Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound
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FHL WEEK, June 30, 2020

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Keyboard Bullying Harms Your Hunt and Your Sport

Guest Commentary

rachel wilkoski.cropHappy time for our author is sitting on a good horse and following a topnotch pack of hounds. She worries that incivility, personal attacks, and coarseness on the part of foxhunters on social media is harming our sport and our clubs.

As a twenty-two-year-old, I have grown up in the age of extreme technological and social media growth. Everyone has it; everyone uses it. I’ve also grown up in the hunting field and follow hounds three days a week. I travel to hunt and do my best to experience all types of hunting, all over.

My happy place is on a good horse, behind a great pack of hounds. The hunt field is the place where you can leave all other thoughts behind for a few hours and turn your focus to staying topside and keeping up with hounds. The hunt field is a place to be at peace, away from our own and the world’s struggles, whether big or small. But recently...

...I have found that the world’s turmoil has weaseled its way into hunt fields and hunt relationships, both at the hunt meet and on online public forums. It is becoming dangerous to the fate of hunts everywhere as our comments, posts, likes, and shares are tearing us apart when we should be coming together to enjoy a sport that we all love.

Before you became a huntsman, whipper-In, Master of Foxhounds, or just a hunt member, you were/are simply human. You have hopes, dreams, and opinions that have been molded by what you have learned and experienced in your life time. You probably also have Facebook or another form of social media upon which you post your opinions. It is your life, your account, your freedom of speech and expression to which you are entitled in the United States of America. So you ‘like,’ ‘share,’ and ‘comment’ on whatever you feel is important. That said, we must be careful how we express and convey those opinions to others on social media, as it is a direct reflection of not only ourselves, but of our hunt clubs.

When interacting with others online who have varying viewpoints on political and social issues, especially in these trying times, how are you conducting yourself? Do you find yourself engaging in polite discussions where you are able to see the other side of the argument, but still support your beliefs with facts, research, and a calm demeanor that may be the turning point in a discovery for the other party and may alter how they understand the issue you are discussing? Or do you find yourself angrily typing out insults, baiting your friends list, name calling, berating, belittling, and attacking anyone who holds a different stance on the issue at hand? Are you an activist or just simply a keyboard bully? Are you friends with landowners, hunt members, hunt employees, hunt supporters, or potential hunt enthusiasts on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? Do those individuals see how you engage with others?

Stand up and fight for what you believe in, educate yourself to be aware of issues out in the world, and support the causes that you feel strongly about, but allow others to do the same. Your view points are not the issue, but the way you discuss them can be. Hunt clubs are fighting harder than ever to stay active, fighting financial battles, shrinking membership, and decreasing land availability in some instances. Do not be the reason the clubs have to fight even harder, soothing ruffled feathers, reclaiming lost members, re-opening closed country. Understand that the successful and fruitful running of a hunt club requires members and staff from all backgrounds, so just like you want to feel heard and respected, make sure you are giving what you want to get. Remember that much of the land over which we ride and follow hounds may belong to people who have opposing beliefs and views from our own, and that your conduct, actions, and language on social media can have serious consequences on your entire club if you abandon civility.

Posted June 23, 2020

Reader Comments (see below) are always invited.