getting in focus

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Mini Derby: 3rd place Emily Ferrell rode Spot On, 2nd Place Joellina Stewart rode Confetti, and 1st Place Sierra Fentress rode Guess Again.

Finding the formula for success starts with a bright idea. Amy Moore and Miranda Kolbe had one together. The team at McDonogh School is no stranger to holding successful horse shows from A to Local, but this idea might be one of the best yet. The Derby and Medal Day. Riders have a chance to qualify throughout the show season, (a minimum of two ribbons won at separate shows is required to participate), and qualifying shows are both recognized (B rated) and unrecognized (Local). Classes are offered for short and long stirrup all the way up to 3’, 3’3” in the Equitation Medal classes and Derby classes. Braiding is optional, shadbellies are optional, the prizes are amazing, and the atmosphere is relaxed and fun. FUN, the focus is on fun. Did you read the last line about fun?  Is this healthy for kids and adults alike to have fun?? Could this be a sign in the shift in the way people think about horse shows? I don’t know exactly, but the uncomplicated formula created here today (that easily could be followed by any group in the country) was a pretty clear indicator that exhibitors were enjoying being treated extremely well, and the tears? I saw no tears…

The courses were stellar, offered a challenge here and there, the judging was on point,  and there is a “Preview” class offered to help acclimate the derby ponies/horses to the course. Get this – a podium was brought into the ring for the awards ceremony for EVERY class, and a victory lap was taken at the end either at the trot, or canter. Safety first, of course.

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OMG look! kids actually learning their own courses before they walk up to the ingate on a horse!! What a novel idea!!

I didn’t see any grooms… Amy’s vision of getting your own pony or horse ready, learning from mistakes (without stress) and achieving a special goal works. (and really well.) Could they afford grooms? yep… Over 60 competitors competed in the inaugural year, two rings — one for the derbies, one for the medal classes and I would expect in the future, that number will increase dramatically, not that this needs to happen. It was more than enough for a full day of showing, money was made, bills were paid, and trailers were pulling out of the parking lot at 6pm. If you are living in Maryland get it on your schedule for next year right now. If you are even thinking about what a good idea this is for your part of the country? Get on board now.

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The owner of Prideland (Betty McCue) braids for rider Anastasia Vialov for the mini-derby

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holding two ponies for friends/barn mates during the course walk

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finishing touches by trainers, not grooms..

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can you just see the bike??

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Is this a big deal?? I am gonna go with the yes answer..picking out the loot..

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entering the ring with the podium…

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The Pony Derby 3rd place – Serena Wheaton rode Hakuna Matata, 2nd place – Summerlynd Nelson rode China Hill, and 1st Place – Hannah Downs rode Curious George.

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the classes offered

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on course in the pony derby

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sitting in the chair she just won 🙂

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Abigail is giving her mommas horse Shirlaine a hug before the handy round for good luck

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3rd place Serena Petronelli rode Made You Look, 2nd Place Sable Hughes rode Tattered Lace, and Winner Brittany Clapp rode Walk The Line in the 3′ McDonogh Derby.

Yes, I might have to invest in a new camera with some speed options. Do not judge. #EvolveTheHorseShowIndustry.

young professional

If you are considered a young professional in the horse industry, you may have quite a challenge in front of you. I am constantly looking around and wondering what hands our future is going be in, and I’m seeing a gap. Who is going to be the next up and coming competent group of professionals? I worry. If you are coming from a substantial amount of means then it doesn’t matter, I guess. I can’t relate. However, if you are not coming from means, and you are graduating out of the junior ranks, when you finally realize how difficult it actually is in this world, it is pretty easy to get discouraged, decide to marry rich and be happy deciding on being an amateur. Being a young professional sucks. The reality of expense, and failure hits home pretty quick and pretty hard. I certainly can’t solve any problems for you, but I can encourage you to think outside the box.

Think about where you came from, are you pretty confident you are going to mimic your trainer for the last undetermined amount of years?? Did you have a trainer? You should probably not bank on mimicking anyone, but better develop your own personal style along the way. Adapting to the environment is probably going to be more help to you than trying to make everyone around you adapt to you. When I see people unable to grasp the needs of people around them, I think wow, what a long road they are going to have. Know what you can do. I stay away from anything under 14.2 hands and humans under the age of 12. There are many more capable trainers for those things. And when I see young professionals who don’t drink try to teach adults? No chance. Those guys come with a certain wine obligation. I love my adults, but they are trained with grapes, not accolades.

Your job will be 80 percent problem solver and less than 20 percent ribbon winner. People are attracted to friendliness and capability more than extreme talent, especially in this current millennium. There is actually no guideline, no road map, so your personality will have to prevail in the end. What can you handle, what can you be humble about, what can you have foresight with? In the wake of bad press for some horses this year, here in the States as well as worldwide, there will probably be yet another shift with the majority of the horse world with more focus put on horse welfare, because too many people have witnessed too many horses winning or just showing at some strange and bitter cost. It is on peoples minds. The amount of classes a horse can go in will be addressed, the amount of horse shows a year a horse attends will come under more scrutiny in the future. Certainly not overnight, but it is probably coming soon enough.  There are so many more adults and children riding these days, the importance of riding is going to head in the direction of letting people have fun, loads of fun. Your personality will dictate the amount of business you can generate.  The shift of horse welfare will ultimately be on your shoulders in time to come. Parents are going to look for better role models when thinking about who their kids spend most of their time with, so not only will horse welfare get more attention, kid welfare will ultimately have to be in the spotlight, too.

When people ask me about being a working student, I always tell them please go work for the person with the worst reputation, so you can learn how NOT to do your business in the future. Be on that struggle bus for loads of time, because you are learning far more than the fancy stable down the road has to offer with all those ducks neatly laid in a row. In less than ten years no one will remember you did your time at that place, especially if you don’t brag about it every four seconds. This is reality folks, the horse business is painful, learn how to solve the hardest problems in the most difficult situations. This is the material that can harden you for difficult situations in the future which there will be plenty of. I absolutely came away with so much more information from those dark and seedy stables than I did from the stables involved with the highest levels of showing.

The saddle thing is a big issue with me. I cross the ocean a lot. I drive to other barns a lot. I pack a helmet, boots and half chaps. When I see professionals bringing a saddle on a plane, it absolutely scrambles my brain. What do you think, they don’t have saddles over there??  DO NOT DO THIS. If you can’t ride in every kind of saddle on the planet, something is seriously wrong, and if you haven’t ridden in 100 different saddles by the age of 25, you are really behind. It will be YOUR job to determine if a saddle is not fitting a horse properly, someone out there will depend on you to recognize this fact. So ride in all the saddles available!! I have had to jump horses in dressage saddles, western tack, bareback pads, you name it, this is what we call feel. If a customer says a particular saddle fits the horse and you pout because you can’t use your own Butet, it might be time to rethink your profession. Your body is mostly liquid, it can adapt to the strange saddle, as well as the horse. And if you blame the saddle for chipping a fence….? Actually, never mind, I can’t help you.

Recognizing when there is an issue with a saddle only comes from extreme knowledge of all types of makes and models. You will get to a certain age when you can make your whole barn ride in a certain brand, and even a certain kind of stirrup, but until you are truly invested in the sport, I am not going to recommend you start with dictating it’s the Butet or the highway. (no offense to Butet, you all make a lovely saddle, it’s just your name sort of rhymed with highway)  Try to remember customers come from all walks of life, having the ability to recommend an affordable safe saddle to the client on a budget will be one of your greatest assets.

Diversify to different disciplines. This is pretty crucial and I only see glimpses of this every once in a while. Truly great horsemen can ride in more than one discipline. Whether it be Dressage, Eventing, Arab, Morgan, Saddlebred, Western, there are so many things to do out there to help give you a better knowledge of horses. One of my truly gifted idols rode Saddlebreds before becoming one of the most famous hunter and Grand Prix riders ever. There are other Grand Prix jumper riders that can ride a Grand Prix Dressage test. Hunter riders that can do reigning. We need this more, not just a handful. Buddy up with an eventer and give it a try, you never know when said eventer is going to want to find a new job for his horse who hates cross country, and BAM, you have a very cool equitation horse. Make time for it, encourage your students to try it, it will open doors for you, guaranteed. If you think you are going to look foolish out there all awkward in a new discipline, you could be right, but chances are everyone else will see the big picture and applaud you for it. Do not forget about the Thoroughbred. These horses taught so many of our riders in the past how to ride, we lost them for decades, and now they are growing back into our sport, even in the upper levels of showing. I cannot emphasize enough that the ability to ride a TB is one of the true dysfunctions of todays young professionals, by no fault of your own. We did it to ourselves by dismissing them for so long, and now we have loads of people unable to teach other people how to ride a TB, or even riders unable to sit on them. This will resolve itself in a few years, but you will have the advantage if you start riding that TB properly now. I’ll give you a hint, sit still and put your heels further down.

Learn how to put on a horse show. At some point, you will be asked to help run a show, get in on that knowledge now so you are not scrambling with all the rules and guidelines down the road. One of the biggest advantages in the industry is having an understanding of every facet of sport. This will come in handy when you are sidelined from an injury and worried about income. All sides of showing are important, and when you are asked to participate in putting together a fundraising show, you won’t be blind going in, you will actually be able to get the show off the ground.

There is a very good reason we keep hearing about equestrians in the industry today lacking depth, or breadth or even 1/10th of the same knowledge as Jimmy Williams. It is easy to start the shift back to better horsemen for the future. All the information is right in front of you. Go get it.

Born in Elsinore and raised in El Monte, Williams showed horses for his father–a horse-trader and racehorse owner–at Los Angeles auctions when he was a child.

Quick-change Artist

“I learned to ride all kinds because he sold all kinds,” Williams said. Williams became a quick-change artist showing 75 to 100 horses a day–starting with fancy hunt duds to show thoroughbreds and ending with Western garb for quarter horses and stock horses.

“Dad carried a handful of rocks. If I rode sloppy, I’d get hit with one. He wanted me to sit straight, like an old Spaniard,” Williams said. “He taught me to ride like a gentleman.”

At 12 he began racing at fairs and became a stunt man in movies at 22. The handsome young Williams was under contract to 20th Century Fox as a stand-in for Tyrone Power for two years until the war interrupted his movie career.

After Williams was wounded in Italy, he was transferred from the infantry to the 2610 Remount Station near Florence. It was there that Williams learned dressage, a form of training in which the rider is able to control the horse in intricate maneuvers with very slight, imperceptible movements.

“A conversation with a horse is only the distribution of your weight,” Williams explained. “You lean forward, he goes up; you lean back, he stops.” Williams teaches his students to ride with no hands, getting the horse to respond to the pressure of their legs or feet.

Although Williams went back to the movies for a short time after returning from the war, the “hurry up and wait was too much like the Army” and he returned to his first love–he opened a training stable in Escondido. With the techniques learned in Europe, Williams was able to train horses in half the time.

