I’ve seen a series of articles on various sites lately (and even joined in the conversation) about all the judgement going on in our sport, from all sides. And it got me thinking about how much energy goes into these comparisons and observations. Because really, it seems that you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
If you don’t use grooming services at shows, you’re poor and don’t belong there. If you do, you’re elitist and don’t care about true horsemanship.
If you don’t wear an ear bonnet in the jumper ring, you’re hopelessly out of date. If you do, you probably haven’t earned the right.
If you listen to a trainer on structuring a program for your horse, you’re a pushover who doesn’t have any knowledge of your own. If you don’t, you’re some self-righteous rider who thinks they know better than a professional.
If you jump more than once a week, you’re running your horse into the ground. If you don’t jump at least once a week, you’re not actively training.
If you have your horse on supplements, you’re wasting money on crap they’ll pee out. If you don’t, you’re not giving your horse the tools he needs to succeed.
If you don’t have name brand breeches, you’re not really part of the sport. If you do, you’re trying too hard.
If you don’t show, you’re a podunk backyard rider. If you do, you’re putting your own ambition above a true connection with your horse.
If you don’t coordinate your tack, you’re a hot mess. If you do, you care more about looks than about riding correctly.
If you spend more than $5k on a horse, you’re foolish for not finding a talented project to bring along. If you don’t spend at least $25k, you must not be realistic about what it takes to get to the upper levels.
If you’re not jumping at least 3’6″, you’re not a competent rider. If you’re jumping over 3’6″, it’s probably because your horse is doing it for you, and anyone could do it too if they had a horse like that.
If you don’t show in Florida during the winter, you’re truly not part of the circuit. If you do, you’re one of “those people” with gobs of money and no real responsibilities to worry about.
If you call the vet too often, you’re overly paranoid and trying to treat holes in your training. Not often enough, and you’re a negligent owner.
I could keep going (and going and going). I’ve definitely been on the receiving end of many of these, often in the form of well-intentioned advice. I’m pretty positive that many of you have run into these and other judgments in your time in the horse world.
At the end of the day, there will always be people throwing shade because you’re not doing things their way. And at the end of the day, I plan to continue surrounding myself with a knowledgeable, supportive community to help me do the best I can for my horse- learning and trying to make tomorrow better than yesterday for him. Anything else just isn’t worth the energy.