Aiken, breaking my heart.

This is us.

With the new commitment to the dressage ring, I recently discovered that around me, recognized dressage shows in the winter are rare to non-existent. Queens either flee south or simply train and take lessons all winter in preparation for spring. Super if you only do dressage, but I am juggling dressage and hunter shows, which limits available weekends. I would like to take advantage of time in the ring if I can find it, and waiting until April to show was frustrating to me, since I was anxious to get started on First Level…

With a little research, I discovered Aiken offered both dressage and hunter shows. jackpot! Stable View Farm (new to me) offered a clinic with Silva Martin, followed by a recognized Dressage show, and the same weekend Highfields (not new to me) was offering an A (National) show for the weekend, including a national hunter derby. I couldn’t believe my luck. My only hesitation was Aiken in February has a somewhat impossible weather pattern to predict, and these were outdoor facilities. The heck with it, I sent my money in, found an AIRBNB host, and packed my bags. I had a horse for each facility, the well traveled and complacent Westin for the hunters, and the less traveled and sometimes anxious Sandoro, who had limited experiences away from home.

I knew nothing about Stable View, but as the gates automatically rolled open as we creeped up the driveway on Monday afternoon, I didn’t think I would be disappointed. There were carefully constructed and beautiful barns on either side, houses, paddocks, all unfolding around us, even one of the areas infamous Painted Ponies to greet us on the inside of the gates.

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We found our barn easily (all stabling info/maps/guidelines are emailed prior to arrival) and discovered the stalls we were assigned opened from either side, were 12×14, and lined with healthy interlocking mats. We chose which side to work from, bedded the stalls and set the horses up as quickly as we could after the long drive. It was warm, so they were happy to be undressed and roll in the fresh shavings. I poked around, found the bathroom immediately across from our stalls, and there was even a washer and drier we could use for $1 each in our aisle. The two wash stalls were also rubber matted, large, clean, held a shovel and broom, and the long hose reached our stalls. Perfect.

Then I discovered the rings. I nearly fainted from happiness. One large covered, one large outdoor, and one dressage size ring all with the all weather fancy footing we are seeing at all the best facilities across the country. The kind you have to pick the poop out of.

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Everyone picks up poop!

 

Atwood Equestrian Services set these rings up if you are curious.  http://www.equestriansurfaces.com/our-clients.html#client-1 

Just beyond the rings was an impressively constructed cross country course (built by Eric Bull) and as Maddy and I walked the two horses around sniffing and smelling all the pretty things, we snapped half a dozen snaps of the sun setting over the jumps, with the new rye grass giving the green glow of a little piece of heaven.

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We saw some activity in the covered ring, and I realized it was Boyd Martin and his minions setting a jumping course up. I paused. It was Monday evening. 48 hours earlier, Boyd was in Florida winning the Wellington Showcase for eventing. I know this because I had been following the event online. Does this man never rest? After the course was set, I watched him hop up on the tractor to drag the ring. Around 7 pm he and his minions had disappeared. Lord have mercy.

Maddy and I headed into town to meet our AIRBNB host, and find dinner. I had spent a large part of the drive describing various eateries I had remembered from a decade prior, mainly TakoSushi, and had guaranteed her eating experiences in Aiken would never be disappointing. Her faith in my ability to understand the importance of food would not be shaken this week. Food amazing, host equally so. Beds inviting.

Tuesday.

My first experience with a dressage clinic had to be partly explained to me, and I discovered Silva Martin would be spending about 30 minutes with me to a Ride-A-Test, which meant I would ride my test, she would watch, then she would work on improving it for the show. Easy Peasy. My time was at 10 am so at around 8 am we tacked up Sandoro, to give him a chance to be ridden around the rings, so there was less possibility he would embarrass me too much. He wasn’t sure he wanted to be anywhere without Westin, so Maddy walked Westin close by while I rode around the rings for 20 minutes. I creeped into the covered ring with all the jumps, which was already buzzing with activity, and immediately bumped into Boyd who greeted me with a friendly smile, so I fangirled him, stuttering a congratulations, and asked if he was also giving a clinic, he laughed and responded he was trying, schooling, showing horses to clients and teaching lessons, to which I tried to seize an opportunity by asking for a lesson. He shrugged and said sure! Great! I forgot to even introduce myself, but whatever.

Sandoro seemed relatively ridable after his warm up ride, so we headed back to the barn to get ready. I watched a few rides in front of me to get the idea, and at 10 am headed into the dressage arena to get drilled. Maddy recorded what Westin would allow her to, so I could refer to it afterwards, and if you never have experienced it, you might want to take a look. Silva is good. Like really good. I am pretty sure I impressed her by combining the two tests I had learned and inventing a new test, which I performed flawlessly and fluidly in my head, heading down center line proud of myself and completely clueless to my mistake. After a slight pause she said she had never witnessed anyone performing half of one test and half of another, and when the realization finally sunk in, I couldn’t do anything but laugh. WTF? only me. A bit of coaching and her reading the test out loud for the second ride proved much more successful, and my horse obliged to all of the questions asked of him. It was awesome. I enjoyed it very much. you can see part of it here..

https://vimeo.com/203367352

After we put him up I spent a few hours watching Boyd in the covered. He had two or three people warming up horses while he jumped one around, a jump crew who literally ran between the jumps to adjust them, or pick up poop, or take said schooled horse out to walk out after he was finished, and although I couldn’t count, through the day, it seemed he sat on about 30 horses. Clients came to watch, chat, or whatever, all the time his feet never touching the ground for more than thirty seconds between horses. I eventually just moved to the middle of the ring to watch closer and actually help set jumps and pick up poop too, because it was just all too fascinating. I gave up on my request for a lesson, because plenty of other people needed his attention, and happily settled for about 8 hours of visual education. Later, when I decided to ride Westin, I simply practiced riding like Boyd. With longer stirrups. His position is stellar, I mean STELLAR. His core is so super strong, his hands are quiet and soft, (I never saw much more than a snaffle, maybe a pelham with single rein on one strong horse) and all the balance in his leg came from the heel and calf encouraging the best canter the horse could physically offer, which meant they were more confident with each ride, (I am guessing that is super important to an eventer, having a confident horse). I snapped all day. After 4 pm, I watched him teach for a couple hours. When Maddy finally found me to let me know the horses (and herself) were ready for dinner, I reluctantly left the arena to address hunger issues. He was still going when we pulled out of the driveway, and he had horses on the show schedule for the next day, which the minions still had to get braided and ready. We had managed a few quick conversations with some of the working students (minions), learning it was quite the international group, representing other countries like Latvia and Ukraine. Interesting.  Boyd and Silva base their businesses out of Stable View for the winter months, there is little occupancy the rest of the year, and the wonderfully kind owner Barry is content to leave it this way. Amber Lee filled us in on the details, cost of dry stalls for the season, management of the apartments and facility, and the predicted expansion to a final 1,000 acres. It is impressive. There is a waiting list.

 http://stableviewfarm.com/

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our barn

 

Wednesday.

After listening to an entire night of heavy rain, I couldn’t imagine what the rings were like. Then, after stepping foot into the rings, I couldn’t imagine why I even thought to worry. There was NO sign of water in either show ring! It was unbelievable, and EVERYONE was talking about it. It was PERFECT. I had an early test, Sandbag had gotten over needing a babysitter, and it all went fairly well for the first time at First Level.

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Meghan Benge Photography, #testrideacounty 

 

You can see a bit of the farm behind this ring in this video, and keep in mind, behind Maddy is the second half of the ring we were competing in…that is where the rest of the exhibitors were warming up. It is a big ring.

https://youtu.be/7KJ_zw5Skkw

The buzz with all the excited ladies was palpable, and Maddy and I enjoyed the activity. My second test was much later in the afternoon, maybe by then, my overstimulated brain was getting fried, and well,  I went off course twice to which the judge added a little sarcastic humor in the notes…ugh. lol

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Yes. Yes, I am. ooops.

