I recently wrote a blog post for my website talking about a young horse my family bred. Lilly Pulitzer, or Lilly, as we call her, has quite the story. We’ll start with the name. Why name a horse after a company known for their bright colors and preppy designs, you ask?
Well, Lilly’s mom, Donna Karan, holds a special place in my heart. She was my first really good Amateur Owner jumper, and then went on to be a great horse for my mom to show in the adult jumpers as well. At age 21, she’s still happy to be ridden regularly and has no interest in retirement.
All the horses from Donna’s dam line have been given designer monikers throughout the years. So, in an effort to honor her mother, we decided to keep the tradition alive. Born in the spring of the “L” year for the KWPN registry, Lilly Pulitzer became the natural choice. With big shoes to fill and a cute name to boot, we were super excited to see what we would end up with as Lilly grew up.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
However, things did not go according to plan. (But then again, do they ever?) Due to a set of unfortunate circumstances and injuries, Lilly is now five years old and finally just at the point where she is able to be started.
For a full recap of her history, you can read the original post here.
To summarize: 1) She had surgery as a 6-month-old, 2) broke her coffin bone as a 2-year-old and had to spend almost 2 years on stall rest, as it took much longer than expected to heal, 3) fell out of the escape door in a trailer on her way up for a re-check appointment at the clinic, 4) finally returned to normal baby life, only to slice her hind leg open a month later, narrowly missing the joint capsule and major soft tissue structures, and finally – 5) arrived down here in Florida this February, only to get cast the first day and sustain a small cut on her front leg that went all the way down to the bone.
So, one could say she’s had a very full life despite the fact that she hasn’t been ridden these last five years. The good news is that all that appears to be changing! As I write this, Lilly is officially seven days under saddle and is doing so well. She’s sound, has a good brain, and seems to be taking to life as a grown up quite well. We’re taking things one day at a time, but as of right now, things seem to be moving in the right direction.
When I told friends and family that I was going to write a blog post with the goal of turning it into a series, and then take people along for the journey of starting a young horse on social media, there were definitely some questions.
Ready To Be Real on Social
“Are you sure you want to disclose all her medical history?!” “What if she doesn’t hold up to being ridden?” “What if things don’t go the way you’ve planned?”
All these questions and more. I get it, I really do. It is scary to put things out there like that. If you’ve spent any amount of time in this industry, you know that horse people are conditioned to keep quiet about their horses’ injuries, for fear that it might give the wrong impression or affect future resale possibilities.
There’s also this unspoken rule when it comes to social media where we don’t post less than stellar rounds, we don’t talk about the bad days, and we certainly don’t talk about our discouragement or disappointment. It’s one thing to give the “I went through something difficult but I got through it and now things are great” story. But it’s way more vulnerable to share a story when you’re not yet on the other side. So, given all that, why would I want to put Lilly’s whole story out there, especially when I don’t know the outcome?
My thought process is this: One, this is a horse that my family owns, and not a client’s horse. So, I’m free to talk about whatever I want to talk about as relates to her.
Having said that, I’ll get down to my real reasoning. I’m so tired of social media being a highlight reel. I’m tired of scrolling through countless videos of everyone winning this class, getting this new horse, showing week after week, et. cetera, et. cetera without seeing the larger picture.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I don’t love seeing someone’s new purchase or well-executed round. It’s just that those 60 second Instagram videos aren’t the full story. In between all that there’s hurt horses, eight fault rounds, chipped distances, terrible schools at home… the list goes on and on.
Sharing the Struggles, Too
If we don’t show – or at least talk about – that aspect of the sport, what kind of message does that send? That everything is supposed to go your way all the time? And if it doesn’t, there’s something wrong with you? Or that you’re the only one to have ever struggled with a hurt horse, or being without a horse to ride, or with a problem in the ring? That’s super isolating. Further, how is that helpful or true?
Of course, a discussion on these things needs to be done with tact. I do understand that. But only showing the good and failing to ever mention the bad sets unrealistic expectations and sets us all up for disappointment. It’s the same reason that filters can be problematic. Sure, it’s harmless to want to cover up a blemish or two. But a flawless face, contoured cheeks, and Kylie Jenner lips with the caption #wokeuplikethis? That’s not real life and it leaves us all comparing ourselves to unrealistic standards.
It also takes away opportunities for learning and growth! The horse community functions the best when it operates as such – a community. When we are too afraid to share our challenges, then we also miss out on the chance to hear from others who have dealt with something similar.
Whether it be an injury, a difficult horse, or a roadblock when trying to teach or learn a new skill – chances are I’m not the only person in the history of horses to ever have dealt with that issue. Openness not only begets community, but it also leaves room for collaboration and new growth opportunities.
Have a horse with the same injury as mine? Great! I want to hear what you did to help him get better. Having trouble figuring out the right program for a funny horse? Maybe someone has experience with something similar. Feeling discouraged because you don’t have much to ride these days? I’ve been there, and I get how you’re feeling.
My point is – I don’t see the point of unnecessarily hiding all of our less than perfect moments both on social media and in real life. It’s more hurtful than helpful. It sets us back as a community instead of propelling us forward. So – I’m going to keep sharing about Lilly and her progress. Or lack thereof. I’m committed to this real life, #nofilter mentality.
After she broke her coffin bone, I jokingly said she was either going to end up in a field as a broodmare or on the cover of something like The Chronicle of the Horse. If the latter is true, I’ll gladly accept that. But, if it’s the former, I’m ok with that too. That’s horses, and that’s a part of this sport. Either way, you, my internet friends, will be the first to know.
Author Anna Hallene owns and operates the Glenwood Farm equestrian business in the Chicago area’s Maple Park. For more information on her program, visit http://www.glenwoodfarm.us