Bullying/Judgement? Equestrian Culture ? - The Horse Forum
  • 3 Post By trailhorserider
  • 6 Post By Foxhunter
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post #1 of 10 Old 07-07-2020, 10:38 PM Thread Starter
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Bullying/Judgement? Equestrian Culture ?

Hi everyone,

I am new here- I've only been taking lessons for a couple of months and have been watching my 7 year old ride for about 2 years.

I took lessons for a few months when I was a teenager and loved it, but quit for 2 reasons. 1: My single mom just couldn't afford it. 2: There were some seriously mean girls at the barn. I remember being teased for my clothes, my "cheap" helmet, that I didn't own a horse, and even for how I looked. Now, with my daughter getting into riding, I'm afraid that she might face the same thing. We ride in an area that has a lot of wealth and we definitely DO NOT. I won't ever be able to afford expensive things- we save money whenever we can.

Pardon my novel here... I guess when it comes down to it- do you think equestrian culture is one of exclusivity and wealth (especially in the English world)? Or do you think I just had an isolated experience? I dream of being a part of a welcoming, understanding, and non-judgmental barn!
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post #2 of 10 Old 07-08-2020, 01:05 AM
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I ride western........but......I think it's all about finding the right place. I'm not wealthy. My riding buddies aren't wealthy for the most part. We just love to ride. I used to board and had trouble with people not liking my horses (I had Arabians) and people could be snobby in that regard, but nobody ever said anything of my cheap helmet or using regular old clothes for riding.

I think if you pick a low-key barn, and not a barn that is all about fashion or showing at high levels it will be fine.

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post #3 of 10 Old 07-08-2020, 02:04 AM
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Bullying is a pet peeve of mine. I goes on in all walks of life, not much I like more than putting a bully down!

The old saying, "Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me" has gone by the board. Of course it isn't true, words can hurt deeply, give a bully th chance of seeing that and you are immediately a victim.

I ran busy riding schools and had masses of children around me weekends and holidays, I did not allow bullying of any kind. The kids knew it so it rarely happened.

One incident that comes to mind is two girls, about 10-12 had very wealthy parents. When they started attending the stables all day, they were very mean with words. I never heard them being carry but could tell from the attitude of the others that they were causing friction. (I also hated tell tailing so no on came running to me) when they couldn't sort it themselves and I did overhear them picking on a younger girl, I jumped in and put an end to things hard and fast.

they went home to their parents and complained I had been mean to them, one of the fathers came straight to me the next day to complain of my actions. I didn't care, rulesmwere that when these children were at the stables they were under 'my' rules and if parents didn't like it then the girls could have their lesson and go home. I wasn't an unpaid baby sitter.

My parents were anything but wealthy, they sacrificed a lot for my sister and I to be able to ride, They also taught us to stand up for ourselves and the difference between teasing and bullying - of which there is a narrow line.

We were given confidence from parents to deal with situations, that is something you can do. No matter what life throws at you, ifmyou have the confidence you will be able to deal with it.
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post #4 of 10 Old 07-08-2020, 06:52 AM
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You sadly did not have a exclusive to that treatment, nor attitude.
Horses are a luxury, a very expensive luxury.
That said, those who have horses are then able often times to afford the nicer things...the chic, fad fashion of the moment.
Kids are kids, that often are cruel and vicious in comments, attitude and the cliques made to exclude others.
Its OK for your daughter to see it, even have to deal with it some, but not to be overwhelmed by it...
It is kids being kids as we all were at some point in our life. We all teased and gave another a hard time, name-calling or not picking someone for a team sport in gym class...we all did it.
Your daughter even at her young age needs to learn how to pull up her big girl panties and march on ignoring the tormentors or she will never learn how to ignore and find her own self-worth, self-reliance and how to stand on her own feet as a independent thinker and doer.
FYI...teachers don't condone kids being this way to each other, but don't jump in to defend either...they must learn how to handle it in their own way, right or wrong is what I often see.

Now, I too am not from a rich family, both my parents worked hard for every dollar that came into the house, I babysat as a teen to afford lessons and then a horse was bought and kept on a friends farm living in a section of old abandoned chicken coop is not "rich"..that was my first horse and I did all of the care and feeding by myself.
For my parents, it was less costly than having me start to run with the dangerous crowd if I was occupied elsewhere, and once a horse came, my time and energies were devoted to him....

So, you need to find a barn where kids are not allowed to treat others that way, but honestly,no matter where you go there are going to be kids who own their own and have a larger spending account to play with.. Its life.
The diversity in life is what makes some stronger individuals and some weaker and always whining about how unfair everything is to them.
Kids are not dumb and know they can't act or treat others certain ways in the presence of some and can get away with bad easily when different adults are around or in charge.

