Last week, I went to check my blogroll of equestrian bloggers like I’ve started to do again in the past month. This was my routine daily for many, many years. At the peak of horse blogdom, I had 200+ blogs on my feed. Most days there were between 30-50 updates of new posts, and I did my best to try and read/skim all of them. If I had something to say, I’d leave a comment. Sometimes a quick “good job!” of validation. Sometimes a detailed response to something they wrote. Sometimes trying to help with a specific problem.
Clearly, I had a lot more free time back then. Blame a desk job that I was chronically under-challenged at. I don’t have that kind of time now. Most of us don’t, because the horse blog feed has shrunk both in active blogs and daily updates. These days, there might be 10 new posts on a really busy day. But I still try to comment if I have something to say.
Commenting back in the day, at least for me at first, was the way you got people to your own blog. I’m sure I’m not the only one who paid attention to who “commented back” or engaged in your content after visiting their site. But over time, I cared about the reciprocation factor less. I followed for the horses, stories, show reports, and training milestones. And I commented when I wanted to support, help or simply validate the journey with a horse. Because as we all know, this shit is hard.
For a few years I totally disappeared from the scene. I quit that chill desk job I had. Went to grad school. Managed my time differently. Occasionally I’d read a horse blog if it showed up in my Facebook feed, but stopped checking feedly. And I totally stopped commenting. Through this, I blogged here some but not often.
When I started writing at SMTT again, I told myself I needed to pick up reading/commenting again. Because I believe community is at the heart of horse blogging. We’re not doing this for ad money or fame, especially now when the blogs that exist are so few and write for the joy of documenting a partnership. It’s really special that we still read and support each other, no matter how that looks ten years later after many of us started blogging.
That is why I was so pissed when I read a comment at a different horse blog last week. One that I won’t quote or out, but was extremely rude and unsupportive. One that challenged a blogger’s riding and horsemanship. One that pointed fingers. One that blamed.
I remember many moons ago I wrote a post joking a bit about my mediocre riding and my many flaws with Simon. Putting myself down, especially with equitation, is kind of part of my brand (my therapist does not approve). This post probably exists in my archives somewhere, but I don’t have the time to find it now. But as my memory serves, I listed a handful of things I did wrong/was working on.
In the comments, someone I hadn’t heard from before (and certainly not a horse blogger) cried out, “Oh but what about how you drop him at the base of the fence every time?!?” I can’t remember any quotes from the piece I wrote myself. I can’t remember any of the supportive comments, though if I had to guess there were some because the horse blog community is amazing. But I remember that one that was a bit rude, a bit harsh, and a lot uncalled for. Even though it wasn’t that bad. I think about “dropping my horse” still to this day.
The comment that pissed me off last week was so much worse. Best I can tell, it wasn’t written by a horse blogger. And I’m not surprised, because here’s the secret to those who read but don’t write.
It’s really hard to put all of our shit out there. I have ten years of bad decisions and riding mistakes recorded on the internet for anyone to see. The rider I am now looks back at a lot of it, and says “Oh I should have done things differently.”
Not only that, but you have to be extremely vulnerable if you blog. In a world of social media highlights, blogs typically show the whole and often not so pretty truth. We can’t hide our mistakes in a 50 character caption. Most of us are adult amateurs, learning alongside everyone else. The difference is, we dare to show it. Before someone strikes down a keyboard to slam a blogger for XYZ decision, think about what it feels like to write about a long lead-in to a show. You share all the preparation that goes into it. Sometimes you write about the money and the sacrifices it takes to go there. Many of us lend our hopes and dreams to others who might not be able to partake in their own lives.
And if it goes badly? Because let’s face it, so many things do with riding and horses and showing. Well, we have to share that too. We have to share our heartbreak. Frustration. The stops. The falls. I often joke about these failures, because I use humor to deflect, but go through my showing archives and you’ll see busted jumps, bruised egos, ribbons that are usually not blue, and a lot of quiet frustration along the way.
There aren’t many true bloggers left. I don’t call myself one, because I’ve been far too fair weather both in writing and in supporting the community to earn that title these days. But the true bloggers share all of that. And it’s hard. It’s really hard.
Shame on anyone that wants to strike them down. Do not steal their joy. You’re not helping. You’re harmful. Think about how you’d feel if a stranger approached you and started slamming your horsemanship horses.
To be clear, I haven’t had anything but lovely, appreciated support in a long time. But even if/when it comes along, my skin is pretty thick these days. It takes a lot to upset me, unless I see someone else getting kicked while they’re down.
Though you may have been reading for years, some of you are strangers to us writers. We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to write and share things you probably think you could do better or differently. If we ask for help, help kindly. But at least in my opinion, the unsolicited feedback or”real talk” can just remain unsaid.