#buddydontbully: online campaign aims to combat nastiness in the equestrian community

An eventer hopes to combat nastiness and bullying in the equestrian community by spreading positivity and support in a new online campaign.

East Sussex-based Jake Tarrant, a grassroots eventer who works with rehabilliated horses who have suffered psychological issues, created the ‘Good Sport’ initiative which aims to promote positivity among equestrians by using the hashtags #buddydontbully and #equestriansrethink. Jake started the campaign after seeing a post on a Facebook group that he believes incited bullying against an individual.

“The post was put up by an admin of the group and I thought to myself ‘this is wrong’. These groups are supposed to be forums for people to exchange ideas but they’re run by little groups of people who then dictate the morals and the moral compass of the group,” Jake told H&H.

“I thought it’s time for a different way and came up with the concept of the Good Sport initiative. By using hashtags anyone can search and view them so anybody that feels they would like to share their achievements within the equestrian community online can post what they’ve done on their own page with the hashtag, and like-minded individuals who want to see positivity can then encourage people to develop and improve – rather than tearing them down with negativity.”

Jake, who has suffered with depression and anxiety in the past, said social media has given people a place to say negative things without thinking them through.

“I’ve suffered with mental health problems and through those periods you interpret what people say and react to it in ways you wouldn’t necessarily do when you’re healthy,” he said.

“The internet has put this magical screen between people so people can say what they want. They may not mean it nastily but they don’t think about the consequence of what they’re saying and who they might be saying it to. It’s almost become a game of who can be the most shocking and they get more dramatic and offensive in their replies.”

Jake said he has seen an increase in nastiness and negativity in the equestrian community.

“Someone will achieve something fantastic for them, it might be their own personal success – be it getting back on a horse they’ve not been able to ride for the last six months because they’ve been too scared, or winning Badminton. But there will always be someone that wants to tear them down rather than appreciate it with them,” he said.

“If the equestrian world can have more of a social conscience then it can safeguard itself against negativity and bullying. It’s not always just online – you see it at competitions. Often it comes from insecurities or someone wants to achieve something and they can’t but they see someone else achieve it and rather than say well done, they belittle them and make derogatory remarks because that person has proven it is possible. It’s easier to belittle them than praise them.”

Jake says the Good Sport initiative has received a very positive reaction online and to celebrate the launch they have created a competition with Flying Changes Coaching, Equivation and Maxima Equestrian to reward positivity with prizes.

“Companies and social media influencers have been in touch who want to support it the campaign which is great. I get lots of messages from people who are still too embarrassed to post on social media their little achievements but they might send them to me so they’re sharing it with someone and that’s really uplifting. I’ve organised the competition to get more people sharing positive stories and try to keep the momentum moving forward,” he said.

“On Instagram I am also going to be doing a 30-day positivity challenge with Gracie Tyte, of @Pony_Nuts. Gracie has a big following of kids and teenagers who should be encouraged to be proud of what they’re doing rather than feel that they can’t share it. Online bullying is a huge thing for teenagers, you see it on the news on such a regular basis so we want to try and encourage the younger generation as well as adults.”

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Jake said people should be able to enjoy their horses without judgement from others.

“Horses are so emotionally draining – we put so much into them; our health, money, time, everything, and we should be able to enjoy them without worrying what people are thinking of us,“ he said.

“I’m not naïve enough to believe that just because somebody gets irritated seeing negativity on the internet and decides they want to try and change it that it will – it’s not as simple as that, but if we put the effort in and it makes a difference to one person or three people, then it’s still worth the effort.”

People interested in the campaign can follow Jake at Little Bentley Eventing on Facebook and by sharing posts on their own pages with the #buddydontbully and #equestriansrethink.

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