What other people think of me is none of my business. So says the quote which is attributed to so many people that I’m going to claim it as my own – it’s certainly been one of my mantras for a while now. The problem is when so much of your life is public, other people’s opinions can be hard to avoid, especially when they seem to have so much time on their hands to comment. Of course in my case, most of what I put out there is through my own choice and while I go to some lengths to include the less salubrious moments along with the highs, what goes on Facebook and Instagram is still curated. I’m not competing at the moment, so all my horse riding and care goes on ‘behind closed doors’ by accident rather than design and I get to choose exactly what gets published.
When I see posts asking for advice on how to deal with the incredibly difficult decisions that must be made at the end of a horses life that begin with ‘no nasty comments’, it breaks my heart. How anyone can be hurtful and judgmental when a person is actively trying to do their very best for their horse is beyond me. And the problem with this particular decision is that it is very rarely black & white. Apart from the instance of a catastrophic injury, at some point it is up to us to decide that quality of life has deteriorated so much that the kindest thing is to let them go. I’ve had to make this choice a couple of times and it still makes me sick to the stomach. I second guess myself, even though I know intellectually that it was the right thing to do.
Sometimes the keyboard warriors will tell themselves that they are commenting on an incident for the good of the sport, or in order to make change. If they see other people commenting they will take solace in the fact that other people are saying what they are thinking and a herd mentality kicks in. The thing is, attacks or comments about an individual rarely achieve lasting change. The one thing they do achieve is to hurt the individual involved, for an incident they are very likely castigating themselves for in the first place and can destroy the reputation and livelihood of these people, putting them in an even more desperate situation. Lord knows, I’ve made some pretty crappy choices and done some pretty vile things in the past, I’ve just been fortunate that most of these have happened with minimal witnesses. Believe me, I gave myself enough of a talking to without having the rest of the world pile on. The thing that I’ve come to understand is that most people are making their choices with good intent. They are operating as best they can with the resources they have available to them in any given moment.
While there are many examples in the equestrian world, I make a point of never naming individuals, unless it is to lift them up. Instead I will turn to another sphere that I have had a lot of involvement with – the NHS. In 20 years of nursing I’ve been involved in a number of sentinel events. It is just by chance that I never made an error that resulted in me personally coming under outside scrutiny, but I’ve had a number of close colleagues that have. These people are kind, generous and competent – they are individuals that I would personally and literally trust with my life. My comment whenever I see people’s actions being attacked is ‘do you think these people go to work on a given day to make your life worse?’ Yes, they make mistakes – they are human, but it is always the system that needs review, not the individual. They are doing what they can with what they have. It’s the same in sport.
If you want something changed, then get involved in education, or lobby the lawmakers.
(Photo below is of a woman laughing as she hauls on her obviously distressed horse's mouth. If you want the full story, visit this link.)
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