“It takes three years to train a horse and about the same to train a rider,” Williams said, though he emphasizes that horse, rider and trainer never stop learning. “I’m still learning. I’m better this year than I was last year.”

“It’s what you learn after you think you know it all that counts” is one of Williams’ favorite sayings. Fond of proverbs, his own and others’, he has them plastered on his horse trailers, pickup, golf cart and in his house.

Decorated in early Will Rogers, his ranch house at the riding club is a small hall of fame, sporting walls of pictures of former students, champion horses and three California governors presenting awards to Williams. He has a wall unit crammed with tarnished silver bowls, trays, cups and chafing dishes he has won over the years.

Piles of Silver

full article is here, well done, author.

http://articles.latimes.com/1986-07-18/news/vw-16753_1_jimmy-williams

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Jimmy riding Gemini

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Jimmy riding Fashion Plate

I know we will never have another legend like Jimmy Williams, and I don’t recommend throwing rocks to achieve better position, but he thought outside the box every dang day of his life.

motivation, not greed

What happens when people start exploring options? They start realizing there are a lot of options out there. I ventured up to Fair Hill this weekend for their TB Show and sat down with one of the organizers and asked how this horse show came to fruition.. She credited Louise Merryman looking for options for racehorses coming out of the racing industry. She and a friend got together and the Fair Hill TB Show was born. After four years of steady growth, there are now about 100 horses a day competing in either the hunters or the jumpers over the weekend. There is an enormous silent auction rivaling the nicest horse shows in the country benefitting the show with Fasig Tipton signs all over the place. People put right back into the show what they are getting out.  100% non- profit with everything coming in, going right back out.

With big sponsors, including Brookledge and New Bolton (University of PA)  donating generously to the horse show, the show is able to reward a respectable amount of prize money, happens once a year at the Fair Hill Equestrian Center, and the organizers seem pretty content with the way it is evolving. There are not even too many hopes of larger expansion, because it brings in a healthy amount of exhibitors already. A nutrition expert can weigh your horse and offer education about proper feeding. A 10 dollar wristband gets you all the food you can eat (YESSS) and your horse’s biography and breeding is read aloud by the announcer when you walk in the ring so the spectators know what they are looking at. Endearing and educational.

Probably the COOLEST part of the show is the scholarship fund provided by the Thoroughbred Education Research Foundation (TERF). The judge and the manager keep an eye out for exhibitors who might exemplify the behavior of a good ambassador for the TB sport, and offers eight $500 scholarships to exhibitors for further education. This can be used for lessons, clinics, or even a chance to show at the next level up, but can’t afford the fees…. the scholarship will cover the costs, and a potentially talented rider has the chance to achieve a dream of showing at a recognized competition. Brilliant. Forward thinking. Everyone showing here this weekend is participating in a chance for a second career for a thoroughbred, or somehow involved in the grass roots aspect of horse showing, whether they mean to or not.

If you own a TB, and haven’t put this show on your schedule, you should right now. like them, follow them, volunteer for them, maybe even help them set up an instagram account (important for the future gen).

http://www.fairhillthoroughbredshow.com/about.html

Other organizations involved in the horse show include the Foxie G foundation, a hardworking group of people intent on rehoming all TB’s that come through their doors. Any extra money left over from the show goes to Foxie G and Reyerss Farm to help horses in need and senior horses with no home of their own. Fabulous!

http://thefoxiegfoundation.org/59-2/

http://ryerssfarm.org/?page_id=4

Keep tabs on these two organizations, these are incredibly inspiring people. Visit, volunteer, educate yourself. something. do something.

The fact that these shows are not that complicated to put together, but just require a small group of people to work together (this group has 8) to see a vision will be a big indicator for people in the future, if it can be done for the Thoroughbreds, it can be done for all horses, not that this is anything new. Maryland has a substantial amount of local organizations. The Baltimore County Horse Show circuit alone has over 250 members right now. Howard County over 100. Many of the show grounds are the same as recognized shows. These smaller organizations have been around since the 70’s and are constantly evolving to adapt and appeal to its environment and exhibitors. If these smaller unrecognized horse shows continue to develop and grow, and people drop down from recognized showing, the quality of riding and horses will increase in a natural progression. These local regional shows offer many of the same classes as rated shows for 1/4 of the cost. There is nothing to stop each state from adopting the same format. It is not hard to rethink how to make the connections to bring in more business to the horse industry, but it does take effort on everyone’s part.

http://www.bchsa.org/

http://www.hchsa.net/

http://www.hhsamd.org/home.html

The very first page of the prize list for the TB horse show blew me away. Lisa Demars welcomed you with this incredible personal and insightful letter, and oh how right she is.

“Those of us who know an old-time horse person should count themselves as lucky. By Old-Time, I mean one who has a lifetime of varied horse-related experiences, has excelled at more than one, and has cared for and trained many horses. I would add that such a person, due to the history of the horse industry in the U.S., has a lot of experience in the thoroughbred industry. One is lucky if one knows such a person because of the wealth of information he or she can impart about horses, a wealth generally much deeper than today’s horsemen, who tend to have less breadth to their backgrounds.

Leslie Ducharme, a dear friend of many at the horse show, exemplified the kind of horse person I speak of. Leslie was probably best known in the hunter ring. However, she had experience in Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing, fox hunting, breeding, and the sales industry. She was a master at spotting a talented horse and bringing out the best.

I first encountered Leslie almost 40 years ago in the side-saddle ring, where she was, of course, winning. My next encounter was in a parade (!) – Jimmy Carter’s Inaugural parade to be exact – where she rode the same horse that had won the Side Saddle classes at Madison Square Garden two months before. A thoroughbred, of course, and ask yourselves how many of today’s horses and riders have done such different things!

In the last 40 years, I have been watching Leslie Ducharme and have had the privilege in recent years of becoming a friend. In those years of watching, I have learned some great lessons which I would like to share:

Conduct – I have never heard Leslie say any unkind word about anyone. Ever. I have seen her be upset with someone but never unkind. I can’t say what her thoughts might have been. Leslie’s first lesson is to conduct oneself like a lady or a gentleman, no matter what.

The Horse Comes First – One never saw Leslie’s horses looking anything but first-rate in public. They were beautiful because of the care they received, as well as their quality. Leslie spent time with them – time figuring out what made them tick, how to best ride them – and adapting her riding to bring out their best.

Experiment – Leslie did things because the horse went better because of them. A simple example is showing over fences without a martingale because the horse didn’t like to wear one. For most hunter riders, martingales are standard attire in the show ring.

Be Quiet – anyone who got the chance to watch Leslie ride could appreciate how quiet she was on a horse. One almost forgot she was aboard as her riding was never a distraction, either to the viewer or the mount. Her communication with her horses seemed to occur by magic.

Keep Coming Out Of the Corners – Leslie had chronic double-vision as a result of a childhood accident. She couldn’t see a jump accurately until she was straight to it and a certain distance. As a result, Leslie didn’t depend on “seeing a distance” because she couldn’t. Instead, she rode the horse’s rhythm all the way around and trusted the horse to meet the fence as it should. I don’t recall ever seeing her miss.

Be Generous with What You Know – I once called Leslie to ask her about a problem I was having. I chose to consult her because I felt the problem was unusual and in need in a creative solution. I expected to chat a few minutes on the phone, but Leslie was in my ring the next day watching and suggesting. I put those ideas to use daily.

If someone wrote 1/4 of that about me when I am gone, I would be more than honored.  Every single person on this planet, especially in this horse world is capable of making a big, big difference.

My frustrations with this industry come from a lifetime of being told what to do (from the very beginning) without feeling like I could question why. I thought I was doing everything right, I thought I would eventually see the benefits. I left the major decisions up to the people that I felt had tenure, and a deeper knowledge of the sport, despite my doubt. And it wasn’t like I wasn’t paying attention or involved, my family history proves it.  I was told I would have to play the game, yet, I still can’t even be sure what that game is because nobody else can figure it out either, or saying it out loud only leaves a bitter taste behind.

I still believe in education over a good pilot, and for the first time in my life, my faith in the two biggest organizations in the hunter/jumper world that have made all the rules and set all the the terms have fractured my ability to not only be loyal to them, but also forced me question my belief that hard work and a good track record to prevail as the true winner. Feeling like I just flushed half my life down the toilet is not a great feeling, not gonna lie about that one, and this is a sport I know I was meant for from the moment I stepped into the show ring, promptly fell off, climbed back on and tried again, but come on already, so many good people have walked out for very good reasons.

Being a sudden advocate for change and growth is not even what the tarot card lady saw coming, and I am perfectly aware that the USEF will eventually find a way to shut me up, mail me a letter, or something more drastic and painful, just like they have done to everyone else in the past they felt has not remained in line, but I do not really have any intention of giving up as long as there is hope for the future riders, trainers, professionals and amateurs alike to recognize the true history of riding horses and good horsemanship, honor it, preserve it, and give back to it in every facet of sport. If they do slap me with that life ban that everyone, including myself, thinks they will do, I have options, I don’t hold the highest level of showing up on that pedestal like others do. I put my values elsewhere.

I guess meanwhile I will be a horse show blogger, could be worse I guess.

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yes you can wear a tiara in the leadline, and this lovely horse took home 2nd place in the side- saddle at Devon! Lost Letter

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volunteers

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formal hunt attire 😉

  

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derby

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enormous silent auction

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prizes all the way down the line

fashion forward or backward

Promoting beauty and style in the horse world and is fashion replacing horsemanship?

It seems as though beauty and fashion have taken a severe upstage to actual horsemanship. I have no idea how this happened, but I am assuming it is because of a capitalist market, and loads of money is to be made in the industry. People love to sell crap. So the so called ‘role models’ we have created in the show horse world are dressed to the nines now. What kind of message is this sending to the rest of the world?  I feel like in a couple years, some rider from Untacked is going to fly down to the in-gate and shove a recorder into the winners face, and go “OMG you look amazing, can you tell the fans what you are wearing today and why??”

This obsession over the right kind of boot to wear is unreal. It is a boot. A boot that covers your leg from the knee down. It is black. a black boot. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to move fashion in the hunter world forward and evolve (kind of in slow motion), because it is fun, (and I am old, I want a chance to wear my sparkly coat!)  but are young riders actually thinking that the clothes they wear will give them an advantage in the ring, particularly in the Eq ring? I really think they are. Like some sort of mind wash, beauty sells, not picking out feet and learning how to bandage a horse (don’t even think about poultice landing on horse show clothing). Menial tasks are so boring apparently, and don’t sell. Well, not until you are 21 and you know about Noble Horse, because the hoof pick actually comes with a corkscrew or bottle opener at the other end (GENIUS!!!). Is Noble Horse trying to bring back horsemanship?? I never thought of that before now, those models. That corkscrew….

