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We Ask The Industry: How do You Deal with Negative People in the Horse Industry?

“If you can’t be positive, at least be quiet.” Ralph Smart – British Psychologist and Writer

Negative people try to spread their mindset and attitudes, and all it takes is one person to bring everyone else down. Riding horses is a sport filled with challenges, which makes it even more crucial for the athlete to nurture a positive way of thinking. We’ve all been there – after what feels like an investment of endless time and money, you go to a show and have a blow-up in a class, struggle to make it through a pattern, or find your horse would rather spook at the arena banners than listen to you. It can be annoying, disappointing, and disheartening.

An exhibitor’s attitude can make all the difference in the show pen. Positive perspectives are compelling and achievable. Even though there seem to be negative people everywhere, there are ways to avoid allowing their poor mindsets to spread. Creating a world fueled by positivity, rather than negativity, is of utmost importance.

We asked several people in the industry about how they deal with negative people. From setting boundaries, changing the direction of conversations, and deleting toxic people on social media, there are several ways people in our industry try to stay away from negativity.

Missy Thyfault – We are so lucky to be showing horses. I try to keep a positive circle and focus on the path to preparing my horses and clients to show. There will always be people you can’t stay happy with, no matter how hard you try. That is something you realize as you gain experience. And you must know it is more about them than you in most cases. I always ask myself if there’s a way I could have improved the situation and then let it go. I wish them well, but then literally distance myself from the negativity. Our jobs are sometimes stressful, but I remember to greet people and keep it light. I’m there because I love horses, and horse shows, after all, can be intimidating enough. I do not engage in any Facebook arguments. I don’t believe anyone fixes anything or changes anyone’s mind on Facebook. And everyone has an opinion. But I think you can get a read on the consensus sometimes towards a subject on Facebook. So, I distance myself from negative energy, stay positive, stay in my lane, and focus on my work.

Rachel Kooiker – In general, I try to practice non-judgment and remind myself that when people are overly negative, they are doing the best they can at the time. That said, I do try to “protect my energy,” so to speak. Internally, if I’m in a situation where the negativity can’t be avoided by excusing myself, I like to visualize zipping up my energy; almost like I’m putting myself into a giant bubble, and once I’m zipped up, other’s thoughts and behaviors can’t touch me. When I’m in my bubble, it is easier to practice empathy but distance myself from getting caught up in the negativity. I also try to interrupt with little “reframing” questions or tactics to point out the positive, especially if people are really into complaining. It takes seven seconds for a train of thought to start a course, so if you can disrupt the negative long enough, you might help someone switch to a more positive track.

When it comes to social media and with negative folks, I don’t need to interact. I exit the scene. That’s my boundary. Life is short and precious, and I want to have experiences that bring joy as much as possible. As for friends or people you have a relationship with and need to work with, I think you have to make some decisions. Does the negativity impact your ability to accomplish your goals or enjoy yourself? You probably need to have a conversation if the answer is yes. While it can be hard to start, I believe that we’re all trying to do the best we can, and if we approach others with care and respect, there will be a good outcome. Crucial Conversations and Radical Candor are two books I’ve loved for tips on having difficult conversations.

James Saubolle – I try to let it go in one ear and out the other. Most negativity stems from a form of jealousy and insecurity. As a client, I try to talk with them and encourage them to see the positive and not dwell on the negative. Social media negative comments make me laugh. My mom taught me something I think is simple, but so hard for so many – If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.



Lynne Puthoff – Negativity: That is very tough. It’s everywhere, especially in today’s world, sadly.  I try to ignore it as much as possible. I always try to check that I’m not doing it to myself or letting it in. If someone is talking negatively to me, like a customer, I try to find the positive, depending on whether it’s about my work for them or how they feel about themselves or their horse. We are subjected to so much judgment in this industry, from all aspects; trainers, exhibitors, our horses, and how we look…it can most certainly be overwhelming. I work hard, to be honest with myself and others, but also be positive and encouraging. We all need uplifting thoughts and help. One of my sayings is: Remember, we all put our pants on one leg at a time.

Hilary Reinhard – How I handle it depends a lot on the situation. Changing someone’s mind on social media is mostly a waste of time. So, I rarely engage there. In-person, my response will vary. After so many decades in the industry, I am passionate, but also pragmatic. I can’t dispute that showing horses is expensive and takes a significant commitment. But, I point out the benefits and being responsible with your money and time, just like any other hobby. If their concern is the horse’s welfare, it can be a more complex discussion because we know that there are some abusive trainers and practices. So, I focus on what I do to ensure my horses receive the best care and are well-treated. And that they are bred to do the job they are doing. And are only successful when they are happy performing.

Paige Stawicki Rogers – Negativity can come in many forms these days, and it’s easy to get caught up in it all and take it personally. Honestly, taking a step back from the industry was one of the best things I did for myself mentally. It has changed how I approach things this time. I’ve realized this: when it’s all said and done, no one remembers your destructive patterns, the outfits, the wins, or even the horses sometimes. What they remember is how you made them feel. If you don’t walk away with a good group of friends who share this passion, you’re doing it wrong. People outside the horse world don’t understand this life, so having friends all over the country that do it is everything.

I’ve also learned that you don’t have to be friends with everyone. Cutting someone out is as easy as clicking “unfriend” online. It might sound harsh, but removing yourself from relationships that don’t positively impact you only opens up space for those that do. There’s only one person off the top of my head on the show grounds I choose not to associate with. Ignoring, unfollowing, and ultimately moving on to better people is easy. There are just too many good apples to let one bad one taint this experience.

