Social media: when opinions run riot

  • A former World Horse Welfare groom who was described as cruel and neglectful by social media users after she posted a video of her pony has described the reaction as a “kick in the teeth”.

    Jordan Headspeath, also a former groom at The Queen’s Highland pony stud at Balmoral, was one of the speakers at the World Horse Welfare conference on 11 November. The theme of the day was “Whose opinion matters?”, and Jordan’s talk was titled “When opinion runs riot”.

    Jordan was working at the charity’s Belwade Farm in the Highlands when a bad snowstorm hit last February.

    “It caused chaos; it felt like it would never stop snowing,” she said. “But my ponies live out and they seemed completely unfazed.”

    Jordan said diggers cleared paths in the waist-high drifts, and Jordan took one of the ponies out for a walk, leaving her mare Nessie eating hay.

    “She took it upon herself to leave the windbreak and follow us, no matter how deep the drifts were,” Jordan said. “I panicked, thinking she’d get stuck, but she kept ploughing through.”

    Jordan took a video of Nessie in the snow and posted it on social media. The next day, she battled to and from work on unploughed roads, in -23°C, walking miles to get to her ponies, carrying hot water to ensure they had enough to drink, ensuring they had everything they needed.

    She got home, checked her social media, and saw the judgement.

    “After defrosting my eyelashes with a hairdryer, I was being told I was the cruel one,” she said. “Never in a million years did I think people would be so horrified. I started correcting people and trying to make them understand but it just added fuel to the fire. People were jumping to conclusions and assumptions. It was a kick in the teeth.”

    Jordan said she knows the ponies were well cared for and happy, but self-doubt crept in.

    “I didn’t sleep well that night,” she said, adding that the next morning she took the video down and reminded herself that the commenters were strangers with no idea of how well she looked after her ponies.

    “I was naive and I learned a lesson,” she said. “Please be mindful about how, where and when it’s actually useful to communicate your own opinions and judgements to others. Be humble and kind, because you have no idea who’s behind that screen and what they’re going through.

    “And be careful. In February, I uploaded a 12-second video to Facebook, and now I’m standing here. You never know when things will snowball out of control.”

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