Bullied at school for being the horse freak
When I was at school, I had a best friend, a ride or die type (we both rode, pun very much intended). We were as close as best friends possibly could be, but within a year we became total strangers. I couldn’t tell you the last time I spoke to her, I don’t think we are even friends on Facebook now.
We both rode, and had both just come into the world of Affiliated Eventing (BE). I think we were around 13 or 14 at the time. We were obsessed. We’d talk about it constantly through our free periods at school, and go riding, training and competing together most weekend, as well as training on our own every day after school.
We’d fantasise about our rise to the top of the sport and decided that one of us would win Badminton, while the other won Burghley the same year, so it was fair. Obviously.
We were good, too! We weren’t just playing around. We genuinely wanted serious careers in Eventing.
There were mutters about us being weird for being so into horses, but we didn’t care, because we were a team. The mutterers didn’t understand.
Around this time we both got spotted by the popular crowd. We went to an all girls Catholic school, so the politics were serious business!
We were invited to parities and days out, all being on the weekend.
This is where it all started to unravel. My best friend chose to sacrifice her weekends for the popular crowd. I kept my weekends for Eventing.
From then on, I started to ride more, while my best friend rode less and less. The time we used to spend talking about our goals, was spent with us awkwardly sitting on the edge of the popular circle, listening to them talk about pressing topics such as The Kardashians.
I spent some time with them on the weekends that I wasn’t Eventing and I genuinely remember going to a party where my best friend turned to me and said, ‘no would would even notice if we just left.’ She was completely right. From then on I turned my back on that circle, but my best friend stayed on the edge.
Now that I was the only person riding competitively, I had a serious target on my back.
I had different hobbies from anyone else, I had an actual passion, and that was different, abnormal, making me ‘weird’. I was quickly labelled the ‘horse girl’.
It’s amazing how being branded the very thing you want to be, by the wrong people, can make you question everything about yourself and your passion.
I had also managed to royally piss off the popular circle by rejecting them for horses!
And so the bullying began.
I was called fat because I had muscular thighs.
I was called boring because I put my horses first.
I was forever known as the weird horse girl.
By the age of 14, I was Eventing at BE100 and doing really well competitively, but I was embarrassed and kept my achievements to myself, afraid of sparking more comments.
I thought that I was no good at my passion and was ashamed to be proud of myself.
I remember putting some Eventing photos on my Facebook page, and then I was battered for them when I went back to school the next day, so I stopped posting.
All of this made me feel as though my ‘little hobby’ was pathetic and that my achievements meant nothing.
However, this only encouraged me to throw myself in deeper with the horses.
Although, my self esteem was now in tatters.
Whenever people would talk about what they wanted to do when they are older, I would dodge the question, and if I was forced to answer it I would often lie.
In reality (the kind of reality that is bigger than the Catholic all girls school bubble) having a passion, something that you really live for, is SUCH a cool thing! I am so lucky to say that I adore my job, I suspect most of the business men and women in the world wouldn’t be able to say the same. In fact, I reckon the majority of those snotty girls in my year hate their jobs now!
But, because it was different, and abnormal, it was again just another thing to be bullied for.
I battled with my thoughts for years (and still do sometimes) about whether I was gifted enough, good enough or special enough for a career in horses.
The negative self talk in my mind (the voice that said ‘you can’t do it, you’re not good enough’) would get stronger every time a girl at school would make a snobby comment, or scoff at the thought of me following my dreams.
Unfortunately, during this time I had an instructor who very quickly dismissed me when I said I really do seriously want to be a professional Eventer. I remember him literally laughing at me.
I didn’t give up, I was severely wounded by the bullying and my coach’s words, but I was more determined to prove everybody wrong than I was worried I would fail, so I limped on, and I kept limping on until I had made my dreams a reality.
I am on track with the dream that my best friend and I dreamt up all those years ago.
I wonder how my best friend’s self esteem is now; having been forced by popular peer pressure to give up on her own dream. She did give up horses very quickly after we grew apart.
This is just my story, and a very rough outline at that. I see similar cases all the time, TALENTED kids that put horses on the back seat to go to more parties.
The most heartbreaking kind is a girl that I know now, who had a real fire burning to get her to the top of the sport – she was a brilliant rider, too! But the pressure of exams, friends, self doubt, negative comparison to others, and being afraid to break out of the mould, had meant she has given up on her dreams, and is now aiming for a ‘normal’ job instead.
If you are lucky enough to have a passion, don’t let anyone tell you it is anything less than a beautiful thing.
Just because you may be different does not make you weird.
People talk about you? Good, that means you are making a difference! Make them talk!
What makes you different is what makes you beautiful.
Stick by your dreams, don’t give up on them. Keep working until you make them happen.
Hard work beats all else.
My best friend and I?
I took over management of my first yard at age 21, and have ridden for a living since I was 18. The goal is still very much Badminton and Burghley.
She is aiming for an office job, and hasn’t ridden for years.
Oh, and the trainer who laughed at me? I competed at a higher level than him by the time I was 18.
EVERYBODY has to start somewhere, EVERYBODY has doubters along the way, EVERYBODY wants to give it all up at some point.
Don’t let other people control your future! Stay true to YOU.