Kim Gutowski – How I deal with a negative person depends on my relationship. If it’s somebody I don’t necessarily need to have a relationship with, I will walk away because I don’t want to allow them to suck out any of my positive energy. But, on the other hand, if it’s somebody I have a close relationship with, I may still, at the moment, walk away, giving time for the encounter to diffuse. I will, however, always return to that person and ask if they have anything in their life that is upsetting them and explain that they don’t seem to be their usual self and how I have perceived and felt about the negativity. Often they don’t even realize the message they are sending due to other stressors in their own life.

Julie Hoefling – I think the best thing in any of these types of situations where you encounter negativity or toxicity is to focus on you and your goals, plan, perspective, and thoughts…whatever it is that you need to do so that you can redirect and keep your mind heading in the right direction. Attitudes are so contagious, good and bad, so making sure you spend time with those who lift you and bring positivity is critical. However, sometimes you can’t control what goes on around you, but you can manage your thoughts and actions, so keep your focus and let the rest roll off.

Kristin Titov – In social situations, if someone is being excessively negative, I’ll politely excuse myself and walk away. However, if that isn’t an option, I’ve been known to say, “Would you mind if we changed the conversation to something more positive?”

One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing people say cruel things about others in the industry, whether in the stands about someone in the show pen or on social media.  Everyone is just out there trying to do their best.  And whether you are putting yourself out there in the show pen or in business, you deserve to get the benefit of the doubt.

At Hobby Horse, if people comment negatively about the clothing, we will try to respond constructively and with kindness (though I admit it still hurts). Occasionally people will cross the line, and it will get to me, so I’ll ask for help with the wording to ensure my professional response. It can be constructive sometimes to get an objective option, especially when things are in written form and the likelihood of misinterpretation is higher. However, if a negative comment is left about a horse or a customer, it is deleted immediately. Hobby Horse is all about empowering women to look and feel their best. We will not allow our platform to be used to tear others down.

My favorite quote by my mom is, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  I wish more people would live by that rule. Then, the world really would be a better place.

Sharon Conway – For the most part, I avoid toxic, negative people and/or negative social media posts.  I tend to be so busy that I keep my head down and focus on what I need to get done – primarily working or showing my horse.



Violet Shetler
– I try my best to avoid negative situations in the horse industry. However, I feel that negativity can bring down a horse show or a barn. Feeding into the negativity can affect how you show and deal with others in the horse world. As a trainer’s daughter, I’ve witnessed many negative attitudes. The best way to deal with that is to distance yourself from the situation. You can still be respectful toward the person, but you don’t have to associate with their negativity. Remember that you usually do something right if people want to diminish your achievements. Surround yourself with good people who will support you no matter what, even when competing against one another.

Meggen Baynes – First, I block these people on social media. There is so much bullying that goes on behind the computer screen. If people are toxic or I don’t like their vibe, I block them so I can’t see their posts. It helps in everyday life, not just for people in the horse industry. If I see these people in person, I try to be cordial or ignore them completely. This life is too short, and the horse world is just a tiny piece of my world – no need to let any toxic people ruin my day.

I also remind myself of all the positivity in the horse world. I have more friends than enemies and have done much volunteer work for the horse industry that more people appreciate than don’t. I also think it’s essential to surround yourself with people who generally care about you, have great attitudes, and are fun to be around. For most of us, horse showing is just a hobby and is supposed to be fun. I work way too hard in my work life to make time for other’s people toxicity and narcissism in my hobby.

Ali Hubbell – Definitely ‘consider the source.’ If the criticism comes from someone I respect, I take a step back and evaluate the situation. If it’s coming from someone I do not appreciate nor care for (or even know, for that matter), I graciously ignore it and move on as if it never happened. Social media is such a strange, but necessary evil. Since I didn’t grow up with it, I don’t think I let it bother me as much as someone who may have grown up with it.


Sarah Lebsock
– I think many people tend to forget why they’re here. In everything you do, someone will tell you that you shouldn’t or can’t. When I’m presented with a negative situation, I focus on why I’m here in the first place. While I love my friends that I’m lucky to have from this sport, I’m here because I enjoy riding and working with horses. The saying is true, ‘if it doesn’t matter in 5 years, don’t spend 5 minutes worrying about it.’ Instead, focus on why you’re here…you’d be surprised how everything changes.


Ellexxah Maxwell – We all love to be successful, and to be honest, no one likes to pay for showing horses without coming home with a ribbon. However, I firmly believe you only get what you work for. I respect individuals who put their blood, sweat, and tears into every ride and step they take with their partner. However, some can only find negativity in others’ success. The way I look at things is if that person is placing ahead of me or more consistent than me, what are they doing that I’m not. I use it as a learning experience and let it encourage me to try harder.

I’ll admit I’ve dealt with quite a bit of toxicity in the horse world, and the best thing I’ve found to do is pay no attention. Take pride in what you and your horse do every day to accomplish the goals you’ve set. When you start focusing too much on what others have or have done, you start losing your love for the sport and talk yourself out of why you started in the first place. We ride animals with a mind of their own. We could win one day and be left sitting in the dirt the next. It’s all part of the love of the industry and the sport.

How do you deal with negative people? We’d love to hear from you.