This summer has been crazy busy! I haven’t been able to focus much on my blog lately and I apologize. Hopefully I will be able to get back in the groove this coming fall!
Anyways, all the excitement from the Olympics has inspired this post. Have any of you had a chance to watch the Equestrian events during the Olympics? I’m a western riding gal, but I enjoy watching cross-country, show jumping and dressage- especially the freestyle! It is amazing to see the bravery and skills that both the horse and rider have. I’m also loving the hashtag #twohearts
Unfortunately, I’ve noticed on social media that the mainstream public does not seem as impressed and excited about the equestrian Olympic Events. It has also been hard watching the events and seeing all of the empty stands in the background. I’ve seen some very rude and exaggerated comments about the competitors when images or videos have been posted on social media. It is quite sad in my opinion.
Here are a few that I found:
“It made me cry watching her kick the poor horse with the Spurs and what’s with all the metal in his mouth. So cruel why use these weapons if the horse enjoys what it does it will do it willingly.”
“When you need that much metal and leather to control your horse you lose all credibility.”
“These are terrible photos. The riders look terrified handling these beautiful horses.“
When I saw these comments I was a bit aggravated to say the least. With any sport there are always exceptions but regarding the content they were commenting about, I didn’t see any reason to be so negative. I did some researching and tried looking at their Facebook profiles to see if they were actual horse people. Most were set to private, but out of the images I could view I didn’t see any horses, so I’m assuming they are not. There were other comments that annoyed me and it really got me thinking about the public view on all Equestrian events. With rodeo events we receive some backlash, but I was surprised that eventing was too. As we all know racing always gets rants and raves, especially during the race for the Triple Crown.
So I finally came to a conclusion to my thoughts of why the public can’t appreciate the beauty of horsemanship. I hate to say this, but I do not think that Equine Sports will ever become fully mainstream, like football or basketball, nor will they ever be fully accepted and enjoyed by the general public. Other countries may accept Equestrians more, but I believe that Americans aren’t as enthused or excited about the sport. And yes, Equestrian competition is a sport in my opinion.
So why won’t Equestrian Sports become mainstream and accepted by the general public?
Well… the general public (those who are not involved with equestrian competitions or are serious horsemen) simply DO NOT GET IT!
First of all, They don’t understand that the rider does not just “simply” sit on the horse and allow the horse to do all the work on its own.
They don’t understand or appreciate the amount of skill it takes to be competing at the top of his/her discipline.
They don’t understand all the vast amounts of time, hard work, determination, sweat and tears that goes into training and competing with these amazing athletes.
They don’t understand how tough the competition is and how much effort it actually takes win.
They don’t understand WHY we use certain types of equipment and HOW we actually use them.
They don’t understand the pressures the horse industry puts on riders and horses to fit in a mold for their proper discipline.
They don’t understand why in some disciplines we want the horse to “look” and “perform” a certain way that is completely different from another discipline.
They only see what the media portrays in equestrian competitions, and usually the media points out the bad things and freak accidents that occur. (We see this with racing quite a bit.)
They don’t understand the costs and amounts of care that goes into maintaining these great athletes.
They don’t understand that the horses receive more attention and care than their riders do!
They pretend to be “couch jockeys,” even though many have never petted a horse let alone sat in a saddle! They also make assumptions that we are “abusing” horses because they are not being left alone in a pasture.
They don’t see the beauty and symmetry between the horse and rider, nor do they appreciate it.
They get bored quickly after watching a few classes or rounds during an equine competition.
They don’t understand that horses who are highly competitive in their disciplines actually ENJOY competing and LOVE their jobs!
They don’t understand that horse competitions are difficult. That horses have a mind of their own and can be unpredictable in the arena, no matter how much training the horse has.
Lastly, they don’t understand the unique bond and trust between the horse and rider that allows them to compete as a TEAM. #twohearts
So what’s the solution?
Now, I realize that there are a few trainers and riders who have caused the public to have a bad outlook about equine sports, but every sport has its rotten apples. I just wish the public would be more appreciative about horses.
At this point in time, knowledge about horses is most likely our best means to help the public understand the different disciplines. Let’s face it, the Equine Industry is complex, so many disciplines, breeds, and different types of competitions. It is hard for the general public to keep up! Plus, like I said above, they just don’t get it, they don’t understand each event and how it is judged.
Social Media is a great tool that our industry should use, even if we occasionally receive some nasty comments. It is a great means to broadcast information about each discipline and general information about horses.
Another means is the commentating at events. I recently attended the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo in Wyoming and was impressed that they showed a quick exciting video before each event explaining the rules and giving a brief introduction. It seemed to help spectators understand the history behind the event and how the event is judged. I also thought that the commentators at the Olympics were doing a good job explaining the events. Hopefully commentators will continue in this path especially when Equine Sports are broadcasted on TV.
Trust me, I would love Equine Sports to become mainstream. However, I have a feeling that the public will never fully accept equestrians and their horses as athletes, nor will the public consider equine competitions as sports. It is a tricky subject and one that is avoided constantly. I give major props to riding associations who are motivated to encourage the general public to watch Equine Sports. I hope we will continue to be able to spread knowledge about our wonderful Equestrian competitions and encourage the public to accept them as mainstream sports.
Do you think Equine Sports will become mainstream like football or basketball? Do you think the general public will become more accepting of them? What do you think is a good way to spread knowledge to the general public about Equine Sports?