I was not far off the mark for a qualifying score, and I ended up third in that class, fifth in the first class, so it wasn’t really a bad day, but there is obvious room for improvement.

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Do we look as hot as William Fox-Pitt when he did this? Equi-Trek is seriously cool. I want one.

We hurried to pack and scoot down the road to Highfields to set up for the Cupid Classic. At Stable View, you are responsible for stripping your stalls if you want the cheap rate, ($50) so we made sure to leave everything in tip top shape before pulling out of the driveway.

Twenty minutes down the road made a big difference.

Highfields was one of the first shows I brought students to years ago during my time at Garrison Forest School. It looked almost exactly the same, except with the addition of a very impressive grass GP Field and overlooking stone pavilion, the rest I remembered immediately.

At our assigned stalls, we were greeted by a goat.

I have never been greeted by a goat before…. Within 20 seconds of pulling my ramp down and opening my dressing the room door, the goat was ransacking the horse treats and anything else he could grab and run with. We were kind of in a hurry to get the horses set up because after the long day at Stable View, we still had to get Westin in Hunter 1 before it closed for ticketed warm up that day and we had 30 minutes to make this happen, get the stalls bedded and equipment unpacked. The goat was not helping.  Somehow we managed to get me up on Westin and I left Maddy to figure out how to unpack only the minimal items we needed, as our available space was now limited to approximately 8 square feet, less than the room you have at WIHS in downtown D.C. The stalls were 10×10, cobwebby, and I instantly felt we were intruding on someone else’s personal space. Come to find out later, we were.

The rings are sandy, holding the water on top, so Westin and I splashed through the puddles from the overnight rain, but basically I thought he seemed pretty content with himself, and smoothly sailed around the ring just before we were kicked out at 5pm. Back at the barn, we met the rooster. Yup. A rooster. I am pretty fairly certain neither Westin nor Sandbag had ever met a rooster, and this was not a shy rooster…. My horses were growing increasingly suspicious of my life choices. Sigh.

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I shrugged it off, we played a puzzle game of how to get a trunk, saddle stand, grooming equipment, feed, and hay close enough inside the stable to not get wet from the weather, tucked everyone in, and, exhausted, headed out for food and a few hours of sleep. Once again it rained, and the winds came.

Thursday.

We had a plan for the morning arriving at 6am to get everything organized for a 9 am division, and all was basically routine for us, with no real science behind the preparation. We pulled in the driveway to hear an alarm going off from the office and equipment shed, a loud piercing wail that I am sure the campers just loved. No clue how long it had been going off but it continued for two more hours. Walking into the barn, Sandbag had us completely stumped. We arrived to find him bouncing around his stall like John Travolta, performing athletic feats I had never witnessed before. He seemed totally distraught. Westin was literally straight across from him in full view, the barn was packed, but he was violently searching for a way OUT of his stall. I couldn’t understand it. Westin was completely unfazed, but his friend was overcome with emotion, and neither one of us could figure it out. I blamed the cooing rooster, Maddy blamed the cedar tree branches scraping overgrown branches along the aluminum siding creating an alarming crescendo of intolerable noise. I started braiding Westin, watching Sandbag, scolding him every two minutes. It was tiresome. We tried to tie him, but that made it worse. Maddy finally convinced me to let her take him for a walk, but it was dark out, and windy, so I succumbed only when there was enough light. She attached the lunge line and off they went. I shook my head, no clue. She returned forty minutes later, after touring the grounds, and said he was fine, with the exception of being startled by the alarm restarting every ten minutes. oh, and the cow….

Christ, I thought. Now there is a cow. He returned to his stall and munched hay. We hadn’t seen any of that behavior at Stable View.

We busied ourselves with Westin who was basically fine but the wind made him friskier than usual, so we were basically just ok for the division. I went off course in the warm up and made life harder on myself. In the end, I just wished I had been a better professional, but no tragedy. By 10 am we were finished showing.

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After lunch we both stared at Sandbag and wondered what to do with him. He was looking at us kind of sadly, like he wanted to go do something. He wasn’t circling anymore, but he clearly didn’t want to spend the rest of the week camping out in a stall, so we tossed the hunter tack on him and dragged him up to the warm up ring. The rest is history. The next day his official debut into the hunter ring was an incredibly successful one, and he walked away champion in the baby greens. Not one step out of place, courageous and full of pride. What a weird horse.

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the moment we decided maybe we should show him

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first hunter show, first champ #drunter 

 

That evening we noticed the Sharps container…. I felt I had been keeping a pretty good sense of humor about the second half of our week until that very moment. Then the wind was sucked right out of me.

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I just stared at it, trying to make sense of it. This is what one step forward and two steps back FEELS like. The distance between the two farms and shows was less than five miles, and the worlds were just light years apart. Duck.

Ten thousand questions rolled up into my brain at that very moment.

Maybe it all started making sense when I looked into it. Sort of. Most of the occupants of our barn were actually there on a longer term basis, not just for one or two shows. Stalls were being rented for a kind of season thing, due to personal circumstances or whatever, which had not been the norm in the past. This explained the goat, (who had since been locked in a horse trailer) and the rooster, who still greeted us every morning (loudly), and the chicken coop, and the cow, and other things. But what if I hadn’t looked into it? What if I had misunderstood that this was not a weeks worth of needles and syringes, but a few months worth?

I am not pissed at the show management for not checking the container, and I literally have no idea if asking it to be replaced annoyed them or not, but what do you want me to say?

Now it is a competition of who has the most depressing photos?

Are we that far gone? WE?? Yes, you, me, the professional in front of you at the coffee stand, the grooms, the riders, we are all in this and we have all somehow done this to ourselves.

We can’t get out of this, can we?

When our USHJA prez sat in the airport after the last USEF meeting, and a dressage representative looked at her and asked why she wasn’t embarrassed, I knew she was embarrassed, and probably thinking, what now? The words she wrote the next day echoed in my head over and over again. http://www.phelpssports.com/viewarticle.php?id=10014876

That container right there is the difference, and I am walking a line between both worlds.

The Weekend.

The container was replaced by Saturday morning, and following the derby later that morning,  Maddy and I packed up and headed back to Maryland. Westin earned a ribbon, but I was tired. I genuinely felt like I had made the best of the week, and found sheer joy in some moments, using social media to involve people in my decisions about the horses, braiding in pink, touring Aiken, discovering another beautiful, pristine facility – Bruce’s Field, which is on par with Stable View, (and I discovered has dates in May and September, Yassss!) experiencing the horse shows, and I met LOVELY people, like really lovely, and had so much fun in our endeavors, we ate the best food, saw nice horses, laughed hysterically, and all the good stuff that goes along with horse showing.

However, my voice inside is wondering do I stay silent when I see things?? Is my blog going to close the doors on me in the future OR will it invite people to raise the standards of….well, everything? Do we want higher standards? Am I going to be squeezed out of the hunter world? Will it matter? Will I care?

I do care. I want to recognize good things, too. Like this…..

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NO CHARGE TO ENTER!

Uh, I think a $1,000 Scholarship is a pretty big deal, so I want to celebrate this a bit. Zone 4 riders, do you know how lucky you are right now? 

That is a fabulous class to see, and should be quite an honor to win. Mary Ann Parmelee did amazing things for her family, her grand daughter was featured here in a blog of Carolina’s Equestrian:

http://www.thecarolinasequestrian.com/special-features/in-their-boots?start=3

The people in Aiken definitely made my show experience at Highfields a good one. With only one or two exceptions, the atmosphere was exceptionally nice. If they would have me back I would definitely return. The shows at Bruce’s Field in May are peaking my curiosity, so we shall see.

