Guns N’ Horses

October 2017. 10-1-17, 1-10-17, depending on which country you reside. I am in America. I like America, most of the time. Month, Day, Year,

When I eventually crawl my way out of the quagmire of sadness this week, I will be grateful for simply still being here. I will look at each horse with more affection, I might even feel a little more compassion to naughty horses and also to riders, but I also think I will be asking a really hard question of myself. One of those questions we don’t really want to say out loud……Am I a hypocrite?

It is hard to deny how lucky horse people are. Horse people will always have a certain responsibility to an animal who depends on you to show up every day, manage their existence, think about their futures, and somehow co-exist (some better than others, depending on circumstances) but whatever, we get our connection, right? We get it. Horse people are unlikely to pick up an automatic weapon, or five, and kill 59 horses, or injure another 500 at a horse social gathering.

But are we hypocrites? As horse people? I feel like we are. I feel like I am. I feel like we are enabling gun manufacturers every day. I can’t get out of my head the connections we have to gun makers. However, the chatter on the subject is minimal, at best, and most of you probably have never heard of what is bothering me.

This week I watched a video and the speaker asked out loud “What are you willing to do about Las Vegas? And Sandy Hook? Virginia Tech? And every other tragedy we have endured? And when? What will it take? When will you make it your problem?”

The thorn in my side may just be mine, but how do I wrap my head around my guilt?

Every year this one horse show comes around in a remote place around Treffen, Austria, maybe not really connected to too many Americans (maybe a dozen at the most), but each year it grows in popularity, the money is extraordinary, the parties are totally insane, and the horses are so sensationally pampered that no equestrian can help but drool. It seems like no one ever frowns, and every consideration is taken to ensure your time spent here is some sort of euphoric experience. Additionally, they breed, they develop, they promote Olympic champions in Dressage, in Jumping, maybe even some hunters have been acquired there, they have the most state of the art facility, jaw dropping scenic backgrounds, gifts for every groom, exhibitor, patron, sponsor, blacksmith, employee and horse that attends their horse shows, or is in their training program, and their reach is extraordinary.

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When the 5 star competition is not in full focus, the family is a full supporter of everything equestrian. The breeding program is off the charts. No expense is spared. Mares likely get the best nutritional program to produce the finest foals possible, the stallions are in regimented programs and valuable, producing the top offspring, the competition records are made at the highest possible levels in multiple disciplines.

But I feel like a hypocrite when I see their name. I feel like a hypocrite when I tune in on the free live coverage of their horse shows featuring the top riders of the world. I feel like a hypocrite when I fall in love with the beautiful chestnut stallion who will produce the best progeny for the next generation. Not only that, but I used to work for the very family who manages his career and found them the most kind family in Europe to learn from……

Springequipe pakt zilver in landenwedstrijd

LONDEN – Gerco Schroder in actie op zijn hengst London tijdens de finale van de landenwedstrijd op de Olympische Spelen. Nederland heeft in de finale landenwedstrijd het zilver veroverd. ANP OLAF KRAAK

And I find myself admitting to the most fatal flaw a human can have – judging others who enable their existence. If you are an American and have competed here, I might have passed judgement. I might have been disappointed. My stomach might have hurt a little.  Am I a terrible person for this feeling? Am I that person who feels if you breed to that incredible chestnut stallion, you are part of the problem? Do we need to start really considering the sources of wealth in our industry as a horse community?

Is that a real question?

Because when it comes down to it, it is blood money. It is a gun manufacturing company which has poured millions (truly millions) of dollars into the sport we love, and somehow, for some reason I may not be able to get past it. It is the Glock Horse Performance Center. It is a zany family with loads of domestic drama to fill a few novels with bizarre stories, but their love of equestrianism prevails through all the disfunction, and we all benefit. We watch Glocks London, with Gerco Shcroeder, we watch Edward Gal and Glocks Voice. There are five celebrated riders on the Glock team. There are five stallions in the Stud Catalogue. Dozens more offspring in training. There are multiple training facilities. There is an intense competition schedule on the road with both Jumping and Dressage horses. The horses win. A lot.  Every foal is professionally photographed and celebrated as the most valued creature in existence. Their Facebook page is nothing short of brilliant and beautiful, capturing every aspect of our hopes, dreams and surreal reality we cannot even imagine. https://www.facebook.com/pg/GlockHorsePerformanceCenter/photos/?ref=page_internal

And then I wonder what our federation feels about the Glock Horse Performance Center? Does our federation support athletes competing here? Why wouldn’t they? It is not a political domain, is it? I popped off an email, curious if US Equestrian had an opinion on Americans competing at the Center.

“The USEF has no opinion on this issue and believes this matter is best left up to the individual decision of each competitor.” Bill Moroney, Chief Executive Officer, US Equestrian.

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ok, but why do I feel like I have a problem with it? And how would we feel if the Glock Horse Performance Center wasn’t located in Treffen, Austria? What if it was located in Nevada? Just outside of Las Vegas? What would we do if Zone Championships were held there? Or the World Cup Final? Would we go? Or would we boycott? Take a knee against gun ownership?

**

 

Gaston Glock designed and invented the Glock 17, introducing it to the public in 1982. In 1986, the Miami shootout, which resulted in a massacre of two FBI agents who (with several other agents) were under-prepared against two ex-military individuals on a bank robbing rampage. Their current government issued firepower (Smith  and Wesson) could maybe get 6 rounds off before having to reload. During the incident, the officers were assaulted with a barrage of gunfire and couldn’t even get out of their own way to reload their guns against the thieves, who seemed to be firing hundreds of rounds per minute. It was so gruesome, forensics reported human tissue was jamming the officer’s weapons, leaving them sitting ducks as the two bad guys got out of their car and descended upon them. Eight agents against two, four minutes of chaotic firing, left the bank robbers dead, two dead agents, three permanently crippled, and two more severely injured.  It sent shockwaves through the FBI. The ill-preparedness was too much to handle. After discovering the genius behind the Glock 17, and a sharp sales team within the company, it was only a few short years before nearly every FBI agent and police officer in America became equipped with a Glock, which had a nearly impeccable reputation for never failing to due to heat, rain, mud, snow, ice, underwater submergement, human error, or manufacturing error, and the Glock 17 initially held up to 18 rounds which would fly out of the barrel immediately. It was, and still is, considered a perfect gun. And it can shoot a lot of rounds at one time.

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Gaston Glock made a deal with each state law enforcement agency and the FBI to ensure every cop and agent in this country had a chance to own a Glock. The company even established trade in policies for newer models at no cost, which raised the eyebrows of critics as to where those traded in guns were heading down the road…  Predictably, we saw Glocks on rap singers, in gangs, with men on the street, with women, at home, then, eventually, in the hands of madmen.

Seung-Hui Cho used a Glock in his rampage on the campus of Virginia Tech, which killed 32 people in 2007. A year later it was Stephen Kazmierczak’s turn at Northern Illinois University to murder 5 people. It earned the nickname Hijacker’s Special. Gaddafi obsessed over them, especially after he learned about how easy they were to get through airport security when completely dismantled. So many types of Glocks were developed in the next two decades following the Miami Shootout, for men and for women, that imports to the United States alone soared to over 200,000 guns per year. Fans were nicknamed Glockmeisters, Glocktalk.com engaged discussion on an array of gun topics, including rabid comparisons of the Glock and the AK-47. The point is Glock’s guns are everywhere, on both sides of the law. Gaston Glock was catapulted to billionaire status with his company not far behind in a very short amount of time.

**

If we look at this particular source of wealth, do we examine any others? I am still bothered by the treatment of endurance horses in Zone 7,  and I am sure the FEI looks the other way, but the Arab influence in our own Kentucky Horse Park screams “hush”. Do we delve further? Or leave it alone and be grateful for the influence…According to author of Glock, The Rise of Americas Gun, Paul Barrett, Gaston Glock has a particular disdain for Americans, lumping them all into a group he labeled incompetent, foolish, and crooked. He did not discriminate. Being fortunate enough to be born in this country would never endear you to Gaston Glock. He was well known for absolutely terrorizing his American employees and his frequent visits to Atlanta often showed him speaking trash talk about his workers (in German) right in front of them. The tales are endless. After screaming at his employees all day, I imagine him sitting around a fireplace at night, reading up on all the countless shootings in our country and smiling to himself, maybe raising a glass to all the shooters who have ever existed, and hoping for more.

