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‘Sh*t’ riders take social media by storm

An event rider who set up a Facebook group aimed at sharing laughs over equestrian fails said it has helped her through a very tough year — and it seems also to help thousands of other people.

Cressida Kitchin-Townshend’s Sh*t Eventers Unite group had achieved a respectable 10,000 members in its first year, but in the last month, the figure has exploded, and is now nearing 80,000 people, from all over the world.

The premise is simple; a place for people to “share their crapness without judgement”, with videos and pictures of falls and fails posted every day.

Cressida told H&H she had had a “year from hell” when she started the group.

“My husband walked out on me and my two-year-old son, without warning, and took up with a colleague,” she said. “I was in such a state, I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, and I tried to carry on as normal but of course, I shouldn’t have been eventing, and I had disaster after disaster.”

Cressida (pictured, below) was competing at intermediate level, but “kept falling off”. Then, at Aston-le-Walls, she bumped into an old friend, with whom she had always laughed at their respective failings.

“My friend, Katie, was competing at advanced, and she told me a story of one class where she’d led after dressage and jumped clear showjumping. No one had made the cross-country time, and she was clear two fences from home and inside the time.

“She thought ‘I’m only two from home, I’m clear and I’m going to win the advanced’,” Cressida said. “She jumped the last two fences very carefully, and clear, then checked her watch, the horse fell over and she fell off.

“I said ‘that’s so unbelievably sh*t’, and I think it was then I decided to start a group, and really it’s surprising no one’s done it before.”

Cressida said she does not know why the group’s popularity suddenly exploded, although she believes it was mentioned on the H&H forum, as well as in the magazine’s “good week/bad week” column.

“I think people are relieved,” she said. “When you get back to the yard and people ask how you did, and you say “eliminated”, or when people do event reports, I think there’s real pressure to say ‘my horse stopped at every fence but I still love him’, or ‘we’ll learn from it’; to be positive. There’s so much pressure to be perfect but it’s ok if it goes wrong;

“I might say I had an unlucky 12 faults but it wasn’t unlucky, it was because I rode like a muppet. I shouldn’t have been competing at intermediate last year because I couldn’t ride a swinging gate! It wasn’t the horse, it was me because I couldn’t stay on.

“That’s what resonates with people; they think thank god they can admit it, and they’re relieved to see other people being sh*t too. There’s that quote about ‘everyone around me is winning but I punch myself in the face doing up the girth’, but actually, other people are too.

‘It’s honest, and I think that’s why people love it.”

Cressida has also heard from members, posting and messaging, to say the group has given them confidence to get back on board, or back to competition, which she is delighted with.

All posts have to be approved by admin, so no serious injuries or horse falls are allowed — “it’s meant to be fun; we don’t want to see horses getting hurt” — and neither are some posts that have been staged, but “don’t quite work”. But the stupid mistakes we all make; missing out fences, not going through start or finish lines, sat nav errors, are welcomed.

The group is now offering merchandise, printed by Equibling UK, with a logo showing a dismounted rider whose horse is galloping happily away.

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“That was by popular demand; people were messaging to ask if they could buy hoodies and T-shirts,” Cressida said.

“This year’s been so tough for me; I had to sell almost all my horses with the divorce, so it’s nice that something positive has come out of it.”

Cressida’s intermediate mare has gone on breeding loan, and she hopes she may be able to have her back afterwards.

“I hope once she’s had her baby that I can have her back, and we can go back out and be sh*t again!” she said.

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