Monday, May 12, 2014

Can't we all just get along?

My student on my horse.
For the last month or so, I've been giving riding lessons to a 12 year old whose horse is stabled at the barn. She is an enthusiastic pupil with a good foundation who devours any and all horse-related knowledge. (She's been studying my copy of the USPC Manual of Horsemanship (D-Level) for the better part of two weeks.) She idolizes Moe, though she doggedly perseveres on her own short POA gelding who's coming off a stint as a police horse/sitting in a field.

The other day, I asked her if she was out of school for the summer yet. She frowned, said no, and said, "I can't wait to be out for the summer, 'cause there's this group of girls who are really mean at school."

I asked her what they were doing. I was the subject of frequent jeers by my high school peers for being the "smart kid" (when really I just test well), made fun of for riding horses (because it's not a "real" sport), and a variety of other things. I thought maybe I could offer some guidance or comfort; at the worst, I could at least empathize. 

My student told me girls at her school were writing "WE HATE [STUDENT'S NAME" on the bathroom walls, prank calling her almost every night (to either hang up or call her a bitch or a cunt, according to her mother), and making fun of her for anything they could think of. This girl is in seventh grade! I'm pretty sure I didn't hear 'cunt' until I was at least in tenth! What!

But what seemed to bother her the most was a girl who also rides horses and takes lessons at one of the nice hunter/jumper barns in the area. This girl was apparently needling my student about her "ugly little horse" and the fact that my student has never jumped more than 2'. 

I offered what support I could and we turned our attention to the task at hand (convincing her horse that he is, in fact, capable of cantering), but I've been thinking about the hows and whys of why horse people can be so hateful to one another; moreso, what would possess a child to belittle another about what kind of horse they have or how high they're jumping.

You see this kind of thing in the adult world, too. Eventers make snide comments about how those hunter princesses wouldn't last a minute on a real foxhunt or make fun of their big dopey warmbloods who couldn't keep up with a hunt field if their life depended on it. Rodeo competitors have nothing but disdain for English riders who pamper their delicate, hot-blooded horses and think neither horse nor rider have ever done a day's work in their lives.

We're all equestrians together. We all love our horses; they work hard for us, and we do our best by them. Everyone has a different way of doing things, but by and large, there's no one true way to do anything. Of course, neglectful or abusive owners, riders, and trainers exist. But they aren't the focus of this post. Average, everyday horse people are.

There's something to be learned from everyone. I learned the rope-halter-to-fix-a-pulling-back-habit trick from my very rodeo oriented coworkers. I learned the value of a steady, rhythmic pace around a jumping course from my days on the equestrian team. I learned how gag bits, when used properly, don't have to be harsh from my polo instructor.

The horse blogging community is a great place for support. The blogs I read are full of interesting ideas, good advice, thought-provoking opinions, and a healthy sense of humor. We cheer one another's successes, empathize and strategize failures, and offer sympathy in tragedy. Let's take that attitude to the real world. Let's be good examples for riders our own age as well as for young people. Let's show good sportsmanship and civility at competitions; let's offer to help a fellow equestrian in need. Let's try to learn from people who are different from us, and stop making fun of each other.

Except for minis. We can still make fun of minis, because this is just too silly.

LOLZ WUT

11 comments:

L.Williams said...

Its unfortunate but learning to suffer through that stuff is a part of growing up, I know. It would be better if we didn't need to and I feel for her. She can persevere and be a better person for it. The other girls will get their due in good time as well.

SheMovedtoTexas said...

Aw poor kid. It always shocks me when kids are so mean like that.

Stephanie said...

I agree- learning to suffer and work through that stuff is an important part of growing up because people are not always going to be super nice and supportive and wonderful when you're an adult!

Stephanie said...

Seriously! I mean, WTF! I would have been THRILLED to have anyone at my school who like...knew that jumping horses was an activity you could engage not, regardless of if they jumped five feet or five inches!

Austen Gage said...

Wow. How awful. I remember getting made fun of all the time for being the "horse girl" in school, but I remember how much worse it was to feel excluded and disliked by some of the cliquey barn girls. I guess all you can do is make that girl feel included and like she's accomplishing something, enjoying herself, and loved. Sounds like you're up for that task.