Was it Karma that tried to catch up with Mr. Glock in 1999, with his own advisor hiring a French assassin to take him out, hoping to cover up an embezzlement scandal within the company? Ironically, The Frenchman did not use a gun – he used a hammer….and failed. Glock managed to fend him off, although suffering several severe blows to his cranium and an incredible amount of lost blood, he barely managed to survive, but survive he did.

The amount of money the Glock company has paid to lawyers and pro-gun activists is staggering, but it also could match amounts given in his charity work. Gaston Glock is well known for favoring mental health checks before purchasing a firearm at the same time, building walls to prevent users from ever successfully suing his and other companies in the gun business. He rewards GSSF members with constant swag and the GLOCK Report (magazine) receives pictures of babies adorned in clothing with ‘future glock owner’ printed on the front.

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be careful what you search for…

Am I guilty of breeding more resentment? I don’t think I want you to hate the Glock Horse Performance Center, but I wonder if Americans, who MUST have felt SOMETHING after Las Vegas might think twice about the Glock empire now. Do you feel anything? If the money and parties are too hard to resist, then they hard too hard to resist, but I wonder if it is time to consider other options. Or is it ok, because they have horses? The horses we like, not the ones we don’t like. If Gaston Glock had taken a particular interest in Arabian horses, how would we feel as a horse community? Divided? Every mass shooting leaves a scar, and every debate leads nowhere, and weapons seem to fall into the hands of madmen so easily. If it has been someone else’s problem and it can’t be fixed, is it time to start making it our own problem? Is that really a fair question?

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People are always going to attend shows which offer good prize money, good horsemen will continue to breed to the best horses in the world, and it is probably unrealistic to think people should link Las Vegas to Gaston Glock, or the massive influence he has had here regarding gun manufacturing. His influence on horseflesh in Europe will continue to thrive brilliantly…the parties will continue with the cast of Dallas as guests, or Robbie Williams and Mariah Carey as entertainment, but, could you ever ask yourself….. if you feel like a hypocrite?

hush…

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Derby this, Incentive that.

Derby and Incentive Finals!

When the Monday following the 2017 Green Incentive and International Derby Finals rolled around I was able to ask Katie Francella her thoughts on the experience. She assisted Katie Cooper and Sandlot (Star baby Star) and in their first International Derby Final. I was very interested in her take on it, and in general she thought it was great. She also had thoughts for improvements. Additionally, Katie Cooper showed Dapper earlier in the Green Incentive Finals, as well as having a few other horses along for the ride to show in the regular horse show put on by Kentucky Horse Shows, LLC (Hugh Kincannon). There is no denying the extraordinary prize money in this USHJA program for hunters, with nearly 2 million for Green Incentive horses and 11 million for International Derby horses distributed since it’s inception, a remarkable feat in this country for Hunters.

Side note: Despite my personal feelings on this event, I am totally interested in how the week works for other people, and if they like it, I like it for them, and I also can appreciate the amount of  work which goes into a Championship Final.  

During my conversation with Katie Francella, she asked what is stopping this from being an exclusive USHJA/USE Special Event? With Pony Finals occurring the week before, why can’t we pull in Junior Hunter Finals to have an absolute all World Hunter Finale? Remove the actual ongoing horse show and have all of the horses and people attending be focused on the one ring show. Pony Finals can end Saturday, Junior Hunters can move in Sunday, show Monday and Tuesday, Hunterdon Cup Tuesday Night (Equitation), then Incentive Finals Wednesday and Thursday, Friday morning if necessary, then Derby Friday and Saturday, ending with a big gala Saturday night following the class. (Denim and Diamonds anyone?). Saturday would also have room for a NATIONAL Derby Final, maybe with top 30 money earners invited. Sunday is for traveling home and recovering from the party so you can be fresh for Monday. (ha!)

**Francella’s Hunter Week Schedule – A Prototype: (Following Pony Finals)**

Sunday: Ticketed Warm up, Horses shipping in

Monday: Junior Hunter Day one

Tuesday: Junior Hunter Day two, 3pm Hunterdon Cup, *WELCOME PARTY*

Wednesday: Walnut ring – Green Incentive Round one, ticketed warmups Claiborne/Stonelea

Thursday: Walnut ring – Green Incentive Round two, Rolex  stadium – 3’3”, 3’6” performance hunters

Friday: 8 am Rolex Stadium: Derby Classic Round. 3 pm Walnut ring – Incentive Final, *EXHIBITOR PARTY*

Saturday: 8-12 Rolex Stadium – Invitational NATIONAL Hunter Derby, 1:30 Challenge Round Int’l Derby, 3 pm Tier B, 4:30 pm Tier A

8:30 pm *GALA*

Two weeks of all the fancy hunters in the country showing in Kentucky. With big parties.

With next year having the addition of 3’6” and 3’9” horses, there will be plenty of horses for the horse show to make money on. And hopefully with the addition of two new heights, prize money can be distributed further to the top 30-40 horses, not just 20. Nix the Grand Prix (or offer it in the Alltech arena, complete with stabling). Offer a Performance Hunter division or class in the Rolex Stadium so we don’t see any horses completely freak out before they make it to the first jump. I know I know it is a championship, but seriously, it is heart breaking to see a horse not get to the first jump. There are loads of other places on a course which will be scrutinized, what is exactly the harm in a Performance hunter class to acclimate the hunters to a ring they only show in once a year? Equitation finals offer a warm up, no?

Kentucky is considered one of the best facilities in the country, right? Footing is great, stabling plentiful, camper space adequate, they have running water, electricity and speakers in every tent, even cameras. Is there a reason we can’t take advantage of this facility for all of these events? It is hard to find people to complain about the horse shows in Kentucky. The Horse Park is just spectacular and if you have never been, you are missing out. There is a museum right there, all breeds of horses, trail riding, it is a massive facility, permanent stabling, (mostly) and worthy of attracting extra spectators, especially with additional parties. I like parties.

Still room for improvement.

Secure Stabling. The secure stabling for the horses was very close to the two schooling rings. However the schooling rings were not exclusive to the horses in secure stabling, which made it crowded with random horses from the horse show also schooling. It would also be encouraging to fence in the adjacent field for the horses to have an area to hand gallop. Or graze under tack. These horses are special they worked hard to get there, they should be treated special if they are in special classes, no? However, with ALL of the horses being at the show for these special classes, there would be less confusion, all of the horses could be treated equally. The “Secure” stabling really is in need of being addressed. Any petition floating around is usually a pretty clear indication of ‘Halp!’

Schooling in the Stadium. Because the regular show was crimping on available ring time, the Derby horses could only hack in the Rolex Stadium DURING the Incentive finals. Uh no. I don’t like this. Sorry, but pulling that many people AWAY from the Incentive finals is really not a good idea. Everyone needs to be watching those classes as much a possible! However, there was no choice, because the jumpers needed the ring back for their own classes. Another reason maybe the jumpers could just wait till next week to show, there are how many Grand Prix Classes each summer in Kentucky?

This brings me to Katie Cooper’s experience and perspective, which she was happy to share with us and you.

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Katie Cooper aboard Sandlot (Cherry Knoll Farm) PC Shawn McMillen ’17

“That Katie Francella – She’s so smart! She is exactly right. I echo all of her sentiments. 

I wanted to take Star (Sandlot) for a walk on the xc course and I wasn’t allowed to graze him while I sat on him – that’s a key part of our program!

I was honored to be at derby finals and to participate in such a special week in both green incentive and derby finals. Dapper and I enjoyed the galloping course in Walnut once we got our bearings! Star was enthusiastic at derby finals and we are coming home having learned a lot – and certainly it was the experience itself that offered those lessons.  

The facility is incredible – the course was difficult but appropriately so. 

The format was slightly confusing with the A and B sections (tiers) but I was grateful to have the opportunity to join the night class with the handicapping of the B section. 

Being amidst such amazing riders, trainers, and horses made me appreciate this sport all the more. And – appreciate my very special team of both people and horses who work hard for us to compete amidst the best. 

