You open your Instagram or Facebook account; smiling back at you is that new rider in town, proudly posing with your coach and her new mount. You gingerly press the ‘like’ button as your stomach knots. Your own horse has been lame for months and may never compete again. You’ve been borrowing rides where you can, but don’t have the funds for a new horse. Your now-plummeting mood has you considering boycotting all social media. Should you?

The Dark Side of Social Media for Equestrians

The comparison trap: Social media naturally invites us to compare ourselves with others. Hearing about another rider’s successes when you’re low can deepen feelings of self-doubt. Consciously, we know that social media posts represent the best of the best, purposefully chosen to celebrate highlights and leave out the mundane daily grind. Still, it is hard not to feel envious when constantly reminded of what you don’t have – complete with images.

Distraction: Checking social media while competing can really bump you off your game. Seeing someone’s post on winning the class you fell off in, or negative commentary about a judge’s inconsistency, will distract you if allowed. Anything that takes your head away from riding your plan has the potential to derail your goals and the internet provides a livestreaming 24-hour feed of focus-snatchers.

Distance: When you are online, you don’t experience others in quite the same way. That is why it is so easy for haters to hate (did they really need to comment on the colour of my jacket??) and why you have to watch your own self a little more closely. It can be easy to put comments out there that are impulsive and may have a negative impact, and you can’t take them back – ever.

The Bright Side of Social Media for Equestrians

Connection: Humans are inherently social creatures. We need other people to truly thrive, and our mental health depends on it. Social media can connect us to friends and family as well as people we may never meet in person with whom we are still able to develop strong bonds. Being involved in the online world can mean greater opportunity for support and a sense of community. Think about why you got into your sport in the first place: yes, it was likely a love of all things equine, but is it not made richer by sharing that love with like-minded souls?
Don’t you appreciate those posts that only other riders will understand and leave the rest of your friends responding with confused emojis or question marks?

Learning: If you want to be a student of your sport (and you should), social media can provide ample wisdom. Someone posts a link to a training article that changes your world, another shares info about an upcoming clinic you didn’t know about. When people are authentic, you empathize with them. We all know what it’s like to try hard and be let down or cope with an unexpected injury. But someone else’s helpful tips may just be the game-changer that makes your day.

The Verdict?

You can manage your social media for the betterment of yourself as a rider and a person. The key is to know what you value. Treat your attention like the precious commodity it is. Limit your daily dose of social media and consider taking a full break during competitions. Decide how you want to treat people, even the mean ones. Some situations may call for a well-thought-out, non-emotional (and always kind) response. Other times it may be best to just delete the comment, as you can’t be as easily distracted by what you can’t see.

Learn, connect, and enjoy your sport!