just don’t understand judgement and drama stemming from things.  If someone shows up in whatever show clothes they can afford and put in a darn good show jump round or dressage test or barrel pattern or WHATEVER, does it really matter what they (or their horse) have on, as long as it is safe for horse and rider?

My first show season, I showed the entire year in a size 18 jacket my mom tailored the crap out of (I am a size 0), because that’s what I could afford that year. My breeches were cotton pull on breeches and I wore a borrowed helmet.

And on the contrary, someone has less nice things than you. How does it affect YOU? So what if they show up in a plastic helmet or their horse isn’t registered or their saddle isn’t name brand or WHATEVER. Again. If they show up and ride their hardest and they are happy and their horse is happy and they are safe, what does it really matter, TO YOU?

I don’t understand the culture of negativity. What effect does another rider, their equipment or lack thereof, their horse, whatever it is…what is the effect on YOU?  Does their horse make YOU a worse or better rider? No. Does them having not as nice a saddle as you, does that make YOU a better rider? No.

My mom has a saying that she likes, and it works quite well here. “The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances”.  I can, and have, walked into a show ring in a borrowed saddle because mine didn’t fit my own horse well, on a rescued ‘discount’ horse, with a no-name brand bridle, saddle pads I had won-there’s no way I could afford them otherwise, in knock-off name-brand open fronts, used breeches, the same tall boots I’ve had for over 3 years and ride in everyday, and a children’s-sized show coat I found for a steal on Black Friday.  My competitors? Some of them had custom boots, and embroidered soft shell jackets and new custom helmets, pristine breeches, and the highest dollar saddles; and their horses probably cost 20-50x what my horse did.

In the end, do any of those things make me a better or worse rider? Do they make my horse a better or worse athlete? Does having a name brand sewn in the back of my jacket collar make my heels stay down more? Do color-coordinated saddle pads make my horse jump higher?

No.  I walked out with handfuls of blue and red ribbons at every show.

You get out what you put into this sport, and as much as money helps, hard work and a good attitude goes an awful long way.

Saddle time, no stirrup work, grids, consistent lessons, lateral work, dressage basics, pole work, trot sets. These are things that will help improve you and your horse; not what someone else has or doesn’t have.

And even if you feel this way, I don’t understand the need to shout it from the rooftops, say it to someone’s face or probably even worse, whisper it behind someone’s back.

This sport is so close-knit, so small a community. Forget 6 degrees of separation, I bet you could get from any equestrian to another within 4 degrees of separation.

It is an entire industry built on relationships, communication, reputations and hard work.  Even if you dislike a person for whatever reason-valid or not; it is important to be amicable, always. You don’t have to love that person, but even if they aren’t your favorite individual you don’t have to jump straight to hatred. Whether that is another rider, a trainer, a manager, a farrier, a vet, another health care specialist…this industry is built on those connections.  Someone knows someone who knows someone who knows you. Or what someone did. Or heard someone say something terrible about another competitor, or was trashing a vet or farrier. Or saw a post someone was involved with on social media. And honestly, all that does is make that person look bad.  (This is not to say if someone did something truly egregious it should be taken seriously; but the drama, rumor-starting, name-calling, pettiness? It says more about the person spreading the drama than the person it’s about).

This sport is very much a team sport – between horse and rider, first and foremost.  What is so amazing about this sport is that there can be so much accomplishment even if that isn’t relayed in a score or ribbon color.  Maybe it’s the first time a pair has had a clean stadium round all season, reflecting hours of gymnastic work, but their dressage wasn’t great so they didn’t get close to winning, but they pinned for the first time this season. Or maybe it’s the first time a really reactive horse was able to make it all the way through their dressage test without exploding; it was tense and didn’t score fantastic, but it was a huge breakthrough for the horse and rider. Maybe it’s the first show out for a new combination. Whatever it is, there are so many victories to be celebrated in this sport, rather than tearing each other down.

Be happy for the rider who just got their first saddle; used and abused, or brand new and decked out with every fancy customization.

Be happy for the rider who got a new show jacket, even when they have 3 other ones.

Be happy for the rider who jumped their first course of cross-rails today.

Be happy for the rider who got a new horse – whether it’s a fancy import, or an OTTB, or anything in-between.

Be happy for the rider who moved up a level.

Be happy for the riders who show up and give it their all any time they are in the saddle.

Be happy for other riders, period. We are in a sport that is often fickle and unfair and sometimes cruel without the involvement of anyone else; there is no reason to waste a second on hating and tearing down others in this industry. If it doesn’t affect you and your horse, it isn’t your business. Better yourself, better your horse, and please. Remember to be kind.