Whilst a number of my close friends know the mental torment and anguish that I suffered at the hands of what I call the “girl-gang” in a livery yard I was in – mostly – people don’t… because I mean really – what grown woman – in her 30s is at the mercy of these people? But thanks to the “HAY Campaign” – its apparent – that actually quite a lot – women and men of all ages, statutes, professions and levels are.. so it gave me the courage to share my story.
I’m going to call this livery yard – Hell. Because although I had been there for many years, where I was exceptionally happy, surrounded by great friends and tried to spend every hour I could there… the arrival of one livery – we’ll call her X – was to become the demise of my happiness, confidence, peace and sanity.
Within a short period of her arrival – my closest friends had made the decision to get out of horses, so sold up and more liveries came in… as I was with every one that came through the door – I offered advice on local hacks, showed them around and made them feel as welcome as I could and we all rubbed along just fine… until one of these liveries – out of fear of a incident that involved X – placed blame on me and stupidly, I allowed it happen to the point I couldn’t undo it. Literally overnight, X turned on me – her and her husband became openly sneering – making comments like “you’d want to get out of this yard – you’re not wanted here”, “ no one likes you”, “. I don’t think anyone can realise just how hurtful words are – but soon to my horror, I realised that fellow liveries – out of fear for this woman and her husband, also started to isolate me – it was a case of throwing out morals and kindness, to side with the bully to protect themselves. Of course not everyone did this – I still had friends there, but my hardest times were arriving to the yard, rounding the corner and seeing certain cars, that were not my friends, parked there.
Only someone who has suffered at the hands of people like this, will know that sinking feeling. Your heart start thumping in your chest, tears pricking at your eyes and the overwhelming want to turn around and leave. But you can’t – because amongst this hell – lies your horse.
I often envisioned walking into that yard like a horror movie – the long dark building – stables either side… me standing at the entrance, alone, daring myself to walk looking straight ahead until I got to his stable. The “girlgangers” stood in corners or outside stable doors cruelly sniggering or making comments of “would she ever fuck off out of here”- the demons and tormentors in this film – trying and mostly succeeding to break me – It is only when I reached the safety of my stable, door closed behind me that I would breathe… my horses friendly welcome, needed so badly.
It was on the days when I went to the yard and they weren’t there – that was a joyous treat – there were mainly 4 of them – the wife and husband duo, another two girls that were petrified of their own horses strength and basically had nothing better to do than stand around bitching about not just me, but everyone – but nothing forms a bond amongst people that actually in reality detest each other – like a bond of dislike for someone else.
Other liveries in the yard were neither friends nor enemies – we rubbed along. They knew what was going on and they didn’t get involved – and I don’t blame them… but I did appreciate their inclusion in conversations and shows of kindness.
But my torment didn’t end there – they then started tormenting my horse. Despite several requests to both them directly and the yard owner,who didn’t get involved in anything – they would continue to hang wet rugs on a banister over his stable – throwing them loudly, him spooking underneath – enjoying knowing that upsetting him was inadvertently upsetting me. Intentionally leaving piles of manure outside his stable door. Taking the shared yard wheelbarrow and confining it in their stable whilst they chit chatted- knowing I was waiting on it. When I’d be in the yard with none of my friends present – they’d cheerily organise hacks and enjoy chattering away as they headed out – having totally blanked me.
My horse became my biggest mental anguish. Other than their nasty tactics with the rug throwing, or deliberately teasing him – he was happy there – he’d been there 10 years – he had friends, he knew the place inside out and whilst all I wanted to do was leave – even sell him – anything to escape this mental prison I was living in – I tried to stick it out. My weight plummeted, I couldn’t sleep, I began to feel darkly depressed. I felt trapped – trapped in a world of hatred, nastiness and fear of these women and just how far they could push me.
Then the intimidation progressed to shows – clapping and cheering loudly if my horse knocked a fence. Parking next to me so they could torture me even outside of the yard – standing around in their little girl gangs, directly blocking me so I’d have to walk around – walking to close to my dog whom they also knew was nervous – leaving ramps down so I was unable to turn my horse box – it just became never ending.
I now started dreading going to shows. I started dropping down to the lowest grade classes so I could get there – jump and leave the show as fast as possible.
These women – in particular X were dictating my every move around horses. They sucked my enjoyment out of a sport I grew up in – and loved. And when there was no let up in the yard, I eventually found myself looking down the barrell of a gun – my options were clear – I had to do or die… so I organised moving my horse to another yard – a private yard where there was only me and one other livery. My horse would have to just settle in – to which he did and literally overnight – my mental anguish improved.
I started to enjoy going to the yard – spending time with my animals – not rushing in and out and avoiding the things I loved most because of the girlgang’s negative influence – Removing myself from that toxic environment – saved my mental health – possibly even my life. And the most ironic thing is – once I’d left – a number of the liveries reached out to me and apologised – for not helping me, or believing me when I told them what I was going through – and the one thing that they all echoed was they didn’t help, because they didn’t want to be X’s next victim. So fear in turn resulted in turning their back on the issue.
So to ANYONE who is reading this and can put themselves in my shoes – that knows the feelings I am describing – get your horse and go. There are a million yards out there – maybe they don’t have the same facilities, maybe they’re more expensive, or further out -but you CANNOT put a price on your mental health.
If there are any “girlgang” types reading this – put yourself in mine and so many others who experience this type of bullying. Know that you are taking away what for many, is their only enjoyment or break from reality . You don’t have to like a person – it’s irrational to think everyone can like each other – but you don’t have to terrorise them. Just let it be. Let people enjoy their horse.