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This team is heading to Pony Finals because she just won the USEF Pony Medal!! Rebecca Effron, Lainie Rubin and her pony Makloud

I guess I am willing to take the chance. We can do better, I am sure of it. It is all right there in front of us, like watching Boyd Martin ride for 8 hours. Free education right there. And priceless. God help us, hunter believers, I hope we find our way. It actually starts with better exhibitors, ones strong enough not to break my heart, I don’t think there is any other way… 

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go get ’em Lainie. Best of luck this year, you are one of the reasons some of us try so hard to get it right. 

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From YouTube to Depo

When you see something say something.

Well, no, not really… I saw something. But I can’t say something. It isn’t true is it? Pointing out obvious rule breaking is not what is going to make this sport better.

You can’t say something without a lawyer. Or a team of lawyers. How irrevocably frustrating and sad.

Say you see a horse with it’s penis hanging out of its sheath down to its knees. Do you do the whole SMH routine, roll your eyes to the heavens and think to yourself, I am useless here…. like I did? I was advised against speaking out against a video published on YouTube because my attorney felt I would be instantly burdened with a defamation lawsuit. Since I am married to my attorney, I guess I have to listen to him. It angered him as much as it angered me because he cannot deal with people who take advantage of the legal system, and burden judges with their own atrocities. Especially on a public platform such as YouTube. So I had to let it go. Maybe it just had to pee. Maybe it had melanoma that weekend. I doubt it, but whatever. I have no fear to raise a red flag, but I do have a family. Even my clients implored me not to speak out against someone with known mafia connections.

So the answers evade us once more. It is so hard to speak out. I am constantly considering the factors which contribute to cheating. Silence is one.

I think that is why so many people are calling for the judging to be altered, less ‘rewarding the horses in a coma’ syndrome that creeps into the voices on the rail… Yet judges left and right are going ‘hey! We can only judge what is in front of us that day and guess what? We ARE taking into consideration that young horses are proud of themselves sometimes and express it following a great jump. Or the best technical jumper can score higher with a swap or rub’. But junior hunters are judged differently than green hunters. And Pre-Adult divisions are judged differently than Amateur Owner divisions.    

It is not solely the judging.

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Say you send your horses on trial to a known rule breaker with the hope of any deal made?  Do you make excuses and say you need to send them to stay alive in this business?  What is that even? Staying in favor of doping? The horse comes back with dried blood caked on its hair, or a sore mouth, cotton still stuffed in its ears, but you brush it off as necessary for staying in the sales business. That, to me, is symptomatic of fear, a deeply embedded insecurity that cannot allow you to put the horses welfare above your own fear of disappointing someone you feel is better connected and more powerful. The kind of fear which speaks inside your head and convinces you something terrible will happen to your horses if you DON’T do what is asked of you from the perpetrator. The fear is so genuine, so real, and so strong, so tangible, and will not fade. You won’t be ‘friends’ openly with the person who gives you this fancy gift of fear, but you will answer the calls, chat brightly on the phone, and make the promises to keep him or her happy. It makes it simpler when the horses are considered a commodity, not really something you become attached to. I have news for you, you have already secured judgement by your peers for attempting business with a crooked horse dealer. You are now an enabler. You don’t need that fear in your life, get rid of it. Sell horses without doping them.

There is no pinning the problems of cheating on one demographic. Everyone plays a part. Everyone. Everyone contributes to cheating in some way.

Parents of young riders. Parents can do enormous amount of damage to a child’s development if they have little understanding of the sport they are involved with as a family. Just as a parent will verbally attack or negotiate with an academic teacher, the same can happen with trainers. Pressure from parents can only be controlled by the parents. And what are they protecting them from? Too much work?

“Find me a perfect pony/horse no matter the cost, so my child can win as much as humanly possible. By tomorrow. And no, he/she doesn’t want to learn to pick out feet, clean a stall, or put together a bridle. I want this to be fun for her”

Until parents come to terms with their own expectations in the horse world, how can trainers move forward? Parents have the highest demands of almost anyone in this sport, and we see the ramifications daily. The ‘well rounded’ child not only has to ride to perfection on a 1200 lb animal, he/she has to play hockey, tennis, basketball, play an instrument, get extra tutoring, make honor role every semester, knit, create a field of dreams, act out every desire of mom, dad, grandma and grandpa, figure out a solution for world peace, etc. etc. Parents are not sure the term “barn rat” really fits into the family schedule, so you are left with part time barn rats, and those rats really just want to show. Let’s be real. Only a few genuine barn rats really exist.

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Show managers. Scheduling, believe it or not, plays a big part in cheating. Not that anyone can help it, but if a horse is cooped up in a tent stall 24/7 from Wednesday to Sunday, or longer, sometimes for a 6 week or more circuit, no turnout access, what do you think happens to a 1200 lb creature meant to roam free on the plains and deserts of the world. hmmm. They get feisty. We feed carbs. The shows offer so many classes compared to a few decades ago, and the demand is apparently high for all these classes, and the rings all go at once, how can a horse possibly be prepped correctly? One of the craziest things in the fall last year was to discover a class starting at 4:30 am. 4:30 in the morning. Now maybe this can’t be helped, maybe there really is no option, but it happened. Junior riders were required to be riding at 4:30 in the morning the day before a national championship.  Interestingly, in Europe about a week later, a very well-known dressage rider walked out of a competition in Germany because she claimed the schedule was completely intolerable to the welfare of the horse. It was pretty big news, and she was strong enough to disappoint fans in GERMANY, by making a statement that she considered her warmup at 2 am to be unfair to her horse(s). I am positive she was criticized and put down by her peers, but she was adamant. I wonder if anyone was adamant about a 4:30 am warmup class?

You could argue this all day long, without coming up with an easy answer (someone will always be disappointed) but show managers play a part, too.

Course designing. Good course designers don’t mind to take into consideration the depth of education in the riders of certain classes. Certainly the more profitable divisions for show managers have been under 3’. However, a course designer who sets lines too long for a 2’6” division is not inviting riders to be more educated, but he/she is inviting the horses to be more quiet, so when hustled down a 6 stride set at 86’ the horse doesn’t unseat his novice rider with a simple head toss or high five, or worse a chocolate chip and stumble out of the line. Again, the courses end up doing the judging, not the judges. The venom of the reptile creeps in to replace the short stride of a horse whose step has shrunk from a natural 12’ to a dangerous 10’ long. It is all about the math….and the venom…

Grooms. Do you know how hard it is to find someone to sacrifice their entire lives for next to nothing, trying to juggle an entire herd of show horses and be finished within a 16 hour workday? The turnover rate with barn help is staggering, the risk of injury is steep, nutrition is scant, and well, people get tired. If six horses have to be lunged before an 8 am start time, what is to stop a groom from setting horses on fire on that lunge line in order to hurry up and get to the next one. Before long you have 6 crippled horses for the 8am class and guess what fixes a crippled horse? Medication. Trainers are desperate for good grooms, you see it all over the world, not just here, and a nightmare of a groom can wreak havoc in a good show barn.

So Trainers might think it is just easier and safer to give reserpine, dormosedan gel  or GABA to an animal and stifle it’s energy long enough to get a good performance in the show ring. Customer happy. Customer pays the bills. Trainer gets to keep going to horse shows.

Owners. How many owners know or care what is given to the horses as long as the horses show up to the ring on time? Seriously, most owners are not around much. Should they be required to be around more?

Kids. Well, certain kids. The youth of today….What baffles me the most is that the internet goes crazy whenever a story comes along about someone who has beaten the stereotype of privilege, has worked their butts off to achieve his/her goals and experienced some sort of success. It is nuts how hungry people are for stories like like that and how difficult it is to find those stories. Some kids really do it right, really try to get educated, push their friends to learn more, and understand how important the horse is, understand that 10 tubes of Perfect Prep is NOT the answer to winning in the junior hunters. Only some, though.

