Has Social Media ruined the Equine World?

I struggled long and hard before I decided to write this article for the simple fact that I feel it can apply, hit home, embarrass or aggravate any one of us. I would like to state that this article is a combined reflection of both my own and people I have spoken to about this subject, views. I’d also like to state that I am not exempt from posting my achievements on Social Media. The following is just how in my opinion, the horse world has changed over the last few decades and how I feel Social Media – whilst can be amazing and beneficial, educational and helpful – can also become an almost negative obsession when it comes to the Equine Sector.

Horse world – 1990:

Your horse has just placed in a jump-off. Everyone around the ring clapping – as happy for you as if they won it themselves. As you leave the ring – nearly choking your horse with the ferocity of the hug that they’re getting – polos being shoved down their mouth as fast as they can chew. Back at the box, your proud parent is taking a photo of your new red rosette, making sure the horse is standing at the best angle to show off your pristinely cleaned saddle. You walk around the showgrounds for the rest of the day proudly wearing that rosette on your jacket, like you’d just won the Olympic gold.

Horse world – 2022:

Your horse has just placed in a jump-off. There are a few around the ring that clap, maybe more if it’s a big competition. You smile and give a thumbs up to your friends and family who are like the paparazzi gathered ringside videoing. For smaller shows, you can go collect your rosette from the judge’s box. Quick fix of the hair, straighten the jacket and there’s time for a selfie with your friends with the horse somewhere in there, before posting to social media. Horse Is popped back in the horsebox and it’s off for chips.

Then you wait.. bing bing bing, how many likes can you rack up and how fast. Every like sends your heart racing – you got 105 likes at the last show – but maybe you can get more this week. The competition that often should have just ended in the ring when you went through that finish sign – now is only really beginning. That euphoria that should be shared with your horse – for being the amazing team that you both are together, is replaced by the buzz you get when you feel your phone vibrate. The glory continues long into the night as more and more people see your victory post and you are already looking forward to the next show.

Or if you’ve had a bad day and knocked a pole or two – cut that out of the video – portray the image of perfection. I’ve seen this happen more times than I care to. People are ashamed to show that their horse is capable of knocking a fence. Instead of being proud of the fact they left that ring intact and safe, the onus is instead focused on “the perfect round”. The intent to be the Facebook or Insta star becomes an obsession. Every action carried out around horses is not thought with for the good intention of the horse, but more so for, “ooh that would look good on Facebook.”

Regardless of age, sex, level – Social Media lives deep within the equine sector. People cannot carry out the most basic of tasks without sharing it with the world. There are no private lives anymore – in fact, the quality of life is now based on how many likes and complimentary comments one receives. We don’t care who the attention is received from – your most loved best friend, or your longest hated enemy – any attention is good when it comes to Social Media.

Have we as a race, become so self-obsessed, that we have lost track of the real meaning of Equestrianism? Forgetting the reason we ever started on this journey was because of our love of the horse – and the sport? Have we forgotten that feeling of overwhelming love we should feel for our animals – regardless of faults? Resenting them because they failed to win a rosette which means we have to make excuses of that “unlucky pole” or “that dog in the corner” and a plethora of other excuses – instead of just admitting – with NO shame or hesitation, that you and your horse had an off day. Every horse has them. Every rider has them. And if the failure to bring home a rosette can have such a detrimental effect on you- then maybe you are in the wrong sport – or have the wrong attitude. You have to take the good with the bad, the tears with the laughs, the downs with the ups.

Has social media overtaken the joy out of going to shows? As we arrive, does our heart drop when we see Maria A Million Followers parked alongside the judge’s box… Is social media literally consuming us? Are our fears of others opinions or judgments of us unconsciously making us resent the sport that is supposed to be fun? I believe it is!!

I think that Social Media – whilst is amazing in SO many positive amazing progressive ways – has somehow heightened us to the opinions of others. Has somehow, made us self-conscious in ways that we don’t even realize. It has brought competition that was once reserved for the show ring, right into our homes, to where there is no switch off point – no turning off from it. Has Social Media just turned us all into glory hunters? Wannabe Insta-stars? And most importantly – is it worth it?

Is a post showing off a prize worth the mental anguish, trauma, pressure and in all honestly – lack of enjoyment because of these emotions, worth ruining our love of the horse, the sport, the fun, the friends we make along the way and most importantly OURSELVES?? Because let me tell you, a bit of friendly competition is always good – and needed for us to grow and progress. There will always be haters – be-grudgers and jealous people – in all walks of life, but letting them steal your enjoyment – that’s just on you… letting the weight of other people’s opinions weigh you down? Nah… learn to rise above the pettiness and use their negativity as the ammunition you need to better yourself. And if your horse has an off day – remember to thank them regardless – remember to pat your horse – thank them for their effort and ensure their needs are always put before your own.

And always remember that your equine experience does not all come down to that one competition on that one day. That one social media post does not reflect your ability as a rider or the value of your horse. In fact, I’d love to see more of you post the realistic side of equine ownership… the manky stables, ripped rugs and horses refusing to be caught in sub-zero temperatures – in fact let’s start a trend – tag your everyday realistic horsey life using #grassrootsgazetterealisticequestrianlife

We look forward to seeing them all!

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Has Social Media ruined the Equine World?

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