Carl Hester: Let’s get back to loving our sport *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Nina Barbour is one amazing organiser. Liverpool International Horse Show hosted dressage for the first time and what a success it was (I was lucky enough to win, too).

    Nina’s ambition is to attract the elite of the sport. She likes to aim high, is brimming with ideas, and the arenas at both Bolesworth, which she also organises, and Liverpool lend themselves to dressage. She says there’s no lid on what they can do and while she’s not alone in aiming to glamorise our sport and grow its following, I would put money on Nina being able to achieve her ambition.

    It’s great that Royal Windsor has secured a new headline sponsor, Al Shira’aa, for the CDI4* — perfect for the show’s 75th anniversary this year.

    Think before typing

    British Dressage (BD) has a social media policy which is part of its members’ code of conduct. It is comprehensive and the BD Rule Book makes it very clear that while BD “recognises that the internet provides everyone with the ability to participate in interactive discussions and to share information”, members should use social media responsibly and with respect.

    I particularly like the clause that reads: “Only post comments about a BD person that are respectful and which the poster would say directly to that person.” This obviously does not cover posters who are not members of BD, however, and I have recently been appalled to see quite a few young riders being shredded on social media.

    When will people learn that cyberbullying can be as damaging as bullying in person? The latter was highlighted in the #notonmyyard campaign launched in 2016 and taken up by the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) as well as many prominent members of the horse world. Ireland’s Abi Hutton wrote an impassioned plea on the subject of cyberbullying earlier this month, highlighting the message “think before you type”. But, on it goes.

    If an offender is a BD member, the social media code kicks in. If you are the victim, you can call the office and they will take it up as they have successfully done a few times. While they can’t prevent it, they can calm things down. Knowing BD will do its best for members who are subjected to online abuse is comforting. But if the abuser is not a member, the situation is very different.

    As dressage riders, we live and breathe a subjective sport and sometimes opinions are proffered, whether wanted or not. Online bullying has been responsible for deaths, as in the tragic case of Australian 14-year-old Amy “Dolly” Irving, and I know of one European young rider who was taken off social media by her family after online trolling led to, at best, her wanting to stop riding and, at worst, suicidal thoughts. This should never happen.

    Banish the blues

    Planning for the year ahead brings renewed optimism, so let’s look forward. The BD regional pages reveal a host of opportunities for youth, senior and para riders. Could you represent your region on a team or at the home international?

    The BD regional officers do a tremendous job putting on training and social events as well, so look up your region and get involved. Let’s focus more on giving a leg up and less on putting down, and get back to loving our sport.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 25 January 2018