I live for those stories and have found horse people have a genuine connection with hard working young people. The gracious juniors give credit to ALL of the trainers who saw them through their youngest years, educated them, built the foundation, and created the passion for sport, not just the current one(s).

Maybe too depressing and all too common are the stories of kids who find their way to the top of their junior careers, in whatever appropriate ring, jumpers, hunters, equitation, and somehow forget the very people who taught them how to navigate their first trot jump. How could you turn your back on the first trainer who hugged you when your pony was being a rotten pony, and not recognize that without that hug, you might have left the sport and picked up a tennis racket instead?  Is that ok? Why not go back to that trainer every once in a while and ask if he/she needs help around the barn with the little kids, and be a good example for the next generation? Or, if you see them at a show, offer to clean some tack, roll wraps, pick a stall, fill a water bucket. The exhaustion level for trainers can be very, very high, and the temptation to medicate gets stronger once you realize how much more sleep you can get during a busy weekend. Be nice, you are a kid, help out so everyone gets plenty of sleep, it is not asking too much.

Which leads me to the Federation. That uneasy feeling I had about the new captain of the mothership grows steadily when I think about the calculated strategy of playing us like the pawns in a chess game. There is no fixing an industry, there is no fixing a sport. And the Hunters are not competing at the Olympic Level. Yes, some horses can be purchased for similar price tags as Olympic horses, but the more drastic the measures taken against the cheaters, the more the horses will suffer as experiments, as people take out their frustrations on a silent partner. Not to mention the few people trying desperately to do it right.

No official announcement has been made about the ban of hormone usage in horses, but the mere  suggestion for Depo-provera (medroxyprogesterone) being put on the banned substance list and Regumate (Altrenogest) being highly controlled might not go in the direction intended. Actually I am sure it won’t. The horses will suffer more, because people are people, and can only do what they have learned from other people. If you were taught that depo helps a spooky horse, tried it and believe in it, you depend on it. Imagine what that person is going to experiment with in order to achieve the same result as depo-provera.

Those part time horse ladies in the amateur divisions at WEF (maybe generous donors to Foundations)  who just want to have a nice photo of their champion ribbon on that special horse are suddenly being put at risk by an over zealous leader.  And we circle back to what? More time on the lunge line? Oh my.

We aren’t ready for that drastic of a change this soon into a presidency…… The science is also lacking when proving if hormone use actually has any effect on horse performance whatsoever, and the horses, especially mares, who actually NEED depo for other reasons will most likely suffer greatly. Actually mares will be avoided all together in the market when people don’t understand how to not use hormone treatment. Never mind that depo causes arthritis, which I can attest to in my own body, which pops and creaks and groans after too many years of usage. Now I won’t go near the stuff, but it was a hard lesson to learn when I thought I was doing the right thing.

I can just imagine stabling managers now at major shows wondering if they will have to dedicate entire tents to mares only, geldings only, or stallions only, segregating the horses, and splitting up barns left and right in order to contain the chaos, as the hormones silently slip out of the horse’s systems.   

Christ, and the mortality rate in hunters? My bet is an increase over the next two to five years as we come to terms with our own lack of education in the equestrian world.

So yes, even our own Federation is contributing to cheating in the hunter industry, even though they are currently spending 20% of their operating budget every year chasing the cheaters. That is 6 million dollars, in case you weren’t aware. 6 million dollars floating away from scholarships educational programs, benefits, and who knows what else. I wonder if ear plugs will be next?? They are already banned in Endurance and Dressage, what is to keep the message of a level playing field current if they do not address the use of ear plugs? Are we going to suddenly see an increase in deaf horses……?

Hunter Industry meet PETA.

Meanwhile pony clubbers are sitting over here, going….what are our member benefits again?

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What a world we live in, a unique, proper snow globe, shake it up, see what settles.

stick around

Nothing is more frustrating then seeing people walk out in disgust. Whether it is a room full of people, fans at a sports game, or the show hunter world. This is NOT a time to walk away from the hunters.

#ShowHuntersStillMatter

I don’t even care if it sounds cliché at this point. I would no more trade my business in for all the bourbon in Kentucky. You must be nuts to think I would do that. Why should I? I refuse to walk away just because I’ll never be on the cover of a magazine winning a derby, that’s just stupid. And wrong.

Peacing out of a sport or industry because you aren’t able to stomach the cheaters and the scandals will have zero effect on the cheaters. They will be like ‘don’t let the door slam you in the ass….suckers’. You know what will have an effect? Sticking around and doing it correctly. Learning how to ride a hunter well. Showing up at the in-gate proud of the horses you are on and not giving AF if you get 10th place. That is what will make a difference. Asking yourself ‘what can I do to solve some issues?’ will make a difference.

Are you going to get recognition or an award for it? Nope. Put a pic on Insta if you need to. #notcheating. Are you going to set a good example for a short stirrup kid you don’t even realize is looking up to you? YES. Chances are that cute short stirrup kid is completely clueless what is happening in litigation in KY or NY, but she really loves to ride her pony and she has been watching you from the beginning toodle around on your big, fancy horse. She deserves to have shot at a dream, too, and she is far more important.

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I had a really good client check in on me yesterday and ask if I was following the chatter about my post, I said not really, my girls will probably let me know if something gets out of hand and I need to block someone (I didn’t, everyone was cool). I was spending time in unbelievably warm weather with my horses. After they rolled around in mud for hours I washed it all off of them, tucked them away for the night. I taught a couple fun lessons, went home and ate a pizza.

I woke up with a migraine, maybe all the time at the computer this week caught up with me, thinking and typing can tax a brain, lol. I checked in on the chatter and realized how many voices were venting frustration on even being in the hunter world. and went back to bed. I was in a really foul mood when I woke up.

I get it. I know why there is so much aggravation in the hunter world. It is a hard world to make it in. But don’t just walk away, slamming the entire sport along with it.  We have an entire future generation who actually might do a really good job with horses if we show them how. There ARE a few people doing it correctly.

People have been getting away with stupidity for eons, and each person chooses his or her path to take down that road. But it is a public road, and has lanes for horse people with more integrity.

For once, we have a Federation showing some backbone on how to handle notorious abusers in the horse world, and although my eyebrows raised (both of them, not just one) at how it rolled out onto our desktops, it never occurred to me to be finished with the sport all together. I am still going to fight my hardest. Will I win a lot? No clue, it probably doesn’t define who I am anyway. Will I agree with whatever the US Equestrian says we need to do just because they showed us they take a firm stand for fair play? Of course not, I am not an idiot. But I sure am gonna keep an eye on things now, including their new website. Holy crap, there is some good stuff on there.

www.usef.org

No one has all the answers, there really aren’t too many answers, why do we need answers all the time? It is a sport, along with a business. However, there is already loads of education out there to take advantage of if we can just set aside our frustration and get busy. I think of all the people working tirelessly for nothing who want to see a healthy hunter world and the cards (or bottles) that are stacked against them, and appreciate their work so much. They will probably never be able to drive a car with heated seats, or take a trip across the ocean, but their horses LOVE them and they love their horses right back. I have friends with good jobs at horse shows I would be crushed if they were out of work. And in a world riddled full of glass houses, these wonderful people are starting the foundation for a brick house. Albeit a small one.

Yes, I am freaking out. I am freaking out because I can think of quite a few young riders (who don’t throw their ribbons in the trash) watching all of this unfold in front of their eyes, knowing full well I contributed to the chaos by writing about it, and knowing they may never, ever touch a young hunter prospect now because of the fear of it all.

