We talk about sexual harassment in the barn; we talk about bullying in the equine industry. We work hard to bring light to the problems we face and to find solutions to make our sport a safer, more inclusive environment.
But, there is one issue we all sweep under the rug. One evil that we face on a daily basis, whose grips no one can escape. Yet, we all turn a blind eye and refuse to acknowledge its existence.
Why? Because we are all guilty.
As equestrians, the biggest, most common threat to the safety and inclusion of our various sports comes in the simple form of gossip. The trash-talking, criticizing and rumor-spreading that goes on behind each others’ backs breeds an unsportsmanlike negativity that all riders are affected by. And it needs to end.
The equine industry propagates it. The barn environment is like a petri dish, offering the perfect conditions for rapid production of this awful vice. There are participants in all aspects of the sport with polarizing opinions on everything from hoof care to blanketing. Add in the love we have for these animals, the massive amounts of money we spend and the stress we all face trying to become better athletes and horse owners — it’s no surprise we turn to gossip and criticism to vent frustrations.
Yet, we all have one thing in common. With the negativity we face in all the other aspects of our lives, horses are meant to be our safe haven. So why is the equine industry anything but?
All it takes is one step to start the change.
Together, we can become a more welcoming, understanding and kind group of people. Together we can make gossip, rumors and criticism a thing of the past. By addressing issues head-on, not behind closed doors, focusing on yourself instead of others, and generally being kind, the equine industry can once again become a safe-haven for all involved.
If there’s an issue, address it. If you feel compelled to speak up, do so. It’s as simple as that.
Problems cannot be solved behind closed doors, whispering about the parties in question. Gossip does not foster solutions. Rather, we can only learn by inclusive conversation that facilitates understanding.
So, if there’s an issue, work on it together. Start an open and honest conversation and work together to find solutions. If you attack problems head on, with an open mind and kind heart, there is no problem that can’t be solved.
Focus on Yourself
If there is no outright issue and you aren’t involved, leave it alone. We were all taught at one point, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” As time goes on, this principle tends to slip through the cracks. But by living by these words, the world becomes a more positive, uplifting place.
By criticizing others, gossiping and spreading rumors, all we are doing is creating a world of negativity and misunderstanding. We must understand that from an outside-looking-in perspective, there is a lot that can be missed and without being wholly involved in a situation, we can’t possibly have all the information.
So, if there is no true problem to be solved and nothing nice to say, simply don’t say anything. Rather, spend your energy focusing on something you know well — yourself. Work on addressing the issues that you face and becoming a better, more positive person by leaving others alone.
This seems simple, but it is the most important thing a person can do. Be kind.
There is another core principle that seems to be missing in the equestrian world — treat others as you would like to be treated. If something you are about to say or do would hurt if the tables were turned, simply don’t do it. As equestrians, we are all in this together. We all have the same passions, face the same problems and feel the same joys and frustrations. While our personal experiences may be unique, we all have a lot in common.
By being a kind and understanding person, the world becomes just a little bit brighter.
Together, we can make a change. We can become a more welcoming and inclusive industry. We can build each other up instead of tearing each other down. We can start open and honest conversations without the blame and criticism. We can stop gossiping and start learning about each other.
We are all guilty. But we are all capable of overcoming our imperfections and making this crazy, stressful, amazing world we chose to be a part of a safer, more understanding place.