The USHJA is putting forth great effort and it is exactly what this industry needs – a boost for developing horses and an event that will gain exposure and interest. I agree with Katie Francella in that it would be a benefit to have a limited or nonexistent show schedule outside of these feature events. And therefore less restrictive stabling perhaps – we were claustrophobic with only one schooling area and a limited patch of grass to graze while being on the most impressive and horse-friendly facility in the country! 

The cash prizes are hugely important in gaining legitimacy and interest. But to further these efforts, some greater organization would help. We would love to have the opportunity for our clients to show the week before or after – but perhaps not during the very class that we came to do. It was financially a hardship to qualify and attend – we are not an operation that can afford to staff a groom per horse. And beyond that, we cannot be in two places at once.  Yes, this is a common challenge for competition, but is the one saving grace at indoors and feature events – this event deserves the same attention.” 

**

Side note: During the rider’s meeting it was announced a small patch of grass adjacent to the Rolex Stadium would be cordoned off for grazing horses stabled nearby. It is easy to miss announcements, however, and although I don’t express views of EVERY competitor, one of the few joys people who love horses is being allowed to find a lush patch of green for a horse show horse. 

Will we ever get to a total ‘Utopian Event’? One has to rely on a little bit of hope, no? It seems so close…..Show managers across the country may have a hard time losing their own hold on National Championships, however, logic may have to prevail in the end for the better of the entire industry. It is the BIG picture which is most important.

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Alan in the tower

I also asked Course Designer Alan Lohman what his thoughts were, too. He was impressed..

I thought that it all went well. It is amazing to see everything that goes into making the whole event happen. I got to see it from both views. They [Kentucky Horse Shows, LLC and USHJA] are extremely detailed oriented.”

Alan rode earlier in the week in the Incentive Finals aboard Kristin Silon’s Four Score to a 55th place finish out of 148 starters. As an owner, Kristin was treated with lots of goodies which definitely made her feel special as an owner who has made a considerable financial commitment to get here. She bemused it was definitely the toughest course her horse had seen all year, but appreciated it was a Championship Final so it should be. She also echoed my sentiments from two years ago that splitting the 3′ and 3’3″ would allow more horses make it to the Day 3 Final round, and maybe two sections of the Final round would really be beneficial. 

This is still my biggest concern as we are about to see more horses included in next year’s final with the addition of 3’6″ and 3’9″ horses….that’s a large field.

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Alan Lohman and Kristin Silon’s Four Score (pc Shawn McMillen’17)

Deciphering what is USHJA and what is US Equestrian.

Here is the everyday question. US Equestrian is our penalty and points keeper. USHJA is our program and education keeper. Points need to be updated and kept very current so that these events invite the appropriate people. If US Equestrian is BEHIND on point tracking, it is up to volunteers within the USHJA to call horse shows, seek results, and calculate by hand who should be attending these finals events. No one wants to hear that US Equestrian was four months behind on point tracking and an army of unpaid and kind volunteers were putting their own businesses and lives on hold to verify data by calling around asking for results…. I feel like saying really US Equestrian? You had one job, just do it. Stop wasting time worrying about Depo, penalty guidelines and all the other crap. Keep our points current and correct, duh, otherwise we should be handling that job ourselves. It is really beginning to feel as though we can handle A LOT of the responsibilities ourselves these days, without the assistance of an arrogant Federation, but maybe that’s just me. Every day that rolls by is just one more day people are calculating whether or not the USHJA can pull away from US Equestrian.

Cost of media.

I didn’t pay. The Katie’s didn’t have to, they were there. SO MANY feathers were ruffled at the decision to charge for watching this event. But who should pay? Should the USHJA or US Eq pay, a sponsor? What is the answer here? I sent an email to EqSportsNet to ask for a statement regarding the fallout. I asked how much does it exactly cost to provide coverage for a week, house their staff, lug their cameras around, set up scaffolding, feed employees, replace broken equipment, fuel, vehicles, and how much hate mail they received, (just kidding) and was it worth it… (still awaiting response. I would imagine they are still trying to fill video orders). There are only a few shows left offering free live coverage, and I feel like we are split down the middle about what should be free and what should be a nominal fee. In hindsight 50% discount on $10 doesn’t seem all that terrible, but at the time I was thinking ‘no way’, I’m going to have to read about the results later.

Maybe this would have been less painful had we had some warning and explanation before the event actually started, but once again, we all felt a little late to the party. We also felt a little stung from recent membership dues increasing, so the timing of it all simply sucked. This is most likely the new norm, so I would say be prepared to pay in the future.

I would think that overall this is a pretty well received event. The organizers, the show management, volunteers all put in crazy hours to pull this off. I am sure behind the scenes there was a lot more aggravation which doesn’t always make me smile, but as far as the way forward, the template seems to be working. Each year should get better, each year should get easier.

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Johnny Barker offering Sara Taylor on Carento (Sherri Crawford) a high five under a rather large camera… pc Louise Taylor/ USHJA Archives 

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future champions? meeting Jenny Karazissis aboard Legacy (Emily Sukart)  PC Louise Taylor/USHJA archives 

Special thank you to contributors to this piece, Katie Francella, Katie Cooper, Alan Lohman, Kristin Silon, Louise Taylor, and more…xx

Forgive me FEI

This feels like a squash the bug year for any kind of members of Equestrian organizations. The US Equestrian is operating in a squash the bug mentality. Squashing the cheaters, squashing opportunity with raised dues, and inherently squashing their own proclaimed ‘Joy’ in sport. Then we nervously watched board members in the USHJA Foundation be squashed and were left wondering what could have possibly led to that complete upheaval in apparent negotiations? Two words? Ouch.

Meanwhile, in their own unique fashion, the FEI (Fédération Equestre Internationale)  insists on squashing bugs who treat their show jumping horses with compassion, but ignores the absolute unacceptable tolerance of abuse among endurance horses in the far East. What on Earth kind of double standard is that? God forbid you use Neosporin to treat a minor cut, but nawww boys and girls, it’s totally ok to have a horse saunter in on three legs at the finish line of an FEI sanctioned Endurance race with zero repercussions. Because….. jurisdiction. Forgive me if I am slightly bitter.

Forgive me if I find tolerance of running FEI Endurance sanctioned races at the exact same time and on the same course as National sanctioned races, when meanwhile, in the West, a rider is handed a yellow card for her groom handing over a piece of useless equipment over the fence of the stabling area instead of walking an extra 200 feet in the 90 degree temperatures to go through the front gate. Forgive me if these tired as f**k grooms are just trying to get through the day on little to no sleep, food, or wages, just so you can back up an over zealous steward who cannot wait for some insignificant infraction to report, but still turn a blind eye to multiple dead and missing horses in Endurance racing. Forgive me for making a comparison.

http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/henri-prudent-and-marilyn-little-issued-fei-yellow-cards-during-wef

We are just bugs trying to abide by your rules right? I wonder if your rules of Zero Tolerance seem a little less applicable to Arab countries because maybe they are about to host the FEI General Assembly next year? Oh snap…. I’ve seen that rodeo before….

 

But back to the weird year we have witnessed. Your Zero Tolerance couldn’t prevent a hay vendor in Portugal (France, Switzerland, Germany, or a field in between) from unknowingly skimping on pesticides, gathering up some random weed while cutting hay, which eventually gets ordered by a show manager at a major competition then sold to a rider from Holland, Belgium or the U.K., who didn’t have an extra lorry to ship his own 6 week supply from abroad and BAM, his jumper tests positive for some mystery ‘performance enhancing’ substance? FOUND IN HAY? Sparteine is not performance enhancing, especially in trace amounts.  So let me get this right, we should be prepared to test our feed, our hay, not use Triple Anti-biotic creme, or, let’s face it, just don’t treat wounds when you travel halfway around the world when your horse wasn’t wrapped in bubble wrap and arrived with broken skin somewhere, and really they should just starve.

