It’s a precarious place at the top of equestrian sports. In the age of social media, anything made public can be fodder to be lauded or reprimanded, and with an especially opinionated audience as we equestrians are, perhaps even more vehemently than the average Joe.
Decisions that elite equestrians make are quickly scrutinized, particularly when it comes to horsemanship, but also in terms of rider safety, as teachers and coaches, and even fashion choices are reflected on by the horsey public. For myself, for instance, I absolutely adore William Fox Pitt’s easy and quiet way of interacting with horses, and believe him to be one of the best riders in the sport of eventing. But his decision to ride in a top hat in dressage at the Rio Olympics, despite being in an induced coma just months prior due to head injury, left me with a poor taste in my mouth. I felt that it was a missed opportunity to be a good example of rider safety for the community, and I hate to say it, but those few minutes tarnished his shining reputation as a role model in my eyes.
Those whose stars still shine brightly in my eyes include Charlotte Dujardin, not only for maybe being one of the prettiest ugly-criers ever, but for her obvious devotion to her riding and horsemanship. Doug Payne, as a master of all three rings and for his ability to bring his horses to the top levels of the sport from the ground up. I have role models in local breeders, who select not only for quality and conformation, but also breed for amateur friendly brains and instill great manners and thinking skills in their babies from the start.
Who is your equestrian role model? What about them do you admire, and what example do you think they set that positively affects the greater community?