And yeah. WTF minis?

Karley said...

Ughhh! This is what makes me want to keep my daughter (soon to be daughters) in a bubble away from mean kids!!!

I know kids will be kids but why don't those parents know that their kids are making prank calls?!?! Why doesn't the school step in to obvious bulling?

As parents it is our responsibility to establish good manners/morals in out children ... and to many parents don't make that a priority- I see it even now (and my daughter is only 3) and it makes me sad how many kids at such a young age get away with murder!!!

I am glad you are able to talk to her and hope that she knows there are people there for her!!! Keep up the good work and lets hope she poors into her riding and horse :)

Veronica Elizabeth Raj said...

I can't imagine what it's like to be raising a child right now, but I know bullies were a bitch all throughout my education. Where I lived there were no horses, and so to be a young, horse-loving girl who also happened to be smart and sensitive made me an easy target. When I went away to college I was so excited to find one with an equestrian team, only to later learn that I couldn't afford any of the things I would need to be part of it and that even if I had the means, I wouldn't have the skill or experience to be good enough to those girls. This still sticks with me. As much as I want to learn about horses, as much as I want to own one and maybe even do fun things with other people involving horses, that fear and shame still has a way of guiding my life.
Also, I'm totally aware that boys and men are capable of cruelty, but in my experience it was the girls and ladies who were the biggest bullies. This strikes me as terribly wrong. One of my favorite 'beauty' companies advertises "We believe beauty is about connection, not competition," and I can't agree more. We gals ought to stick together. People need to work together, especially if we hope to accomplish something.
I think it's so absurd that people who have something in common waste time fighting among themselves when they could be doing something as amazing as riding horses together. [Not that bullying equates to fighting - fighting is usually a two-way street, whereas bullying is just a whole other form of awfulness.]
Anyways, this was an exceptional post Stephanie and it's a very important subject.
Too often we fall prey to focusing on our differences rather than our similarities.

Stephanie said...

I've never understood what's wrong with being the "horse girl"! Is it because it isn't a team sport? Is everyone just jealous that we get to ride pretty ponies and wear sexy pants?

Stephanie said...

I cannot imagine raising kids today- you are a brave woman, Karley! I wondered the same thing about the prank calls- do these kids' parents just not notice? Do they care? At least your girls won't be the bratty, snobby kids making life hard for someone else!

Stephanie said...

I don't know why girls are always so bitchy to other girls or what about our culture fosters that kind of attitude.

I need to take you out to the barn to visit all the ponies soon! :)

Veronica Elizabeth Raj said...

::squeals:: that would be awesome!

I'm not sure, either, but I think it comes from a sense of competition that is fostered, that it starts when girls are young, sometimes by their mothers, sometimes by their peers, sometimes through media, that we all have to fight to be 'prettiest' - 'BEST' - to 'win' that 'perfect man'. [I don't think this is new, I think it's been ingrained in our culture for quite awhile.] We look for flaws in ourselves, we are drawn to them in others, to point them out, and when we feel we have beaten another, have 'won' that fight, by being prettier or somehow 'better', we gloat. I found this page on Facebook called "A Mighty Girl" and it's similar to Amy Poehler's Smart Girls in that it encourages young girls to strive to become whole, strong, smart people. It's pretty awesome, and sometimes even makes me wish I had a daughter I could share this stuff with, even though I know in reality it would probably be way too much for me to handle. A lot of people like to say that social media and the internet makes raising children harder than it was for our parents. I can't be sure - it seems like it's difficult - but it wasn't so awesome even when everything was just face-to-face. At least now we collectively have the opportunity to take a moment to think things over before responding to any perceived offenses. I had a terrible time with bullies in school, and my mom would try to comfort me, telling me they were jealous of me for some reason or another, but it didn't help. I don't know that bullies made me stronger, personally, but I realize that if everyone and everything acted like a perfect ray of sunshine, children would be faced with some tough realizations when something did go wrong... even still, I can't help thinking that we could all do much better than we are right now, could all work harder on helping each other up when we're down, and defending those who seem to need help.
Sorry for the wall of text. We *do* need to hang out, and soon!

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