Have you seen the movie? The one where a husband gradually wears down his wife’s sanity by telling her small lies and convincing her she’s just hearing and seeing things that aren’t there? If not, watch it. If so, then perhaps you can appreciate this: You can’t gaslight me on fence height. Hillary’s post on developing an eye for fence height got me thinking–there are definitely people with no eye for judging fence height, and perhaps they assume that people will just go along with their assessment of how high they think they are jumping their horses.


This wall is 2’6″. The standards are 5′. Not difficult to gauge.

Perhaps when I was younger a little lying worked on me, because I wanted it to. I wanted to think I was just jumping 3′ even if I jumped higher. It kept me focused on the ride rather then the fence height, this at a time when social media didn’t exist. Flash forward to today, and I see a whole lot of Internet wishful-thinkers posting about how high they are jumping, accompanied with pictures that most certainly are not of a fence that is the height they say it is.

Why? I don’t get it. What does anyone gain from lying in such a way that is so demonstrably and immediately false? Why do people think they can convince others of falsehoods simply by saying them? Do they subscribe to the notion that if they repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it? They will believe it themselves? (What does that remind you of?)

Fence height is a fact that can be either confirmed or proven false easily. So what is the obsession with it? Other than to know you are schooling at or above the height you compete, why is it so important to people to broadcast it repeatedly on social media? I am all for setting goals and sharing accomplishments online–we all do it and quite frankly we all get a lot of support for doing so.Β  But tacking a number on something that isn’t true is not an accomplishment I’d be sharing with the world. I am so confused by this phenomenon. Help me understand.

26 thoughts on “Gaslight

  1. Raising a guilty hand here to doing this. I was such a huge weenie as a kid that over the last few years, every milestone in height has been a BFD to my teenage self, and I pretty much take what I’m told about height at face value (probs should do some fact checking but whatevs). It’s only been fairly recent where I’ve kinda settled into the whole “I have a horse I love and we do what we love and sometimes that involves big fences but who actually cares what the number is.” So unless someone has taken a measuring stick to the jump, I’ve stopped labeling height because I’m wrong more often than I’m right, and I agree that it’s pretty annoying to display those “alternative facts.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t mind labeling height, as long as it is what it is and not, like, 6″ off or worse. I am all for sharing milestones, division specs, and accomplishing something that you didn’t think you would! It’s the delusion/deception I’m confused by. And you are not guilty of that!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am 100% certain I have mis-identified jump height at some point. At my last barn, our standards were all weird heights – some were little baby homemade 2’6 standards (but some similar ones were 3′), we had these plastic three-sided ones that I think were 3’6 but I’m not sure and then more that were between 4′ and 5′. I would even sometimes walk over to a fence after a ride and measure it against my leg, like, “Okay I know just below my hip bone is about 3′ and midway between my knee and hip is 2’6.” I don’t usually care that much but with Drifter I did want to mark new milestones as he learned to jump with me. Eventually I figured out I could count the holes from the bottom in 3″ increments and get pretty close to the actual height.


    • We have a few wonky standards, too, and it throws everyone off. It can be hard to judge–it’s a skill I had to learn and it took a while. I think especially with horses green at the jumps, keeping track of how high and other milestones is important. I have no issue with learning or any of that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can ballpark fence height (especially lower heights) fairly easily, but the EXACT height is where I can get sticky. Like I can be pretty confident a fence is 18″-2′ or 2’3″-2’6″ or 2’9″-3′ … above that it’s just “BIG” lol


    • Oh, girl, I totally have a cut-off height after which, I’m like damn that’s a big jump, nope. But if I am jumping it, I feel like it’s my responsibility to the horse to know how high, so learning to gauge is important to me from that standpoint.


  4. I always undersize things – if I know how high they are (well used to be) then I freak myself out.

    I schooled 3’3 on the regular on my old mare, back when people weren’t taking a million pictures. I see a 2’6 fence on my current horse? I’m pooping my pants. So I just think everything is 2′ and I get by okay.

    There is no understanding the fibbing on height. People gotta do what they gotta do to make themselves feel better I guess?


  5. I cannot express how much I ❀ this post. I get being proud of yourself but be proud about the right thing… like big ass jumps are big. But don't be like omg I'm so amazing (pats back) because I jumped #alternativeheight when it is clearly 6"-12" smaller. And 6" may not seem like a lot but when you get over 3' 3"-6" differences are way more significant.


