“I don’t ride this small stuff. These jumps are boring. Maybe I’d do it bareback, then it would be fun.” She said it with a smile, but it still stung, still cast a faint shadow over the pride I felt in my little grey horse. It was the mare’s first show, and we had had a double clear in the 60cm class.
You don’t know my story, I wanted to tell her. You don’t know how much blood and sweat and tears and how many hours were poured into this horse, or how much work and how much guts and gumption it took to get this far, from the both of us. You don’t know how many issues we worked through or how she was afraid of everything and how brave and hardworking this small, freebie, crossbred mare is. But maybe, maybe she did know about the blood, sweat and tears. Maybe she just wanted to feel a little specialness, a thrill of pride, as we all do. So I said nothing, and I hugged my horse and I was still proud, but I still remember it. And it wasn’t even bullying.
“There are so many things wrong with backing a horse at the age of two, on every level,” the commenter splurged, the very text bursting with the heat of their anger. I felt anger rise in me in return, but swallowed it down. I backed my horse when he was two. He is one of the healthiest, happiest horses under saddle I know. So I still ride him and he’s still happy, but I still remember it. And it wasn’t even bullying.
Every day, everywhere, there are people breaking down others with cruel words and angry glares, pouring out hatred and conviction and spite in a desperate attempt to relieve their own pain, belittling others out of their own lack of self-confidence, trampling on others to get onto their soapboxes and spew anger on them from that pedestal, all to find some sense of self-righteousness and quell their own guilt. Desperate posts from crushed horsepeople splatter across the Internet like innocent blood: “These girls won’t stop making fun of my horse. Help.” “They say I’m too fat to ride, but I love it too much to quit. What should I do?” “They poke fun at me because I’m only competing at a low level, but I don’t want to move up. Should I stop competing?”
Enough is enough.
This has got to stop.
Every horse and every rider is unique, special and amazing. It stands to reason: they were all created. God hand-crafted every human being and all of their equine partners, putting inexpressible love into every cell, every hair, every fibre. We are all beautiful, valuable, beloved beyond all reason – all of us, including the bullied, including the bullies. It is time to stop pointing fingers, to start holding out our hands to help, opening our eyes to the pain in this world and to our marvellous ability to soothe it. Judgment, bitterness, harsh words – this all has to stop. The power of life and death is in the tongue. Literally. How many suicides come about as a result of bullying that never turns physical?
Horsemanship is not about status. It is not about warmbloods or Wintecs or keeping up with the Joneses. It’s not about French links or perfect braids. It’s not about right or wrong or brand names or bling or medals or ribbons or river sand arenas. It’s about that perfect early-morning, precious-memories smell of a sweating horse and the creak of the saddle and the slap of the stirrups and the sound a flying change makes when you get it exactly right. It’s not about the regionals or the championships, or palomino or pinto or bay without chrome. It’s about that summer-lovin’ shimmer of a well-groomed mare and that ecstatic, air-savouring flick at the floating end of an extended trot stride.
It’s not about bloodlines and pedigrees and breeding and feeding, and leather versus synthetic and booting for turnout and making Grand Prix by the time he’s eight years old. It’s about that star-touching, moon-clearing feeling at the apex of a jump and the whiskers of a newborn foal all tangled with youngness. It’s not about being over-matched or over-mounted or finding talent or realising potential. It’s about the heart-filling smile of a disabled four-year-old hugging the neck of a rescued horse, about the warm-honey feeling in your heart when you perfect the rising trot for the first time. It’s not about chiropractors or training methods or fitness or the heart rate of your horse at a gallop. It’s about the pumping of his neck in front of you and the power of his hindquarters and the way he drinks in the wind like he’ll never get enough of it, like the very breath in his lungs is a celebration.
Most of all, it’s not about equipment or events or disciplines or arenas or facilities or famous names. It’s not even about horses. It’s about people. It’s about that special something a horse excites in a human’s heart that makes them want to speak to a creature that can never, in words, reply.
We are all horsemen. We all know about the smells and the sounds and the feeling of the furry winter coats when you fluff them up the wrong way to make them ripple underneath your hands. We all know how big the sky is when you’re a horse’s height closer to touching it. We know how hard it is to get that horsy greasiness out from under your fingernails when you’ve scratched a foal’s butt until he croons with pleasure. That’s the greatest thing about equestrianism: Young or old, short or tall, rich or poor, fat or thin, able-bodied or not, we can all be horsemen, and we can all know about the love between a human and a beast, about that silent language we use to communicate across species. At the end of the day we all look into those unknowably deep dark eyes and see the stars, and something in them touches our very souls so that a chord sings out pure and clear.
What a beautiful melody we all will play when our horse-touched souls may sing together. Let us reach out to each other with love today. Let our smiles be real, our words as helpful as they are honest, and our actions driven always and forever by that purest and best and greatest motive of them all: love.
Enough is enough. We all love our horses. Let us love one another. #RideAboveHate
I stand against bullying. If you’re looking for another way to take that stand, click here to see where the #RideAboveHate initiative started. Write a post with the video embedded and tell the world why we should love one another. Spread the word and ride above hate.