I'm not a psychologist, phsychiatrist or mental health professional so my word isn't law. I am, however, a bit of an insomniac so I'm often awake at 4am thinking about other people's problems. This was last night's topic of choice. This isn't offical advice, or medical advice, or anything of that nature. It's just my thoughts on the subject, but hopefully will help some of you.
Conflict and criticism is becoming more an more of a problem, especially with "online instructors" (who 999/1000 are not actually instructors) everywhere on Instagram and TikTok.
There are two key points that I want to make
1. How we view training approaches
2. How we view criticism
How we view training approaches
Almost all horse riders, and owners, are genuinely passionate and really do care for their horses. And by almost, I am meaning the vast majority. I would think that only a very, very small % of the riding population knowingly harm horses; everyone else is just doing the best that they can with the knowledge they have at the time, and where they are on their journey. But, because we all care about our horses, everybody wants to be right because if you're not right, you must be wrong! And if you're wrong, does that mean you've been harming your horse? And then it gets really emotive. That is why the subject of training and horse welfare is such a contentious issue, and why discussions often gets so heated. Everybody wants to be right, because they are scared of being wrong, because wrong = bad.
With the exception of those very few, who do really harm horses (and I mean really - Rolkur for sustained periods, beatings that result in blood, abuse that requires veterinary treatment, electric spurs, bits with spikes on like in the olden days), it's best to think of training that there's no right or wrong. There's just different. It might be more to your taste, or less. It might be more you cup of tea, or less. It might align with you, or it might not but it isn't wrong, just different. Think of it as a horizontal sliding scale. You put your personal training system wherever you think it should go, and everyone else's training systems sit somewhere on that scale too. Theirs might be very close to yours, it might be at the end. Being at either extreme is fine, as is being anywhere on the line between them.
How we view criticism
So the best way to think about criticism is don't - it isn't criticism, they're just sharing their training method with you. You might say to me "I really like running for fitness, it makes me feel great and it's helped me lose weight". My response might be "I don't love running to be honest, my preference is swimming". We've shared training. You've shared what you do, and I've shared what I do. Nobody has bashed or criticised anyone, we've just both shared our respective training systems. The same is true with comments in the equestrain world, but because it's so emotive it might not come out in such a civilised way (because they want to be right, because they don't want to be wrong). You will, therefore, need to translate what they are really trying to say. When you get a comment that says "You don't know how to ride", what they are actually trying to say is "You're training methods are the opposite end of the scale to mine". When they say "You need to put your hands forward", they are trying to say "You're training system is different to mine, In mine, I put my hands forward more over the fence". Their comments are a reflection of their training system and beliefs, not yours.
Don't view it as criticism. Take the right and wrong out of it, and translate what they are really trying to say. This translation is almost always, "your training sits somewhere else on the scale to my training method and in mine, this is what I do." It's just sharing done badly, out of fear of being wrong.
I hope this helps some of you.
I am a dressage trainer and general equestrian coach in Surrey, Sussex, and Berkshire. I teach dressage lessons, and hold a range of riding and equestrian clinics around the UK, and use my blog to share horse training tips, advice, and resources.