If you really love hunters, don’t listen to the chatter, don’t feel you are not good enough. Don’t think there is only one way to get a hunter through the divisions and sell a certain way. You can know all about the dirty details other people are doing and ignore it. There simply has to be a way to prove to the horse world we don’t need to be a solely pharmaceutical sport. Steel yourself for the next few weeks as more press releases come out of the Federation, (kind of like storm prep) and hopefully people around you won’t throw good hunter trainers out with the bathwater, too.

poop.

I really wanted to see better horsemen in my lifetime. I cannot believe we allowed ourselves to dig such a big hole. But I know one thing, I refuse to let the other guys defeat me, even if I look like a cartoon character in a comic strip.  So be it. Start drawing.

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My reaction to the cheating scandal and random drug testing.

It won’t work.

Cheaters don’t simply stop cheating because of one major penalty. It is not in their nature, they can’t help it. We are not exactly condemning cheaters to rehab here. We aren’t making them do community service are we? These are horse shows. The USEF commands ‘stop coming to horse shows for a couple of years, please’. And the response is ‘ok, no problem, someone else can sign the paperwork. Someone else can ride in Kelley’s saddle’. Well, maybe Erica’s legs are too long and she needs her own, but whatever, so what?

Change jockeys and life goes on.

What happens at home behind closed doors might be more disturbing than what we are seeing at the shows anyway. The experimentation that takes place, and the borderline torture tactics are what has me concerned, because now these horses will have nothing but two people with a whole lotta free time throwing poles at their legs and inventing new ways to to make them super careful, super powerful, and super allergic to wood.

Great.

How do we stop that part? Ask lumber companies to stop making 4 x 4’s? Ask carpet companies to stop making carpet tack? Boot companies to stop making weighted boots? Then do we start considering what we do with tack nosebands?

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this oughta make them careful!

 

This new development will simply be a new challenge to set up the chess game with the USEF, (excuse me, I mean US Equestrian). Cheaters love a new challenge. And what happens when, within that new challenge, his horses are still winning, even though he is not setting foot on sanctioned property? He can stand on the roof of his Maserati from the road and his whooping can still be heard form across the street?  Will he become even more belligerent against the establishment?

I guarantee you someone will step up to the plate and offer to sign the entry blank as trainer for Lane Change Farm. I assure you other riders are already being considered, and I assure you the silence you might be witnessing from other riders comes from knowing they could be getting the phone call any moment to take the ride on the next ‘sensational’ hunter. Would you turn an offer down to ride one of those horses? Is this why the horses need to be suspended, too?

If they need to rationalize how they cheat or bend the rules, or medicate, then they need to do it, for some reason, and it will never change for them and it is not like they need sustainability at this point. When you are emboldened by winning, and have no ambition to do anything else, what does it matter? It is not like they will ever consider running for head of the USHJA or USEF any day. What position would they ever hold in governance?

This article was interesting https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-05/sp-brm051911.php

When people have power, they act the part. Powerful people smile less, interrupt others, and speak in a louder voice. When people do not respect the basic rules of social behavior, they lead others to believe that they have power, according to a study in the current Social Psychological and Personality Science (published by SAGE).

Larry Glefke has been considered by MANY a gifted horseman, arguably one of the best we have ever seen, and his ability to extract athleticism out of normalcy can be, at times, impressive. What once looked like, dare I say ‘cart horse of a warmblood’, suddenly has a technique you never thought possible, the canter is coordinated, and it pops off the ground in an unmatched display of tidiness, causing Larry to slap his hands together in sheer admiration for his own ability to create this.

Kelley rides for the gold medal with every ride, her muscle memory enacts this weird, almost perverse command to the horses to give her the impossible without the horses even knowing they are giving her the impossible. The combination of Larry and Kelley creates this ‘all or nothing scenario’. They are not giving horses ‘experience’ in the ring. They are in the ring to do one thing and one thing only. WIN.

Everything. or Nothing. If you happen to witness a horse give them nothing, the next day it will come back and give them everything.

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I am not sure I would consider them powerful, exactly, maybe just really annoying, but certainly they have produced some amazing results in the hunter world, and in that world they created for themselves there are fewer rules to follow, and the need for a conscience is not required, because the horses sell regardless. Or they get donated, and a few weeks later they stop eating, their hair falls out, and the muscle tone diminishes, because….withdrawal.  We are not policemen and these are not real world crimes being committed.

We can’t enforce training methods at home.

We can’t prevent him from standing on a public road across from the horse show.

We can’t prevent ship ins, unless it is an International Derby, then the requirement to be on the grounds is only 24 hours.

However, welfare issues are getting pushed to the forefront more and more and will continue to do so because we have asked for it.

WHY IS THERE NO SOLUTION TO TESTING HORSES AT HORSE SHOWS EXCEPT RANDOM TESTING?

Every horse cannot be tested who wins a tri-color. They can barely get half a dozen horses tested at each horse show. They just take soooooo long to peeeeeee. Can you imagine trying to test every Champion or Reserve Champion? And what about the divisions without championships awarded?

I picked up a random ‘national’ rated horse show prize list and counted 45 divisions which offered a champ and reserve. That is 90 horses right there, should we allow testing of the tri-color winners.  Even if we only tested the winners each day? 40 blue ribbons are awarded the first two days of the show and up to 70 blue ribbon winners by the weekend. Each Day.

What if you just brought an equitation horse? 18 equitation classes are offered for horses and ponies which may or may not ever step into a hunter ring or see a tri-color. Some people might find it more important to test an equitation horse that day. Some people feel equitation horses should NEVER be exempt from drug testing.

Jumpers? This horse show has 24 classes offered in the jumper ring, from schooling to Junior/Amateur Jumper, and only three divisions offered championships.

What if you are just doing a derby?

What if your horse does three rated divisions and is champion in all of them? Test it three times in one week?

What is considered a big class? Important class? Older Adult Amateur division or Hunter Derby? Green? Or Small Pony? How do you decide who should be deserving or undeserving of being tested? Actually, who should be deciding this?

Don’t these vets have day/other jobs? How can a local vet and a few technicians be at a horse show from Wednesday to Sunday testing all the winners? Who pays for that? Well, if that is what you want, take a very hard look at the logistics and cost, and start tripling your membership dues and drug fees. It is just not possible.

There are 2,500 USEF sanctioned horse shows each year. ALL shows are subject to horses being tested, whether it is hunters, jumpers, Arabian, Endurance, Western, Eventing, or Endurance, or whatever.

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So why did the Federation do it? Why did ALL of the hunter/jumper members receive an impeccably timed press release which coincided with the very first day of the Winter Equestrian Festival and the first day of the 2017 USEF Annual Meeting in Kentucky?

They did it for us. The members. It was deliberate to make us feel better and to win our trust back, and it was brilliant. This week has been hyped up for months and months, a huge new plan with renewed commitments to fair play, huge new strides by an incredibly motivated leader in a stagnant industry. Maybe to give more members and riders hope.

How many riders by 9 am were going “Holy crap! I need a derby horse stat!” (Please, God, tell me I wasn’t the only one.)

How many of us took a huge sigh of relief and thought “Finally!”

How many show managers are calculating their estimated loss in revenue?

Are Regional Show managers going…….hmmmmm, I have a nice show they might be interested in. I should add them to the mailing list.

How many of us are suddenly wondering what else is in that launch of the Federation’s Strategic Plan?

Murray Kessler is insanely clever and calculating, has a convincing voice people can’t stop listening to,  but I still wonder if the devil remains in the details and you should be careful what you wish for. Fair play may come at an incredibly high price. But one thing I am sure of, change is a-coming. And we all will be paying. And paying. And paying.

Is it bewildering to anyone else that none of these cheating tactics is actually necessary? At this point in time, they have made enough money selling horses to be buying the best new young talent out there, and with his skills and Kelley’s ability to ride anything, they will probably win just the same without all the weird shit that they do. I wonder, at this point, if they even realize it?