The more expensive, swanky saddle you buy, the more you will win, it is almost a guarantee! The more you pay for your boots, the more judges will notice you!! It is the only acceptable way! Being the cynic I am I would naturally think these people are crazy, just learn how to ride, it seems all so hilarious to me, however I absolutely cannot  deny the fact that I bought my first French saddle PURELY based on the hotness of the salesman Greg. OMG, Antares, thank you. And thank the lord you actually made a good product, because my horses would have been so screwed. THAT was a good sales team. (I since have switched to CWD for personally believing it is better for my horses)

What do trainers care if you show up with a fancy crazy expensive saddle? Good for you, now go tack up  – oh wait, go to the mounting block and your horse will be brought to you in four seconds.

Actual true horse people ignore this fashion frenzy most of the time, think it is funny, and when I wanted to wear a cute jacket with a sparkly collar in Kentucky, I was for-warned this would not be acceptable. Ok, take the fun out of it, no problem, but that was it, it was just fun for me. Moderation, I get it. like not eating too many french fries. Fashion should actually not have such an enormous role in the horse world, but it does, we can not escape it. I think people entering the sport ACTUALLY believe they are only allowed to wear one kind of riding pant. or boot. or shirt, or helmet. So they maybe get the wrong impression, because they are hearing other girls say other things –  “OMG you are still wearing that old thing? I totally got better results when I switched to my GPA Speed air evolution revolution silver gold yada yada yada.”  Jeepers. Thanks for making my job that much harder. I didn’t think we had enough self-esteem issues flying around. What is one more?

Hearing any discussion about fashion detracts from the actual horsemanship angle I really can’t let go of. The only valuable Equitation Final I have ever witnessed takes place in Virginia and it is not a fashion show. It is the VHSA Junior Medal, and ingenious on every level. A written test, practicum (hands on knowledge of your horse test), flat class and jumping class all calculated into your final score. The rider is largely responsible for his or her own score, and loads of effort is placed into every aspect possible at that level. It is a really, really big deal. Personally I want to see it in the children’s and pony level as well, since only a small percentage get a 3’6” horse, and you never know if those future kids will implement it into their own horse shows 20 years down the road.

I hope beyond hope it happens across the country in various other states, but I haven’t had time to research that. What I do know, is that it doesn’t happen at indoors. Fashion arguments happen at indoors. Somebody obviously felt the need for a little explanation (or damage control) and I found this break down of fall finals online. You tell me how it compares to the VHSA Final. And by the way that little shout out to the founding father of horsemanship is the most insulting thing I have EVER heard. I believe Horsemanship and forward seat riding started WAY EARLIER THAN THIS MILLENNIUM with people like V.S. Littauer in 1912 and the Russian Cavalry. Never in my life have I wanted to throw the book at someone more than when reading that statement. I wish I could sue for stupidity. But I can’t. Do your homework for Pete’s Sake. Bert De Nemethy,  Gordon Wright, HELLO???? ANYONE?? BEUHLLER??

http://kmthornton.com/blog/learn/the-fall-talent-finals

Our priorities are completely out of whack.

Real Talent:

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/26/sports/bertalan-de-nemethy-90-equestrian-coach.html

100% Respect:

http://www.horsemagazine.com/thm/2010/07/four-showjumping-masters-part-4-gordon-wright/

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Russian Cavalry implementing forward seat riding

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For real reading

intimidating fire

Why does intimidation work? wow, what an effective tool, huh? We see it everywhere in society, schools, governments, countries, cities, mafia, we can’t seem to get away from it can we.  I guess the monks in Tibet have less intimidation issues, they seem to be super focused on meditating, robes and  that whole seated leg crossed position, but the rest of us are not so lucky. Especially as horse people. We use intimidation to get our animals to do what we want, our relationships to go a certain way, training, handling, competing, to get our help motivated, and our organization uses it to keep us in line. It works, to a point.

What is the counter to intimidation, the balance, that allows us to tolerate a certain amount, but not too much? Charity? A pat on the back for a job well done? Applause? what, then? Is finding the balance between membership and an organization too hard to attain? The utopia that doesn’t exist?

Apparently people out there believe to stop intimidation, you have to counter with intimidation. http://bobmaconbusiness.com/?p=4961 . Sobering thought. Maybe that is why there are uprisings in society, people find the courage to jump up and down, wave their hands around, and scream ‘enough already’ They hash it out with the intimidator, and everyone calms down and eventually we all proceed again.

So have we placed too much value on what we think our organizations have to offer? Maybe. What is the importance of the highest standard of showing? I have no idea. Will people eventually put less value on those highest standards and also on the most intimidating force in our horse show bubble that seems to make people quiver in fear? Probably. The trend in society certainly seems to dictate exactly that when you look at trying to close those gaps, and people don’t make the connections. What we know today might look drastically different tomorrow when people start placing those values elsewhere. I wonder if it is possible for a whole new organization to be born out of the rubble when people shift attention to more core values that match their current lifestyles. nah. doubt it.

I wonder if kindness acts as a counteractive to intimidation? Would kindness dissolve the fear? Or is that just a sign of weakness. Have we seen it before in our organizations? What if the USEF was able to LISTEN to its membership, say ‘we hear ya’ and we are on board with making positive change, we are gonna start by taking action here. These small shows that are on the struggle bus and not quite making the numbers needed for a B rating? We are going to give you a couple years and drop that required number down by ten, let you recover a bit and recruit members into our awesome organization which herein promotes safe sport!! The arbitrary suspensions we love to issue out?  we are going to form a baseline so EVERYONE understands what the heck is going and gets fair treatment – maybe even create a chart based on percentages of banned substance in the blood test… Meanwhile we are going to show our faith and appreciation to our community by donating a huge chunk of money to all of the animals affected by wildfire!! Wouldn’t that be incredible??

This show standard stuff is mind boggling, I don’t even know how we got so complicated, show managers are working overtime to meet standards from the USEF and USHJA at the same time. You can look for yourself and try to figure it out here.

https://www.ushja.org/programs/resources/documents/showstandards.pdf

But how do we keep people interested in entering the sport when the introductory kids are juggle academics, a 5 day a week sports commitment, music lessons, and the countless demands parents are thinking will make them “well- rounded” . It is not possible, it’s nuts. But our show standards to protect our horses remains pretty high, even in a fluctuating sport. Seems like those horses I saw earlier this year were doing ok at an unrecognized competition. Maybe there really are enough people in this top group to keep these organizations going, but it is hard to see it, where are the new people coming from? Who is responsible for bringing them in and making them members? Where are the incentives to keep showing? Do you have to just be born into it to remain interested? High point horse is really that much of an achievement? Are those high point horses all stallions we are going to breed to? I think it is pretty crucial to think about ALL of the things happening in your sport today, not just the ones that you can connect with. Someone is going to have to see the big picture at some point, and question the health of our industry, and really consider why the USHJA is asking us for more money?

The USEF has a disaster relief page on it’s website. I called the number, but it was the voice mail of someone in marketing, not Josh.  I left a message about where I could send money to help out those suffering. I also remember a farm burning down in Roswell, Georgia earlier this year, did the USEF give her anything to help rebuild? Shockingly, I haven’t heard back.

https://www.usef.org/_iframes/aboutus/donations.aspx

I don’t know if that is just another place to store money for taxes or what, (non-profit?) but I haven’t gotten an email about how the USEF is sending aid relief to the victims. I did, however, get an email asking me to buy Christmas cards. Shouldn’t we be going green and sending those out online? Are they made from recyclable materials?

The wildfires are really scary. If you are not living in that area, I don’t know if you can really get a sense of how bad it is. These people are going to need some serious help. I couldn’t find a satisfactory place to send money so I started a Go Fund Me account to help Charlie and Macella. Give if you can, you can always remain anonymous as a donor.

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soul searching

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wild burro thanking fireman for saving him, they had to spray him off when he emerged from the forest. after that he stayed by their side.

Perspective

I went back and forth about self esteem for days, because my last post was meant to be a sort of lead in to addressing self-esteem in the hunter and equitation rings, and it is a massive problem. It seeps through on every level from pony land all the way up to the top, recognized to unrecognized competition, doesn’t matter, it is everywhere and it needs to be considered.

I asked friends all over the world how to cope with this major issue in the sport and asked them to contribute to what their insights might be, because I literally cannot relate. I am a huge cynic. I can’t help it, I was born this way. I truly believe in my perspective of ‘we are playing with horses’ because it is true. I don’t mean to belittle everything you are doing, but when I watch what happens outside of the horse world bubble, I gotta admit, I am basically just thinking how lucky I am to have carved out a little place in the world surrounded by animals.  85% of the world ‘ain’t so lucky’. When my friends responded with how they had watched people deal with low self esteem, I wasn’t sure their answers were right either. I know what people in Europe do, they generally go around, at whatever levels they are competing in that day, and whatever ever happens happens, they put their horses on the trailer and go for a beer in the beer tent and commiserate together. It is not as rampant over there. Conceit may be a bigger problem.

I am HUGE loner, I know this,  I spend hours in the truck alone driving all over the country with my horses and I literally could care less what other people think about where I go, what I do or win. I do, however, strive for being a good person, friendly, supportive, sort of considerate with non-stupid people, etc. etc.  It is good for business, and people remember you for your friendliness, not what your success was in the ring. I think about the people worried about letting a trainer down.  Don’t worry about pleasing your trainer, he/she gets paid at the end of the day no matter what happens, they have their own personal issues to deal with, and could be downing a bottle of vodka every night for all you know (not that there is anything wrong with that), juggling two mortgage payments and that awesome car payment on a sports car. If your parents make you feel bad, because they spent all that money on a horse and expect perfect results with said horse, that is simple, find new parents. They should have known better in the first place.

I literally have no idea exactly how to handle the issue of low self esteem, and my only response is the same every time – knock it off, you deserve to be here. I don’t encourage to go full swing the other way and become a total arrogant prick, but maybe just try to find that happy medium, ok? I am not even sure how we got to the point of so much emphasis put on the Big Eq just to witness teenagers starving themselves like runway models. It seems odd for a rider to do that. Doesn’t starving just make you weaker? Aren’t you riding a horse?? How did these classes get insanely popular recently? Are we scrambling through the motions hoping to find our future Olympians in the Equitation Finals? Shouldn’t a future Olympian like to eat and already know what a spider wrap is by this point? DO any of them? 20 people are about to google spider wrap. eh, maybe 10.

Nervous energy is fabulous energy. It happens to every competitor on the planet, no matter the sport. People that never participate in a competition probably only feel this kind of energy on a blind date. or when robbing a house. It is normal adrenalin that courses through your veins when you are trying to make a good impression, and I love every second of it. It evaporates too quickly, but for those few seconds when I stand on deck at the In-gate, I think it is pretty awesome. It returns to all business as I approach the first fence, but for those fleeting seconds, I tend to embrace the butterflies, not fear them, they are butterflies for pete’s sake, I mean really. Maybe I should ink one of those little bugs, eh, idk. that might be weird. Anyway, learn to shed the fear, and accept the nervous energy. Fear is getting kidnapped, thrown into the trunk of a car, and stored in some lunatic’s house not knowing if you will ever see your family again. Standing at the In-gate of the Walnut ring wondering if you will go off course again is not a legitimate fear.

