Compare if you dare. #drunter

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

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

The Drive.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Program.

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

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an FS under the number of the horse means for sale

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

The Exhibitors party.

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

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

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Ditto for this year’s show. 

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

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

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

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

Beating the dead horse.

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

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

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

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The American Horse Council?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is it set up that way?

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

How many people make up the AHC?

 There are only 5 full-time staff members.

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

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

Where is headquarters?

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

 Do you lobby for legislation? With whom?

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

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

 You can become involved in a couple of different ways

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mark Bellissimo

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

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

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

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

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

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CEO Roger Dow of the US Travel Association

Virginia is for lovers…

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 I was disappointed in both sides last night.

 

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Mary Babick, Murray Kessler, Bill Moroney

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

This is how I see it right now:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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