‘Expensive’ horses and Facebook trolls: H&H responds

  • Some lovely stories came from the British Showjumping (BS) national championships last week. Not just the big wins, from the big names, but also the arguably less prestigious moments that meant everything to those involved.

    The horse who won the 70cm club championship, who was bought for £1 but whom the owner would not part with for all the money in the world, the RSPCA rescue who won the pony Foxhunter masters, the rider who won for her mum, who died this year.

    One thing that struck me about the show was what a great atmosphere it was. Whenever someone had an unlucky pole, the crowd groaned; when one tiny girl almost fell but made a huge and determined effort to get back in her saddle, eventually succeeding, she got a round of applause.

    I’ve been a BS member for 12 years and it’s been the same at just about every show I’ve been to; people will help in the warm-up if you’re on your own, hold your horse while you walk the course, even lend you hay if you’ve run out and are facing a long drive home. Without wanting to sound cheesier than a Big Mac, it’s as if everyone’s in it together.

    Or nearly everyone…

    One of the stories from Stoneleigh was about an eight-year-old who before this year, had not been to a show off the lead rein, and was terrified of jumping. She was given a pony for Christmas and within a few months, was winning classes at the national championships. They were a beautiful combination and it was a lovely story. But unfortunately, some people didn’t see it like that – some of the comments on Facebook were not nice at all.

    It never fails to stagger me how presumably otherwise pleasant horsey people, who know how hard it is to do well, whatever horse you’re on, who have overcome their own confidence issues, who know any rosette won is the result of blood, sweat and tears at home – can turn so spiteful as soon as they think there’s money involved.

    It’s the same if Jessica Springsteen hits the headlines for a good round, or when Mary-Kate Olsen had a win on the Global Champions Tour. Yes, they’re well-off. Yes, you need a good horse to get results internationally. No, it’s not all about the money.

    Would all these sneering people be on their countries’ Nations Cup teams if they had Jessica’s horses? Would they win Olympic medals if they rode Valegro? No, they really wouldn’t.

    Any child who’s got a pony has had it bought for them by their parents. Every parent wants their child to be safe and enjoy their riding, so they’re not going to buy an unbroken three-year-old for them, are they? I certainly hope not anyway… And while the rider is only as good as the horse they’re on, the horse is also only as good as the rider on top.

    You’ve got to be good to get the results; we all know that, whatever level we ride at. So why do people get so nasty, so spiteful, when people do well on a good horse? It’s all the more shocking when it’s directed at a child.

    Continues below…

    Maybe I should have realised that a story like that might bring the trolls out from under their bridges – but actually, I’m glad I didn’t. I’m glad I saw that combination and thought how lovely they were and how well they’d done, not that people might find something to be awful about.

    Jealousy’s a nasty thing, isn’t it?

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