Trainers have a history of being mean, I could go on for days about the detrimental practices of various trainers in the sport, but it wouldn’t really solve anything. They would still be mean. Lining your own future up with a good perspective is probably the best way to go. Or find a nice trainer that responds well to your needs. If you are an evil person, by all means you certainly have my permission to stay with whatever crazy trainer you have (let’s face it I don’t care about evil people, this may or may not include spoiled brats that cry a lot), however, no one should feel like they cannot leave a bad situation just because rumors might or might not spread about them. Yes, many trainers are also judges, we can’t escape this fact, but deal with it. Lift your chin up, you will be fine. Accept the fact that you are ultimately going to have to compete in front of someone that you chose to leave two, five, or ten years ago and get over it. You are not the first person to experience this and who knows, maybe you get a lucky break that day and actually win a class, or ok, get fourth, whatever. Who really cares, in the end, all it does is make for a story at a cocktail party. (Notice I didn’t say good story.)

On any level, in any discipline, if you happen to be scared of the horse you are riding and are frozen into speechlessness for fear of letting someone else down, this line of thinking is going to get you hurt in a big way. It’s not funny. This is one of most damaging behaviors very few trainers can predict or see until it is far too late. Be honest with yourself and your coach, it is the only way. EVEN if you think a trainer will shame you, let them know when you are scared of your horse. It is NOT your problem if your trainer blows a gasket, and that person may just need a certain wake up call. Putting on a brave face when you literally can’t feel anything but sheer terror will affect everyone around you. It is dangerous. Remember: the level you are competing on does not define you as a person, being a person defines you as being a person.   

If you ARE the kind of cool individual that has a really good perspective, and would love to make the world a better place, or could use a little boost in your self-esteem, here is a pretty good way you can help. A couple of years ago a student of Virginia Intermont tragically lost her life in a car accident on the trip home from a horse show in Virginia and now an incredibly special person has gone to great lengths to keep her memory alive for her family through a scholarship fund. It is important! she was amazing. click here and give. and work on your perspective.

http://www.panational.org/index.php?pID=93

About Claire

http://www.panational.org/_files/live/ClairesStory.pdf

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Winning

Why is winning so dang important? It is not really our fault, actually, this is our society, winning is celebrated on every facet of sport, horses, or not. If we were all in Jamaica, it would be totally different, I am guessing we would all be too high to care about winning. Does winning define me as a person? no. Being a person defines me as being a person. You see it everywhere, though, winning seems to be the answer, in every magazine, all the stories seem to be about the winner, with a couple of do-gooder feely stories sprinkled in between, clients flip-flop around to trainers until they get satisfactory results,  or feel like they have the right presence at the in-gate, instructors and clinicians telling you have to look a certain way, ride a certain way, ride to win or don’t bother coming to the party. High school seniors feel like they need the winningest resume to be recruited by colleges. The excuses seem to be ‘well it makes you better horseman if you are the most competitive and winningest person out there’. WRONG. ‘Well, that is what builds character in young people, helping them find their ambition’, no I don’t agree, but ok.

Years ago, I accepted the fact that I would never have enough money for the top tier of our sport so I made the decision to trade in winning for actually learning how to ride. I left home. I went everywhere I could get my foot in the door, and figured out how to do all of the things the top riders were doing and was satisfied with what I eventually came back with. It was a personal decision, and I knew it worked for me to become the best rider I could possibly be, on my own. The rest of it all sort of worked out the way it did, I found my niche, and I carry on with all those young horses around me, go to horse shows, help people that need help, yada, yada, yada. Like everyone else, I love to win, and celebrate when it happens with a party and bottle of wine, but I don’t look for it every day. I can’t, it would make me crazy….

So, why do I get so upset when the fees get raised? Because as a society, we have been so focused in general, as a whole, on winning, we have dropped the fundamentals of how to actually get there, the education. Americans are so guilty of buying their way to the top, it has become a joke around the world. And now I have to pay for someone else’s education. The basics. So in order to actually go to a horse show, have fun, sell my horses, I am now giving an organization money to fill in the gaps we created a long, long time ago. Someone saw the need for it, had a vision, and boom, here we are today. 14 educational programs within the USHJA.

There is no excuse for what we have done, and very little escaping it at this point. The end game is the blue ribbon and the name on the trophy. When I read a quote from a really well known rider, it stunned me “I am so glad for this win, because when you are not winning, no one is thinking of you”. Jeepers, Is that what everyone thinks?? I thought it was ok to just show up, but her words echoed over and over again. It was why our organizations are chasing the cheaters, our manufacturers are spitting out products to give you that edge, it is why knee rolls, and thigh blocks were invented on a saddle, custom bits, drugs, it is why politics exist, it is the core of our sport, right down to the very bottom.

People complain over and over again, about how they worry they can’t break into this sport, so why bother trying, and I hear you, it is hard. But we can’t all win at the same time, we have to accept it is a fluctuating sport, a fluctuating market, wins will pop up here and there and be celebrated, and over time we should probably start worrying about filling those gaps In education ourselves, rather than depending on an organization to do it for us.

I tell people all the time I don’t care about being on the cover of a magazine, it is not the end game for me. That is for someone else, I cannot imagine the pressure of being there. And once you start, you can’t stop.  No, my end game is seeing the success in other people because of me, the satisfaction in their achievements allowing them to shine for a while. It works, then I go back and focus on my riding, and doddle along until the next big lucky break. I will eventually calm down and accept the fact that I am being taxed each year for laziness, just as I am in society, but it is sad and frustrating to see it all over the place.

Someone else recognized the need for education and has done a brilliant job in manufacturing the tools to get through to people, and it is probably making a fortune at it. Bernie Traurig. He saw the gaping holes we were creating and really saw an opportunity to help fix it, by developing Equestrian Coach. The whole time he was developing that product, I was mortified we needed it so badly. But he was right, absolutely right, and his answer might be the best one for right now. I have no idea what the future will bring, but, if you want your future horsemen to actually be horsemen, you better start doing something about it right now.

BTW, he credits pony club in his background (just saying)

http://www.equestriancoach.com/

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The Clinician

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The idea of a horse show is a pretty simple concept, right?  Find a horse, ride a horse, go to a show, pick a division out of the 50 normally offered at a show, hand over your check, run around a ring, get a prize, go home. We have made the ART of showing horses on the A Circuit much more complicated than that, but that former idea is the baseline. We all deserve to be here showing horses, right? Sign up the various membership fees, register your horse for points, junior and amateurs find a trainer that works for them and we all carry on, do our thing, celebrate horse showing.

Over the years, when encouraging people to come from local showing to rated showing, there has been a typical response of ‘Oh no, I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve to be here’.  Call me illogical, but I am pretty sure anyone with a check that isn’t going to bounce deserves to be at a horse show.

So, of course, I have to explore WHY this is a reaction.

I have always considered Clinics a gateway into showing on the A Circuit. When I was teaching at Garrison, this was super fun, and we took it very seriously. We chose good clinicians, that challenged our riders, made it fun, and inspired the kids. We chose carefully. Why? Because they were kids, and still in their most impressionable years (society has dictated you are not an adult until the age of 18 for a damn good reason) and if we had adults attending, we felt they really needed to have a good experience, so, God willing, would happily come back in the future. Simple. Logical.

Long before I started teaching at Garrison, and long before I learned what the A Circuit was, there was another organization that used clinics as a valuable teaching tool. Pony Club.

In Great Britain, some genius around 1928 recognized the need for club riding for YOUNG local riding enthusiasts, without enormous bank accounts, and got a whole bunch of families on board, and developed a formula that worked really fucking well. Four manuals were written covering EVERY aspect of horse and rider. Each manual was about 400 pages long, and the Pony Club kept score of who was reading those manuals by making you achieve a rating, A, B, C, or D. These kids were monitored by family members, took lessons from various trainers in the neighborhood as a group, had to do everything for themselves, and competed in various levels of competition, rallies, and events.

The US caught onto this concept around 1954 (probably after the AHSA raised its membership dues again) and Louise Bedford and Alexander Mackay-Smith officially formed the Pony Club of America. Members had an initiation fee of 50 cents, and annual fee of 50 cents, and your club had to pay a $25.00 registration fee. Those same four manuals were used, clinicians were brought in to teach the groups of kids and better their education with horses. There are many, many Olympians in other disciplines that have had Pony Club in their backgrounds and have credited the organization with their achievements. PM me I will tell you who they are.

My favorite quote of a Pony Club President came from Larry Byers, he was prez during the difficult time of 9-11. “I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you all that we are Pony Club. We come together to share our common interests and to enjoy each other’s company, to share in the accomplishments and to share in the disappointments. Please, let’s be tolerant and respectful of each other. Let’s not measure our success by equestrian accomplishments alone; let’s measure our success by SMILES, friendships, happy and well cared for horses, and relationships that endure through the years”

In this current day and age, on the A circuit, we have the USEF and USHJA to provide us with clinicians, and stables throughout the country invite members and NON-MEMBERS to participate. The Gateway.

The logical concept would be for a clinician from the A Circuit to attract anyone remotely considering showing in recognized competition, to jump on board, right? Close that gap, so to speak, have them feeling like omg I totally want to join that organization, I learned so much this weekend, this was AMAZING, there are soo many benefits to horse showing, great finals, yada, yada, yada.

So what happens when you get the wrong clinician?

What happens when that wrong clinician does not give a shit whether you have silent ambitions to show on the A Circuit, and you are here, because your friends told you it was a good idea, because the clinician is a celebrity, and you are now being fat-shamed, you aren’t wearing the right belt on your non Tailored Sportsmans, your boots aren’t shiny enough, and your hair is unacceptable? Ummmm, call me crazy, but I am gonna go with “GOODBYE”.

You don’t have to look very far to understand why we cannot close the gaps in the USHJA so called grass roots programs and upper-level competition. In ourselves we have applauded, supported, and thought it was funny when watching the insults fly around.

USEF and USHJA Clinicians have an enormous responsibility to the organizations to constantly recruit non-members into members. If they can’t figure out this simple concept, there is probably a huge underlying problem. Personally, I would rather stab my eye out with a fork rather than hire a clinician that I thought would throw out just one insult, let alone a hundred, because this is certainly not a tool to “toughen someone up for the big time”. What a load of crap. You feel you need to give people a thicker, tougher mentality to survive in this business? The solution is simple, send them to a horse rescue. People involved in horse rescue are tougher than nails, and I have no time for you if you can’t figure out why.

Never EVER let someone else feel like you do not deserve to be at a horse show, this is a ludicrous response that I would love to see disappear.

The address of the USEF? 4047 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, Kentucky.

The address of the U.S. Pony Club? 4041 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, Kentucky.

Time to rethink everything….

http://www.ponyclub.org/

My preference for a good clinician? Frank Madden.

