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by Shelby Dennis

Cyberbullying in the horse world is on the rise. We asked riders, trainers, and vloggers how they handle it.

The equestrian world has always been full of differing (and often conflicting) approaches and opinions. Everyone has his or her own idea of what they believe to be the “right way.” In some cases, that passion transforms into aggression and anger.

With the rise of social media and the ease with which people can share opinions (in many cases anonymously), equestrians are no longer forced to deal with in-person consequences of their actions. Because of this, cyberbullying and ridiculing others for the ways they ride or take care of their horses has become far too common.

Here are a few tactics you can try if you’re an equestrian being bullied online:

  • Talk about it: Confide in someone you trust, like your parents or a close friend or counsellor. Tell them what is going on, and ask for their advice and support. Be honest about what you’re going through, how you’re feeling, and what’s going through your mind. Don’t be alone in your hurt or pain. (Trust me, this really does help.)
  • Walk and block: Many people will tell you to “walk away from the computer” or “block bad accounts.” While these are good suggestions, they do not necessarily prevent the hurt that online hate can bring. Nor is it always a realistic option if masses of people are coming after you and/or making new accounts after you block them.
  • Report the haters: A lot of channels will not do enough when you rightfully report hateful people, but it’s still worth reporting users to the social media companies to establish a record of activity.
  • Stop victim blaming: Don’t blame victims for not being able to handle hate. Bullying should not be treated like an unavoidable side effect of being present in the online community. This takes the responsibility off of the bullies and puts it onto the victims. Choosing to be online and sharing your journey does not give other people permission to harass you.
  • Stick up for each other: We need to hold mean spirited people accountable and call out rude comments publicly. Make it unpleasant to be the one posting negative comments, and show your support to those being targeted.
  • It’s not you, it’s them: People who sink to the level of cyberbullying do so trying to fill a void or insecurity they have about themselves–not about you. They are projecting a personal sadness or insecurity onto you, and they are trying to seek relief by making someone else feel as terrible as they do. (Happy, successful people don’t post hateful comments.)
  • Offer to listen: Though it seems counterintuitive, reaching out to bullies and offering a listening ear (in private) does wonders. Shockingly, many cyberbullies will take you up on your offer, even if it takes them months or years to respond. No matter how hard it is to bite your tongue and not retaliate, showing compassion will model good behavior to those who need role models most.
  • Cheer others on: One of the best things to do if you’re feeling attacked is to visit other equestrian channels and show them kindness. Be the follower who comments with something positive and extends support. Be the follower who notices progress and celebrates milestones. The more positive energy you put into others, the better our community becomes.
  • Keep a kudos folder: Take screenshots of your favorite positive comments, praise, and encouragement. Store them in a specific folder on your computer and/or phone, and revisit them whenever you fell badly about yourself or see a negative comment. Your ideal followers are those who support you and cheer for you, so keep them at the forefront of your mind.

Negative Nellies, Be Gone!

Be your best self and keep sharing!
Be your best self and keep sharing!

You’ve probably heard Former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama’s quote: “When they go low, we go high.”

When you’re facing trying times, remember the reason you began sharing your equestrian journey online in the first place. Remember that most equestrians are kind, fun, and supportive people who want you to succeed and are thankful for the content you share with the world. (Usually, they are the ones who click “like” but don’t leave a comment.)

Most of all, remember you are not alone.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to be your authentic self and model the behavior you’d like to see from others. If you’re constantly working on making yourself a better person and a better rider, negative people will lose their traction.

Let’s recommit to building a support online equestrian community where progress is valued over perfection, and kindness is shown over cruelty. Onward!


About the Author

Shelby Dennis
Shelby Dennis

Shelby Dennis is a well known YouTube equestrian vlogger and horse trainer. She has over 17 years of experience with horses. From the Arabian circuit to hunter/jumper and exercising race horses, Shelby’s experience with different kinds of horses makes her a well-rounded horsewoman. Shelby attributes her history with horses to shaping the hardworking, patient and driven individual she is today. Learn more at MilestoneEquestrian.com.

Read this article in it's entirety on Horse Rookie. This excerpt is published here with permission.

There are more interesting stories in our section on Recreation & Lifestyle.

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