From banned substance infractions to SafeSport suspensions and now shootings, we don’t know what scandal is going to hit the internet next. It could involve someone we know and like, one of our mentors, or a sponsored rider our brand is connected with. Better be prepared for every scenario.
When news of an incident breaks, equestrians immediately jump on social media to express their disbelief, support or condemnation for the parties involved depending on where they stand on the issue. It is a normal reaction to turn to others when processing shocking news but in the heat of the moment, it’s risky to start sharing opinions so publicly. Not all the facts are known in that first 24-48 hours. As more information comes to light in the following days or weeks, the situation might change.
So, what should we post on social media? If you have a business or work in the equestrian industry, the answer is nothing.
What if it’s my trainer-mentor-friend? Call them up or send them a care package, but it’s best not to write something that you may regret.
Particularly with SafeSport, when decisions are announced, there’s very little information released in order to protect the victims. This leaves us to fill in the blanks in the story, which is tainted by our own biases and life experience. If you’ve never been abused and the rider suspended has always been lovely to you, that will play into your assessment of the situation. If you’ve been a victim of sexual assault, your perception will be entirely different. It’s risky to post any public statement in those conditions.
What we can do is educate ourselves rather than jump to conclusions. Unlike ‘riding a tired horse’ or a blood rule infraction that could be seen by hundreds of people at a horse show, cases of sexual abuse and misconduct typically happen in private. Imagine how difficult it must be for victims to come forward when there aren’t any witnesses or video evidence and it involves a powerful, respected individual.
It’s important to realize that ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ and refrain from making assumptions. Even less to share them with the world. Would you ride a jumping course based on a hunch or would you take the time to get the course map and walk it?
Social media is a wonderful tool but everything you post, even on a personal account, can impact you professionally. Use the same due diligence that you would use in your business.