Anna Ross: Less conversation, more action — please *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Communication was the buzzword at the last British Dressage (BD) members’ meeting. BD has built up a healthy surplus and, with more than £1m in the coffers, members are looking forward to positive changes. It’s good to hear board members have opened lines of communication by visiting some centre owners.

    BD needs to invest to achieve its charitable aims. These include supporting education, fair competition, breeding, social interaction between members and welfare for both able-bodied and para dressage.

    The high staff attrition in the BD office was, in part, attributed to low wages, which could be addressed. Riders and their connections raised more than £40k to help run Hickstead CDIO last year after it was cancelled due to lack of funding in 2016. It’s good to hear BD is considering supporting competitions. Judges’ training fees have risen, but doesn’t training fall under education? We need our judges.

    The review of the gold, silver and bronze sections is essential, as is the long-awaited new website. The latter will make a real difference to morale, and being kept in the loop on progress would be appreciated.

    Formerly, BD made a contribution to the BEF Futurity to support breeders, but the programme is no longer in place. British Breeding is on the up, so hopefully BD is investigating different ways to support that momentum.

    A new look

    Social interaction is going just fine if the bottle banks after BD camps can be used as a benchmark. Social media bullying, however, has reached a new low. A para rider was recently subjected to an attack on social media as her horse was slightly behind the vertical in a video. Another video went round of a rider overseas attempting a high level test, who was clearly out of her depth. Neither horse nor rider looked comfortable, so one helpful troll suggested she hang herself.

    The awkward truth is that far more horses suffer unintentionally through bad riding than do from balanced, fit riders riding 1cm behind the vertical. BD addresses this by having a rule by which riders must maintain a certain standard to ride at FEI levels.

    Keyboard warriors often use passive aggressive tactics, hiding behind welfare as a guise. Many appear more interested in harming humans, though.

    Those who truly want to stand up for the horse are easily identified as those who lobby for rule changes and address their concerns to stewards, the FEI or the governing body with evidence and context. If there are true welfare issues, systems must be in place to kick in.

    Humiliating individuals through social media only serves to provide a cheap thrill for the attacker as they see their comment “kick off” — akin to a pyromaniac who stays around to watch the house burn down.

    Steps to minimise these attacks have been taken by ensuring forum users post under their real names on the BD website. Hopefully, this has freed up staff time monitoring it.

    Trolls feed on interaction, so next time you see it, don’t comment, just post a link to an equine charity or relevant governing body. The wind will be lost from the trolls’ sails and any worthwhile welfare issue can receive attention.

    And remember, next time a miserable troll starts, it could be worse. You could be them.

    Horse & Hound; 15 February 2018