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Broom carries Sparteine

When a person looks at the table of suspensions and sees 7 horses from the UAE testing positive for four different drugs at the same time (Paraxanthine, Caffeine, Theobromine, Theophylline), then sees only a 3 month suspension issued for each of those horses and makes a comparison to a horse who is also serving a 3 month suspension for ingesting a weed in hay (Sparteine), it makes a person really think on it. I had to google all of these drugs by the way, and I have a hard time believing in a possible contamination with 4 stimulating drugs at the same time, but maybe you can come to a different conclusion.

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So why do I click on the report? Because you can imagine my concern of 7 horses with the same four illegal substances found in them…

  http://inside.fei.org/news/new-prohibited-substances-cases-under-fei-anti-doping-rules

 

In the middle of the report however, where it tells me to click “here” for case details, I get one of these lovely messages….

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I thought it was 2017, no? Anonymous can hack into any website in the world, and here we have a ‘missing webpage’. interesting.

 

This Zero Tolerance is bullshit. These multiple year penalties are bs, too. All you are doing is encouraging horrific horsemanship and fear among people who actually care about their animals. Why do Show Jumpers care? Because it is SO extremely hard to compete at the top level of sport, it is so competitive, and the animals are now treated BETTER than they were 20 years ago. You think these show jumping riders are doing anything they can to torture their animals? Doesn’t that sound absurd when you say it out loud? This isn’t 1990 anymore. Good 1.60m horses are hard to come by.  The scary thing is that US Equestrian seems to really want to copy the standards of FEI. My concern is that we have never had the proper education offered to get there. How many of you knew about Pramoxine? How many of you know how many products Pramoxine is found in? Caladryl, Aveeno, Callergy, any poison ivy cream, or even anti-itch medicated shampoos. How did you feel when you heard about Paige Johnson facing a year long suspension for  her horse testing positive for Pramoxine? This isn’t about slaying the groom and saying that Team Johnson should have known better. This reality where treating a wound with Triple Anti-Biotic Cream and the FEI regarding it as a performance enhancing offense is completely and utterly unacceptable.

I get moving drug classifications around is supposed to alleviate some of these silly offenses, but FEI needs to take a hard look at itself and reconsider the damage it is doing in THIS discipline. Because if you punish all the people so severely over nothing, where do you think eventually riders are going to go? Where do you think the divide will be widened? Do you know if Paige will think twice before joining a Nations Cup Team? I don’t know her, I have never met her, but I have watched her grow up here, and she has always presented herself on extremely nice horses, has been very well educated from the ponies on up, and we all know is part of a well funded and highly supportive family. I just for the life of me cannot picture her as a criminal here. I just can’t.

What makes this groom blunder situation even more alarming is that in an Arab country a groom’s blunder is also noted with a one year ban, however that groom INJECTED a horse with MULTIPLE DRUGS (phenylbutazone, oxyphenbutazone, and dexamethasone) and “forgot” to inform the rider before a race. So Paige’s groom who SMEARED A CREAM on a wound is actually the same thing as Ibrahim’s groom who INJECTS DRUGS into the vein of a “sick” horse a few hours before the race??  https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2017/07/25/suspension-fine-endurance-horse-drug/#axzz4nq6QVFou  Am I crazy here? Did anyone else pick up on the “one member tribunal panel”? Forgive me for not being satisfied with this outcome.

Will the riders who proved hay contamination from a weed in Portugal or Germany, France, or Switzerland (where the hay was made, maybe) regard their commitment to FEI differently now? I would. You don’t see Jan Tops behaving in any similar manner, that’s for sure. I cannot even imagine what was going through his mind when Scott Brash was eliminated for a barely visible spur mark this year at one of his shows. I met Jan one time, and instantly realized he was one of the most calculating human beings I had ever seen. And that was well over two decades ago. How much have the wheels been turning since Scott’s incident?

I still compare the spur marks from Scott and even Irish rider Bertram Allen to the multiple dead horses we had to witness and read about this spring. What will come about the next season over there? Will the letter from the World Arabian Organization be enough? I thought the Prez’s response was a bit weak, but that’s just me. https://www.horse-canada.com/horse-news/world-arabian-organization-shames-desert-endurance/ As of now 6 countries have disallowed their endurance riders to compete in the FEI Group 7 Countries? Shouldn’t an organization be alarmed by this?

Funny, I have yet to see an Endurance horse retire with a tearful ceremony at the age of 18 or older.

 

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Cedric adored and loved by everyone, in his retirement ceremony.

So let’s be realistic, let’s try separate rules for Endurance horses. You want Zero tolerance? Then put it on Endurance horses and continue to force them to clean up their act. Because what is happening in that world is inexcusable. What is happening in the show jumping world is not inexcusable. Yes, spur marks suck, but spur marks are not the same thing as a broken leg or disappearing horse in a competition. Vehicles on course is also NOT PERMITTED in sanctioned events. At the VERY least, maybe you could clear the course of multiple vehicles kicking up sand in horses faces. Let’s also not use the excuse of more media coverage for tighter FEI sanctions on show jumpers. I won’t buy that. Just because show jumping has figured out a way to stay in the media limelight doesn’t just give permission to hand out harsher and more ridiculous penalties. Spend the energy where the horses are really suffering. And prove you can make a difference. Separate the rules between disciplines.

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Why does it seem like we keep spinning? So far this years events have created more void, more unhappiness, confusion and more instability than ever before. Is that what we want? Are the bugs going to be constantly meeting the windshield here? I feel like we are so capable, but yet it’s one step forward, two steps back, and forgive me, I am tired of that tango. I don’t even expect to see transparency in the future. It is not seeming like a realistic goal. But what I don’t want to see is a top international equestrian organization on the struggle bus, then see our own national federations trying to jump right on board. This makes no sense to me. We have to be better than that. We have to avoid using the FEI as the ultimate standard, because it is not. Until the president can stand up to the money train, prove he is capable of managing disciplines which appear to treat horses as disposable commodities, then I can offer no respect for such an organization. It needs to be fixed. Am I arrogant in suggesting the Show Jumping discipline should have a different set of FEI standards than Endurance or even Dressage or Eventing? Maybe I am, or maybe it is just time to consider such a  possibility.

 

 

I had to make a decision to withhold more photos from endurance races in this post because most of the relevant ones I uncovered were too gruesome to share.

Conjecture

Conjecture: an opinion or conclusion formed on the basis of incomplete information.

Also a good name for a horse.

This year has provided an enormous amount of opportunities for conjecture. We have seen more interest from members to participate, we have seen efforts to get to know who is in these positions, because they are all among us, competing, training, judging, and we know their names. Maybe that is part of the problem. We know too much. We connect with too many people, and the double edge sword is now we cannot dismiss their opinions because we KNOW who is holding those opinions, and it is painful.

The USHJA comes with a boatload of problems, but that is simply the way it is. Ironing out the problems. Constantly. There is no dismissing the organization to branch off and create a new association without dropping the Olympic Games from Equestrian Sport. The Ted Stevens Act specifically prevents more than one governing body for each sport partaking in the Olympics, which is why we pay the US Equestrian one fee, and the USHJA another fee. Our money goes to the Olympic path on one side (so we can watch McLain Ward), and the accessible programs we all support on the other side (so we can participate in Championships, EAP,  Derby Finals etc.).

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In order to keep Equestrian in the Olympic, Paralympic, or Pan American Games, there must be only ONE National Governing Body to oversee all recognized equestrian sport.

You can read the By-laws here for the USOC.

If you want the hunter discipline removed from recognized competition and out of the umbrella of the US Equestrian, sure, you can do this by forming a new organization and simply compete locally or unrecognized. That means, short stirrup all the way up to International Hunter Derby would be unrecognized. On the local level only. Nothing in the hunter disciplines would be recognized by any National Governing Body. Maybe each state could have a Governing organization, but it couldn’t be national. Only Show Jumping, Dressage, Vaulting, Reining, Driving, Para- Eq, Endurance, and Eventing would be recognized on a national/International level, like in all other countries. But you CANNOT have two National Governing Bodies overseeing equestrian sport and still have the United States be eligible for the Olympic Games.

So, do we want to drop out of the Olympics?

or,

Do you want Hunter to be removed from US Equestrian and those classes be recognized on the local/regional level only?

Where would Equitation go? Recognized or unrecognized?

How would horse shows work?

The United States Hunter Jumper Association.

