This feels like a squash the bug year for any kind of members of Equestrian organizations. The US Equestrian is operating in a squash the bug mentality. Squashing the cheaters, squashing opportunity with raised dues, and inherently squashing their own proclaimed ‘Joy’ in sport. Then we nervously watched board members in the USHJA Foundation be squashed and were left wondering what could have possibly led to that complete upheaval in apparent negotiations? Two words? Ouch.
Meanwhile, in their own unique fashion, the FEI (Fédération Equestre Internationale) insists on squashing bugs who treat their show jumping horses with compassion, but ignores the absolute unacceptable tolerance of abuse among endurance horses in the far East. What on Earth kind of double standard is that? God forbid you use Neosporin to treat a minor cut, but nawww boys and girls, it’s totally ok to have a horse saunter in on three legs at the finish line of an FEI sanctioned Endurance race with zero repercussions. Because….. jurisdiction. Forgive me if I am slightly bitter.
Forgive me if I find tolerance of running FEI Endurance sanctioned races at the exact same time and on the same course as National sanctioned races, when meanwhile, in the West, a rider is handed a yellow card for her groom handing over a piece of useless equipment over the fence of the stabling area instead of walking an extra 200 feet in the 90 degree temperatures to go through the front gate. Forgive me if these tired as f**k grooms are just trying to get through the day on little to no sleep, food, or wages, just so you can back up an over zealous steward who cannot wait for some insignificant infraction to report, but still turn a blind eye to multiple dead and missing horses in Endurance racing. Forgive me for making a comparison.
We are just bugs trying to abide by your rules right? I wonder if your rules of Zero Tolerance seem a little less applicable to Arab countries because maybe they are about to host the FEI General Assembly next year? Oh snap…. I’ve seen that rodeo before….
But back to the weird year we have witnessed. Your Zero Tolerance couldn’t prevent a hay vendor in Portugal (France, Switzerland, Germany, or a field in between) from unknowingly skimping on pesticides, gathering up some random weed while cutting hay, which eventually gets ordered by a show manager at a major competition then sold to a rider from Holland, Belgium or the U.K., who didn’t have an extra lorry to ship his own 6 week supply from abroad and BAM, his jumper tests positive for some mystery ‘performance enhancing’ substance? FOUND IN HAY? Sparteine is not performance enhancing, especially in trace amounts. So let me get this right, we should be prepared to test our feed, our hay, not use Triple Anti-biotic creme, or, let’s face it, just don’t treat wounds when you travel halfway around the world when your horse wasn’t wrapped in bubble wrap and arrived with broken skin somewhere, and really they should just starve.
When a person looks at the table of suspensions and sees 7 horses from the UAE testing positive for four different drugs at the same time (Paraxanthine, Caffeine, Theobromine, Theophylline), then sees only a 3 month suspension issued for each of those horses and makes a comparison to a horse who is also serving a 3 month suspension for ingesting a weed in hay (Sparteine), it makes a person really think on it. I had to google all of these drugs by the way, and I have a hard time believing in a possible contamination with 4 stimulating drugs at the same time, but maybe you can come to a different conclusion.
So why do I click on the report? Because you can imagine my concern of 7 horses with the same four illegal substances found in them…
In the middle of the report however, where it tells me to click “here” for case details, I get one of these lovely messages….
I thought it was 2017, no? Anonymous can hack into any website in the world, and here we have a ‘missing webpage’. interesting.
This Zero Tolerance is bullshit. These multiple year penalties are bs, too. All you are doing is encouraging horrific horsemanship and fear among people who actually care about their animals. Why do Show Jumpers care? Because it is SO extremely hard to compete at the top level of sport, it is so competitive, and the animals are now treated BETTER than they were 20 years ago. You think these show jumping riders are doing anything they can to torture their animals? Doesn’t that sound absurd when you say it out loud? This isn’t 1990 anymore. Good 1.60m horses are hard to come by. The scary thing is that US Equestrian seems to really want to copy the standards of FEI. My concern is that we have never had the proper education offered to get there. How many of you knew about Pramoxine? How many of you know how many products Pramoxine is found in? Caladryl, Aveeno, Callergy, any poison ivy cream, or even anti-itch medicated shampoos. How did you feel when you heard about Paige Johnson facing a year long suspension for her horse testing positive for Pramoxine? This isn’t about slaying the groom and saying that Team Johnson should have known better. This reality where treating a wound with Triple Anti-Biotic Cream and the FEI regarding it as a performance enhancing offense is completely and utterly unacceptable.
