After the suicide of 14 year old, keen horse rider, Bradley John from Wales, depressed, or perhaps better put, distraught, through being bullied at school, many of the horse community have stood up to discourage bullying and look out for each other. Those using social media can use #blowforbradley to show support. Unfortunately, it’s still ingrained in many parts of horse culture, and if you check out Rosie Jones-Mcvey’s thought provoking article on ‘Old Heroes and Bold Heroes’ perhaps it’s another case of ‘tradition’ passed down by horsemanship’s army background.
I recently had the idealistic idea that if we were to stand up to unacceptable behaviour it would be a start to ‘making the (horse) world a better place but it still seems there are ‘powers that be’ and what used to be the ‘old boys club’ but now as likely as not is the ‘old girls club’, are happy to still enable unpleasantness and what amounts to bullying if you ‘wear the right tie’.
At a recent county horse show while Daisy walked the course and I was holding Jack, he went from being fast asleep to suddenly become agitated and kicking at his belly. I immediately acted to get him away from other horses as he’d clearly been bitten or stung. I said ‘excuse me please’ as I went behind a couple of the other competitors already mounted and took him out of the collecting ring to an area away from other horses. I got his saddle off, had a look over him and he settled down quickly once he knew the damn flying biting creature had gone.
I then heard from Daisy and Sandra, my sister and Jack’s owner, that one of the competitors, had seen Jack was upset and as Daisy was trying to leave the ring after walking the course, stood intimidatingly at the entrance of the ring and said loudly in a mocking tone so everyone could hear ‘Natural Horsemanship working out well for you then?’ As I stated in my letter to the Sports Horse Society, ‘the fact that this woman would be twice Daisy’s age and someone she might previously have looked up to, made her tacky behavior all the more disappointing’.
It was interesting that she made her comment to Daisy, who was just about to jump her biggest course ever on Jack, and not me who the comment was far more relevant to (although I’d have pointed out the name is Intelligent Horsemanship) made me wonder whether this was part of her ‘tactics’ or she thought Daisy was an easy target? As it happened though it made Daisy all the more focused on jumping the course and they finished 2nd (ahead of the woman) and Embarrassing Aunt that I am, it put me on a mission to make it clear what is and isn’t acceptable behavior; to a relation of mine or anyone else.
I was disappointed though not entirely surprised when the Sports Horse Society replied they had talked to the older rider and she ‘was merely expressing concern’ and I was warned that it was ‘unprofessional’ to put in on my Facebook page. Not a comment that was well thought out as my profession happens to be communication – in all its forms. If only they had read the comments that were on my Kelly Marks and Intelligent Horsemanship Facebook page they might have seen how rife bullying and unpleasantness is in the horse world. I was even shocked how volunteer stewards at horse shows spoke up about how they are shouted at and talked down to by competitors and, of course, the children see their parents do this, so think it’s acceptable as well.
As I said at the beginning, the feeling of letting people down is a real concern for me. By standing up for something I’ve already been told ‘this could count against Daisy in her competition career’. I haven’t done anything meaningful to help the #blowforbradley campaign. It’s Bully: 10 Well Meaning Me: Nil, and realistically, are we ever going to change people who chose the path of being nasty for the sake of it? Most unlikely. Let no one be down hearted though! Let’s keep looking out for each other and if all else fails we can always fall back on a good quote:
‘Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.’ Rumi