Welcome to the horse world’s social media rat race

Ema & Joker’s Win at MCTA horse trials. Photo by Cynthia Sayre Gilbert.

Ema & Joker’s Win at MCTA horse trials. Photo by Cynthia Sayre Gilbert.

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Welcome to the horse world’s social media rat race

Social media has changed our sport. I think many of us are unaware of how online commentary and images affect how we view ourselves, our horses, and our goals.

It’s been well-documented and noted that social media, in general, tends to produce a skewed view of people. People showcase their best moments—posing at prom, smiling at graduation, hugging friends against a beautiful backdrop when they’re on vacation. Horse people, for the most part, do the same. We post pictures that make ourselves and our horses look like winners. We sometimes put up unflattering moments—spectacular falls can provide comic relief!

But because we often only post the best moments, we only see each other’s best moments. It can be disheartening to see your friend’s 4-year-old jumping three-foot courses when your young horse can barely trot a circle in the same rhythm. But like yours, their horse probably went through a stage where trotting circles were challenging.

On a more positive note, I think competition often breeds bravery. When we see others progressing, we feel inclined to match their efforts. I often get training ideas from videos of gridwork and polework that my friends post. Take, for instance, Michael Radich’s viral video of practicing bounces. I think he probably inspired others to try a variation of the same exercise.

Sometimes it feels like we are racing each other for the best results, but even more for the biggest approval from others.

One thing we should always remember is that our horses compete for us. Your horse doesn’t go on Facebook and compare themselves to your friend’s scopey 4-year-old. Put your horse’s training first. Then use social media as inspiration, not as pressure to be better.

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