I get moving drug classifications around is supposed to alleviate some of these silly offenses, but FEI needs to take a hard look at itself and reconsider the damage it is doing in THIS discipline. Because if you punish all the people so severely over nothing, where do you think eventually riders are going to go? Where do you think the divide will be widened? Do you know if Paige will think twice before joining a Nations Cup Team? I don’t know her, I have never met her, but I have watched her grow up here, and she has always presented herself on extremely nice horses, has been very well educated from the ponies on up, and we all know is part of a well funded and highly supportive family. I just for the life of me cannot picture her as a criminal here. I just can’t.
What makes this groom blunder situation even more alarming is that in an Arab country a groom’s blunder is also noted with a one year ban, however that groom INJECTED a horse with MULTIPLE DRUGS (phenylbutazone, oxyphenbutazone, and dexamethasone) and “forgot” to inform the rider before a race. So Paige’s groom who SMEARED A CREAM on a wound is actually the same thing as Ibrahim’s groom who INJECTS DRUGS into the vein of a “sick” horse a few hours before the race?? https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2017/07/25/suspension-fine-endurance-horse-drug/#axzz4nq6QVFou Am I crazy here? Did anyone else pick up on the “one member tribunal panel”? Forgive me for not being satisfied with this outcome.
Will the riders who proved hay contamination from a weed in Portugal or Germany, France, or Switzerland (where the hay was made, maybe) regard their commitment to FEI differently now? I would. You don’t see Jan Tops behaving in any similar manner, that’s for sure. I cannot even imagine what was going through his mind when Scott Brash was eliminated for a barely visible spur mark this year at one of his shows. I met Jan one time, and instantly realized he was one of the most calculating human beings I had ever seen. And that was well over two decades ago. How much have the wheels been turning since Scott’s incident?
I still compare the spur marks from Scott and even Irish rider Bertram Allen to the multiple dead horses we had to witness and read about this spring. What will come about the next season over there? Will the letter from the World Arabian Organization be enough? I thought the Prez’s response was a bit weak, but that’s just me. https://www.horse-canada.com/horse-news/world-arabian-organization-shames-desert-endurance/ As of now 6 countries have disallowed their endurance riders to compete in the FEI Group 7 Countries? Shouldn’t an organization be alarmed by this?
Funny, I have yet to see an Endurance horse retire with a tearful ceremony at the age of 18 or older.
So let’s be realistic, let’s try separate rules for Endurance horses. You want Zero tolerance? Then put it on Endurance horses and continue to force them to clean up their act. Because what is happening in that world is inexcusable. What is happening in the show jumping world is not inexcusable. Yes, spur marks suck, but spur marks are not the same thing as a broken leg or disappearing horse in a competition. Vehicles on course is also NOT PERMITTED in sanctioned events. At the VERY least, maybe you could clear the course of multiple vehicles kicking up sand in horses faces. Let’s also not use the excuse of more media coverage for tighter FEI sanctions on show jumpers. I won’t buy that. Just because show jumping has figured out a way to stay in the media limelight doesn’t just give permission to hand out harsher and more ridiculous penalties. Spend the energy where the horses are really suffering. And prove you can make a difference. Separate the rules between disciplines.
Why does it seem like we keep spinning? So far this years events have created more void, more unhappiness, confusion and more instability than ever before. Is that what we want? Are the bugs going to be constantly meeting the windshield here? I feel like we are so capable, but yet it’s one step forward, two steps back, and forgive me, I am tired of that tango. I don’t even expect to see transparency in the future. It is not seeming like a realistic goal. But what I don’t want to see is a top international equestrian organization on the struggle bus, then see our own national federations trying to jump right on board. This makes no sense to me. We have to be better than that. We have to avoid using the FEI as the ultimate standard, because it is not. Until the president can stand up to the money train, prove he is capable of managing disciplines which appear to treat horses as disposable commodities, then I can offer no respect for such an organization. It needs to be fixed. Am I arrogant in suggesting the Show Jumping discipline should have a different set of FEI standards than Endurance or even Dressage or Eventing? Maybe I am, or maybe it is just time to consider such a possibility.
I had to make a decision to withhold more photos from endurance races in this post because most of the relevant ones I uncovered were too gruesome to share.