Not for faint hearted: 11 Rules of Being a Supportive Amateur Equestrian

A couple of mornings a week I try to catch up with various equestrian forums, both English and Polish (sometimes I venture onto Portuguese, Swedish and Norwegian sites too), read about what riders like to learn about and what might be giving them trouble with progressing their riding. It keeps me on my toes, makes me always search for better answers, consolidate some things, open others for more discussions.

We equestrian bunch are a rather opinionated one. I put together a little Guide on the basis of what I read this and past week. I would be interested in your thoughts…


Here is the thing. We are all in this sport together. Critiquing methods and techniques displayed by Olympic riders is just not ON…

1. You know those pictures and short videos of various “advanced training methods” you see online and that make you feel a little uneasy and kind of like you felt when someone skinned a dog alive and they showed bits and bobs of it on TV? Don’t worry. It’s just this amazing speed of a shutter, if you were there you wouldn’t even spotted this because your eyes, the eyes of a rider who never trained at that level, have no ability to see that kind of movement. Rest assured all this is normal and fine, many world famous judges cannot be wrong, it’s totally unnecessary that you comment on what you see. Just buy a ticket to an event and enjoy it for gods sake.

2. It’s important that you do not criticise anything (unless you are also a top rider than perhaps you can add a point or two) even if it makes you a little sick inside when you watch some training methods. Just realise, these are very sensitive horses, they would probably kill you if not for the methods they are being trained with, please understand.

3. If you thought the sporting events like Olympics or various Championships are staged so you feel inspired, excited and all fuzzy around your heart then Grow Up. If you see something that doesn’t please your eyes you must understand how very little you know about top sport. It’s a tough game, things have to be done, things that are not always pretty or fuzzy around the heart. These riders suffer greatly too, you know, they feel the pain. They too would rather cuddle their horses. But it must be done and that’s that. They love their horses really.

4. Remember. Top riders are not riding for you. They are riding for higher powers of a complex sporting bank on horses you would die on (did I mention that?) or get severely injured if you so much as look at them. If you acknowledge this and watch top riders performing in silence, your life will be a little bit simpler. Don’t try to change the sport. It supposed to be changing you. Toughen you up you know.

5. If you wonder why a top horse is bleeding a little from mouth or sides – don’t. Make notes. If you do as they do, you too can become great and bleed a little for the world to see. Yes, granted, if your horse bleeds at a show you will be eliminated, the rules don’t let your horse show any blood. However, don’t worry. You can always change the bit for the next show. You will talk yourself out of it and will be out and about in no time.

6. Always find excuses for your idol. Support them in everything they do and in all training methods they use. They can’t do wrong and if they do, then it becomes right. It’s very simple and you will have no problem with this because at the end of the day you have never ridden at Olympics have you? So how would you know the right from wrong? Exactly, you wouldn’t. In fact, please remember, I know I mentioned this but just so you really get it, you would be killed if you even tried to hack out in walk on one of your idol’s horses. There.

7. If a thought occurs to you that sporting events really are for the masses to love and enjoy and that what you find sick to watch might therefore be a wrong thing to happen, then please stop being a baby. Do you know how much effort, commitment and hard graft is involved at the top level?? Do you know what these people have to go through??? Do you know what it takes to sit on a horse with this powerful movement?? Well then, cosy up on a sofa with an electric blanket around your legs as you watch the replays and be thankful they even let you pay for that Sky box to watch them.

8. If you tend to like “natural” ways of equine management please understand that at Olympic level the sports are not a treehugging competition. Nothing in the sport is “natural” therefore all the contortions you see the animals in are what it often takes to get to the top. Don’t forget they do this so you go and watch them so it’s important that you support it with passion. The fact you have spent 20 years with horses and know more about equine emotions than many 20 years old Olympic riders out there really doesn’t stand up to the fact you would be bounced off that extended trot and jumped out of that 1m jump if you sat on one of their horses. So get your priorities right and go and buy the ticket.

9. So you still have a niggling feeling that what you are watching is not exactly up to your standards. You would want to see more relaxed, elastic, happy athletes out there to get all excited about. You would love to follow in their footsteps in your own time on your little talented native and admire their training systems. Only one question to you: are you for real?? COME ON. You keep your horse barefoot and go in the arena couple of times a week! Your horse resembles a yeti in the winter. Your instructor had never even competed at National level and you are learning to sit straight. Do you really expect yourself to have any coherent thought about Olympic level riding? Please. See above regarding length of your life should you ever tried riding properly.

10. You have BHS exams? You are an accredited trainer? And you would like to voice your opinion about welfare vs choice of training methods? AWWWWW…How cute. Just buy the damn ticket, go and watch those riders at their clinics and seminars, perhaps you will learn something useful. It’s not a pyjama party with horse shaped cupcakes my dear. This is serious training for serious riders. Some people are just not designed to know what happens before the curtains open, you know.  Just try to enjoy that show. You paid for it.

11. Finally, you might feel that you are qualified to have an opinion on the tack used at highest levels. Well sadly, your uneducated comments give you away. How could you possibly know what kind of tack is required by a highly trained, highly sensitive, highly perceptive animal?? How could you if all you have ever ridden through were some bucking bronco of your own homebred that you kept on spring grass for a bit too long. Do yourself a favour and only comment once you have a) trained to Olympic level b) Got there and c) trained someone else to get there.

Only then will you ever be capable of determining whether something makes you all fuzzy around your heart, or not.

DISCLAIMER: Please follow your own opinion…Please fight for it. Please keep trying to change the sport you love so you are proud to support it. 

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