A few weeks ago, something happened that I didn’t share. Truthfully, I didn’t know how to at the time. Now, I am ready to write about it though. Writing, for me, is a healing process so potentially this blog will act as just that. But I have also learnt that blogging opens up the opportunity to teach and share and so even when sometimes its tough, I aspire to do that.
Competing at an event recently I was pulled up for “misuse of the whip”. Anyone that has ever followed/heard about me in any capacity will hopefully understand that this was a shocking event. Anyone who knows me that bit better will understand it was a brutal attack on the core of what I represent and advocate for.
I did not misuse my whip. In fact, I was not even carrying one! When confronted by the fact that I wasn’t carrying a whip, the lady corrected herself and said I had “used the reins like a whip”.
What I did do was flick my rein over my horse’s neck.
I use a Giddy Up rope on occasions – a soft rope that causes no pain at all (I explained this in a previous blog) but this is not legal to take into the arena. On this day, Jack put the brakes on and I used my rein in the same way. Looking back, it was the wrong decision, not because it would have caused Jack any pain but because his behaviour was out of character and I should have better analysed that. In the heat of a competition setting, I reacted rather than analysed. I never proclaim to be perfect!
I tried to explain, as calmly as I could, and she uttered the words “I don’t want to hear it.”
On that day, I had watched someone repeatedly hit their horse on the approach to every fence out of pure nerves, I saw a girl wiping spur marks off her horse after a cross country round whilst laughing, I saw someone hitting a horse from behind with a broom when loading. I had no stick, no spurs, no drop noseband, no martingale…. my horse’s welfare is paramount and a priority always. But I got pulled up for “mistreatment”. That feeling of utter hopelessness, devastation and confusion will not be one I forget easily.
Some people do not want to know the truth. Some people do not have the inclination or the capacity to be open to other ideas or opinions, they see it one way and that is enough for them. I did something this lady didn’t understand so she attacked it.
We choose how we react. I can not change this lady. I can not change what happened. I can advocate clearer though. I can strengthen myself and choose to put this behind me and be better for it, not worse.
I will be writing to societies to advocate that they legalise the use of a Giddy Up rope in competitions as an alternative to a whip. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. I will also be prioritising my relationship with my horse, not focusing so much on the results I get so I hopefully make better decisions.
The fact of the matter is that the lady involved had no idea of the impact her words would have on me that day. A lesson that we can also take – be gentle with your words. I choose to move forward positively from this though. Yes it hurt. It still does. But sometimes we simply have to force ourselves to choose to move forward positively, because what is the alternative?
The next day, Jack trotted over to see me when I arrived at the yard. He knows the truth I think and that helps.