Dressage riders pay the USDF, event riders pay the USEA, Reiners pay the NRHA, etc. And we pay the USHJA.

But do we need the USHJA?

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Supporters of the EAP (Emerging Athletes Program) will say yes, because the EAP will not exist without the USHJA.  Supporters of the education (H Quiz) will say yes, our kids know nothing, we need USHJA. Do we NEED the Incentive Finals? Supporters will say yes. Do we NEED the Derby Finals? Supporters will say yes. So these classes and programs cannot exist without the USHJA? Current status dictates yes. The US Equestrian is not likely to take over these programs are they? So, of course, we NEED the USHJA.

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The conflict with the USHJA Foundation is another situation which has to be ironed out, somehow. Most of us can only speculate about the conflict, and the ones involved are restricted over possible litigation.

The Association wanted a level of control that we were advised by legal counsel was not required and in our opinion was not in the best interest of the Foundation, it’s donors, or mission. The potential of litigation prevents me from discussing the subject further. Thank you.   —– Geoff Teall

The speculation over what caused the conflict has included everything from appropriation of funds, to breaking away from the USHJA all together and somehow running as a stand alone operation. We don’t know. We got a sort of lame press release which left a lot of questions (no offense, but really). We have to hope what DID happen is correct enough to move forward, and thankfully no scholarships or grants will be affected. Arguments for both sides might be valid arguments, but how does one declare the winner? Not possible, and worse, we know, love and respect all the people on both sides of the argument. How awful to watch this happen. Even more awful to be inside the walls trying to figure it out.

I think two things about that situation. 1, we elected Mary Babick to make the most difficult decisions possible, and she does, and 2, if  those 11 dedicated board members envisioned something together, then they shouldn’t give up on it’s creation. This is America, it is a large country, and any motivation for a way to give back to our horse show community will ultimately prevail.

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Litigation is hard. It prevents the desired transparency we all seek. I’m married to this, so I know when conversations come to a dead halt over a private matter, or worse, can’t even start because of the subject. Litigation is there to protect us and hinder us all at the same time. I despise potential litigation, but am one of the people who will probably need it the most in my lifetime.

What you can do is be as knowledgeable about the organizations as possible and not turn your back on them. Know enough of what is going on so that you may be called upon for your service, advice, or input down the road.

Read the rulebook, read the bylaws. Listen to the podcasts, whatever it takes to NOT TURN YOUR BACK. Whatever it takes to absorb the information, think about it and maybe even be part of the solution.

Opinion.

The US Equestrian is a riding club. The rest of the world views it as a riding club. If you don’t like the riding club’s rules, then become part of governance and change the rules, or leave the riding club. However, ripping apart the organization with litigation because they are not  following YOUR OWN RULES is hardly constructive. Yay, you are suing. Again. Great, now we can all pay for that litigation while we were sitting here playing by the rules and you are not.   I can’t believe people can justify cheating by tearing into the process, and I can’t believe the process is so broken we need someone to tear it to pieces to get it to change.

We are literally watching two wrongs making a right. How did we get HERE? it is 2017.

Maybe a new board of directors is a good idea, but how in the world is that even an option? Who would want that job? Admit it, it’s an awful job. We are gonna have to work with what we have for now.

Maybe recreating the testing process is the only way to go, but where do you even begin? Even the FEI isn’t really getting it right, with suspensions handed out regularly for random crap found in WEEDS which make their way into the food source and cannot possibly be prevented from entering the horse’s system. wtf? I don’t know, the world is a mess, with only a few exceptional leaders out there to navigate the muddy waters the rest of us don’t want to wade through, but maybe it is time for more people to get down and dirty to really think about what is best for the entire group, and not just best for an individual. Embrace the setbacks somehow, so our group can move forward. But of course, this is all remains conjecture.

 

USHJA By-laws.

USHJA Foundation By-laws

USOC By-laws

US Equestrian By-laws.

 

Compare if you dare. #drunter

A year ago I attempted my first dressage show. A year ago I had a little bit of success. A year ago I couldn’t help but make comparisons to the world I was coming from. A lot can happen in a year.

There was no getting around scheduling this horse show back into my calendar. It is a Rosinburg Events LLC show held at the (now infamous) Commonwealth Park in Culpeper, Virginia, and last year I had an absolute blast at a VADA Event (different management) in the same location. My social media, at the time, blew up with pictures, treasure hunts, activities, score percentages, food, and ribbons. Despite the location, I couldn’t wait to get back. It seemed to be a hub for dressage queens, and now that I have thrown myself into First Level, I really needed a competition to give me an idea of where I am in my training with my dressage horse, Sandoro. I managed to get entered and paid for by the closing date, and thankfully not put on a waiting list. These Dressage shows are getting noticeably harder to get into lately.  My bff Brooke was offering a stall for Sandy, and a room for me, adjacent to  the show grounds, just a short walk away, so I packed everything up into my trailer and set out Friday morning for the three hour drive.

The Drive.

I made it twenty minutes before something went terribly wrong. As a light turned yellow in front of me, I tapped the brake pedal, heard a pop, and realized my foot was pushing the pedal all the way to the floor. However, my truck wasn’t slowing down. Oh shit, not good. I felt the trailer brakes kind of kick in, and pumped the pedal hoping this wasn’t actually happening. I shifted into neutral, then risked losing my transmission in the process, and put the truck into reverse as I closed in on the now red light, and was still in a precarious position. It worked. The truck stopped, albeit, kind in the middle of the intersection. I glanced around, thankfully in farm country where people won’t actually kill you with road rage, put my blinkers on, then edged off to the shoulder, the trailer brakes working just enough to get me into a slightly safer position on the side of the busy road. I was amazingly calm and calculating in my next moves, once I took a deep breath. I couldn’t simply scratch the horse show, entries were prepaid. That would be silly. I just needed a truck.

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It worked out beautifully. I reached Nicole, who had the ability to come to me with her truck. I called the mechanic, who was able to send a tow truck for my broken child. I called Liz, who was out of town and asked to borrow her truck for the weekend, and I put Katie on standby in case none of these scenarios worked out. (She cleared her schedule just in case.) Then I called the local cops and asked if they had anyone on a lunch break who could hang out behind my trailer so no one would accidentally hit Sandoro, who was completely oblivious and munching hay inside the trailer. Shockingly, they sent a patrol car for exactly forty minutes, which is all we needed. As the tow truck loaded my broken child up and pulled away, Nicole was right behind him to pull in and hook up the trailer. I couldn’t believe the timing. She drove me another twenty minutes down the road to Liz’s farm, and within then hour, we swapped out vehicles again, and we were rolling. I ignored the teeny tiny little voice inside my head, whispering “maybe God doesn’t WANT you to go to Culpeper this weekend”….. ehhh, whatever. #gurlpower.

 

I finally arrived, with loads of time on the way to think about how lucky I was that a more serious incident had not happened with the loss of brake power while hauling a horse trailer. No matter my enemies, I will never bestow this fear upon anyone. It is not a good feeling. I was genuinely relieved to pull into Brooke’s driveway with Liz’s truck. Sandoro exited the trailer fine, a bit sweaty from the heat, but otherwise in good spirits. He rolled ten times in the fresh sawdust. Lovely. It didn’t take long to empty the trailer and get everything set up, hang a fan to cool him off, but when I was finishing up, I heard a distant rumble of thunder. Aaack, I still needed to get him in the rings. I biked to the show office to pick up my show packet, was greeted warmly, offered sponsor gifts, chocolate, water, and other amenities, and handed a thick program. Good grief, how many exhibitors were there? Apparently a lot. Enough to run 6 rings for two days. SIX RINGS. SIX. 1,2,3,4,5,6… ok you get the idea.

No wonder there was little choice to use this show grounds. Where else are you going to find a facility with six rings, plus warm up rings?

I pedaled back to Brooke’s barn to get the slightly sweaty beast out to take a tour, hoping to beat the storm. I hadn’t actually performed in a real dressage arena since Aiken in February, and was desperate to practice my tests. In the rush, I forgot two things. My number (a big no-no) and the note informing me which rings we were actually showing in….. Crap.