Need a horse rescue to toughen up your kid?

http://www.defhr.org/

ASPCA and the Maclay

I make no apologies for the weird things rolling around my head.

One thing I am constantly questioning is sponsorship, who are our horse shows taking money from? As the Maclay Finals are approaching, I am curious about this constant support from the ASPCA. I am long versed in the ties between the two, and I will help you understand it right now.

This hyperactive dude Al B Maclay was born in New York and his father was president of this crazy successful Knickerbocker Ice company and sold a helluva lot of ice cubes to people in the city before electricity was invented. There was huge scandal when that company figured out a way to ‘merge’ with other companies creating a ‘monopoly’ (insert irony) on the ice market. Millions were made, and for that time, really gazillions were made, so when Alfred did his whole professional job as banker and financier, he was doing pretty ok. He decided to buy a farm in Millbrook, New York and obsess about horses and dogs. He met a girl from a family that had an insanely successful bakery company called the Fleischmann Bakery Company of NY. bread and butter, with a side of love.

Al decided to serve on the board of the ASPCA somewhere in the early 1900’s, (founded in 1866 by Henry Bergh – cool dude looking out for carriage horses)  and was trying to figure out a way to get junior riders more involved in horse shows. Al was already the President of the AHSA, showed horses every weekend, and was really paying attention to the horses bred overseas in France, Hungary and Germany because he felt they had better War Horses.  history buff read this.

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in 1933 Alfred B Maclay donates a Trophy to junior riders competing at the National Horse Show displaying excellent horsemanship skills. The Maclay Finals are born.

Now a funny thing happens as time goes on. this ASPCA non-profit organization rolls on, presidents change, accumulating wealth, distributing so called wealth, promoting good treatment of animals, yada yada yada. Then in our millennium somebody smells a rat. or a scam.  And investigates. And publishes this… https://www.activistfacts.com/organizations/american-society-for-the-prevention-of-cruelty-to-animals-aspca/

Don’t even fucking consider reading further unless you clicked on that above story

Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg—the guy who’s so nosy he wants to ban Big Gulps and mandate sodium restrictions—wasn’t in favor of banning horse-drawn carriages. So when Bloomberg’s reign came to an end, the ASPCA and other activists saw their opportunity. Current Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to end horse carriages as soon as he took office (he didn’t), while candidate Christine Quinn opposed the ban.”

I can tell you right now this so called war against carriage horses in the city is bullshit. These animals are just fine, they are cared for by amazingly obsessed carriage drivers, and every person around NY loves to see them, pat them on the nose and give them a carrot. However, the stabling for these awesome animals is on crazy valuable real estate, and every money obsessed mongul has a plan for that real estate. WHY was Mayor Bloomberg adamant about keeping the carriage horses? Maybe because he had this ultra cool daughter Georgina  -she loved to ride, represent our country, and the two of them could make a pretty good educated decision about the fair and ethical treatment of animals. DUH.

The fact that the ASPCA went after the carriage horse business and helped to try to shut it down screams corruption. These are people lacking respect for their roots.

Personally, years ago I lost all respect for the ASPCA, PETA and the Humane Society of the U.S. I made a vow to never support those organizations again, because it is impossible to know exactly where your money goes.(insert USEF, oops) I know exactly NO ONE that jumps up on FB and says “omg thank you ASPCA for finding this cute puppy named Clyde for me!!” hashtag heart. hashtag love. hashtag happy forever. get real.

So then I want to look at WHY the National Horse Show is still so tied to the ASPCA? Why are we not keeping the true animal lover closer to our sponsorship ties? It pains every molecule of my soul to see ASPCA tied to the Maclay Finals. I want the people we know, we love, we respect, to give us those goody bags when we pick up our back numbers.

The National Horse Show (www.nhs.org) cannot possibly be getting that much sponsorship from ASPCA to make a difference for the final. Junior riders pay $35.00 for a membership fee, and according to the website, it looks like $25 of that goes to the ASPCA. Trainers pay $50, and $15 of that goes to NHS.

1800 juniors, 1000 trainers – NHS gets 33K, ASPCA  80k and then competition secretaries have to pay something.Every horse show pays 10 bucks to the NHS for a Maclay entry. So the minimum the NHS gets a weekend is $60. Slip in a class of thirty at Saugerties, and the number jumps to $300. Slip in 20 horse shows occurring around the country that weekend and you are at 6k. say a whole bunch of Maclay classes held across the country that weekend, $100k, 53 weeks in the year…you get the idea. They are doing ok. And I would have to assume that the 80K we gave the ASPCA at the beginning of the year is just flopped back over to the NHS for Maclay Finals?

What I want to know is, why are we not thinking about turning the tables, moving forward, and keeping the sponsorship closer to the people we know and love?? It is called evolving. If you had to pick an organization  to sponsor something animal friendly, sportsmanship friendly, etc. who would you choose? My personal pick would be Danny and Ron’s Rescue. If you cannot relate with what this organization does, you are a complete idiot. Google it I have no time for you, but if you haven’t posted a pic of your favorite dog on their Facebook page, your best friend has. click here.https://www.facebook.com/DannyRonsRescue

Create new traditions that are RELEVANT for today’s society. There is absolutely nothing cuter than Danny and Ron’s rescue logo on a saddle pad, and I am sure if you asked them, they would feel totally honored to represent the Maclay finals. Give THEM the 80k at the beginning of the year, let THEM go save more dogs!!

THIS is the type of organization that needs stability for the future, not the creepy ASPCA. And the National Horse Show has LONGINES as a sponsor – so much cooler and hip in my opinion. That company probably loves to give loads of money to the show! What junior rider in this millennium can’t relate to this super cute logo??

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I don’t know, maybe I am wrong, but I can’t help it if I have raised these questions in my head over the years. I question everything and it rolls around up there while I am riding around the hunter ring, because it is not that complicated or exciting to steer over 8 jumps and do a hack class, so mind wanders. It can’t hurt to think about it anyway.

Juniors – you are welcome for the history lesson. Trainers – you should have told them the origins of this class already.

Go save a dog. here. http://www.dannyandronsrescue.com/

breeding in America

Get on board with breeding right now. This is one of the most overlooked and under respected areas of the horse show industry we have today, and that needs to change immediately. Breeders are very passionate about breeding, but every single person that attends a horse show needs to figure out how to look past that excitement and really learn what to look for. Learn what works, what doesn’t work, without expecting to get an education overnight. It will take as long as your college education to even grasp the conformation of babies. You will observe until your eyes melt, ask questions, roll your eyes in frustration, and then go back and observe again.

Why?

What is happening in Europe is very, very real. It is very scary. With the influx of several hundred thousand more mouths to feed, horse breeders are going to have to make some really difficult decisions that they do not want to make, and it will not be their fault. Every belt will be tightened while this is happening, and every future decision will have to be more deliberate. You think it has been getting more and more difficult to find horses over there lately? just wait, it will get even harder in the next few years.

It does not take rocket science to see we are not utilizing our resources very well to promote breeders enough. Personally I want to see massive incentives for breeding, and not make it so difficult and expensive for them to get their business done, stallions promoted, babies shown. If we can do it for pre-green horses, we can do it for baby horses.

If you are a trainer on the A circuit, send your students to the hunter breeding classes. If you are a parent, with a kid who has nothing to do one day, or one month in the spring and summer, kick them onto a farm to add a hand during foaling season. Or even if you are not involved in showing at all, figure out a way to participate. Breeders have the hardest, least paying jobs out there, and free help goes a long, long way. I don’t care if all your kid can do is take pictures and post them on Instagram and Facebook, GET THEM INVOLVED.

Handlers are worth their weight in gold. The art of standing horses on the line is a feat worthy of a very large medal. We have model classes for a reason: to study conformation. Unfortunately in the pony ring, you are basically praying your small child has the attention span to actually get the pony to put weight on all four legs and put its ears forward. We are missing the education of WHY we are getting them to put their feet in the proper place, but this might be a separate battle altogether. In the breeding ring, handlers have to follow and contain the most acrobatic moves ever seen in public with a smile on their faces, dressed in proper attire, and somehow magically time a few seconds of stillness of that nervous creature that they are holding when the judge finally gets to him or her and walks around with his/her very scary clipboard and pen. This is also a fabulous way for young people to get involved. LEARN how to be a handler, watch what they do and put up with and make yourself indispensable as a handler.

There is no excuse for the way we have educated people on breeding. Learn about the horses we have here with American breeders, ask questions, and start following them. No one is going to do it for you and if we don’t start now, we will be completely screwed in time to come.

Breeders and handlers also have to do their part. I hate being forced to use an example like this, but it is important to get my point across. I was showing at an A rated show in Pennsylvania in the spring last year, and the breeding was going on that day in the afternoon, and I was excited to have the time to watch. (I admit sometimes it can be a little like watching nascar because they are, well, babies, and naughty)  I went to the manager and secretary and said I just have one request before all of these breeding classes start – do you mind to have the announcer tell us the breeding on each horse as it is in the ring. The dam and the sire. I had assumed all of that information was REQUIRED on an entry blank. It is not. WHY NOT?!

She promptly told me that she would LOVE to but they didn’t have ANY of that information. How is this actually possible? Apparently half of the people who showed up for the breeding classes didn’t even KNOW the dam or the sire of the horse they were entering in the breeding classes. This is entirely unacceptable. And what was she going to do? Stop everything she was doing to look up all the babies USEF numbers and jot down on the announcer form their fathers and mothers??? This is so frustrating, when across the ocean, the breeding of the horse is included at the SAME time you are told it’s age, height, sex, and color. “5 yr grey gelding by Cassini II, 168cm”  That registers in my brain right away what to look for.

Point systems for breeding classes are confusing, they need to be addressed regularly and adjusted so proper recognition can get awarded like everyone else paying their dues. If you are in a breeding class of just 1 two-year old, for example, should you get the same points as a breeding class of 5 horses? or 15? Hopefully if you win a class of 5 or more, you get more points right?

I want to see numbers increase in the breeding divisions over the next few years, but it is going to take an incredible group effort. I know in Maryland it has been a big topic of discussion, and as the numbers grow, we can make really amazing awards happen for them again in the future. It is not just here, it needs to happen across the country. Local organizations can get involved as well, there is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON an in-hand class cannot be offered on the local and regional level for fun. It is good for kids, professionals, and adults, it should be a free class so there is no obligation, and it is good for judges to get that mileage judging horses and ponies on the line. I don’t care if a rubber duckie is the award for first place, but if you are a show manager, you need to get it in your schedule now and get it done.

Stallions need to get to exhibitions, exhibitions need to be created in more places! The Young Horse Show Series is starting to create one, and if it can be on live video feed, everyone can benefit. Imagine watching stallions from all over the country actually move, jump and be presented on TV!

