Bullying – thought I had grown out of it but apparently not

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?

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  1. Think the way to deal with bullies is exactly as you have…openly criticise them, show the behaviour for what it is – horrible and something that should have been left back in the school yard. The only way to change a culture is to be that change. Hold your head high and demonstrate the behaviour you’d like others to show – supportive, encouraging and understanding. Beating whether verbal or physical rarely achieves the desired response, there’s always an easier, better way!

  2. The horse world is full of opinion on how to look after your horse and how to ride. Yard politics is pretty prevalent in any livery yard around the UK. So how do you deal with forced opinions or objections to your views within the horse world? I suppose it’s developing the thick skin and not to react to any snidey quips or confrontation. A lot of these bullies want a reaction as that feeds their control hungry manner which they thrive on. This is a super post Daisy and a problem which is rampant within the equestrian community sadly. It is a subject that needs to be talked about.

  3. That’s awful! In the horse world you hope that everyone is linked by a common love for horses but it can be a very horrible place to be. I’m afraid (as a teacher) I believe a no nonsense anti bullying approach has to exist in every school in order to sort it out. Unfortunately I know there will still be horrible people who for some reason thrive on being unpleasant to others.

  4. Daisy it is quite shocking and sickening hearing what happened to you years ago and also recently. I was going to suggest the same as Marie-Claire, video and record if at all possible. Obviously coming out of the ring you wouldn’t have your phone on you but someone else can witness and record it. I stepped into the ring at a local show once when a woman was calling out loudly to her small child on a shetland to whack it one when he refused to jump. I later found out she was a steward at the show. The child did not want to beat her pony and the pony did not want to jump a very tiny 1ft pole for some reason. She told me to mind my own business but i noticed she did not interfere any more with her daughters riding that day. In fact she looked very shocked which led me to believe that nobody had ever intervened when she was shouting out “advice”!!!!I just feel extremely sad that anyone could beat a pony or behave in such a disgraceful way.

  5. I also was bullied in school. Very badly. No one believed me because they didn’t see it. Until I was beaten. Then my mother demanded that the school do something. The school replied that they couldn’t because the assaulters already had attendance problems. (Big clue: if your child doesn’t show up every day and we lose daily funding because of it, we will be forced to act. )

    We study what makes them bullies, why do they become bullies? How do we stop them? We are still at big fat zero. What we don’t study is what makes people victims? The same people will be victims in a new environment. Maybe there is a commonality? What is different between victims and non victims? How do we teach them not to be victims?

    If you were to step into the fray with this pony, the place would be where everyone was watching. Many of the people were probably thinking the same as you.You were much more likely to have some support.The show authorities would have been more likely to get involved.
    At the next shiw, do not encounter inter this flaming rectum pony trainer when you are not in a group of people.

    1. Can also use pocket recorder – mine is tiny and runs for hours – with a lapel mike no one would know it was there.

    2. I agree with everything you have said. I too would really like to know and understand what makes someone a victim. It does seem to be true that the same people can be the victim in different situations.

  6. Hi Daisy – I read your Aunt’s post and was sad for you and I could see how hard it would be to respond in the moment without making a scene.
    My Mum was taken ill this March and was in our County Hospital for 5 months and is still very fragile – though at home here with us – the bullying I experienced on her journey through the system was shocking – and I was a Social Services carer in our community for 12 years and thought I could deal with the system – initially I had to take a witness who – bless her drove me and did not leave me alone – and then we found we needed three of us at bigger meetings. When Mum came home I couldn’t grab a neighbour so I took to wearing my lapel mic that I use for writing and had it plugged into my iPhone on my waistband – if I see any one heading for my Mum now – either SS or NHS – it goes to record and I have realised that it is the only way to make sure that when something happens I have absolute proof – I don’t miss use the recordings – I dispatch the pointless ones – but I have only had to mention a couple of times that I have such proof and it stops even mildly threatening and unprofessional behaviour in it’s tracks. Just a thought – but it’s a quiet way of having an escort- it also helped me keep my cool in some dire situations over my Mum’s future.

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