The showing producer gives her take on the impact of social media in her sport — plus find out how to rise above the horse world’s keyboard warriors

When Lynn Russell won the maxi cob championship at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) last October with Jovian, an unfortunate photo appeared on social media and the keyboard warriors launched into a deeply unseemly tirade.

“Fat” was the least vitriolic of the adjectives used to describe the Irish draught known as Pinkie.

Like many in the showing world for the long haul, Lynn has had to grow a thick skin, though it’s obvious even now that the remarks upset her. But it all paled into insignificance when she lost the eight-year-old to a colon torsion two days after I visited her yard at Dunsfold, Surrey. It is hardly surprising that she is vitriolic about Facebook and its ilk.

It’s killing the job,” she says, with understandable vehemence. “I think people who show professionally or judge, or have anything to do with the horse world, should be very careful with social media. It’s become nasty and somebody will chuck a lawsuit at someone and end up with a lot of money.

“That said, it can be useful. I sell tack on Facebook — a lot of second-hand stuff, some 
of which I sell to raise money for charity — and I use it to advertise clinics and for staff.”

Using social media responsibily

People who comment on a picture, post or news story — any online content — with a cutting remark are often called keyboard warriors. They tend to have a point to make and an opinion, and will happily air it without any regard for how it’s being seen or taken, and often without full knowledge of a situation.

From there it can escalate quite quickly and become fairly unpleasant, with the individual casting aspersions on various aspects of the horse and rider, such as their attitude, care of horse, animal welfare, authenticity, etc. But there are actions you can take to avoid becoming party of a social media storm.

1. Report threatening posts

Many social media platforms have functions that allow posts to be reported and, if posts take a threatening nature (such as the threat to kill or cause damage) then they should be reported to the police.

2. Move to private messaging

‘Rising above it’ can be easier said than done, but entering into an all-too-public slanging match isn’t an appropriate course of action either. Moving a conversation to private messaging can be a good move. Remember to keep calm and don’t lose your cool. Maintain a professional, collected front at all times — even if inside you’re not dealing with it all that well. Of course, you always have the block and delete function too, which can be useful.

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3. Stay positive

As when face-to-face, not everyone will be best friends on social media either. Keep in touch with people who you like, but accept that people will have differences of opinion. Just because you don’t agree, doesn’t mean that you – or the other person – is wrong. Don’t focus on trying to make other people like you – be genuine and who you really are. Spend your time and effort being the best person you can be and focus on your own life and ambitions, rather than what others are doing or saying.

4. Know the boundaries yourself

There’s a line between expressing an opinion, and bullying. As a general rule, if you wouldn’t say it to a person’s face, you shouldn’t type it.

5. Check out society rules on social media use

Most of the showing societies and governing bodies have introduced social media rules in their handbooks or rulebooks so make sure you are familiar with what they say and stick to the rules if you want to avoid ending up in hot water.

Read the full interview with Lynn Russell in this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (22 February 2018)