WELL-known Irish rider, Susan Oakes, is receiving phenomenal support online for her interview with The Telegraph in which she details her experience of bullying within equestrian sport. Oakes described how she felt so desperate and “terrified” after a bloodstock agent threatened to beat her up that she almost felt driven to suicide.

Currently there is no legal definition for bullying, the Northern Ireland Anti -Bullying Forum (NIABF) have defined it as: “Bullying is the repeated use of power by one or more persons intentionally to harm, hurt or adversely affect the rights of another or others.”

An Anti-Bullying Survey carried out by researchers at the NIABF, discovered some harrowing statistics on bullying in young people:

  • 1 in 10 children surveyed have experienced bullying.
  • 25% of children worry about bullying/being bullied on a regular basis.
  • 8 out of 10 children with a learning difficulty are bullied
  • The majority of young people claiming they are bullied due to appearance, weight or body shape.
  • Bullying has a long term effect on our young people, and needs to be combated.

    An anti-bullying campaign called ‘Not On My Yard’ was launched recently by Tudor Rose Equines, a riding group covering Lancashire, Cheshire and West Yorkshire, and Greater Manchester Police.

    The aim of the campaign is to tackle bullying and harassment in the equestrian world. ‘Not On My Yard’ is the first official Anti-Bullying Campaign from within the equine world and is supported by the FEI and top level riders such as Susan Oakes, Oliver Townend, Nick Skelton, John Whitaker, Monty Roberts and Kelly Marks.

    The campaign is currently gaining momentum through social media with the hashtag #notonmyyard where equestrians from all walks of life within the industry are posting their support.


    Horse Sport Ireland have helpful advice and information on anti-bullying on their website, including the Horse Sport Ireland Anti-Bullying Policy, Anti-Bullying Posters, Anti-Bullying activities to use with young people in your affiliate/club and much more. Here are some of their top tips:

    1. Do not suffer in silence. If a bullying incident does occur please tell an adult coach/mentor immediately, or even an older athlete.

    2. Tell a member of your family.

    3. Check out online resources for anti-bullying.

    4. Most importantly do not blame yourself for what has happened.

    5. Deal with any incidents as they arise.

    6. Use a whole group policy or “no-blame approach”, i.e., not “bullying the bully” but working with bullies and the group of young people, helping them to understand the hurt they were causing, and so making the problem a “shared concern” of the group.

    7. Never tell a young person to ignore bullying, they can’t ignore it, it hurts too much.

    8. Never encourage a young person to take the matter into their own hands and beat the bully at their own game.

    9. If a young person reports an incident of bullying to you, tell them there is nothing wrong with them and it is not their fault.

    10. In all cases of bullying the parent/guardian (s) of both the victim and the bully should be notified about the incident.

    Parents should watch out for signs that their child is being bullied. Early signs may include:

  • Reluctance to come to a venue or take part in training/activities
  • Physical signs (unexplained bruises, scratches or damage to belongings)
  • Stressed caused illness – headaches or stomach-aches which are not usual for the child
  • Fearful behaviour (fear of walking to training/events, asking to be accompanied)
  • Changes to behaviour (withdrawn, moody, upset, distressed, not eating, drop in sporting performance)
  • This list is not exhaustive and there may be other possible reasons for many of the above. The presence of one or more of these is not proof bullying is actually taking place but are signs you should monitor and perhaps speak to your child’s coach if you are concerned.

    Do you feel that bullying and intimidation in equestrian sports has reached an ‘epidemic’?

    Have you experienced bullying within the sport?