Wednesday, Jun. 19, 2024

Want Respect? Own Your Opinion

I’m not sure who first said, “There’s no such thing as a stupid idea,” but I’m pretty sure he or she was an idiot. There most definitely is such a thing, especially in the horse world. But I’m OK with that, because stupid ideas are, at the very least, deliciously entertaining. I’ve even been known to have them myself from time to time.
   
But what I can’t stomach are mean-spirited and anonymous expressions of unqualified opinions, and in today’s Internet age, these seem to be increasingly abundant.

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I’m not sure who first said, “There’s no such thing as a stupid idea,” but I’m pretty sure he or she was an idiot. There most definitely is such a thing, especially in the horse world. But I’m OK with that, because stupid ideas are, at the very least, deliciously entertaining. I’ve even been known to have them myself from time to time.
   
But what I can’t stomach are mean-spirited and anonymous expressions of unqualified opinions, and in today’s Internet age, these seem to be increasingly abundant.
   
My friend recently won a fairly significant competition, a discussion of which ensued on the Chronicle’s bulletin board, www.chronicleforums.com. Most of the thread’s participants—many of whom are completely open with their real identities on our online community—posted congratulations and commented on her talent. But a lone anonymous character repeatedly criticized her riding and horsemanship, swearing that he or she had witnessed numerous transgressions firsthand at competitions.
   
This harsh spotlight is an unfortunate rite of passage for many professional riders. In the past two years, Amy Tryon and Laine Ashker met with a maelstrom of mostly unqualified criticism after eventing accidents proved fatal for their horses. In recent weeks, a handful of individuals rushed to blame show jumping Olympic gold medalist McLain Ward for the suspicious mix-up of two horses—Good Guinness and Kanye (see March 27, p. 48). And dressage great Robert Dover even reflected on the issue of anonymous criticism on his blog, www.doversworld.com.
   
Anyone who’s been the target of gossip knows it’s frustrating, and my friend was no exception. But instead of assuming a defensive position, she chose to tackle the problem. She sought out her detractor by beginning a new thread, and with an honest desire to learn from her apparent mistakes, she solicited private, constructive criticism from the individual. With a “Thank you,” she signed her name and gave her phone number.
   
Not surprisingly, she never heard a word from her maligner, and he or she hasn’t posted on the Forums since. Meanwhile, the responses of support and kudos for her courage—online and in-person—haven’t stopped. She stood up for herself, and she’s still waiting for her critic to do the same.
   
Most of us haven’t ridden at the top levels of our respective sports, so I often think it’s unfair for us to judge those who have. That said, I don’t believe that having less experience in the show ring necessarily makes one’s opinion less valid or valuable. But hiding behind anonymity to boost one’s ego is childish and downright shameful.
   
Our Between Rounds and Horseman’s Forum features are some of my favorite sections of the Chronicle because the opinions in them directly represent the pulse of the horse world each week. So I’m especially excited that after 71 years of a “snail-mail only” policy, we’re now accepting Letters to the Editor via e-mail, at letters@chronofhorse.com.
   
While online submissions will make it infinitely easier for our readers to add their own voices to the magazine, one thing won’t change: anonymous opinions will never be welcome. We’ll still be verifying the identity of each writer.
   
If you’ve got something to say, let’s hear it. You’re free to think anyone’s ideas are stupid, and you don’t have to agree with everyone’s opinions. But at least own up to your own. You can bet I’m signing my name on this one.

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Kat Netzler, Editorial Staff

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