I took a wild guess and visited three of the arenas, took a quick tour around a scary judges tent, and made it back to the barn before Mother Nature unleashed an afternoon storm. (again, teeny, tiny little voice)

During my warm up I noticed an odd thing. There was a light pole a little off kilter. I couldn’t give it much attention, because I was really focused on remembering my tests, but it was bothering me.

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The next morning, it was bothering me more. I went for a closer look. It was directly above the show secretary building and aimed toward the Grand Prix ring. A narrow cable seemed to be holding it in place. It didn’t look good. I put it on my Snapchat Story. The teeny tiny voice suggested I steer clear of the broken light tower, because if it was destined to hit someone, it would probably be me.

I put a lot of pictures on my Snapchat story that day.

Duct Tape and baling twine seemed to be holding the place together, but again, where else can you accommodate over 200 dressage horses for the weekend? This group is just a renter of a facility, nothing else. I tried to put myself in the organizer’s shoes. Every hour I was impressed with how the show was running, and I continued to take mental notes all around me.

 

Sandbag was amazing. He performed beautifully, we received our baseline scores, and I was super excited to make improvements, based on the judges comments and scores. I borrowed Brooke’s working student Morgan to help me video, and she shared her observations.  In between my ride times, I watched, found familiar faces from previous events, chatted with strangers, and started conversations. It was refreshing to be unknown. There were not huge crowds showing up just to spectate, but I managed to run into a few very willing conversationalists. I met a girl who was braiding for a couple of barns, she gave me tips on those big ole button braids I am working on.

 

When I asked if she was competing, she said no, she was going to bring her pony stallion for the breeding classes, but ended up too busy, and then carried on about breeding when she realized I was from the hunter world. Her frustrations were made quite clear, and I listened. She couldn’t show her pony stallion in the hunter breeding world, and the expenses were astronomical compared to the classes held at dressage shows. She held my attention. I have a problem with stallions not be allowed in breeding classes past a certain age, when I see the whole point of those classes being about actually breeding. She then brought up the score sheets, and how nice it was to know exactly how your young horse or pony scored with the judges, during the year. She is not wrong. Hunter breeding has big problems right now. The focus seems to be primarily on the handlers. Why is the focus not on the horses?

Last year at the USHJA convention, I wandered into a hunter breeding meeting, raised my hand for around twenty minutes, and finally asked some pointed questions. I wanted to know why there was absolutely no information given to the breeding of the horses being shown on the line. It made ZERO sense to me to show horse without knowing the SIRE and DAM of each horse. You would have thought I pushed the red button for a nuclear attack. My logic was not received all that well, and I knew it. Apparently the discussion continued for a while even after I left the group. Were handlers on that particular committee? Why yes. Yes they were. Sigh.

Do you thing the Germans give a rats butt as to who is handling their stallions for a presentation? Ummmmm, no. They do not. Because the focus is on the animal, not the human, for the purpose of breeding horses, not people.

In the dressage world, all horses entered in the breeding classes come with extensive details, Sire and Dam information is shared, and score cards are filled out and delivered to the exhibitor. Public Information. In a year, you enter enough shows, and can receive a pretty good indication as to whether or not your young horse will make it or break it.

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I see this in the Young Horse Show Series as well, which is why I support it whole heartedly. It is called Transparency. I believe this transparency is why the Young Horse Show Series is dramatically growing in popularity. Well, maybe the lower cost has a role, too.

Hunter Breeding in America? Wake up, or put it to bed. “Overhaul the entire thing now, before it is too late” is what I want to scream from the rooftops….. Politics should have no role here in Hunter Breeding. If the horses and ponies are judged properly, it will not require a human name to declare the winner. Why does it all seem so backwards to me?

The Program.

The program for this Virginia Summer Dressage Show is detailed. Sponsors listed on the front, exhibitor information, horse information, schedule, and ads. Horses for sale are noted! Names, addresses and phone numbers for each exhibitor are listed. The Officials’ BIOGRAPHIES are listed. Never heard of a certain judge? No problem, his/her achievements all listed inside the program.

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an FS under the number of the horse means for sale

So what about the Queens? Is the stereotype real? Well, yeah, Dressage Queens have a stereotype for a reason. However, open a bottle or two of wine, and you see a very different side of those same Queens.

The Exhibitors party.

Coordinating the show to finish in time for the exhibitors party is no easy feat. I actually have no idea how over 200 horses are scheduled at an event like this with multiple rings, multiple judges which you aren’t supposed to see twice, and multiple rides for a few people. There must be some sort of Harry Potter magic that goes into putting it all together.

As we were all making our way to the porch of the Showday Cafe, the rings were getting their badly needed maintenance, although still not enough water. Three water trucks dumping liquid would surely be better than one. I didn’t ask anyone about the relationship between the show organizer and Tom and his employees, because I am not really that dumb, but the questions were still floating around in my head. From what I could observe, half a dozen Spanish speaking guys were holed up in a dilapidated building together, and made appearances three times a day to water and drag the rings. Morning, noon during the lunch break, and night, after the show was over. The heavy heat and sun were taking a toll, however, and it was only an hour of rides before intense dust was swirling through everyones lungs all over the grounds.

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Ditto for this year’s show. 

At the party I made new friends. Queens have this air of politeness about them I wasn’t used to, and waited to be told the gorgeous food buffet was open. When it seemed to me pretty obvious no one was going to give us an invitation, and it looked like all the food had been set up, guess who stepped up to break the nervous tension? Yup, I was hangry, and willing to risk a scolding for my dinner, which of course, no one did. Similar to last year, the food was beyond outstanding, and relatively healthy. The dozen or so extra large wine bottles were being depleted rapidly, as well, you could visibly see the shoulders dropping on women all around me, and the volume of conversation rising.

I met Penny. I could tell Penny was a firecracker right from the start. When I learned she was the volunteer coordinator not only for this show, but Dressage at Devon too? I wanted to put a crown on her. Volunteerism is a huge financial savings for horse shows. Many dressage organizations incorporate volunteer requirements right into their memberships in order to offset high costs of labor, so you may think you have qualified for a championship final, but without those minimum volunteer hours met, you don’t get the honor of competing in those championships. I had a feeling this was also the ticket to getting into big events. Penny admitted to having to coordinate 125-175 volunteers just for Devon. That is an impressive number of people hoping to catch a glimpse of the rides of Olympians.

Do hunter organizations have the tolerance for volunteerism? We certainly hear a lot of bitching about rising costs and inability to compete at the highest level anymore. Another simple solution right here in front of us, and no one willing to crack open that can of worms. Sigh.

Penny’s knowledge about Dressage was astounding. We spoke freely on all sorts of topics and spent a great deal of time throwing ideas and stories back and forth through the evening. She answered a lot of my questions, and I was grateful for it. Throughout the weekend, everyone I met and talked to actually defied the stereo type of a dressage queen. In the rings I stupidly grinned and said hello to every rider I passed, which got me a cooler response and loads of weird looks, but, granted, the level of concentration was significantly higher. I didn’t hold it against anyone, just thought it was funny. If I caught anyone in conversation while riding around, guess what the topic immediately turned to? The surface below our feet.

Beating the dead horse.

In general, not a single person riding on the grounds knew who I was, or knew about the issues I address. The anonymity was fantastic, because it invited real conversation about real concerns. I didn’t have to say a word past asking how their day was going, to unleash the high level of frustration riders were feeling about the footing. It was beyond treacherous in certain places. The ruts, the sudden transition from too shallow to too deep, the difference of surface from warm up to show ring, all of it was exasperating riders left and right. And we weren’t even jumping on it.  One warm up ring was ignored by most competitors, which clogged the only other area to prepare, and I marveled at the way there were no accidents. Lateral movements are pretty common in dressage, so for all of these people not to run into each other with all the tiny circles, side passes, transitions and zig zagging across the ring was remarkable, but I don’t think too many people had the warm up they intended or desired, which, in my eyes, probably left another 200 people disappointed in the Hits venue.  What a shame. For all of the intense hard work which Lisa Gorretta, Rosinberg Events, Janine Malone, Penny Hawes, and countless others did to put on this amazing show, at the end of the day it was once again Tom’s apathy which reverberated throughout the community. I just don’t get it.

