I have been asked my opinion on the recent social media debate over publically criticising riders.
The debate started when one rider entered an intermediate I test and was criticised for the way she treated the horse, and for her lack of proper aids etc.
I agree that sometimes there are people who spend their time criticising others even when that rider is trying to do their best, and can go too far in terms of how they choose to express that criticism.
However, I believe that if you put yourself in a public arena then you are giving the public permission to judge you, and to criticise you.
If you don’t want to be judged and criticised then it’s better that you don’t compete.
I often use myself as an example to show how riders can better improve on something, and many people found this quite refreshing, as riders tend to be overly sensitive when it comes to criticism of their riding. I am a huge fan of criticism as it is the only way to get better. If everyone is always telling you what you want to hear then how do you improve?
If you don’t want to improve that’s ok for you, but the major factor is that our sport involves TWO parties, and the public feel a duty towards the care and protection of the horse. When they criticise you it’s often not because they want to make you feel bad, but that they want to help you realise that your horse is not happy.
Surely in that light it’s a good thing!
If I see a rider who clearly has not established a proper seat, or correct aids, but the horse is quite clearly just having a lovely time, then I see absolutely no need to criticise too harshly. BUT if the horse is quite clearly suffering, then it is the publics duty to bring that to the riders and to everyone else’s attention for the good of the horse!
However, the major point in all this, is that for a rider to be riding at intermediate I level they need to have qualified, and if a rider who is not capable of riding at that level has qualified, then isn’t there a gap in the system?
Isn’t that why we have levels, for riders to progress at the correct time?
Isn’t that why we have judges, and stewards and trainers, to help riders understand their ability and compete at a level according to that ability?
For me, by the time the rider is being publically slammed at a level they should not be in, the system has failed, and more importantly we have failed that horse.
I condemn those who slam riders who are clearly trying to do their best, on a horse that is very well treated and clearly happy with their rider, but I cannot dissagree with the publics ability to criticise riders who put themselves in a public arena.
There have been times when I was harshly criticised on social media, maybe because a photo was not correct or I said something that was taken in the wrong context. But I compete in a public arena, and I write in a public forum, so people are entiltled to their opinion, and quite often, if used in the right way, riders can benefit from even the harshest remark.
In our sport, ego can never get in the way of the health and happiness of the horse, and so if you ride with your ego, be prepared that it will suffer if others in our sport feel that your ego is sacrificing the health of the horse.
If you don’t want to be judged don’t compete. If you don’t compete, try to judge others in a fair and helpful way, and whatever you do, compete or not compete, criticise or don’t criticise, accept criticism or don’t accept criticism, remember that it’s not just about you, it’s about your horse, and all the horses that try their best for us every time we ride.