Insiders Guide: DEI
Pro and Non-Pro articles written by Jen Jonas of Jonas Performance Horses (Pro) and Sharon Jones of Be A Better You (Non-Pro).
Together, they are J&J Reining Inc. Both Jen and Sharon are believers in continual learning – if you’re not learning you’re not growing.
Sharon: In my day job, I work with big businesses across North America, across all levels, mainly senior level management. I train them in understanding their own behaviour, personality, emotional intelligence, and cognition. The purpose of this is to help them become more self-aware; so they can answer questions such as: ‘What’s it like to be around me at work?’ or ‘Am I helpful or harmful to others on my team?’ and ‘What are my personal strengths?’ I also guide them to consider any challenges they have, things that may trip them up in work or home life.
Once they have self-awareness I help them move into understanding others, to question assumptions and expectations they have and question their snap judgements of others.
It’s these elements that come together and are played out in businesses, homes, and sporting arenas, every day.
The hottest corporate topic right now is DEI – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. I started to think about DEI and our sport of Reining.
Part of the process of becoming aware of who you are means tying to connect with your unconscious biases, whether they are against people with glasses; tall people, or people who are just, well, different from you. It’s human nature (it’s how we survived with tribal mentality) but our society has moved on and people are expressing themselves more and more in a variety of ways.
Equine related sporting activities are the only sport (I can think of) where men and women compete against each other on a level playing field. It matters not a jot what you call yourself, what colour you are, how tall you are; all that matters is the relationship in the arena between rider and horse. The rider is the competitor, the horse is the athlete.
We start off on this level playing field but when we go to shows, biases can and do, show up.
Some trainers and their students only cheer for each other. Or certain people don’t get cheered for because they switched trainer or bought a different horse. The reasons are many and the result is cliques, and lack of cohesion in the sport. I have to examine my own behaviour and consider, have I ever done this in the past?
But I have seen it the other way too where trainers and students are inclusive and cheer for everyone – including other trainers and their students, and this is the best example - where people are supportive and cheering regardless of anything else – they’re supporting the team in the pen. This is DEI in action. And this is how I always plan to be going forward. This is a sport where we have one major thing in common – the love of a good horse. And it’s in remembering our commonalities we can forget our differences and cheer each other on.
Jen: Reining is a tough competitive sport, both physically and mentally. Why do we choose to do this sport, where we get judged and critiqued? I truly believe we do this for the love of the sport, the horse and also the companionship we share with each other. Whether we are competing in open level 4 classes or green as grass we all share the same passion. I remember an interview with a famous rock star and his ultimate goal was to reach out with his voice to the person in the very back balcony seats (the cheap seats) and project his voice to them to say “Hey you! Yah, you! I see you and rock on!” I think we could all do this in our sport! Encourage, inspire and support each other, I think it would go a long way. So maybe next time you are at a show you can reach out with your voice like that rock star and recognize your fellow reiners, I know I will!