‘Think before you Tweet’ should be every rider’s motto. It should, of course, be everyone’s golden rule – and apply across all forms of social media – but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
It’s sad but not surprising that governing bodies of the three major equestrian disciplines have had to lay down the law and start monitoring online comments. British Showjumping started the ball rolling earlier this year with a lengthy section in its rule book covering everything from security to derogatory comments. British Eventing has also introduced new rules and British Dressage is enhancing its code of conduct to achieve the same ends.
Social media can be wonderful. You can share the triumphs of your favourite star rider, share pics of magic moments with friends and family and enjoy fascinating internet discussions. And, of course, you can smile at the funnies: my current favourite is the sentiment ‘Tell a gelding, ask a mare, discuss it with a stallion – and pray if it’s a pony.’
It can also be nasty, cruel and mind-boggling. Do some people undergo a personality transplant as soon as they sign in to their FB account? It can seem that way when someone who comes across in real life as pleasant and reasonable posts inappropriate or vitriolic comments.
We’ve all said the wrong thing at the wrong time, but there’s a real difference between commenting to your nearest and dearest in the privacy of your own home and putting it out there for the world to read – and share, and comment on, and exaggerate. Professional riders and, sadly, judges – who give their time for nothing – are frequent targets. Whilst celeb-bashing happens across all walks of life, we don’t need it in the horse world.
When a friend tackled someone who had posted something unpleasant and asked why she’d done it, the reply was, ‘Oh, I’d had a couple of glasses of wine. Couldn’t you tell?’ So there’s one solution – don’t drink and post.
I try and remember two pieces of advice from a wise friend now in her late eighties. One was the observation that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. The other was that if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all.