I would also place a healthy bet if you instilled a community service requirement for any suspended horse person, we would see a drastic decrease in infractions. Real world community service. like, in the real world. Does anyone know what the real world is anymore?

Truckin in the valley

The Baltimore Agricultural Center (commonly known as MARC) in Hunt Valley has some serious issues lately, and an odd turn of events has sparked some serious emotions of residents in the area. What was supposed to be an open space piece of property just west of 83 on Shawan Road, and cater to education of agriculture to kids across the state, along with a  possible therapeutic riding center has suddenly and unexplainably been earmarked for a ‘Truck Depot’ for county maintenance vehicles.

Residents learned this week that a rather large chunk of property would be paved, buildings added, and home to an alarming number of these county vehicles, trucks, trailers, snow plows, and whatever else the county felt they could store there.

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The problem is, this is not what the property was destined for in the beginning, and no residents were contacted before this initiative was put into action. Plans have already been drawn up, which means surveyors have already been hired, artists paid for the drawings, and most likely contracts have been ‘promised’ to contractors, because….well, that is how politics works.

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So Wednesday evening (Jan 4, 2017) residents were invited to a town hall of sorts at the Ag Center, and it was discovered that another meeting has already taken place back in October outlining all of the proposed plans, but the public interpretation was different.  This time, however, even with very little notice, over 200 nearby residents showed up, none of them too happy, and it was very clear the intent.

Chris McCullom, known as a manager/executive director of the Ag Center, tried to explain how the facility was going to be restructured as a ‘truck depot’, blatantly holding off questions during his presentation, and showing very little interest in what the community feels about the change. It was awkward.

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Chris McCullom

When he finally opened up the floor for residents to speak, and question after question was asked about how we even got to this point, he was very clever NOT to answer any questions, and would simply move on to the next hand raised. When people finally caught on to this little trick, they started demanding who he was going to relay the concerns to and he grew even more vague. His use of the word ‘WE’ was firmly questioned. Who is the ‘WE’ he kept saying was behind this move for the ‘truck depot’?? At one point, he mentioned his ‘bosses’, and when pressed further, said his bosses included the Head of Property Management and a county executive for Baltimore County, and, even though he didn’t name Kevin Kaminetz, it was pretty clear to the room, that Kevin is one of those ‘bosses’. The weird thing is, I don’t think it is actually ALL Kevin. When I was doing more research, I found this on the website:

Finally, you will find few material changes to the capital projects being submitted for your review. As in previous years, County Administrative Officer, Fred Homan, and Budget Director, Keith Dorsey, are here to answer any questions you may have.

Uh, hello, why were these two individuals not present at the meeting with the people who had ALL THE QUESTIONS??

http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/budfin/propertymanagement/

It didn’t appear as though anyone in the room has been a fan of Kevin Kaminetz and his current position in Baltimore County, but I couldn’t help but think who else?? Fred Homan has an awful lot of arrows pointing in his direction. A simple google search of his name and the articles associated with him would make me basically just give up and move to another planet, if I was him. Regardless, this ‘truck depot’ issue is on the table now, and someone has to figure it out if it is going to work at the Ag Center.

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original plan the community agreed with

There were three gentlemen who were invited to speak about an hour into the meeting, and all three reassured the room that they were against the initiative, but not necessarily surprised, unlike the rest of us.

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Wade Kach

The first County Councilman Wade Kach spoke to saving open space, which was the whole point of  having the Ag Center in the first place. He also suggested that we come together as a group and find a place to house the trucks for the county, other than the Ag Center. I thought this was funny, because, last time I checked, that is not our job, and why we have people already in place to solve that issue, but whatever, that’s just me.

The second was our Senator Jim Brochin, who reiterated all the above with more gusto, and the third was Chris West, who with Susan Almond, oversee movement from Towson to Pennsylvania. He was quick to come up with bullet points from the meeting and implore to Chris McCullom to take the truck initiative back to ‘his people’, and find a different solution.

The uneasy feeling in the room seemed to come from, how do we know what happens next? Who do we contact? Who do we trust? And how can I make a difference? These are serious residents who moved to the area, are currently receiving new assessments on their properties, and wonder if anyone is looking out for their investments. I think it is a really good concern, but wonder if the truck depot is just a major distraction to the community in order to seal the deal on something else entirely.

Chris McCullom appears to have definite aspirations to be more than the executive director of the Ag Center, so he is able to detach what he thinks is right for the property and that might be what he is not telling us. When you watch someone with clear confidence handle the strong opinions of the room and is not willing to provide alternatives, solutions, or even show he cares? That is very dangerous, and disturbing.

Not too much is going to hit the media with this issue, so don’t think you are going to read big articles exposing both sides. This was all that was available on the one news group who showed up at the meeting:

http://foxbaltimore.com/news/local/plans-for-a-parks-rec-maintenance-facility-in-hunt-valley-area-stir-controversy

Maybe now is a good time to think about getting your toes wet in the political circles if you feel your voice deserves to be heard. Use the google. read…

Options for an alternative truck facility? Guess you could start keeping your eyes peeled for empty properties. Ironically, I live very close to an abandoned property in Greenspring Station, just five miles south of the Ag Center. On the corner of Joppa and Falls road, there is a rather large un-used facility which could easily house 30-50 trucks, has virtually no impact on residents, and is more accessible to major and minor roads in the same community. It has already been used for this same purpose in the past, storing salt, and trucks, but sits idle for no apparent reason.There is a salt dome across the street. You can see it in the picture below.  Couldn’t part of the money be used to rehab this facility? It already exists AND has beautiful landscaping to prevent it from being an eyesore!

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Why is this not under consideration?

 

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millions in landscaping already exists at this facility!

If the real issue is how to spend the $2.4 million coming from the State of Maryland, and we are not smart enough to work together as a group to work with our representatives, we are going to be in incredibly dicey waters in the future. Is that money supposed to be used for a classroom and indoor arena? Are we sure? Is there more coming? Should you find your voice today?

sign here……

Filling out an entry blank.  Signing an entry blank. The mysteries of the entry blank…. hopefully de-mystified today.

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A rider has to sign the entry blank. then the owner of the horse is supposed to sign the entry blank. Then you have two options. Trainer signature, or coach signature. What’s the difference? and who cares?

Does this information get stored somewhere? Does USEF really want take notice to who is exasperated with my kid in the schooling area because she can’t figure out how to pass left to left? umm, er, no.

Most of the information you are signing off on an entry blank is for clerical tracking, and possible infractions should some questions come up. Like when non-member fees would need to be collected. Like whether or not an illegal substance was found in your horse/pony. The USEF would contact a show secretary and ask them to pull a copy of an entry blank and verify signatures. If a horse/pony would come up positive for an illegal substance in a random drug test, the USEF would want to know who might be responsible. If a trainer is signing the entry blank, the USEF is assuming the trainer is taking full responsibility for the care of that horse – i.e.: the horse/pony RESIDES at that trainer’s facility, and assumes feeding responsibilities, shoeing, vet care, and overall management. Including medication. Really, it’s about the medication.   

However, a signature under COACH would indicate the horse/pony does not live under the trainer’s supervision, and either lives in your backyard, or a separate facility all together, maybe a boarding facility owned by a non-show person. If you ship your horse/pony to a show, and stable WITH your trainer for the week, and you are not in control of feeding or medicating? It is more likely your trainer should sign, but if you have prepared little baggies of grain from home, brought or bought your own hay, basically do self care, then you can sign yourself as trainer and your trainer (who might just be your jump crew for the day) should just sign as coach.

In scenarios where trainers are hired for the day, it is acceptable for adults to sign themselves as trainer, and do not have to have a trainer signature. SELF appears on the documentation.

