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It can take a lot to bully an equestrian. And it happens a lot. The unwanted, unhelpful comments made on a livery yard soon escalate. I’ve seen grown women pounce upon younger women and start the psychological games usually seen in school bullies. What starts this behaviour? And if you’re experiencing it now, what can you do?
Bullying of any kind is a repeated action, whether direct to someone’s face, or indirect – the kind where a person may be excluded from events or conversations; it can also be talking behind someone’s back.
There is a disempowerment of the victim, which empowers the bully.
Whilst campaigns such as ‘Not on My Yard’ in 2016 helped enormously with awareness, bullying just won’t go away.
In 2017, Irish equestrian Susan Oakes who holds the world side-saddle puissance and triple bar jumping records – not a lady easily intimidated, I’d say – said, “I went down some roads so dark that I didn’t think there would be a tomorrow. At night, I actually prayed that I wouldn’t wake up the next morning.” Susan was horrendously harassed and bullied by horse dealers.
Some riders being bullied feel a need to alter their routines to avoid certain people and situations. They lock up their feed and tack, or take their belongings home. Sometimes, they feel a need to ride at unusual times and even stop going to certain shows.
Let’s look at the 5 common bullies for the everyday rider and what’s behind their behaviour:
1. The livery yard expert. They have all the so-called expertise, which is at least 10 years out of date. They eschew anything new, anything not done their way. They know all the correct feeds, tack, training, riding methods and will talk about you to your face or behind your back about what you’re doing wrong.
These bullies are insecure and can only operate by having others join them. Usually the others don’t want to incur their wrath, so they agree to this queen bee. The queen bee herself has many areas of life that she struggles with. Her only refuge is the security of horses and having some knowledge of them. By challenging her way of doing things, simply by doing something different, you may have challenged her crown indirectly.
2. The horse welfare bullies. Those who pretend (whether consciously or unconsciously) that they are only concerned with the welfare of the horse. They mask their bullying behind a false concern for how you are looking after or training your horse. They come in several guises, claiming to know about something like natural horsemanship. They make you feel that what you are doing is cruel and force you to follow their advice, going against your gut feelings.
The bully again, likes to be an expert. Their minds are often closed. When I first transitioned my horse to barefoot, my trimmer asked me if I’d had negative remarks (I was on a traditional competition /livery yard). Luckily, the girls on that yard were always very supportive and non-judgmental. The horse welfare bully is simply the expert bully who hides behind an excuse, making them look helpful. Once again, they elevate their own opinions of themselves by thinking that others are inferior. This is classic of insecure people.
3. The instructor bully. This one speaks for itself. The instructor or trainer whose approach is from the 1950s will already be aware of their misdemeanours. They were probably bullied whilst being trained themselves. They now have little more than an old reputation as a successful rider. They live vicariously through their riders. Their frustrations at not making it up the levels and rankings as high as they should or could have are heavy millstones.
4. The cyber bully. The ultimate coward who cannot help but criticise those who are having a go, even those who rise to international stardom. These bullies are jealous and do not have the mind resources to create opportunities for themselves. They are stuck feeling that they could do better, without ever taking steps to change and have a go themselves.
5. The racist, homophobic or anti-special needs bully. Clearly, this is borne out of bigotry, which, in its most empirical form is borne out of a fear of someone different.
What to do about being bullied: disempower the bully.
#Notonmyyard campaign by Tudor Rose Equine > https://www.facebook.com/notonmyyard
Susan Oakes’ world record puissance > https://equusmagazine.com/blog-equus/equestrian-bullying-horse-words-hurts-54948
More about NLP > https://www.traceycolenlp.com/nlp/