Next time your snarky co-worker says something about your horsey lifestyle, be prepared with one of these responses.
There’s always one in your life. At the office, in your family—a fellow book club member, a “frenemy”—there’s that one person who won’t stop insulting your horse hobby. “Horses? I grew out of that stage around grade school.” Long after your day is over, the snide remarks stick to your memory like burdocks. “I just don’t see how it’s a ‘sport’ when the horse does all the work.”
What you’d like to do is sit them in a saddle and force them to endure 20 minutes of uphill trotting on a green mare in heat. Or maybe invite them to assist you in distributing hay bales, turning out horses, mucking stalls, and cleaning water buckets at 5 a.m. before work. Liability issues aside, these fantasies are never going to become reality. Instead, here are some conversational weapons and defenses you can use when you’re tired of the anti-horse people in your life.
Own it, Love It
Sometimes the best defense is to just act happy. Bullies get tired of insulting you when they can’t get a rise out of you. “Yes, I sure do have fun riding! I wish everyone had something that made them this happy!” If you’ve had an extra cup of coffee or two, feel free to try being obnoxiously elated, as if every word you speak comes out coated in glitter and rainbows. “My little ponies and I have the best adventures!” Even the most irritating antagonist will give up, disgusted, when you ruin their fun by camping it up.
Turn the Tables with Some Heavy Sarcasm
“Right, I should try your hobby instead. Which is … what again? Watching reality TV?”
“Yeah, horses seem a little silly—maybe I should try that ‘pretend football’ online. Or is it ‘fantasy sports,’ like with the dice and the dragons? I can’t remember.”
Be careful with this tactic. It’s fun to use, but too much of it may make you look bad. One of the reasons some people seem to dislike equestrians is their perception that anyone who owns a horse must be a rich, haughty, polo-playing snob.
Call Them out on Their Rude Behavior
“I’m sure you didn’t mean that as offensively as it sounded.” You want it to sound challenging, and don’t forget to look directly at them and wait for a response. Now they’ll have to back down and apologize or escalate to a full-scale war.
Use this when others are nearby for maximum effect. Stay confident, and don’t let them give you the old, “It was just a joke!” A good response to this is, “Well I didn’t find it funny” or, “Where’s the humor?” Be prepared for awkwardness, and embrace it—you’re not the one in an awkward situation.
Laugh at It
Hater: “The horse does all the work anyway.” Rider: “Hah, I wish my horse knew that!”
It’s important to come across as confident and strong, but also not without humor. You don’t want to gain a reputation as an over-serious grump.
Here’s a mixed bag of all of the above you can use:
- “Horses are an acquired taste. Don’t like them? Acquire some taste.”
- “Horses are usually nicer than humans.”
- “Try being informed instead of opinionated.”
- “Do you always mask insults with humor?”
- “You think picking up poop is bad? You don’t even want to know about sheath cleaning!”
Before you use some of this firepower however, a word of caution: Sometimes those who are insulting you really are doing it unintentionally. The guy who mentions your Facebook picture of “horse dancing” (dressage) and asks you about your “costume” (show clothes) may be trying to get a rise out of you, or he may just not know the right words to use. And that’s OK! As horse people immersed in our hobbies, it’s easy to forget that we live in a world full of jargon, specialist athletes, and strange concepts. Take a minute and offer an explanation. If nothing else, your potential bully will have had to put up with a boring mini-lecture, and you’ll have educated anyone else listening.
LAURA ROSE lives on a farm in Wisconsin where she blogs, paints and sometimes rescues horses.
This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!