There are 104 breeders listed in the USHJA breeders directory, get to know them right now, follow them on Facebook, ‘like’ their cute little baby pictures, ask them when they are going to show those babies in public, and go support them. Tell them you are interested, listen to their feedback, and think about how to solve the breeding issues in this country.

http://www.ushja.org/programs/resources/breeder_search.aspx

I found this on the USEF website for the West Coast

https://www.usef.org/newsletterLicensedOfficials/applications/2015/DSHB-SeattleWA.pdf

this is the schedule I found for clinics in 2015, maybe someone has an idea for 2016?

https://www.usef.org/newsletterLicensedOfficials/2015schedule.html

LOOK HERE:

http://www.usshba.org/

and here:

www.facebook.com/usshba

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young horses in a field

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breeding class in Lexington, Virginia, Spring 2015

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Dalmation offering Kenny Krome his personal opinion.

money and fear

Money and fear are hot topics right now, it seems. So I have some questions about prize money and the ratings of horse shows. One of the biggest conversations I hear about around here, is show managers having to pay out a certain amount of prize money in order to KEEP their rating. I looked up on the USEF website a checklist for Prize List Requirements and found this. GUIDELINES!

https://www.usef.org/documents/competitions/2013ChecklistofHunter-JumperPrizeListRequirements.pdf

This excerpt captured my attention:

A minimum of $5,000 total in prize money must be offered in the “A” rated Hunter sections of an “A” competition. A maximum of $2,000 total in Hunter Classic prize money can be used towards calculating the $5,000 of required prize money for an “A” rated competition. HU160 o A minimum of $25,000 total in prize money must be offered in the “A” rated Hunter sections of an “AA” competition. A maximum of $5,000 total of Hunter Classic prize money can be used towards calculating the $25,000 of required prize money for an “A” rated competition.

So, as a horse owner, I am going to have to choose if I want to go to a horse show based on several things, but let’s address the cost of entries, first. What amount am I going to be expected to write that big old check for? Mind you, I have pre-green horses.

DIVISION FEES: $200.00, 4 o/f classes and an under saddle at an A show. After reading the checklist I am guessing that the 200 is going to the 25k that is arbitrarily (?) required by the horse show to pay out. So how did we get to the 25K? I think this comes from the Show Standard Committee. Who the heck is the Show Standards Committee? I looked on the USEF website and couldn’t find a show or competition committee, but then I went to USHJA and found one called the Competition Standards Committee List. ok cool, it is 17 people……

http://ushja.org/committees/committeedetails.aspx?id=502

I have to assume they, as a group, came to the number of 25k with a carefully devised scientific approach, because this is the horse show world, after all. Do they take into consideration the area, hotel options, facility, etc.?  yes probably, I found this here.

https://www.usef.org/documents/competitions/HJCompExemption.pdf

5 Competition options! 5! Wow, that is a lot to take in. However the first line tells you to please refer to this guide:

https://www.ushja.org/programs/resources/documents/showstandards.pdf

I had to print that all out it was so much to look at. 13 pages to be exact, poor trees. Now I am beginning to see the science of it all.

A checklist of requirements for each of the 5 levels of competition levels, including jumbotrons (wtf) horse ambulances, bathrooms, size of rings, food, water trucks, photographer, camper hook ups, wifi, golf cart rentals, weather protection for people, etc, etc, there is a lot there. read it.

I am not sure how to correlate the importance of a jumbotron to a pregreen hunter, but someone has apparently insisted that a scoreboard is a really important expense for a horse show. Golf Cart Companies may have lobbied for their own presence, even though I am not sure outside of Wellington, Thermal or Kentucky, you would actually not be able to walk or ride a bike, or ride a horse to get to the ring…

So now my measly $200.00 division fee has contributed to the 25k payout AND all of these other perks I didn’t know I needed. And with a medium to low entered A show USEF passed a rule that says that the money from the divisions that don’t fill has to be redistributed to the Champions and Reserves from the A divisions — 60% champions, 40% reserve champions… seems a little lopsided to me, when there are other lower rated divisions happy to have some help at check out! Not only that, is the USEF looking to help the horse shows that are on the struggle bus due to weather, timing, maybe in the first year, conflicts, people haven’t included them in their schedules yet, or whatever they are doing on that bus?

The stall fee of $250 is going to the facility, right, temporary stalls, lighting, wash racks, and all that? Not too many people must like me when I ship in, then, and work off the trailer. I see a $30.00 grounds fee here to make up for it, though, ok, what a relief. I am helping again.

Now, my next question would be, if we lower that 25k to say 10k, would we get to pay less at the end of the day? Too much of a drop? 15K 20K? Why not? Standards of showing are going to drop? I think showing will recover if you make a move like that, then later raise it back up again. I don’t know, but when someone tells me I can’t do something my first thought is WHY NOT?!  Am I showing my pregreen horse for all that prize money? Probably not, I am most likely trying to get it sold. I could give a fuck about winning prize money back, I would like my bill for the weekend to be about $250.00 total, however. Is there a real risk in changing the payout of A shows? Is there so much energy put into rewarding the winner that people won’t play the game unless they KNOW they are going to win? Because the trickle down payout is so low after 2nd place?

Interestingly enough, these horse show facilities already exist. Looking briefly into the future at that unstable global economy we keep hearing about, I doubt we will see many more new horse show facilities being built. Tryon is a currently under construction, but that money was there a few years ago, they will be ok, as long as we keep showing up. So if the facilities are already here, and the managers utilize the facility for ALL types of horse shows, local, regional, A, AA, B, during the year, and then come December look at which of those shows made them the most money, will it be the A or AA? Probably, yes, because they can demand higher division fees from an exhibitor. So will the manager push for more A and AA rated shows and leave fewer options for exhibitors who maybe haven’t justified the costs yet?   How fascinating.

Why is this relevant? Fear. Tricky. Why do people seem so afraid? This isn’t a monsters in the closet kind of fear. I am talking about a literal, genuine fear keeping people from exploring options for horse showing – creative options for people who love to ride, own horses, sell horses, show in nice places. Ironically, there is an incredible opportunity here to make really good money. Would the USEF and USHJA try to take over a successful unrecognized series in order to reconcile those costs so desperately needed? Goodness, I hope not. So much silence for so long, while a monopoly has gained strength, and shown behavioral signs of acting like a police state. Strange, no? Is it so difficult to get really good ideas accomplished, that, after years of trying, being pushed aside, the people with suggestions are just too tired to give a damn? Do you wonder what really goes on at conventions?

Does setting examples with infractions of high profile riders instill this fear? Are those tactics working? When you complain about someone at a horse show, and the person next to you says, “don’t worry, that is already being taken care of, that person is already in loads of trouble with the organization”, does it make you question what the hell is going on? like some brotherhood? Is this peculiar? Is this why people walk away? Nawww that doesn’t happen, I’m just kidding.

The irony in going after so called cheaters at the highest level of sport is hilarious to me. They are cheaters. at the highest level of our sport, they are cheaters with money. Cheaters are ALWAYS going to cheat! When you catch them, they will just get sneakier about CHEATING! Those guys have NO FEAR. You will chase them forever, and waste all the money you need for other things, like staff.

I want to see innovative thinking, without the fear. When Classic Company announced they were offering basically free showing for pregreen horses, ($5.00 division fees for January- March of 2016) I halted all of my plans to go to Florida in one fell swoop. Why did he do that? That is AMAZING! Did he see the writing on the wall? People WANT to be loyal to management companies, they WANT to be comfortable where they show and who they show with. Shake up the system enough so more people without all the fancy rigs, grooms, and luxury items help you pay for your industry you love so dearly. The midlevel horsemen do really good things, they can’t afford the tools to cheat with, so more of them know how to ride, teach, and train, and develop. There is so much complaining going on about developing the next generation, it boggles my mind. It is not that hard to figure out, make the younger people work harder. Don’t just have a free clinic in Wellington, have one in some part of the country that needs help and has good resources. People will come together in abundance if they are not constantly being told that the organizations are merely catering to upper echelon. Close that gap, people, close that gap.

the USEF and Safe Sport Policy (Sexual Misconduct)

Updated March 2017.

If an organization would simply take the time to help us connect the dots before making announcements that would be super helpful. It took me months to figure out the the history behind the USEF motivation to move into Safe Sport, because no explanations were provided to the public. At an annual meeting, I finally was able to piece it together.

The US Equestrian is a governing body of equestrian sports. Each sport has it’s own federation. USA Gymnastics for example. All of the governing bodies of sport fall under the umbrellas organization of the United States Olympic Committee. USOC. You may have heard of it.

If the USOC tells the governing bodies of sport to do something, those federations need to do it. Period. That is simply how it works.

 Does another sports organization’s activities affect our own? Yes, if there are problems arising from one, we all are affected.

A well respected horseman admitted concern over the sudden request for officials (Judges) to provide, at their own cost, background checks every two years. I went through this and I was fingerprinted once for an independent contracting job at a private school for the riding program, a position I held for about a decade. It was a common practice for schools upheld by state and federal law, and one submission of this information was sufficient for my tenure there.

The US Equestrian requires it. Some of the Frequently Asked Questions on the old website:

When will I have to run a background check? In order to renew your License for the 2014 competition year, you must submit the necessary waivers so that a background check can be run. After that, background checks will be renewed every two (2) years.

 Who has to submit to a background check? Everyone who falls under the category of “USEF Designee” must comply with the USEF Background Check Policy. This includes, but is not limited to, all USEF staff, licensed officials, and any individual that USEF formally authorizes, approves, or appoints to a position of authority over or to have frequent contact with any athlete.

We are the National Governing Body (NGB) of Equestrian Sport in the United States. We provide leadership and vision for equestrian sport by regulating competitions and promoting the safety and welfare of horses and riders while encouraging interest, participation, and excellence at every competitive level. We embrace the Olympic movement and the spirit of fair play while supporting all breed and discipline affiliates within the Federation [USEF] family equally. We celebrate the equestrian lifestyle and the benefits of good health and outdoor exercise. There are six primary types of misconduct covered in this Safe Sport Policy Handbook for the purpose of athlete protection:

• Emotional Misconduct

• Physical Misconduct

• Sexual Misconduct

• Bullying

• Harassment

• Hazing

Misconduct may damage an athlete’s psychological well-being. Athletes who have been mistreated may experience social embarrassment, emotional turmoil, psychological scars, loss of self-esteem, and negatively affected relationships with family and friends. Misconduct often hurts an athlete’s competitive performance and may cause him or her to drop out of sport entirely.

PROHIBITED CONDUCT

Non-touching offenses. Behaviors that include:

  • discussing one’s sex life with another athlete;
  • asking an athlete about his her sex life;
  • requesting or sending nude or partial-dress photo to an athlete
  • exposing athletes to pornographic material
  • sending athletes sexually explicit or suggestive electronic or written messages or photos (ie:sexting) (hello snap)
  • deliberately or recklessly exposing an athlete to nudity (except in situations where locker rooms and changing areas are shared)
  • or – sexual harassment; specifically, the sexual solicitation, physical advances, or verbal or nonverbal conduct that is sexual in nature, and • is unwelcome, offensive, or creates a hostile environment, and the offending individual knows or is told this; or • is sufficiently severe or intense to be harassing to a reasonable person in the context.

