It Feels Good to be Cruel

I see so many people who share their riding. It's brave, no doubt, to put yourself 'out there' especially on the faceless internet. Even just doing a drive by of the Chronicle forums will show you how much vitriol there is out there.

behind the vertical or huge smile?
People share things on Instagram, Facebook, blogs, even privately with friends. I do it. If you're reading this you probably do it. Although I think this particular post will go beyond just people who ride and extend to anyone who does anything that isn't easy, and requires time and learning.

Why is it, when I look at people's posts, they are miserably critical and cruel to themselves?

It bothers me so much I've started calling people out on it. I hate reading something or watching a video and thinking "wow, that took some guts," or "that was really well ridden" or even just "I'm really jealous how well she keeps her shoulders back" and then at the end there's  a little knife dug in there.

getting left behind or following with the hand?
Sorry I'm such a crappy rider.

I'll always suck at this.

I'm really terrible I don't know why my horse puts up with me.

First of all, you're not terrible. You're learning. If you rode like pigeon poop and thought yourself the second coming of McClain Ward, that's terrible. If you're spurring the shit out of your horse into rollkur and calling it collection then yes, you might be a terrible rider.

But if you're taking lessons and trying, failing sometimes and succeeding others, you're not a crappy rider.

Seriously. I am absolutely talking to you right now. You know who you are. YOU are NOT a bad rider.

constricting release or excellent lower leg?
I fall victim to this myself. I don't stop at riding when I beat myself up. I pick at everything. Sometimes I wonder why I did it (past tense because I'm really, really trying hard not to do it anymore). It could be that the self-flagellator is looking for attention and affirmation. Perhaps the deprecater thinks if they make fun of themselves first then no one else can. Or maybe it feels good to berate yourself, in a sick way. Like self motivation through contrition.

I want to hold myself accountable to be kind... to myself.

If we're all being honest, abusing yourself like that doesn't do anything but be unkind to you. I'm tired of seeing people I care about and respect talk so shitty about themselves. So please, be kind to yourself. Because if I see you do otherwise I'm going to come over and call you a liar and start telling you all the reasons you're wrong and top it off with an eye-ball bulging hug. I'm not even a hugger, so don't make me.


  1. You know I really needed to hear this! MUCH LOVE!!!!

  2. This is really true. I *hate* when I see those comments on the end of an instagram description. Though I'm also guilty of doing it.

    I also think this has a deeper effect than just brushing off potential criticism or aimless self-flagellation. I think that by making excuses for things in a picture -- "Sorry my eq is so bad!" -- it gives the rider a mental excuse NOT to work on or fix that thing. It allows them to be a little bit less accountable for trying hard. It lets them off the hook for something they know they ought to fix. It gives them a buffer zone of no-comparison -- you can't really compare to someone with bad equitation, because you have no idea how round and fabuloso their horse would be if only their eq were better. If only they were feeling 100% that day. If only they were McLain Ward.

    Maybe I'm being way too harsh -- super common for me -- but I love the part of the riding journey where we get to try like hell and make ourselves and our horses better every day. I don't think constantly making those comments is a part of that.

  3. "Perhaps the deprecater thinks if they make fun of themselves first then no one else can." - This is hitting the nail on the head.

    I know I tend to self deprecate myself into a hole under my breath because I don't want people to think that I think I'm beezie madden just because I showed 3'9" on a badass horse a couple years ago (or any other number of things related to riding wins). It also stems from other personal problems in my past - abuse of any shade has a long history, one that can be hard to forget, one that crops up in ways that we have to learn to deal with as adults. Life is hard.

  4. I think self abuse and negative self talk are some of the most counterproductive things we can do. Simultaneously tho I think objective assessment and constant self evaluations can be really really productive - so long as they are in fact objective and not helpless self pity, rooted instead in the belief that we can get better and make changes.

    Like I can on one hand review footage of myself and say “ok this needs work and that was a mistake and one of these days I would really like to eradicate that habit entirely!” While feeling at the exact same time that it was a good ride and progress is happening.

