I Wear My Heart on my Feed

I Wear My Heart on my Feed

In the year that I’ve owned Raglan my Instagram account has blown up. What started as an online photo album that I could look back on when I was feeling nostalgic has become a public spectacle that can easily draw in 100,000+ views. At this point my follower count could fill up the local hockey rink—twice. It’s crazy to think that there’s 20,000 people that routinely look at photos of Raglan’s beautiful face. It’s even crazier when I think about all of the people that have 60k, 100k, or even 100 MILLION followers.

Part of what I love about Instagram is that I can share my journey with other horse people. Over the past year Raglan and I have had occasional lessons/training rides, but 95% of Raglan’s improvements have been a solo endeavor and I’m so proud of us both! To celebrate my anniversary with Raglan, I posted some throwback videos to my feed. One of those videos was a jumping mash up.

In six months, Raglan and I have gone from baby cross rails to 2’0″ courses—with flowers and oxers and the occasional 2’3″ jump thrown in! We’ve only jumped about a dozen times, but over the course of those rides he’s gotten smarter with his feet and I’ve started to let go of my terror and allow my arms to come forward and my upper body to come down over his neck. There’s still a long way to go, but we’re both improving… and then there was our lesson on Friday, of course. 😁

NOBODY CAN STOP ME FROM USING THIS PHOTO AGAIN

I wanted Instagram to be excited with me—and most of my followers were super supportive! But there’s always those few that take it upon themselves to browse around on Instagram looking for posts where they can tell young happy amateur riders some “hard truths”. One of them even called me a “floppy salmon” and said that I was “delusional” if I thought I was making progress.

I wish I could say that I laughed the harsh comments off, but I didn’t. I stayed up later than I should have figuring out how to respond, then I went through the next day in a funk. My thoughts were split between “why do people have to be jerks?”, “what if they’re right and I’m a terrible rider?”, and “why can’t I just ignore this and move on?”. I felt weak and discouragedand mad at myself for feeling that way!

On Friday, after my lesson with TrainerM, I should have been happy to share video of our first 2’3″ oxer with my Instafriends. Instead, I was sad. I didn’t want to be berated with more unsolicited “advice”. In the end I just posted a still shot of Raglan and I looking down at the oxer.

Raglan and I had our very first real jump lesson with my trainer this morning 🙌🏻 We even jumped this 2’3″ oxer like it was no big deal 👍🏻 Want to see the video? Too bad 🤷🏻‍♀️ Lately I’ve noticed a lot of negative comments masquerading as “advice” on some of my videos. … I think our online culture makes it easy to forget that the people whose content fills up your Instagram feed are real people with real barn friends and real trainers. They don’t owe you content and they aren’t looking for your approval! … I’m super happy to have people follow along with my journey, but don’t mistake my joy at sharing Raglan with you guys for an invitation to play the part of backseat trainer 🙏🏻

I left comments on the post closed, but over the next few hours a flood of supportive messages landed in my inbox. It was great to have people crawl out of the woodwork to say nice things to me, but all of the positivity didn’t erase the disappointment I’d been feeling all week.

When it comes down to it, I’m an amateur rider. Everything I do—the riding, the blogging, the Instagram account—is for the love of the sport. Three years ago I was suffering through the doldrums of a life I wasn’t supposed to be living; today I am happy again, and it’s all thanks to the horses. It doesn’t matter if my equitation is perfect, because I’m blessed to be riding—and to be able to go over a jump without crumbling into a huddled mass of terror is just an added bonus.

My heart belongs to this beautiful giant dusty happy horse 💓

Sharing my experiences with the online world makes me happy, too. I like being part of a bigger community, even if some members of that community aren’t always kindhearted. I want other equestrians to draw enthusiasm from the times when I’m feeling accomplished and to share their strength of spirit with me on days where I’m feeling down. I don’t want to hide the hard parts of my journey, but I also I don’t want to be punished for being in a perpetual state of “still learning”.

And yet, when I tell people I’m not looking for advice, they act offended; when I delete mean comments, I’m called a coward; when I say that I’m tired of being harassed, I’m labeled as “bitchy”. Why is it so ridiculous for me to expect kindness? We spend so much time making our horses softer and more flexible, so why does everyone keep insisting that I should “grow a thicker skin”?

Another of Julie Austin‘s beautiful photosshouldn’t we all be drawn together by our love for horses?

I just want people in the equestrian community to be nicer. It’s easy. Don’t make other people feel small. Only give advice when asked for it. Stop using insincere cop-outs like “no hate” and “imo” and “not to be rude but”. Aim to uplift instead of discourage. If you see a mean comment, say something.

We should all do our bests to be better equestrians, but more than that we should strive to be better people. None of us will ever be the “picture perfect Instagram rider”that idealized version of an equestrian doesn’t really exist, anywaysbut we should always try to be the kindest person in the barn.

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