Street to Stable Column Two Point with Darby Bonomi, PhD - Dignity and Kindness


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A few riders and I were recently having a conversation about how we conduct ourselves in and out of the show ring. Our discussion was spurred by Izzy Baker’s The Kindness Movement (see recent interview on Street Stable) which she launched last year to raise awareness about kindness, the prevalence of bullying in our sport and how our community sometimes places value only on results. Our conversation meandered over to the topic of dignity, and how it relates to kindness. A young rider said: “Dignity, like kindness, used to be something that society considered to be extremely important, but nowadays it is thought to be irrelevant.”

Dignity and kindness are irrelevant?

I think this young horsewoman is voicing a theme not only in our current political environment, but also in the equestrian world. We are less dignified than we used to be. And we are less kind. To nurture ourselves and our community, we need to shift this trend.

Kindness is self evident, but what does it mean to be dignified, I asked my young friend. She responded, it means “being collected and thorough with one's thoughts and actions. Those qualities aren’t valued anymore.” Wow, out of the mouths of babes.

Let’s talk about dignity and how it relates to kindness, our riding and our relationships.

I love that my young rider used the word ‘collected’ as part of her definition of dignity, as that word has particular meaning to us equestrians. Collected—asking your horse to gather himself up in a deliberate, purposeful fashion so that he can use himself effectively and with impulsion. We all practice collection daily, right? It’s essential, regardless of your discipline.

Thoroughness is the other word she used—which speaks for itself. Do we still value thoroughness in our competitive sport? Of course we do, but often we as a group get lured into placing more value on winning, and in particular, being as efficient as possible about getting that tricolor.

Thoroughness and deliberateness put the emphasis on the process rather the end result —the road, rather than the destination.

I think my young companion is emphasizing that dignity means you’re thoughtful, considered and careful in your actions and words. It’s how we aim to ride on our best days-being clear, careful and thoughtful with our horses and our requests of them. A dignified ride is a competent ride, one that is caring and lacking in impetuousness or self righteousness. At the heart of it I think we all agree that thoroughness is the only way to

success. Progress requires painstaking effort and consistency. Efficiency with horses is really only for jump offs and handy hunter rounds.

If this is how we aim to ride, isn’t it also how we aim to treat others, including ourselves, our teammates and our competitors? Let’s all make it a priority for the new year—to bring back dignity—which includes kindness and decorum—into every aspect of our lives, riding or not. Here’s to a thorough, collected and kind 2019!

I’d love to hear your thoughts!



Special thanks to Jill Howser for the beautiful featured photo illustration