Several showing societies have adopted a social media policy to deal with the rising trend of offensive remarks aimed at judges and members posted online.

The British Show Pony Society (BSPS)’s rulebook for 2013 bans posts on social media sites and forums that “could damage the reputation of the BSPS, its members or former members”.

It states that the society “may carry out internet searches to identify postings”.
“People become very brave when they’re anonymous,” said judge Stuart Hollings, who discusses the issue in his column for H&H this week.

“This is a good opportunity to tell people, in a rulebook, that they can be discovered and I think that will have a [positive] effect.”

BSPS vice chairman Paul Cook said other societies — including the British Show Horse Association (BSHA) and the Coloured Horse and Pony Society (CHAPS) — have followed this example.

He told H&H: “While social media is great for offering live feeds from shows and instant results, it also gives people the opportunity to hide behind anonymity.

“It is important to safeguard people’s views, but we must also protect against libel.”

Any breach of this new policy could lead to disciplinary action being taken against a member and even civil or criminal proceedings, said Mr Cook.

H&H showing editor Nicola Jane Swinney said she had experienced the problem of abusive comments first-hand on the equestrian forum Horse Gossip.

“I have been heavily criticised [on Horse Gossip] for light-hearted remarks I’ve made while doing H&H’s live text commentary from Horse of the Year Show and Olympia.

“Constructive criticism is fine, but some of the posters on Horse Gossip seem to go out of their way to be ‘offended’ and they tend to get very personal,” she added.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (4 April 2013)