I am gonna go with 100% of the membership is in violation with the Safe Sport Policy as of right now.

And that was my thought two years ago.

__________________________**_________________________________

WHERE DID THIS COME FROM??  We are Equestrians, better than this, right? Well, yes, most of us are with the exception of some few creeps out there. However, it wasn’t an equestrian problem. It was a GYMNASTICS problem. USA Gymnastics went under intense scrutiny for NOT reporting creeps to the proper authorities, instead simply filing hundreds of complaints of sexual misconduct of coaches. No action from the Federation was taken, and coaches continued to abuse hundreds of girls over the last 20 years. It wasn’t until parents finally started stepping in that the FBI uncovered a whole lot of bullshit.

This will make your stomach turn…. http://www.indystar.com/story/news/investigations/2016/08/04/usa-gymnastics-sex-abuse-protected-coaches/85829732/

And in 2012 USA Gymnastics finally instituted a long overdue Awareness and Action Plan. https://usagym.org/pages/education/ClubsCare/

Did it help? Well, yesterday the current USA Gymnastics President stepped down.   http://www.cbsnews.com/news/usa-gymnastics-president-steve-penny-resigns-amid-sex-abuse-scandal/

Now I get why equestrians are affected and when the USOC makes a demand, we should just go ahead and listen.

I went through and took the course, watched the videos of the Safe Sport Policy that we have through US Equestrian. I answered all the questions, and you know what? I want it to be required for every member to take it. Deplorable human beings do not deserve to be around children, and maybe if we all took the course, we would have more awareness of what could possibly go on. Just do it, be a better person and take the course. It costs nothing. 

For the link to the new website:  https://www.usef.org/compete/resources-forms/rules-regulations/safe-sport-policy

it will guide you to the TEAM USA store  http://training.teamusa.org/store/details/1

my reaction to the Pre-Green Incentive Finals of 2015

I decided I would wait for a year or two before attending this event, to give it time to work out the kinks, so to speak. This year, I chose one horse to sign up. I own it myself. And after all, you cannot have an opinion about a program without at least participating in it.

I showed it in some classes in Gulfport, Atlanta, in Maryland, Virginia, but was not keen on my fees for these classes being so high. Maybe the prize payout was higher for first and second, but $275 to enter a class wasn’t truly impressing me, and unless you won, you weren’t actually making money. The pre-green challenge class also confused me – what was the purpose of this class, where did it come from? H. The same horse may compete in the USHJA Pre-Green Challenge and the USHJA Pre-Green Incentive Stake class at the same competition. Competing in the USHJA Pre-Green Challenge does not qualify a horse or rider for the USHJA Pre-Green Incentive Championship. Not sure why we need it then, except to give the USHJA some more money. I gave up worrying about qualifying after a while, but received a letter that my horse was indeed able to compete in the final.  I wasn’t excited, to be honest. I thought I need to go, in order to sell this horse. So I sent my money in.

I showed up on Monday morning, there was a pony in the stall I was assigned, and I remember thinking well how in the world can these two competitions overlap like this, if you were not actually already in Kentucky, like me, and several others, showing the week before in Lexington, Virginia for the Virginia Championships and Lexington National, what do you do, sit in the parking lot and wait? No, the stable manager scrambled to put me somewhere, and graciously never scolded me about my timing. I had heard the stalls were completely sold out, and was initially impressed. That is great. I set up my stall, went to the office, and went to check out the ring. It was pretty laid back, jumps were easy, no problem. Orders were posted late in the day by the office, which closed promptly after posting the order of go, so if you had any questions, like me, good luck. I stared at the wall, and tried to find the end, discovering oh, about 150 people were in my class. 150??? I just drove across the country to compete against 150 people in two rounds? Holy crap. There was no 3’ division and 3’3” division, all of us thrown together in the pile. But I had received countless emails about how much money they were making for this particular event, the prize money was tremendous! So you can’t buy 24 ribbons and split us? nope. It was incomprehensible to me that the first year pregreen horses would compete in a championship with second year pregreen horses.

After that I asked myself a hundred times what I was doing there. I looked at the names, and saw a lot of famous riders. Not too many unknowns, but that is what a championship is for right? Famous people. Learning how to compete with famous people. I looked for names I did not recognize and wished them good luck, wondered what their thoughts were. 

There was a lot of guess work after that, I walked the course, and listened to commentary from the other riders. It apparently was the exact same course as last year. I thought that was peculiar. It was easy too, no bending lines, no questions asked from the course, but I reminded myself these are pre-green horses, some are probably as young as four, who knows. But not even a bending line? I liked the option of the first jump, that was different. You could come to one jump off the left lead, or if you wanted, a different jump off the right lead. The result was the same corner after either jump, and the rest if the course rode easily. However, for a championship, you might want to be slightly more interesting, even the first day. This was compounded in my eyes later when I discovered horses could actually SHOW in the ring right next to the championships over the exact same course. There was a pre-green division running at the same time as the championship! I know I could never have justified the expense for that advantage, but it seemed like everyone else was doing just that. It was confusing to hear the scores being handed out in the pre-green hunter division right next to the championship ring, all at the same time, I am not even sure how the judges could concentrate. Speaking of judges, HOW MANY were in Kentucky that week alone? 6 were needed for the class, and two more for the other two hunter rings? 8 judges that week? Is that right?

Golf carts were lined up on the rail, two or three deep, and there was no area for trainers to gather to discuss what was happening. I was hoping to do business, but crawling over peoples carts to get two minutes with a trainer while they were trying to focus on a horse in the ring didn’t seem to be that much of an option. I didn’t discover the OWNERS ‘tent’ until the next day, and was given a bag full of goodies and told I could have snacks over with other owners. I looked around, I was the only one there staring at the granola bars. This might have been a great place to actually offer good food and drinks to the EXHIBITORS, all of us, owners, riders, grooms, with all that money they made this year. Dixie cups and an igloo were offered at the ring for the riders. Dixie cups, for the summers in Kentucky. Unreal.

Later when I opened the bag of goodies, I found a coupon for Perfect Products. After all of the turmoil this year about well known trainers being sent down for so called positive tests, the last thing I wanted to see was a coupon for a banned substance. I noticed there is now a disclaimer on the website of USHJA:

Sponsorship Disclaimer: Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the USHJA. The services, missions, or relations of sponsors do not necessarily state or reflect those of the USHJA, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes.

I call bullshit.

the staff was fairly accomplished at getting you in the ring, but not announcing much in the barns. If you did not have a team telling you exactly what was going on, you had to keep running up there to check. I do everything myself, so this was not easy to accomplish, thankfully I went 134th or something ridiculous, so it worked out, but I had more luck on my side than anything else.

Showing nerves. I don’t actually have nerves, but all I could think about were the people who had never competed against John French, Scott Stewart, Kelley Farmer, Louise Serio, and everyone else had a lot of reason to doubt themselves here. It was intimidating to say the least. As a sort of joke I took a picture of the start list and posted it on Facebook, claiming how impressive it was. The response to it blew me away, so many people were at home watching online, and literally stopped what they were doing to encourage me not to be afraid. At that point how could I even care? I wasn’t going to win, no matter how easily my horse jumped around. I was only there trying to not embarrass myself, get a score and go back to the barn. Going through the motions. This is probably not cool for a championship.

Day two was pretty much the same, but the course was much more interesting this time, and I liked that. I had kind of thought the purpose of this championship was for people to find future derby horses, since there is no model, no hack in the format, so an interesting course is a must, at the very least. I started to ask around about horses for sale, but after hearing prices be over 200k, and as high as 500k, I gave up. Just being at this final probably shouldn’t justify an exorbitant price for a horse, especially when you can show right next door in a pre-green division, big whoop people.

Overall, it was a completely deflating experience, I knew I stood no chance to a prize going in, and couldn’t really get excited about showing in the Stoneleigh ring over a mediocre course. The derby happening at the end of the week was being held in the stadium, the ponies got to show in a better ring during pony finals the week before even. I had spent an enormous amount of money to be deflated and uninspired.

I drove home, and was surprised when just about every person wanted to talk about it. Either to say I rode great, or ask if i would do it again. I know how I ride, so that wasn’t much, and I was extremely flattered anyone noticed me online at all, but when asked a hundred times if I would do it again, my response was the same. no. No chance. What would be the point? A championship is something to celebrate, an achievement. I don’t think I achieved anything at all, I wrote an enormous check at the end, and drove home after three days of showing in Kentucky.

If a championship is not considered worthy enough to stand alone without a horse show going on in the background, then maybe it is time to seek an alternative. West coast riders and horses travel three times as far as everyone else, why can’t there be a regional final for West Coast horses? The NAL did it for their league after realizing, painfully, no one from the West would come to Harrisburg for one round, and nothing else to show in!

I don’t think anyone wants 150 people in their class, especially for a pre-green horse, I am not sure why there isn’t a similar format that WCHR follows with certain professionals competing with peers with similar backgrounds, or any other format, like heats, but I was told there isn’t enough time in the schedule for that. Well, no, there are 150 horses here vying for the title during a busy horse show.

The comparison to the Derby Finals is hard. It is a different thing entirely. I love the derby finals, older horses, true horsemanship skills to tackle that course, it is inspiring on every level. It makes you want to go out and get a derby horse right away! Ride better! Win! But if the pregreen incentive finals are used as a stepping stone, I don’t know how you are going to get those mid-level professionals to keep returning. Everyone will try it once, but the trick is for it to be attractive enough to endure year after year.

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view from my stall

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Chazeaux, the horse I rode in the Championship

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Peter Pletcher during the National Anthem ready to walk into the ring

My reaction to the USHJA increase in dues for 2016

Thoughts on the future of our sport. Deloise Noble-Strong September 2015

I reacted this week to an email from the USHJA about the price increases on membership fees. It stirred an amazing amount of indignation in me, after watching what has been happening in this industry this year. I have watched unrecognized horse shows blossom more than ever before, and know that the MHSA has been chasing our tail trying to keep up with our Regional Program alone. Then I attended two shows at Harrisburg this August. The first was run by Barb Kohr, I like this show, it offers classes for everyone, a Stirrup Cup Final, and the footing was improved from last year, exhibitors loved it, and more people will be back next year. Plus, what could be better than a horse show held at the Farm Show Arena in Harrisburg? Nothing. Personally, I have been generally happy with the facilities and management I have chosen to compete in all year, this was certainly no exception.