I love dressage. People ask me all the time what it is like. It is hard. It is challenging. It requires more leg than I am used to. It is satisfying when you get it right, and depressing when the wheels fall off, but there is ALWAYS room for improvement. You go back, read your scores, look at the comments, and dig deeper. I was able to raise my scores from Saturday to Sunday and finally earn some coveted 8’s in movements which had previously only deserved a 6.5. I listened earnestly to complete strangers willing to offer advice and encouragement.

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I video taped every ride and will go back and watch again and again to look for areas to improve, until I can be the highest scorer in my division. Yes, you mostly compete against yourself, but at a large, high caliber event, it is incredibly rewarding to be handed a top prize among your peers. It is also a far cry from the hunter world, and I can visibly understand why people come to the dark side and never return. It is still too soon for me to really find all of the faults of Dressage competitions, I have no doubt the Queens have other things I haven’t even thought of which keep them awake at night, but at the moment, I am getting a serious kick out of this weird and still relatively new world.

The American Horse Council?

There really is one woman listening. Her name is Julie Broadway.

 

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Julie Broadway presenting an award to Senator Mike Enzi (Wyoming) 

Governance and any sort of legislation is not on your radar. I get it. No one cares. No one has time.  No one likes the boring discussion, we would rather gossip about silly things, complain about all the things,  ignore vague referendums, (until it directly affects you), and then freak out and wonder how a law is passed without your vote. But this is reality, and apathy is a problem. Because laws DO pass, legislation DOES happen, with or without your consent, and other animal organizations are highly funded to follow the change in tide, or maybe even push for legislation against you —> the animal lover. The horse owner. The trainer. The parent of a horse crazy kid. The farrier, veterinarian, dentist, hot walker, amateur, announcer, groom or show manager.

I just attended one afternoon of the American Horse Council Forum in Washington, a yearly event, similar to the Annual Meetings of the USHJA and US Equestrian, or any other organization, but without all of the heated debates, shouting, mudslinging, and exotic, fattening meals. Yep, the first thing I noticed was the professionalism, and politeness. After I stifled a few yawns, I thought well, this is actually refreshing, probably more productive, and I should really make an effort to pay attention.

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I listened to Julie speak, and I like what she had to say. I also managed five minutes with her at the end of the day, because I have this crazy idea to solve some of the immigration issues, she sat down beside me and listened to me with absolute intrigue. Do you know what that feels like? When someone really listens?

The American Horse Council (AHC) is your voice on the political side of horse ownership. Remember when your home veterinarian couldn’t really help you while you wintered in Florida? The AHC helped fix that. Section 179 business expense? It is permanently set at $500,000 due to the AHC. Money for the Recreational Trail Program? $85 million to be exact so you can enjoy the world from the back of the horse anywhere in the country. Time to Ride program? Yeah, that’s huge when you are considering grass roots programs, our future clients, hello.

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So where does the money to run the AHC come from? I had to ask. Thankfully, I have a friend within the AHC, and she is constantly answering my questions. Meet Ashley Furst, director of communications.

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Ashley Furst (left) at WIHS with Jessi Lohman and Davenport

The AHC is completely funded by Individual and Organizational members. Members are from every segment of the industry—recreational riders, trail organizations, racing organizations, show organizations, veterinarians, CPA’s, Equine lawyers, carriage operators, and more.

So, people like you and me and the organizations we belong to. Got it.

Why is it set up that way?

It’s set up that way because we are the only organization in Washington that truly works on behalf of the entire industry—not just racing, not just showing, not just trails—EVERY segment. By having Individual and Organizational members from every facet of the industry, it gives us strength in numbers to show how diverse and important this industry is to representatives here in DC.

How many people make up the AHC?

 There are only 5 full-time staff members.

What is your relationship with the HSUS? (You can imagine why I need to know this.)

We do not have any relationship with HSUS. While we do support the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, it is purely coincidental that they also support it. We took a position on that particular bill because it is what the horse industry wanted

Where is headquarters?

We are based in Washington, DC. Right next to the White House actually!

 Do you lobby for legislation? With whom?

We are a lobbyist group- but we strictly work on the federal level.

How can I become involved? Where can I ask the questions I always seem to have?

 You can become involved in a couple of different ways

(http://www.horsecouncil.org/take-action/):

1-      Join the AHC!  Like I’ve mentioned, we are the only true organization based in DC that works with Congress and other federal agencies to ensure all segments of the equine industry have a voice and are represented here in Washington. We can’t continue to do this without the support of members.

2-      Congressional Cavalry- The Congressional Cavalry is the AHC’s grassroots network. We let members of the Cavalry know when action on federal issues is needed and how to contact their Members of Congress via our AHC ACTION ALERTS. There is no cost to join the Cavalry and you will only receive Action Alerts from us when necessary. 

You can always contact us directly as well if you have any questions or concerns- 202-296-4031 or info@horsecouncil.org

 What studies are in the works for the next two years? 

  In particular, we are seeking to update the National Economic Impact Study- hopefully we will be able to start data collection within the next few months. Several states (Maryland included) are also getting State Breakout studies done. This study was last completed in 2005, and it’s certainly more than overdue to be updated. I cannot stress how important it is for us to be able to get this study done—the equine industry is often overlooked when it comes to economic impact in comparison to mainstream sports. We really need to be able to show how important this industry is to the U.S. economy, especially when talking to members of Congress.

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 Sooooo, why would an Economic Impact Study affect you as a horse owner?

Economic Impact Studies affect everyone in the field they are directed. Life lesson #1, money dictates productivity. You want to be productive? You want to retire at 40? GREAT. All aspects of the horse economy will help you get there. The industry is sustainable with money. In Washington, D.C., where laws are made, proof of Economic Impact has a great influence on future legislation.

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Mark Bellissimo

Mark Bellissimo. You either love him, hate him, or don’t have an opinion about him. He has one of those larger than life personalities, he gets sh*t done, he is all over the place, involved in a myriad of events, and now has WEG. We aren’t going to stop hearing about WEG for another year and a half so we might as well buckle down and get used to it. Sho ‘nough, his presentation was about WEG. It is a good presentation. He is by far, the most interesting person to listen to when it comes to vision, productivity, horses, the future… and himself. He made videos and brought them with him, playing musical segments of horses in slow motion on fancy fields and in arenas (his arenas) which left goosebumps on horse owners all over the room. He encouraged us to work together, make connections, bond the Western riders with the English riders, spread the love of sport so far, so wide, that no one in Washington could deny our existence ever again. The more connected we are the more media attention we can get, the more chance Coca Cola Company might endorse us and maybe put a horse on a future soda can. Who knows? The possibilities are endless. (I made that last part up, I don’t think Coke will put a horse on a can, but neat idea, no?)

It was interesting to hear Mark’s presentation, I closed my notebook, sat back in my chair and simply watched, (with the exception of one or two snaps to my snapchat story).  He has coined one phrase about horse people and the challenge of being in the horse world. It seems to be his constant goal to link “Tradition, Continuity, and Innovation”. He repeated that a few times so we would remember.  While he was talking, I only rolled my eyes like two times, which is pretty good for me, and I could see other people in the room were really following his charisma. He finished to resounding applause, of course, and shortly after, the lights came on and we stood up. There was already a line to talk to him personally, and in typical awkward fashion, I stood behind three women gushing about how they wanted their horse organization to be included at WEG. Not me, however. What did I want with Mark Bellissimo? I wanted him to use his Central Park Horse Show to make a better connection with the Carriage Horses and help gain them more recognition and protection. I want to see him give back to the horse community in New York City, the heart of the Big Apple. If he does that, he might gain one more loyal follower.

We changed rooms, and dispersed into smaller groups of round table discussions. I was unprepared for this, admittedly, and sorry I couldn’t bounce more between tables, but luckily, I chose an interesting one for me and my business, the Import/Export table. Next to me was another self proclaimed “pot-stirrer” from California, and she was one of the most knowledgable and interesting personalities I have ever met at one of these conventions. Her name was Katie, and she was with the California Department of Agriculture. She knew ALL the rules about transporting horses across borders, shipping from other countries, diseases, requirements, trends, people breaking laws, governments making questionable decisions, and more. There was a veterinarian linked to US Equestrian present, Richard Mitchell, (who was really trying to lead the discussion over Katie), and Chrystine Tauber from US Equestrian was also among our table of 8.