Juniors do need either a trainer or coach signature, because they are minors, but take note –  as a parent of a minor, your signature is acceptable, EVEN if you are NOT a member! This is ok, because you are the parent!! However, PUTTING a “N/A” under the trainer signature, is NOT accepted. (yes, that actually happens), so no panic, just put your name as trainer.  I would highly recommend that parents should never sign for children other than their own.

Does a coach need to be a USHJA/USEF member? Yes, the coach SHOULD be a USHJA/USEF member, highly encouraged, but if not, a non-member fee will be applied. To your bill.

Many horse show secretaries don’t ever feel the USEF should collect non-member fees (also known as a SHOW PASS FEE). If you think the show itself is collecting these fees, they aren’t. I promise. Non-member fees go directly to the Federation.

Did you lease or recently purchase a fancy new show horse/pony? Say you are reeeeeallllly new to the sport. You have no idea a lease has to be recorded with the USEF because no one offered this information earlier and you are in the horse show office on Sunday at 3 pm, wondering why so many people are glaring at you. you start sweating. Who is the actual owner of the horse? And what if the owner is not a current USHJA/USEF member? And when should it have been transferred? Where is the lease/purchase agreement? Ugh, so many questions.

If you have not transferred ownership or recorded a lease with the USEF, you will be subject to having to pay the non-member fee for the owner if you are not sure. So every secretary will encourage you to take care of this particular issue BEFORE you arrive to a busy horse show. It is not like the secretaries DON’T want to help you, but sometimes the line is a bit long at checkout! Recording leases with the Federation will allow you to sign as owner on the entry blank, and receive points for the division you are competing in.

Making up OWNER information and numbers just because you aren’t sure is NOT acceptable. Horses with USHJA/USEF numbers are registered online, accessible on your phone, or tablet, so please verify ownership. it is called a search box, it is located on the http://www.usef.org website. The secretary can get fined for things like this, so please don’t do that.

Secretary nightmares? Maybe not so many, most of the secretaries I know are super helpful, and do not want you to be miserable figuring all this stuff out. However, there are a few things which might exasperate a show secretary.

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1.) a horse with no name……. this is not the desert, we are not traveling thousands of miles on horseback…out of the rain. An entry blank which is signed but offers NO information on what horse you are showing CANNOT be entered into the computer and issued a number. So even if you are sure your child is showing and are trying to beat the closing date of the horse show, but have no idea which creature she/he might be showing?? Sorry, pre-entering needs to come with an actual name of horse, shockingly. **If it is saying REQUIRED INFO, then really, it is required info**

2.) Waiting until the absolute end of day to check out of the horse show, only to learn any prize money issued will be mailed out the next week, and then expressing your frustration. Now, not all shows are the same, and different shows have different managements, so ASSUMING what happened last week in Virginia will happen this week in Gulfport is a bad idea.  Just ask. Orrrrr, here is a thought, read the prize list. (most of them are available online, too) The horse show office is open at LEAST an hour before the first class the first day, and has to be open an hour after the last class concludes every day. EVERY DAY. Surely you can find a moment to pop in and and say ‘HI! When would be a good time to ask questions, write you a check and close out my account? And how is prize money handled?’ No one judges you for this, trust me.

3.) Not closing out your account, then bitching about it later. Some shows have pretty strict policies when regarding your show account, like if you leave without verifying your bill and closing out the week, they have the right to charge you an additional $50. (this does not apply to emergency situations) So, just because you dropped off a check and picked up a number, doesn’t mean all the magic happens Sunday night at 8pm and you automatically receive a text message about the amount of your bill….. you need to be standing line with the rest of us and fill out your own check/credit card information. If the line is long and you ask a secretary to email your bill because you don’t want to wait, I feel ya, but please don’t do this. Nothing is worse than being about to shut down the computers and go home to your family, only to realize you still need to email exhibitors. That is ridiculous, and a major pet peeve with many secretaries.

4.) Not providing a Social Security Number. Any divisions exhibitors compete in and potentially can receive prize money will require a SS# or Federal ID #. Because, prize money. Income, people, can come in the form of prize money, according to the IRS….

5.) What are the little fees listed on the entry blank? Believe it or not, the USEF charges additional fees for showing horses that are not included in your membership fees. Yes, it is outrageous, no, the show secretary cannot control this, and no, there is no solution. It is a real problem. We know. Everyone knows. If you have an answer on how to solve this problem, we are all ears, but the secretary is not all ears about your objection to the drug fees. The USEF accrues hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue with that $16 per horse per show fee and there is absolutely NO way you are getting out of paying that today. The horse show in no way benefits from that ridiculous surcharge, they are the ones writing the check to the USEF for those hideous fees. None of it makes sense, so don’t even try.

6.) 99% of the questions asked of a horse show secretary are already printed for your benefit in a prize list. I know it seems like such a hassle to read something so mundane, but it is there for a reason. I have abused this privilege of wanting the immediate answer over and over again, and I know better, but this year I am going to try a little harder to remember someone went to a great deal of trouble to put the prize list together, so I am gonna look at it before I ask from now on. If I can, you can too.

7.) What classes did my kid show in? This is actually a thing. Parents are lovely, we love parents, but horse show secretaries around the country would really like you to know which classes or division your child showed in. Announcing to secretary that my child showed in three classes is, well, not really helpful. Different classes/divisions cost different amounts of money. Some division fees include a hack class, some do not. Some might even have prize money, and those results need to be recorded in the computer BEFORE competitors in the division or class check out.

8.) I have a problem with this one, too, and have probably overstepped secretary tolerance on more than one occasion, because I really like the secretaries I work with. However, having their cell phone is a big responsibility, and using their personal cell phones for a million questions leading up to a particular show really needs to be carefully considered. Before you send that text, make sure it is a really important question that you absolutely need to know the answer to, because this is real life! They have real lives! Kids! Families! Horses! Doggies! Whatever, but really truly, keep the texts and calls to a minimum. These are never 9 to 5 jobs, and Horse Show secretaries deserve to have a personal life. Respect it!

9.) Add/Scratch/Add again/Scratch again/ No one cares how many times you change your mind about what classes to go in, but please use the add/scratch form. Documentation is everything. Classes are numbered, you have a back number, and these numbers are helpful on an add/scratch form.

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What about that small print on an entry blank? Has anyone actually ever read it? You will want to know it when you are suddenly up for a suspension and wondered how you got there. Ooops, and why New York? By signing and entry blank for a horse show recognized by the USEF you are basically agreeing that you cannot sue anyone for anything. Period. It is a hold harmless agreement which clears anyone involved with the horse show or on the grounds from being responsible for any misfortune you or anyone related to you might incur. One day you should take the time to read the small print. Just so you know what you are putting your signature on each week you attend a horse show. And the reason New York is the state of choice despite USEF headquarters being based in Kentucky? The original American Horse Show Association (formed in 1917) was eventually incorporated under the laws of New York. The logistics of transferring to Kentucky now would be too massive, but as my husband has always said, it is more likely the laws of New York work in favor for the Federation, rather than the ‘looser’ laws of Kentucky. Lawyers. So, so smart.

read about the history here! https://www.usef.org/_iframes/aboutus/History/Default.aspx

Online Entering will be a big part of our future, websites include www.Horseshowing.com, www.horseshowsonline.com and www.showgroundslive.com will offer your show of choice so get familiar with these sites! It is actually VERY simple to figure out and once you do it, you will be glad you did, but those signatures will still be required before you have a back number handed to you!

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Good luck, and happy horse showing!

for the funnies :  https://youtu.be/x5Y9NFb7UQA

these videos may have been made for a reason, lol.

https://youtu.be/oztL8EeGixM

A year after Diznee, the 2016 USHJA convention.

#AMPalmSprings.