Then the Colonial Classic. A different set of riders and horses that qualified throughout the year at several unrecognized horse shows, but the fever was electric. I don’t know the exact number, but heard it was around 400 horses over two days of showing at the same facility. It seemed like most people had literally been looking forward to this show all year. The quality of horses and riders was drastically different, but the facility? The same. Yet these people were having the time of their lives, there was so much chaos and excitement, something I have not seen at a rated show in years. I can’t remember how many people fell off, a lot, some even in hack classes, before hack classes were even called to order. No one cared, hopped back on, dirty, unfazed, and if your horse couldn’t handle the hack class of thirty other horses, (that was not split) you could just steer to the center and spin your horse in a circle until it was over. I walked outside and saw horses tied to trailers, under pop up tents, happily munching on a giant pile of hay at their feet. It was a mortifying experience, but apparently only to me. Every competitor seemed happy, every horse was fine, the manager, Brooke Brown, took constructive feed back readily and promised a better future for the show, I have no doubt this will happen.

Then I realized all of these people have left recognized competitions. For good. This is probably not a good move for our sport, maybe not the direction we intended to go in. But we are headed there in brilliant fashion, and for the same basic reasoning – money.

The regional program in our area has seemed to have provided a much needed answer for what seems to be a large up and coming group. This is interesting. I did not think we wanted the Regional program to be bigger than our Recognized program. Young horses get badly needed and cost efficient mileage. Adults can show early, go spend time with their families afterwards. Kids can show up, bop around on ponies all day without a care in the world, go home, eat a pizza. There is zero pressure for a good performance when you are basically spending the weekend at an amusement park. NO hotel fees, NO braiding fees, NO exorbitant food fees because you can pack a lunch.

Pony Finals for these guys? Most of the trainers look at each other and go why in the hell would we go to pony finals? The only thing that promotes any sort of better horsemanship would be the allowance of a couple of equitation classes (Gittings, MHSA Eq) that hold their finals at A Shows at the end of the year.

Fees fees fees. There will always be fees with associations, but during a time when you are trying to get rated/professional divisions to fill on a regular basis, (at the A circuit level of all areas), maybe an increase in fees is the first thing people will react to. Someone pointed out to me that I could not possible be offended by paying an extra $15, what is an extra $15 anyway? No, this was just the final straw after watching what was happening all year long. Our state Association, the MHSA, is doing fine, it is actually great, healthy, membership is still on the rise, the options for people to show up and ride around in a few classes, take pictures, post on FB is working. I am finding fewer and fewer reasons to actually see the need for the USHJA when I see all these happy people milling about one of our great facilities, grinning from ear to ear when they walk out of the ring.

So then I look at why horses show at A shows. Is it so people could put a substantial price tag on the horses for sale? Money, again. This is probably what I am doing the most of. Selling imports out of the pregreen ring. We all know what it takes to get a horse a year of mileage, and the prices for a young to middle aged horse jumping around the 3 foot ring reflect this. You have to consider your expenditures when you spit out the price. Hotels, travel, division fees, care, maintenance. No wonder horses were $250k – $500k at pregreen finals, look at what the owners had to put into them to get there! I personally hate this so much, I hate my horses being just under 6 figures, it kills me to ask that much, but it is a legitimate fair market value. Most people tell me it is not enough, my horses should be more expensive, I think it is plenty to be able to find the next one.

Horse show weekend for A circuit per horse? $1200-2k… Unrecognized? $50-$125.

We are losing incentive year after year when we tell our clients to expect to pay this much to go to a horse show. They are the one writing the checks, if they want to show locally, you are going to have to honor that request. Maybe you think you have enough wealthy people in this industry you do not particularly need a few people leaving the Recognized world, but that limited foresight is what got the AHSA in trouble in the 70’s. You had the option of showing a small, medium or large pony, junior hunter or amateur hunter at 3’6” or you went pro. WHAT was the outcome? People formed the Baltimore County Horse Shows Association, Howard County, Lehigh, Harford County, etc, found facilities, and made up new divisions at normal safe heights, held summer shows, threw a banquet at the end of the year and made a shit ton of money doing it. Around 20 bucks got you and your horse registered, into the most highly competitive circuits around. Remember when you would go to local day at Harrisburg and Hunt Night to find your future amateur hunter?? Those days are so long gone now, but the nicest horses were being picked up by Californian trainers that came East for indoors, and taken back home for amateurs.

The average horseman and mid-level professional doesn’t see the importance of the USHJA, not here, not even within the organization.

Up and coming young professionals…..The fact that we need the EAP is a bit startling. There is a huge gap we missed by catering to every junior kid in America with rich parents, so now we are…. what? teaching kids how to tack up horses on their own again? Teaching them the skills they should have learned in their own backyard? These are the kids that will eventually take over our business, right? Again, you will see a shift, because the riders coming through the EAP are not all perfectly rounded, talented riders. The general feel is that the EAP is working, helping young horsemen become BETTER horsemen, make connections, stay in touch for the future, so apparently we really need this program.

I personally want to know the real pulse of the 44k USHJA members. and I expect the organization to cater to the largest percentage of members with a common thread. Maybe in a poll:

Why do you go to horse shows? a) sales b) pleasure/social c)the competition d)desire to qualify for a ‘Final’

How many A rated shows do you attend a year? B/C? Unrecognized?

Do you attend a winter Circuit? (show 4 weeks or more in the south over the winter months)?

Do you attend shows based on a)footing/management b) attendance for business, i.e, sale of horses c) social reasons/atmosphere d) qualifying for ‘finals’

Did you pick a trainer based on a) location b) experience c)USHJA certification d) other ____________________

Do you understand all of the programs currently being offered by the USHJA? ___________

How often do you visit the website? _________________

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The Zone chairs might be responsible for submitting this and other information to the USHJA every year, but are they attending only A rated shows? Do they see unrecognized competitions and wonder how to connect the levels?

I remember filling out polls from Gary Baker at every year end banquet in Zone 3 and scratching my head, because he was asking for membership fees for his own separate organization just to get a pulse of the field to submit to the USEF. Idea good, asking for money? not good. However, he was putting tough questions on paper and demanding answers. He was one of the few really taking the pulse of the horsemen.

For example, would someone attending the Colonial Classic know what the USHJA Outreach program even is? I can’t even figure out that program, or come up with a good reason for it’s existence. Who is responsible for educating an exhibitor at the in-gate about it?

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keeping track….these are thoughts in reaction to the reasoning behind the raise in costs from the USHJA themselves, and because I can’t possibly address every headache people will come across when dealing with an organization.

“Once proposals are accepted, it is incumbent on the staff to run the program. The amount of USHJA programs has increased and therefore we need staff to keep up with the administration of the programs.

Our two choices were to either cut programming or increase fees. I truly believe that sometimes you are between the devil and the deep blue sea. This was one of those times.”

Are these viable solutions:

Why is there a pre-green challenge class? I don’t get this. Pregreen horses show in the same division all year long and still need a challenge class?? Yet, it is not a two round classic, for money., for example. They already have two years of being allowed to show in a pregreen division, why is this necessary?         

The USHJA Pre-Green Challenge is an exciting addition to the USHJA Hunter Programs; designed to showcase Pre-Green Hunters as they develop through the early stages of their careers. The program debuts December 1, 2014, for the 2015 competition year.      

            

Again, nope, I mean what??:     Competition management will collect and remit to USHJA the $15 per horse entrant fee at Premier and National rated competitions and competitions that have been approved for a Special Competition status, and the $10 per horse entrant fee at Regional I and Regional II competitions within 10 days of the conclusion of the competition. The per horse entrant fee may be added to the entry fee.

Why is there a 3’3” junior medal class offered? The Josey Mohler, MHSA junior Eq 3’3”, Gittings Horsemanship, VHSA, NCHJA, USEF Medal, Maclay, etc. aren’t enough? Who asked for this and why? Did anyone calculate the manpower to keep track of a 3’3”  medal??   I have never even seen this class in a prize list around here.

   A USHJA 3’3” Jumping Seat Medal may be offered at USEF Licensed competitions. B. Competition management will collect and remit to USHJA the $5 per competing entrant fee within 10 days of the conclusion of the competition. The competing entrant fee may be added to the entry fee. C. Competition management will remit complete results to USHJA and USEF within 10 days of the conclusion of the competition.    

Get rid of IN STRIDE, everything is online, no one wants more trash in their house: USHJA In Stride Magazine is a member benefit. $9.00 of your membership dues include a one year subscription to USHJA Magazine.  There is another 400k you can have back..

Catering primarily to the “Upper Eschelon” is not the way forward. I am not going to address business practices of the Upper Eschelon either, this is not constructive. Nor do I believe I could wrap my head around the controversy of “preparing” horses for the hunter ring at this point. Most of us could write a book about how we get a horse to win in the hunter ring…

I also do not want to leave the A Circuit, I like it, I have been on it for years, brought kids up through the ranks for years, I think it is a great system, we do have great horse shows, standards are improving,  footing is gradually improving, we have more choices about where to show based on facilities, good management, but we have major gaping holes at the same time. I personally see no benefit to an organization whose favorite words seem to be “appeal denied”. Umm, what? You work for us, we do not work for you. $300 for a protest or claim/appeal? no. This is not working. It is scary. The backlash from scandal over drugs and medication alone could probably take hundreds of man-hours to sort through and no reasonable outcome would land at our feet. The USEF seems prepared to bleed a good horseman dry in attorney fees before admitting defeat surrounding a controversial suspension. And not only that, the BASELINES for suspension seem more and more arbitrary every year. Setting the tone, setting an example, or putting horsemen out of business for months at a time, really leads people out the door to……unrecognized competition…..

I classify myself as a mid-level professional. There are many of us around, making the decisions with owners and horses, far more than the ELITE professionals we read about in your  (USHJA) magazine.

I do believe there is an in-between, a better crossover for development of horses and riders. Less pressure, more desirable education, less paranoia, all of that toxicity, that gets fueled by greed.

Question from the organization side might be (at least I TRY to think of the other side)  – “well, if the USEF and USHJA are so called broken, how come more people are not protesting?” My answer? Well that time you fined Jimmy Torano and Don Stewart for voicing an opinion might have something to do with it. Censorship will not create loyalty, only dissent. In this country, in this time, you DO NOT censure people for voicing an opinion. EVER.

I realized over the last few nights when I tried to put my thousands of thoughts together to address my issues concerning the USEF and USHJA, that it is actually impossible to address all of the sources of my grievances. It is an overwhelming and ridiculous task to even consider. I am not wealthy, nor do I pretend to be, but the more I delve into the intricacies of this industry, the more I have to accept wealth will prevail in the end. So be it. Let little or no change come over an incredibly special and endearing world. Passion for animals is what brings us all together, but incohesive structure is what will drive us all apart. For as many members, there will be opinions. I am not right or wrong, but what I am feeling is helpless. It is such a daunting task to ask for change. The future economy in itself will gradually affect the circuits, just as it did in 2008, when a tremendous pause was put on our enthusiasm for horse sports. Yet, we hear stories about superfluous prize money in the hunter ring, in the jumper ring, million dollar classes, held for million dollar horses, etc etc, but when the majority breaks away and carries on WITHOUT the benefits of your organization, what will you actually do to get them back?