Had I known I would have the chance to ask more questions, I totally would have come prepared, but the best I could do was a quick FB post to get people involved in the conversation… Quarantine times are locked in for now, no chance of shortening up the days just yet. Various diseases were discussed, Pyroplasmosis was addressed (this always comes up) and of course, the horse movement through slaughter trucks and ‘where we are now’ with that issue. Recently Canada implemented new legislation saying horses have to sit in feed lots for 6 months before they can be put into the food chain for human consumption, so we were catching up on whether or not that was affecting horse movement through auctions at all. I must have missed the conclusion or there wasn’t one, but it was discussed.

So what does this all mean for you? If you are still with me, we need to get back to this Economic Impact Study rolling out this year. In whatever way it reaches your inbox, you need to click on it, fill out the survey, take the time to answer the questions. Julie Broadway is here for you, and she needs you to be there for her. She is most important to all of us, leading an organization larger than all of the other governing bodies, which will influence programs and initiatives affecting all horse people in the future. Read through the Strategic Plan, store it in the back of your mind, keep an eye on the American Horse Council, become a member, follow their movements, you won’t regret it, and together we might stand a chance in this weird world we live in.

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CEO Roger Dow of the US Travel Association

Virginia is for lovers…

The demise of ‘Constructive Criticism’, and the unraveling of structure.

 

The absence of a veterinarian to discuss the drug Medroxyprogesterone Acetate (MPA) was heavily noted at the beginning of the Town Hall meeting in Upperville, Virginia this week. This much anticipated opportunity to discuss the science behind using MPA, commonly referred to as Depo, had a shaky beginning.

We need these meetings. We need these discussions. Without them, there is a constant murkiness lurking in our drinking water.

This particular meeting was attended by the President and CEO of US Equestrian, Murray Kessler and Bill Moroney, (both in suits), Mary Babick from the USHJA, and Matt Fine (also in a suit), the compliance officer from US Equestrian. Notably missing and supposedly busy with another emergency issue within the USEF was Stephen Schumacher. Around 100 people filled the tent, many of us exhibitors at the horse show, coming directly out of the show ring or from the stables.

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I think everyone came prepared. However, I would assimilate the preparation to the Battle of Middleburg, rather than a meeting of the minds at the country’s oldest horse show, which quietly continued on in the background. The first few minutes were, unfortunately, completely off-topic, but surprisingly started to set the tone for the evening. From the first few heated words, I knew we were in trouble. I glanced around and saw some nervous changing of weight among the couple of people standing. No one was making moves to rein in Mr. Kessler, and no one was taking deep breaths.

The thing about being defensive, is that it is an emotion. When you are accused of being emotional, it is not considered a compliment. So here we were, twenty minutes into the meeting and the mood was quickly becoming defensive and emotional. The initial request during the introduction to be polite and respectful was completely disregarded.

In his opening lines Murray Kessler brought up the legislation currently being tossed around on Capitol Hill revolving around the racing industry. It was an interesting tactic to remind us, as layman, that drug enforcement may one day be out of our hands entirely, and placed in the hands of the federal government.  I could feel my lip twitching, what’s this about?

Luckily, I have a very good friend within the American Horse Council who was able to provide extensive clarification on the Bill (which he brought up) and she was able to assure me it was unlikely to ever gain enough support both in the racing industry and within Congress to move forward, at the moment is not even accompanied by a senate companion bill, and the odds of it affecting the show industry are incredibly slim. Keep in mind the racing industry involves gambling, and interstate commerce. The show industry is not the same thing as the racing industry. This particular bill is addressing creating an “Authority” to deal with an anti-doping and medication control program on a national level with the use of medication in Quarter horses, Thoroughbreds, and Standardbred racing, rather than continuing to follow state-to state standards, which in theory would make sense. Each state has a different rule for the use of medication on the racetrack, and this bill would standardize the rules so that a horse racing in West Virginia would have to follow the same rules as a horse racing in Florida. However, the likelihood of this bill gaining ground in an already tumultuous and fractured sport is minimal to zip. Additionally, the House and Senate have way bigger issues on their minds in the current political atmosphere.

For more on that bill, you can educate yourself here.

It was an interesting distraction, but highly irrelevant. Why was it brought up? 

I appreciate the President of US Equestrian attending the Town Hall, it certainly shows commitment to the job, but I don’t think he should have been there. He doesn’t have the temperament for it. He isn’t able to absorb and listen, refrain from engaging, and respond with assurance. Each of us felt it. Each of us had a finger pointed toward us and told we were wrong. Whether it was in regard to the Depo issue, or in regard to ideas on how to handle bully show managers, it was repeated too many times that we were considered in the wrong.

And there are certain issues which I am not wrong about.

 I was disappointed in both sides last night.

 

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Mary Babick, Murray Kessler, Bill Moroney

The misuse of MPA is a problem. Of course, the mis-use of Magnesium is also a problem. Which one is the lethal drug? 

This is how I see it right now:

1. People don’t believe the use of Medroxyprogesterone (MPA) is hurting the horses.

2. Veterinarians are recommending the use of MPA  for behavioral issues.

3. Riding a horse on MPA is not the same feeling as riding a horse under the influence of Ace-Promizine, Reserpene, or Magnesium.

4. If US Equestrian wants to tell us how much to use and when, we can probably all live with that. Good luck testing for it, but it seems people can be placated with the same restrictions as we have for other medications, such as Dexamethasone or Bute.

5. There really should be a set number of show/competition animals studied on the use of MPA by scientists and veterinarians before the drama continues any further.

 

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The Upperville Horse Show is one of the most iconic horse shows in this country. Everyone looks forward to competing under the oaks, and four years ago, Mike Smith stepped in with the heavy responsibility of pushing this competition into the 21st Century. It wasn’t easy. It never is. It requires patience, a master plan, and a sh*t ton of money. On top of that, people around here are notoriously resistant to change. But change it has, grow it has, and transformed it has. Imagine taking a pair of two hundred year old rings, ripping out the carefully manicure sod, and replacing it with state of the art footing to accommodate the pickiest of riders in the country, without harming so much as a bird’s nest in the oak trees. Additionally, imagine building an entire new arena which had to blend the history of the civil war era stone walls into the rolling green hills which have seen minimal development since General Lee marched across the plains to destroy the union soldiers at Gettysburg, and failed. In the last four years, this has been happening, under his guidance, and it is an absolute stunner of an accomplishment, and not nearly completed yet, as each year, the demands of exhibitors increases. Attendance to this competition is extremely high, and it is considered a treat to show here, but it does not reflect the gripping monopoly on dates in other parts of the country. It is not a circuit. Comparing the incredible uniqueness of the Upperville Horse Show to anything else is almost completely intolerable.

Circuit showing is regarded as a reprieve for exhibitors at times, a place where they can park in one spot for a month, find a routine, sell some horses, escape snow, and keep a business rolling. Without oversight from the US Equestrian, show managers running circuits with back to back horse shows can basically run their own little city of horse showing with the comfort of knowing that exhibitors have little to no options to go elsewhere. Show managers love it, and can take full advantage of it. Before long, show managers make bad decisions, cut corners, and get greedy. Oversight is lacking, written complaints are lacking, and people want to shift the responsibility elsewhere. If the same happened to the single, yearly, iconic horse show, people would simply skip over it each year, and it would eventually fade away, or be taken over by new management, and revitalized to be a winning event.

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As exhibitors, we want the USEF to be the oversight, but the USEF seems to want the exhibitors to be the oversight. Fill out the forms, they say. File the complaints, they say. Show up for hearings, they say. What should be the right balance? How much time do exhibitors need to spend filling out competition evaluation forms? Right now, we are in the middle of finding that right balance, but it looks like we, as the riders, trainers, and owners of horses in this horse world, are the ones ultimately left to steer the ship. We may not want it, but no one is leaving an option open for us, so this is where we are going to have to figure out how much it means to us. How much does it mean to you to fight for show standards? Ask yourself, then ask your clients. This road isn’t shortening up anytime soon, and our leadership has a lot on its plate right now.

 

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