The statement is not up for debate: working in the equine industry is hard. Sometimes, its more than hard. Its 6 A.M., its minus two and sunrise isn’t for another two hours. And you’re probably heaping up your fifth barrow of the morning, having already fed fifteen hungry horses – none of whom have expressed their gratitude regarding you delivering breakfast in bed.
Despite this, by the time lunchtime has finally arrived, you’re probably feeling a little more optimistic. This is largely because the water pipes, and your fingers, will have now (hopefully) completely thawed. Having now garnered full use of your extremities, you may consider checking your social medias whilst briefly being sat down.
A leisurely scroll through Instagram exhibits a stream of bright, beautiful photos. The captured moments that the user has chosen to share will show them in perfect harmony with their horse as they navigate an impressive cross country effort, or dressage movement. Alternatively, it may show them looking through the ears of their mount over endless, rolling fields. A perfectly plaited mane, beautifully ridden gymnastic exercise, or a hoard of red rosettes. Even these small details can induce jealousy and feelings of inadequacy to those ingesting the images, particularly if they themselves are not having a productive day. It can be all too easy to recall our personal and professional weaknesses when confronted on a regular basis with demonstrations of other people’s strengths. If we consume all this content without pausing for reflection, it is easy to become embittered by the misconception that your peers on social media are superior to you; their braids are tidier, hands are quieter, and stamina greater.
This is not real life with horses. Ninety percent of the users posting are not trying to convince anyone it is; the moments of total joy and pride with equines are so precious that, if captured, they are hard not to share with an audience. Showcasing good riding, turnout and horsemanship is not the issue – the inescapability of social media is. The constant bombardment of images that romanticize the industry can lead individuals to forget that success (particularly for grooms, producers, and trainers), is an ‘iceberg illusion’.
The small glimpses of glamour and excitement within the equine industry shown to wider world via apps like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat should not distract the viewer from the reality of exercising commitment, sacrifice, organisation, and sheer passion. For it is these attributes that are required from equestrians to support the peak of the ‘iceberg’. While it can be easy to assume that some of us are enjoying more success than others, keep in mind that all of us who work with horses share the mindset that the animals in our care are more important than ourselves. In embodying that mindset, we all lose some control over our own lives so that we can dedicate that time and energy to our vocation.
Remember that the illusion of ‘success as an iceberg’ has never been more prevalent in a society where we can release only snapshots of our lives. In a career that can be so physically and emotionally tiring at its worst points, it is important to celebrate the success of both yourself and others, while remembering that the equestrian blogger you secretly envy probably awoke long before sunrise too.
Please leave your experiences of working in the equine industry in the comments below.