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The check in tables at conventions are the best. They have everything! Smiles, magazines, mints, horse cookies, pamphlets, and…. chapstick. I was promptly handed yet another backpack with all the goodies inside. And a schedule. Right next to the check in table is a silent auction table and the ever magnetic Bill Rube with enticing goodies for the USHJA Foundation, which is tireless in it’s efforts to give back to the community. Everyone likes Bill Rube. It is hard to resist a smile within the first thirty seconds of arrival, even for me.

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Yes, the esteemed canine Auggie Langer Sponsored a breakfast

After a substantial breakfast, we all found our way into the biggest meeting room for what seems like Forum hell. Every rule change proposal is read aloud and openly discussed. Past experiences have shown it takes a little while to warm up a crowd. It was fairly quiet. We actually seemed to breeze through the booklet at a pretty rapid rate, but I knew once we broke up into little rooms and the committees were addressing issues more closely that it would be a little different. Then people would voice more opinions. Truthfully, so few attendees have read through the proposals before arriving, that it really takes 24 hours for it all to sink in before people realize what they can be mad about.

The forums and little groups offer discussions on how to improve the sport from anyone and everyone who shows up, which is the point of a convention. You just basically bounce from discussion to discussion and try to keep up. What’s good, bad, helping, not helping. Sounds boring, until you find an interesting forum. This carries on for three full days. So many forums, so many committees (each year committees get reviewed as to whether or not they are necessary, and some get struck) and since I want to know EVERYTHING that is happening, I had to really observe a lot of discussion, so by the end of each day, my brain was thoroughly full and freaked out. Although I didn’t think there were too many hotly debated topics this year, I certainly wasn’t disappointed by certain topics. Like in the Equitation forum…

Geoff Teal and Julie Winkel went to amazing lengths following this years equitation finals to put a few things together. One article you will be reading in next months In Stride magazine…so before you recycle that rag, read it. The other handouts included ‘the intent’.

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‘Future Procedures’.

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‘Considerations for Finals Courses’ from the task force.

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Did people really want to discuss the medal/maclay finals?? you bet they did. Did it happen?? not as much as you think. It is not like we haven’t already discussed it ad nauseum, so Geoff (chairperson) said he was only interested in moving forward. me too, Geoff, me too.

TCP. I don’t know why this program makes me so mad. Maybe because I still can’t see how it benefits everyone, and I know its the location of a stable which draws clients, not a plaque on the wall, or any number of people who have claimed zero advantages to completing the course. This year we were introduced to some “suggested improvements” for the Trainer CertificationProgram which did nothing to calm me down. After years of claiming no way the TCP program is grandfathering in equestrians, guess what? There will now be a time period where you may be able to be ‘grandfathered in’ if you meet requirements, for example, you must have been a USEF member for 15 years. well, is that consecutive?? if not, which 15 years? The 15 before I took a break to live abroad and didn’t renew my membership that one time? Oh, and there’s more, in order to meet certain levels of “Criteria for Level Advancement via Accomplishments” you have to provide proof you were responsible for riders competing in national finals classes, and then they list which ones are acceptable.THIS Medal, ARIAT, Hunterdon Cup, Hunter championships, jumper championships, etc. etc, blah, blah, blah – All the classes you have to Pay to Play.

HOW ABOUT PONY CLUB?? Here is a thought concerning horsemanship. Maybe you make one of the ‘accomplishments required’ that you helped a pony club member achieve his/her A,B,C, or D rating?? Isn’t that the knowledge you want us to be seeking? Why can’t an already proven and existing organization play a part in any of these horsemanship programs?? Personally, I would encourage any participant in a TCP or EAP, Quiz, or whatever program to simply prove you attempted Pony Club for one year. That’s it, just a year. You might eeeeeeven enjoy it.

All that requiring classes to be actual “accomplishments” is producing SHOWMANSHIP not HORSEMANSHIP Trainers. There IS a DIFFERENCE. just ask George.

breathe. breathe dammit. breathe. ugh, my head hurts. Speaking of heads, one afternoon, we had a speaker who scared the crap out of all of us, but drove home some good points about concussions. I liked her, she was funny, an equestrian as well as a neurosurgeon, and if you didn’t leave that room sufficiently convinced you need two helmets, one for showing with your hair up and one for showing when you hair is down, then you must have dozed off. Concussions are such a mystery, and your noggin is more at risk than you think, and this woman is on a mission to curtail the outrageous statistics of brain injuries in equestrians across the country. I personally think horse show competitors are further down the list as ‘at risk’ than recreational riders, but maybe we all have a responsibility to convince a stranger to wear a helmet, since we are receiving this kind of knowledge at these conventions. Maybe not, but I certainly don’t like to hear that equestrians are on par with motorcycle riders. sheesh.

Owners would like to see more owner recognition. Who wouldn’t want that? But also, I liked the discussion about owners who might take a little, tiny bit more interest in their horses when it comes to drugs and medications, since the USEF has opened the door to holding owners more liable should an infraction arise.

To jog or not to jog? That will always be the question.

To split or not to split? and if split, how to split? (lol, the National Derby has grown fast enough to start the discussions on how to split the class should it show more than 40 entries, but pros and cons to either scenario exist.) This was an exhibitor driven discussion, too soon to see how it plays out.

Amateurs, amateurs lunging horses other than their own? Needs more discussion, discussion….

Hunter breeding? What do you think is important about Hunter breeding? Not applicable to you? Should it be? One thing I cannot figure out is how to educate the next generation for hunter breeding in this country. Would you attend a hunter breeding show if you knew at one point the judge would pick up a microphone and tell the audience why he chose the winner? Do you think I initiated that conversation? Yes, yes I did.

Which brings me to conformation. Remember that little request I have been rolling around as food for thought?? I want to see conformation put into the Young Hunter Division. I prepared my speeches all week to present, but never needed it, which is good, because as usual, I forgot everything I was going to say as soon as I was in front of a microphone, and only managed to squeak out how important it is for the future of our sport. Everyone seemed to agree immediately that yes, conformation should be a part of the Young Hunter division, so yay me. What else with the conformation? The arguments continue about whether or not we should allow International Derby points to go toward Green or Regular Conformation division points. Should they? I mean you have to compete in a conformation division five times during the year for the points to actually count, but uh, that also means you can walk in and walk out of the ring without jumping a fence and still be considered to have ‘competed’, but no one really would do that would they?? hmmmm. sigh.

The legal or illegal use of a kimberwick in the hunter and hunter equitation rings….. Why is this even a thing? It is 2016 people, find a different bit solution.

 Do you think there should be basic requirements asked of trainers before they should be allowed to sign an entry blank at a recognized show? Maybe seminars online or in person that everyone can take about Drugs and Medication, Concussion safety, Safe Sport, or a background check? All. Being. Discussed.

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A healthier year.

I couldn’t believe the new faces, the positivity, lack of drama, and overall support to see a better USHJA, and a better Federation. Murray Kessler swept in from the USEF and had people buzzing left and right, about the way forward, and I’ll reserve judgement until I actually see results but he certainly has the ability to say the right things at the right time. My guess is that he has had a lot of practice.

A touching ceremony which passed the reins officially from Bill Moroney to Mary Babick was cool to watch under the full moon… I think she is fully prepared for the leadership role, and certainly has support from many, many people.

So where does that leave the future for Annual Meetings/Conventions or whatever you want to call them? The rule changes might be on a downward trend of necessity, now that we are getting closer to a healthier group of board members, and healthier overall show standard, so are we going to see more educational clinics attached to these meetings? I sure hope so, I know when I attend one of these things I want to know I am walking away with more knowledge of the sport, and more knowledge of the people in our sport. So many people attending this year were so ready to learn more. And it was very obvious it was a thirsty crowd. Judges Clinics and Stewards Clinics or just ANY Clinics in the future would certainly benefit a lot of future potential licensed officials. Your input is still clearly wanted, so speak it up, speak it out. Get the message out there.

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