I don’t know if I’m imagining it, but with social media becoming more and more prevalent, I am noticing a trend in the equestrian world based around image. In the last decade, the growth among social media platforms has meant that the equestrian community has been able to connect in a way that it never has before. Gone are the days where the only ‘horse friends’ you had were the ones you met at Pony Club or your stables – today Facebook groups, YouTube, Instagram and the likes mean that riders from all over the world are connecting and forming friendships far and wide. And I think its great! However, having these platforms to our community available has meant that Equestrians have become more focused on ‘trends’ than ever before.
Although I am the definition of a shopaholic, to me horses have always been an escape from having to be ‘on trend’ and materialistic. Don’t get me wrong, I am the first person to go and splurge on a new dress for a night out with the girls, but when it comes to horses I’ve always been content with chucking a plain old saddle blanket on my horse, as long as it’s clean. My philosophy has always been that my tack is there to facilitate my riding – improving myself as a rider and focusing on the training of my horse has always come before looking ‘on trend’ in the saddle. It’s not because I can’t afford to go and buy the latest colour in matching saddle blanket/bandage/bonnet sets, it’s because to be honest, I think it’s a bit of a wank.
The reason I am telling you this is not because I’m a boring 24 year old wanting to ruin the children’s fun, it’s because I’m seeing a disturbing pattern emerge. There are a lot of younger riders (teens and young adults) who want to walk the walk, but can’t talk the talk. I’m talking about the people who will plaster photos of themselves and their beloved equines dolled up in the latest tack/outfit, looking like they’ve just been training at Boneo Park with Charlotte Dujardin, all for a bit of a brag and self esteem boost. That’s fine, you look great, however, I have personally witnessed some of these said fancy pants riders in action, and it ain’t that pretty. This surprised me, because a lot of the photos I see feature a well put together combination ticking along nicely, but it’s important to remember that a photo is only a moment in time. Actually seeing the comparison between a posted photo and the real deal is something not every viewer gets to see – like anything else, some of these riders are painting a picture of them selves on the internet that is false of their actual ability. Thus, somehow while said riders were focusing on how great they look, they forgot about the fundamentals of the sport – training and learning.
This post is basically a massive vent of frustration for me, because pony politics is bad enough without adding a superficial dimension to it all. To all the young girls out there on social media – please don’t get sucked in by the materialistic crap. Focus on your riding first, and having the latest bling browband last. Remember that who people are online is a constructed portrayal of themselves, you only see what they want you to see; and in this case, that’s their pretty tack and not their true riding ability.
Below: this is a moment in time of me at a competition. Yes my horse looks very relaxed, little do you know that he spooked at the bloody dressage arena walls for the first half of my dressage test that day :’)