What you can do is encourage your daughter to ride her best, do her best and ignore the other kids best she can...she will find other kids like herself and they gravitate to their own group.
Tell her it is difficult and sometimes it does hurt, but this is part of how adults treat each other too.
It isn't nice nor pleasant, but to do her best and walk-away from the unpleasantness is best.
Your daughter may only have lessons, so she be the very best in her lesson listening, working hard and learning new things...
She earns what she has, not it be given to her because the parents can afford, but when it comes down to it...in this case, she will become the better equestrian by riding the different lesson horses and ponies not just one horse all the time.
Oh yes, you can tell when you go to a upper level show and see who had their own and who had to ride whatever, a ride-off is called and those who rode everything fly through where the one who had everything handed to them fall apart and can't...then whine how unfair... Been there done that, seen it and lived it..
And often the whine of they don't like me, they picked on me, they made fun of me is heard from the child who often is ring-leading at the home-barn now is not such hot stuff...

You can not fight her battles, but you can prepare her to have self-respect for herself, how to respect but not like others, and how to treat those she not especially like with respect but that is far different than liking them.
That makes her different in she earned, she was not "entitled" or part of the ribbon/trophy for participating cause it isn't that way in the real world which even at her young age is fast-creeping up on her...
So many of our young people today have no clue...

Prepare your daughter to be a confident woman, not allow others to treat her certain ways, to stand for what she was brought up to believe in...to be a independent thinker and doer.
She will attract more friends than ever when the other kids recognize she is fair, she is nice and she doesn't bully...and that attracting will not take long to happen.
You as mom, be her champion, encourage her, wipe her tears when the kids are mean and teach her she is better than them in so many ways...give her the encouragement to meet the stare and glare head-on cause when stared down the bully often runs in fear... and teach her when it is appropriate to go to someone for help and you go with her again as her champion!

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #5 of 10 Old 07-08-2020, 08:53 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you all for you wonderful advice and wisdom. I was a VERY sensitive teenager and cared entirely too much about what other people thought of me- I'm working hard to give my daughter the tools to be a confident, courageous, and kind human. :)
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post #6 of 10 Old 07-08-2020, 09:33 AM
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I've seen bullying go both ways, as far as being classist.

The wealthier rider might not get credit for the work and effort they've put in to making a good team with their horse.

The lies well-to-do rider might be mocked for their heavily used gear or outdated clothes.

I was teased heavily by kids when I started. Admittedly I probably looked liked a clown. I found my tall boots in an alley and they were too big. My breeches were too big, handed down from a teacher. They were twill and the old puffy thighs. My shirt was my brother's, as was my jacket. I paid for my helmet by collecting returnable bottles.

But older people put me on horses and paid my fees. My Jr high feelings were overrode by my desire to ride.

Now I ride with people from all walks and many parts of the world. I see less bullying. Even between the buckaroos and cowboys, farmers and crackers. In the western world there used to be sharp divisions between those groupings.

Last edited by boots; 07-08-2020 at 10:22 AM.
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post #7 of 10 Old 07-08-2020, 09:45 AM
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I only rode sporadically in middle/high school, because my parents really couldn't afford horses plus the traveling softball team I was on (which they enjoyed a lot more than horses! ) so I never had the consistency in lessons that would make me a good rider. I still remember vividly the embarrassment I felt at the one schooling show I did- my clothes were all wrong, and I was only entered in two classes using a borrowed lesson horse, who was shared with other lesson students who were extremely possessive of him. If they could have physically pushed me out of the saddle after we finished our class to get to him faster, they would have. I'm 40 now and still feel a pit in my stomach thinking about that day.

I got back into riding about 15 years ago, when I was in grad school and had a little flexible time to volunteer at a therapeutic riding program. That kind of environment was welcoming, safety-focused, and oriented towards education, not competition. I found it a wonderful way to get back into riding. I wasn't embarrassed to be a beginner again, to get nervous cantering on a gentle lesson horse and express my fears to the very patient instructor. Over the years, I started free leasing a "therapy horse dropout" and eventually bought her. Then added two more horses to my little herd and moved them home. Through this Horse Forum, I met people involved in distance/endurance riding, got a chance to tag along in real life to a couple of endurance rides, and found a real love for trail/distance riding. While there are some catty/judgemental people in that world, I'd say it's a minority of people. Most people I've met who do trail/distance riding do it because they love being out in nature with their horses, care way more about horsemanship than using the horse as a ribbon-producing machine, and get excited when they see new people interested in the sport.