    • Yep, 6″ most definitely makes a huge difference for anything over 3′. I also agree that being proud and sharing accomplishments is totally okay — as long as they line up with reality.


  6. I think it’s just an ego-stroking maneuver. For me, with my confidence issues, knowing the height of the jumps I’m jumping is kind of a big deal! Especially when I’m getting ready for a show – if I know I can jump 6″ to a foot higher than what I’m going to see in the show ring, that does a LOT for my confidence. Knowing I can survive ‘big’ jumps (3′ and up) is big, big deal for me!


    • I totally agree with you–knowing the actual height is really important! I would not want to be jumping something that is off by 6″ and then be completely surprised at a show, ya know?


  7. I will definitely try to fool myself about height…. But I’m a chicken haha. Mostly tho I prefer to know exactly the correct height bc my eye will “adjust up” (meaning, I’ll get used to and more comfortable with a certain height by repetition). I had one coach tho who was very blasΓ© about fence height. It all looked small to him anyway and he would be pretty casual about saying things where “N/T height” (2’11-3’3). This often worked against me when the jumps were *not* as big as he said haha


  8. Underestimating? Eh-some people can’t tell how close they are tail gating the car in front of them either, Karen. (Rule to use: Pick an object by the side of the road. When car in front passes it, start counting one potato, two potato, three potato, four potato -and you should just be getting to it yourself. Any faster and you are waaaaay too close.) I read somewhere that if a child has not been given adequate visual stimulation between the third and sixth month to learn eye to hand coordination, they don’t develop depth perception worth a darn. Consequently, they will have to really work on learning how to cope with the deficit. Whether that’s true or not, haven’t a clue, but I did make the effort to sharpen my skills.

    OVERestimation? Probably a bit of lack of self-esteem and trying to bolster their own self-image (I can do as well as XY and her horse.) If a chronic thing, I would venture that the person has a horror of actually finding out the height and doesn’t want to know. We rarely enjoy being ‘caught’ puffing ourselves up. Rather sad when you think about it.

    I know that I seldom go above 2’6″-I’ll cop to being a chicken and old age any day. My days of risking my body are gone. Gravity is getting stronger and I do not bounce as well.


    • You bring up a really good illustration with the tailgating thing, something that I don’t think I communicated very well: seeing distances, seeing height, you have to LEARN it. No one can innately see that because ultimately it’s abstraction. You have to learn that when something is yea high, a certain number goes with it. Does that make sense? I’m not saying people should just know. I am suggesting that people should learn, as much as possible, before asserting something so that it’s not just a guess or made up.

      And dude, I don’t bounce any more either. I throw in the towel early some days because of that.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Definitely have told myself “nope, that’s just 3′” or whatever to get braver. But I usually try not to delude myself the other way, because it kind of diminishes whatever accomplishment I want to claim, in my mind at least. If I’m really excited about what I think is a big jump, I usually just go out and count the holes or stick it after my lesson to be sure.


  10. I know someone who habitually overestimated fence height to a truly absurd degree – she would say that she was going to go and set a 4′ course and post pictures of her and her horse successfully jumping fences that were 2’9″. (I measured on the computer once.) This wasn’t a one time incident, it was constant and unending. I only know that she hasn’t jumped a ton lately and so probably hasn’t had the chance to do this.

    So, what is the deal with someone like that? I’m not sure. I wonder if she was really couldn’t measure height? If she had never bothered to hold up a stick of truth to her fences? Was she really so insecure that she had to inflate height so much? What other things in her life got modified like this?

    So many questions. No answers.


    • Talk about way off! Why is this concept so difficult for some people? Do they not realize most people will know they’re wrong? Probably for the best that she hasn’t jumped much lately lol


  11. It’s weird but when I look at professional photographs of myself jumping 3′, 3’3″ and 3’6″ I think to myself, damn that looks tiny. But it was that height because it was a USEF sanctioned competition. Also riding around on a giant horse makes big fences look small, and riding around on a small horse makes small fences look bigger.


    • I think the size of the horse could definitely alter perception of fence height. Like could you imagine riding in pony jumpers, on something that’s 14.1 3/4hh up to a square 1.15m oxer? No thanks.


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