Reading the awful stories on the news recently about children being bullied at school brought back some painful memories for me: I didn’t have the nicest time at school. I was also there before social media and online bullying existed so dread to think how much harder it must be now. It was absolutely heartbreaking to read about Bradley John taking his own life due to bullies.
As a child, I hoped that it was just part of growing up; children can be pretty brutal. But sadly, as I have grown up, I have realised that bullying is something that is present at all ages.
Last week, my aunt shared a story about bullying that we experienced at Newbury Show. I was blown away by the amount of responses and messages we received and am very grateful for everyone’s kind words. But, I was also saddened by the amount of people sharing their own stories and saddened to see how prevalent it seems to be.
Riding, for a lot of people, is a hobby. It’s expensive, time consuming, all consuming but it is a hobby at the end of the day and so should be fun. It makes me so angry that someone thinks they can just ruin that for someone.
The lady at Newbury, appears to have a chip on her shoulder about “natural horsemanship” and some of the aggression towards me seemed to be a reflection of that. I don’t really understand it but it isn’t the first time I have experienced it and sadly, I imagine it won’t be the last. “Go on then Horse whisperer girl”, “go talk to them or something”, “you going to just blow up its nostril to fix it”…… I have heard a lot of it.
Now I am a bit older and a tiny bit wiser, I deal with bullies very differently. Skin officially thickened to it. However, it makes me cross that nasty comments at a show could really upset someone else, possibly even put them off competing and enjoying their riding and that is just not right. Truthfully, had what happened at Newbury, have happened a few months earlier when I was very shaky, it may have really badly effected me.
I imagine the people that were bullying Bradley never truly considered the impact it may have…..
Although I am better at internally dealing with it. I just don’t know how to externally deal with it. And considering it’s a competitive and “small world” environment, how should we deal with it?
When I was younger, I was riding at Kent County. I was walking Floyd around early, to give him a leg stretch, and was standing watching a first ridden show pony class. I saw a pony being led out of the ring as a small jockey had fallen off. A well known showing producer then got on the small pony and rode past me.
He said “Hold on because I’m going to give this a whack.”
Rather shocked, not thinking through the situation, or considering the implications I responded “Why?”
The response “What do you f*****g mean, why? It f*****g deserves it. The f*****g s**t. You can f*****g keep out of it, b***h.” He proceeded to beat the small pony, openly in front of everyone. Before going into the lorry park to, I hate to imagine.
As someone adamantly against violence, seeing the attack on this pony was disgusting enough but the producer’s language and attack on me was upsetting too.
But sadly, it didn’t stop there.
Later, in the horsebox park, the producer and some of his team walked past me. He was apparently still angry, not sure whether primarily at the pony or at me. He pushed me up against the side of a lorry and proceeded to tell me not to get involved in his business or I would regret it and would not be winning any more classes if he had anything to do with it.
Later still, as I was entering the warm up area before my class, he had obviously done his research into who I was, as this time the nasty personal comments came out. “Go on then horse whisperer girl, show us how it should be done as you know better.”
All this for just saying “Why?”
I have never told anyone about this. At the time, I knew it was best to keep my head down and truthfully, I don’t see it to be different now. It’s such a small world. Everyone knows everyone, no one likes a troublemaker…..I have even been openly told by a council member of one of the societies, when I queried something, to not cause trouble if I wanted to have any further success that season.
But how do we make changes if we can’t talk without fear of repercussions?
The producer involved continued for many months to make nasty comments when he saw me. Deliberately walked into me at HOYS and laughed about it. But he was apparently untouchable……
Come on then team….. ideas?
How do we improve the sport I love so much? I know it is not just in the showing world, not just in the horse world either. But how do we make it simply not ok to be a bully……
How do you deal with bullies?