    It’s hard to convey that in writing tho, idk why. A lot of ppl read stuff like that and either tell me not to be so hard on myself or offer me advice I neither asked for nor want. It’s always a tricky balance. Agreed tho that as adult amateurs we would all be a little better off if we just lighten up and enjoy the ride, imperfections and mistakes and all.

  5. I am so so so guilty of this (especially with the racehorses). The older I get, the more I doubt I have any business riding horses at ALL, let alone in a professional capacity. Like, how the fuck am I qualified to teach other people? Who am I kidding?!?!?!

    Also, in everything else in my life. My entire sense of humor is based on tearing myself apart. That's probably not a good thing...

  6. You make so many great points here, and I really love the conversation it's generated. I need to be more cognizant about this in my own postings.

  7. A couple of thoughts (from Anna Blake) that are in the same vein...

    "Self-criticism isn’t the same thing as self-awareness. One goes on in the over-thinking intellectual part of the mind and the other feels things in real-time like a horse does."

    "You can’t control your horse, much less the world, but you can control how you treat yourself.
    What if good horsemanship boils down to kindly accepting yourself?"

  8. You know, I don't think of it as critical. I am really proud of the things I've done and improvements I've made, but also want to see and appreciate my flaws so I can continue to improve. When I share with others, I don't want someone at a different stage of riding to see some flaw I'm working on and think that's what it's supposed to look like.

  9. I like this :)
    I definitely do it too. For me, I think I do it, like "hey, I know I'm doing this or that wrong. No need to point it out in the comments..." But I also don't think I suck because I make mistakes. I know I'm a decent rider. Great? No, probably not. But not terrible. I do suck a little... I have bad habits, that I'm not sure I've worked hard enough to correct. That sort of thing. But I'm an amateur. I'm supposed to suck a little ;) (That's totally tongue in cheek by the way.) But I like this. I think you make a good point in that we need to be kinder to ourselves. Maybe point out the good along with the bad.

  10. Yeah, sometimes I do that. Like if I want to share a video showing how awesome my horse looks over a fence, but my leg has slid back or whatever. I guess I expect perfection from myself, which is so highly unrealistic. Now I'm happy I kept the bad pictures, because comparing them to now has been priceless.

    Love this post so much!

  11. I am my harshest critic. And it's been a long road to let that go. To stop expecting myself to be perfect. Yes I could do that once, and very well, but this is now. I am very out of practice with it. So why shouldn't I be understanding about my own limitations? I am always mindful of my horse's limitations and kind to them when something goes wrong - why can't I do that for myself? So I mention the things that weren't quite right. I look at them objectively, but then focus on what I did right. What I remembered well. And the feeling that while not everything came together perfectly, it felt awesome and we're headed in the right direction. At the same time tho, when I write all that down, I don't want to sound like "that person" that never has a bad ride. I do, but I really try to balance that with being kind to myself since it's usually not the horse's fault the ride wasn't as good as it could be. It's hard lol.

    By the way none of that above was aimed at you. Mostly just saying the exact same thing you were saying in the way my brain had to understand it in order for me to get past being cruel to myself. I love that you posted this, so thank you for writing this up.

  12. This is me (and probably all ppl), regardless of what kind of horse I'm on. Always apologizing. It's probably time to stop and time to start having fun, right?

  13. I know I'm my own worst critic, and I certainly have a lot to work on BUT I've been trying to see the positive in myself lately. I can still say "I want to work on strengthening my lower leg because it slipped back in that video" but then I have to say something POSITIVE like "I really liked how I gave a great release over every fence"

  14. Stumbled across your blog and this is the first post I read - wow did I need this. I always fall into the trap of "So proud of my boy! But wow do I need to work on *insert EVERYTHING here*." Or, many of my go-to captions is "What a saint of a horse to put up with my flailing" which really is a terrible and useless viewpoint. Thank you for putting this out there and reminding me I need to work on the way I think about things!


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