We knew it wouldn’t be long before another social media storm began – the difference is that this one has blown up over a slogan. At the recent Pony Club National Championships in the U.K., a sign was placed with the phrase “Keep Kicking”. It’s a saying every rider has heard hundreds of times – but suddenly it’s caused an uproar.
“They could have chosen one of a thousand other phrases but chose this to display to adrenaline-fueled, excited children, demonstrating zero consideration for the horses. Appalling doesn’t even come close!” proclaimed one angry equestrian, sharing a photo of the offending sign on Facebook.
Sure enough, the outrage spread and next thing the Pony Club released a statement, making it VERY clear that the sign had not been approved by their long-term sponsor NFU Mutual, an insurance company, and explaining that it had been taken down within the hour as soon as “the storm in a teacup” broke people alerted them to the fact it could cause offence.
“’Keep Kicking’ is used as a motivational statement within The Pony Club,” explained the mostly-apologetic statement. “The phrase is used to encourage positive riding, often as support to young riders who are experiencing extreme nervousness or performance anxiety.
“Gentle kicking or a light inward nudge encourages the pony to move forward to enable both to continue working together and proceed with the task ahead. It is used in a context to motivate, inspire and give confidence.”
Now, however, there’s a backlash the other way, with people pointing out how ridiculous it is to have removed the sign, and that small children ineffectually flapping their legs is far from a welfare issue, and that we’re in danger of making a mockery of our sport.
So what could the sign have said instead? Well, they could have said: “Use your leg”. One of those wonderful phrases within the horseworld that make very little sense to anyone outside it, along with “allow with the hand” and “ask for a half-halt”. But what if that too could be misconstrued? What if all those young riders chose to “use their legs” to carry themselves as fast as they can in the opposite direction and head straight home to take up a nice, safe hobby instead, such as tapestry?
How about the more literal, “Apply some pressure with the inside of your foot and calf?” What if that got misunderstood too? What if people thought it genuinely involved a baby cow? And would it then be necessary to add “While ensuring your heels are down, the balls of your feet are in the stirrups, with a secure seat and independent aids?” Catchy. You’d be out of the showground and half way home before you’d finished reading the sign.
Keep kicking means more than just applying the leg aids. It means riding positively even when fear or nerves tempt you to hesitate. It means go further, be braver, achieve more. It means carrying on when things are tough or when you are considering giving up. It means, you’ve got this. You’ll get there. Just keep kicking.