Spencer Wilton: Don’t resort to trial by social media *H&H VIP*


    We all love dressage, are advocates for horse welfare and want future generations to be encouraged to take up this sport, correct?

    Then why are we cultivating a circle of fear among riders, who dare not even warm up their horses without the worry of pictures and footage being taken of them, so they can face trial by social media, often without facts?

    A lot has been written on this subject of late, with many posting heartfelt commentary asking their peers to please consider what they post on social media before they have the full picture. Riders fear they will be labelled as abusers at any time.

    ‘Horses’ bodies are like human bodies’

    The irony is that many of those leading the war against extreme hyperflexion have not competed under the glare of this digital age and rarely volunteer footage of themselves training their horses to be analysed by their following.

    Horses’ bodies are like human bodies. They function in different ways, alongside having differing temperaments, fitness and attitudes. It’s a rider’s job to tailor their riding to each individual horse’s needs; to find that connection with the horse and overcome their challenges — together. Photos are great for capturing moments in time, but these moments are sometimes twisted and judged by those who seek to damage others.

    They are often not a reflection of the true partnership. I am increasingly distressed by riders being put into the social media dock and defamed without the facts being known.

    Recently, a public apology was made on a social media group fighting to tackle
    extreme hyperflexion, after pictures posted of a horse at a competition led to the rider being accused of improper riding. It was then found that evidence for the accusation was incorrect. How appalling that the rider concerned has had to endure so much stress unnecessarily.

    Most of us are strongly against the use of rollkur and there are clearly certain riders who practise this method consistently in their training.

    Most of us agree this needs condemning by stewards, judges and the FEI. But the need for correct reporting and facts has never been greater, because, although our sport is in a good place, a minority seem to be trying to bring it down.

    Dressage has progressed much more into the mainstream over the past few years, with British Dressage increasing its membership and more people, particularly children, feeling inspired, but this progress is being threatened.

    Work in harmony

    Dressage is a sport enjoyed by all ages and is the pinnacle of a partnership between human and horse, but it is being pulled down in a way that often constitutes outright bullying, and which can be defamatory to reputations and individuals who work hard and adore their animals.

    I fully support the fight against equine abuse, but let’s put a stop to the vigilante behaviour and make change in a more productive way.

    This can only come from open communication in a non-confrontational way. All riders, trainers and spectators want to see our noble friends work with willingness, ease and in harmony. So let’s try to work in harmony ourselves.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 5 April 2018