I spend time during almost every week of a horse show giving hugs and listening while tears roll down someone’s face. These are generally sport and horse related moments. We put so much into this sport – time, energy, money, effort – that when it doesn’t go as planned, it can be devastating. Sometimes, you just need to let off some steam. I get it – we’ve all been there. We just find a corner of the horse show or a quiet barn or a car and let all of that emotion flow. That is sport.
These moments of angst that really stick in my craw, however, are the ones that are preventable. The ones caused by people (usually needlessly) being just plain nasty to each other. When daily stress turns into rude, when rude turns into mean, when mean turns into bullying. It is a cycle that is so easy to fall into. We are all guilty. We spend a lot of time together without really knowing each other, and as we become “camp close,” we suddenly judge, belittle, and ridicule- repeatedly and easily.
It is wrong. We need to stop.
Another difficulty of “camp close” is that we forget about the ages of some people at the horse show. People still occasionally ask me if I’m showing in the Juniors. Junior riders are seen selling horses and hustling up their own deals. Age seems to transcend sport as we truly have one of the only sports that offers a remarkably even playing field over one’s entire life.
Kids grow up quickly in the equestrian world, but they are still kids. They are asked to be responsible, independent, and interactive. But, they are still kids. They are vulnerable, morally unfinished, and emotionally volatile. As adults, let us mirror generosity and inclusion. Let us show the value of sportsmanship and the strength of community. It is tough to grow up these days. Our world- the barn, the shows, the ring- should provide support and protection, not negativity and nastiness.
We are all so fortunate to be spending our days in this sport that we love. We are the lucky ones. Look up, look around, and appreciate our good fortune. Let us celebrate each other and realize that the best way to improve our sport is from within.