A dressage rider and trainer has stood up to those making “cruel” comments on social media.
Abi Hutton, who is married to Charlie, son of international dressage rider and H&H columnist Pammy Hutton, published the impassioned post on Facebook this week (2 January).
“The equestrian world is a really tough place to be,” she wrote. “It’s early mornings, cold weather, long days, late nights, rare days off and non-existent holidays […] But we love it, we love those darned animals more than ourselves.
“So you’d think by the time we’ve fought all of this in the day, we would resist making cruel comments about each other on social media.
“The comments I’ve seen recently are disturbing, and if the folks commenting want to say they’re looking out for the welfare of the horse, follow the rider around for the day and see how pretty much all they do is in the best interests of their horse.
“So next time you see a video and think their horse is over bent, or they are using too much spur, sit back, make a cup of tea and think how you would feel if someone made comments like that about you, think if it’s likely the rider means to do it, because one thing I know for sure, there is not a single rider on the planet who has not kicked, flapped or pulled when they haven’t meant to.
“Make a change this year-let’s encourage each other!”
Abi told H&H she was inspired to write the post by unpleasant comments posted on social media to various riders.
“I’ve seen a lot of things lately I thought were very unfair,” she said.
“I wasn’t going to post it, but Charlie, who doesn’t speak out about a lot of things, said I should because it’s getting really bad.
“People have contacted me saying they don’t even want to ride if people are around watching. Others have been avoiding competing because they’re scared of what people will say.
“I don’t teach anybody who has enough confidence [in their ability] – horses straighten us out anyway as one minute we’re on top and the next on the ground.
“To teach a person you’ve got to create an environment where they feel confident and comfortable. So many people are worrying about who’s watching them, then they ride defensively, then they lose confidence, then problems will occur.”
Abi said she feels the problem has worsened in recent years, and that some of those making unkind comments think they are “being noble” as they believe they have seen welfare issues.
“A lot of people are making comments based on such a small clip or picture,” she added.
“It takes a while to assess what’s going on — that’s why lessons are 45 minutes.
“One of the issues with horses being behind the vertical is it’s such an easy thing to spot – but a lot of people don’t have the knowledge to see if its [way of going is] going to get better.
“Horses are all different — for example some will swish their tails just for the crack, it’s not always a sign that the horse is stressed.
“On social media it’s so easy to see something and make a comment. Some people will say just ignore it, but if it’s ignored people will think they can do it more.”
Abi said that those in the horse world are particulary vulnerable to being affected by unpleasant comments.
“They can have so many more detrimental effects than people realise,” she said.
“We’re already dealing with so many uncontrollable things. Horses can sometimes bring out the worst in people because it’s such an up and down sport. One day it’s amazing and the next day you can go straight back down, it makes you feel like what you learned yesterday was irrelevant.
“It makes people a lot more vulnerable to being emotionally unstable.”
Abi’s post been viewed by thousands with hundreds of shares and comments supporting her calls for change.
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“I really did not expect the reaction it’s getting,” she added.
“It made me feel so happy. I really wasn’t sure what people would say.”
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