I ride in an English saddle, as do a lot of the people I know, but the atmosphere isn't high pressure. I've taken dressage lessons off and on to improve my riding and how I treat my horse, and while my instructor has medals in dressage and rode at the Pan Am games years ago, she didn't create a high pressure, judgemental environment and was focused on riding sympathetically to do right by the horse. I think like anything, it takes some work to find a barn/group/instructor that is aligned with your goals and values, but they ARE out there if you have the patience to find them.

I was listening to a podcast the other day on just this subject- I found it completely jarring to hear stories from adult women who felt they were being shamed and bullied about their horses (this is focused on the hunter/jumper world). It just seems so unnecessary and downright silly to me, but that doesn't change the fact that they are experiencing it and feeling pain and self-doubt because of it. Personally, no ribbon or show circuit seems worth that to me, but I know everyone puts different expectations on themselves. Maybe you want to take a listen?

A couple of other articles on a similar theme:

Bottom line, as a "happy hacker" with horses in my backyard, not at a fancy training barn, is I just want to have fun when I'm with them. They're too expensive and too time consuming for it not to be fun, so if they weren't, I'm not sure what the point would be. I say you and your daughter should just focus on having fun, and if you're in an environment where that's not happening, just know it doesn't have to be that way.
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post #8 of 10 Old 07-08-2020, 10:17 AM
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I think it depends on your barn. My barn is a "show" barn, but they only go to small local or fun shows. The horses are not fancy horses. I've never seen or experienced anything like this. It seems like most people at my barn are only there to have fun and enjoy horses. I think with an atmosphere like that, you'd be less likely to find it.

"Saddle fit -- it's a no brainer!"" - random person
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post #9 of 10 Old 07-08-2020, 12:37 PM
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While some barns are worse than others overall, sometimes it is just the age. Age groups tend to ride together which can create situations that are class specific. But, it is not unique to riding. It is part and parcel to growing up. Sometimes asking to switch to another group can alleviate the problem and encourage friendships that buffer those times when the groups are all together.

The anti bullying campaigns seem to make it worse and drive it further underground though there are those bold enough to carry out their aggression in front of those in charge because there is not an adequate set of consequences in place. The adults in charge range from the any telling is treated as tattling, to pulling the bully out and publically shaming by setting him/her alone to "think" about their actions (often the thoughts run to how to get back at both the one who told and the adult that dished up the consequence), to go talk to the counselor who basically gives useless advice and then questions the bully to see if they perhaps have a reason. Which gives the bully more reason to target the victim. IMO there is no excuse. I have also not found there to be many peers that step up as that age is concerned with fitting in and not standing out.

There is a difference when there is truly no tolerance and kids are actively supervised(adults circulate, acknowledge and encourage) and not passively supervised(adults sit in groups socializing and not paying full attention to interactions between kids and groups).

Bullies can learn to channel their behavior appropriately through being kept busy, busy, busy so there is no time to single out and focus on a victim or can be allowed to reign supreme. I've found being taken down a peg or two by a peer often goes much further than counseling them to try to be sensitive to others when their hormones dictate aggression. But that said the kid standing up has to be prepared. The loners often have it the worst and benefit from activity that builds self esteem and teaches them how to be confident in their abilities. Some bullies will walk away from those that ignore them, others are spurred on by that.

Some horse people change their horse, they change their tack and discipline, they change their instructor; they never change themselves.
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post #10 of 10 Old 07-08-2020, 01:33 PM
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After reading other's replies, I just wanted to say that I was bullied all through my school years, from elementary though high school. I was so happy when I got to college and found out that people acted like adults and were centered on their own education rather than making other people's lives miserable.

It is not something harmless, nor is it something "everybody does." It actually causes lasting emotional harm. I doubt I would be such an anxiety-ridden person today, with very few friends (and actually they are just riding buddies, I don't have any very close friends) if my school years weren't such a miserable experience. What were my offenses that caused me to be singled out? Being overweight and wearing glasses. Big deal. Like about 1/2 of the adult population. But in school that could get you treated like you had 3 heads.

Anyway, on the bright side, I am very happy being with my own company. I don't mind riding alone. I work from home. The corona virus pandemic hasn't been a big deal (other than the stress of grocery shopping) because as it turns out, I was social distancing all along! I don't miss restaurants, I've never been to a bar. I don't go to parties. It's like the world has gone crazy and I'm still chugging along perfectly fine doing what I always do......because it's what I've always done.

But that doesn't mean bullying does no harm. The people that knocked my Arabians..... that hurt. But you know what, I stopped caring when I realized that they carried me safely, everywhere, riding alone. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. That was more than those people felt comfortable doing with their own horses. I still don't understand breed snobbery. I love all horses. How can you love one breed and hate the next?

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