Breed Discrimination Is Plaguing Local Horse Shows
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Breed Discrimination Is Plaguing Your Local Horse Shows, Even If You Don't Realize It

And these bad eggs are pushing away good equestrians and discouraging new riders.

Breed Discrimination Is Plaguing Your Local Horse Shows, Even If You Don't Realize It

My first time experiencing breed discrimination at the horse show setting was a very obvious slap to the face.

However, this slap was not delivered by one person but the entirety of the horse show was just that — a slap of reality.

My experience at this particular horse show that I described in a recent Odyssey article, made me realize not only was my horse and I not welcome at this show just because of his breed, but I also realized how deep the issue was.

After the show was long over with, I asked myself not only whether that horse show judge was right that I didn't belong in the sport, but also "does this happen elsewhere?" Sure enough, a simple google search confirmed my suspicions. There are hundreds of stories I have read that I searched for and were also recently messaged to me after I wrote about my experience.

The unique stories I read from equestrians not only made me disheartened how good people can experience such cruelty, but it also made me afraid.

The stories I heard and read made me afraid because so many ended with these very similar endings — "I never went back to that show again," "I took that judge's name down and avoided them like the plague" or "I stopped showing."

What is to become of our equestrian shows if this is how so many stories from good and honest people end? What is to become of the youth programs when a kid is routinely ridiculed and made to feel small when they're just trying to jump their Paint in a sea of OTTBs and Warmbloods? What is to become of the amateur adults who started to show their horse out of pure love of riding horses, only to be laughed at because they're riding their Arabian horse in a reining class?

What is to become of the teens who worked to the bone mucking stalls to ride their quarter horse in the dressage ring, only to be placed dead last and told, "quarter horses don't do dressage." What is to become of the freshly started trainer riding their rescued and rehabilitated mustang, only to be glared at when their $200 rescue wins? What is to become of the equestrians who give an OTTB a second career and a loving home, only to be barred from entering a boarding barn because "OTTBs are dangerous."

And let's make something very clear. This is not about suitability for the sport, or having feelings hurt because we didn't get a $0.10 ribbon. This isn't even about me. This is about the riders and horses who are genuinely good and obviously have trained and put in their time to improve as a team, but won't even be looked at by the judge because of the horse's breed or color. This is about the riders who are placed dead last even though they performed better than a significant portion of the competition over and over again. This is about the riders who aren't even given a single chance because the judge is prejudiced against a certain breed or color of horse, and these riders are getting tired of wasting their money and end their show career.

"They're fueled by love!" You may say, "They should keep riding and showing no matter how badly they are treated!"

Well, guess what — fuel runs out and people can only take so much abuse.

Yes, abuse. Making an individual feel unwelcome for biases fueled by harmful stereotypes is abusive, and it happens in every equestrian sport. No horse show is free from it. Some may say out of defense that there is always a bad egg no matter where you compete, but this defense is not acceptable.

Because there is not just a bad egg here and there, there is a whole 24-egg carton of bad eggs in every equestrian sport.

But don't take my word for it, please go and do a google search on bullying in equestrian sport and I guarantee you will find thousands of legitimate stories. Stories that don't end well because humans aren't exactly well known to frequently return to places they were made to feel unwelcome at, because the people who want certain equestrians to feel unwelcome have no problem not hiding it. They hit where it hurts — our horses.

These individuals, fueled by everything opposite of kindness or humanity, laugh and glare at the riders with the audacity to win on a rescue horse, to compete with a horse that isn't the typical breed used for the sport, to not be willing to throw down tens of thousands of dollars on a show horse, the list goes on because how dare these equestrians be different? How dare these equestrians 'break the rules,' because that's what it is. We equestrians who decided to do something different and are successful as a result are targeted and have the uniqueness of the horses we love used against us.

"Sell that crazy Arab, and buy yourself a real ranch horse."

How classy.

Although my experience was challenging and emotionally draining, I am very blessed to have it end the way it did. And it ended the way it did because I have an incredibly powerful support system. I have my parents who support me riding horses, I have my trainers who want me to be happy and I have my close friends that understand my love for horses and are delighted that I am happy.

I wasn't alone in my story — and I never was — but what about the equestrians that don't have what I have?

What happens to the equestrians who have a negative experience like mine and have parents that look for any reason to discourage their child from riding horses? What happens to the equestrians who are unfairly judged at horse shows because of these toxic biases of certain breeds of horses and have a trainer that looks the other way? What happens to the equestrians who have no one willing to back up how great their horse is even though their horse was free? These equestrians quietly leave the ring and stop riding.

I know this because I almost did the same thing.

I hesitated because I had great people beside me to remind me of my original purpose for riding horses — I love these animals with every fiber of my being. But not every equestrian has that privilege and we need to step it up as a community to support these equestrians. It starts with speaking up, both for the rider who is experiencing it and the people who see it.

Report it, complain, make noise, make it known to judges that placing a horse dead last every class when they followed the rulebook and didn't do anything wrong is unacceptable. Make it known that it is unacceptable when your barn owner refuses to even look at a certain breed of horse to take into board, not because of preference, but because of some stereotype. Make it known to the teens who pick on a kid for riding a cheaper pony that their behavior is unacceptable. I can continue forever.

When unacceptable behavior occurs in any of life's arenas, speak up. It's about time that we do.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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