Handle? I can’t Handle.

Have you read your emails from USHJA lately? The annual meeting is fast approaching, I have no doubt it will be a lively one, (it has been a rough year) and there will be heavy discussion, I can almost guarantee it.

One rule change proposal addresses Hunter Breeding, a struggling division at best, as we all are hearing day in and day out.

The rule suggests enforcing a One Handler to One Horse/Pony per class per show. Have you ever heard of anything more ridiculous? This is actually being proposed?!

https://prc.usef.org/documents/ruleChanges/2017/Proposals/183-17.pdf

If this doesn’t bother you it should….

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I get to ride multiple horses in the hunters. You do, too. Jumper classes as well. Kent Farrington became number 1 in the world with multiple rides. Multiple rides for a professional is not unusual. It is called business and being a top jockey.

I get to watch Scott Stewart ride multiple horses in classes at shows.

I get to watch an open gate for ten minute because of multiple rides for a professional in a class.

I have had the classes stay open so that I may show all six of my horses in a class.

THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE.

What is next? One horse per rider for every other class offered at a horse show? How’s that going to go over?

Who is going to walk up to Scott and say sorry, pick your favorite one, you can only ride one today in the Pre-Green Incentive Finals. Or sorry, Liza Towell, you can only ride one horse in the Derby Finals. We just feel your owners should do a better job of delegating to different jockeys……

uhhhhhhhh, my head just exploded with the thought of this.

Who can jog a horse for Scott Stewart when he is only one person? A groom? Do you think the groom should have a USEF number to jog a horse? Is that a serious question?

I am not offended by a non-USEF member jogging a horse back in the ring to check for soundness.

Do the two relate?

Yes they do. I can understand why one handler will want to show all of his or her horses in the appropriate classes, then hand the horse to a groom or helper to hold for a final pinning. It is called horse showing.

Is this a personal thing? For me? no. For the perception of sport? Yes. I am seeing something like a personal attack on a specific handler who wins too much. Or has too many rides. Get over it. Some people are better than you. Sometimes I win more than you, sometimes I don’t. But now you want to make a rule for me to keep me from doing my job?

If this proposal goes through, we are finished with hope. I will give up. I can’t look at this happening and think this association will survive. I hope it is no longer even a discussion by the time I get to San Antonio.

Instead of placing more restrictions on a struggling division, try leniency for a change. Try introducing proposals for reducing costs for Hunter Breeding.  Try answering the breeder’s pleas for help. Try offering more prize money. Try a mentorship program. TRY ANYTHING to help breeders get a stronger foot hold in this country.

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Look at the sport for what it is – our future. Placing strangle holds on exhibitors because they win too much is not a philosophy which should be supported by the USHJA. Don’t like the fact that Heritage Farm produces top winners year in and year out? What are you going to propose? A rule which says they can only bring one equitation horse to a Final?

If the Devon horse show would like to restrict handlers from having more than one horse in a division, that is their right as a horse show to keep everything moving along. We have also seen special Grand Prix classes limited to one horse per rider. But that is a decision made by horse show management, not a rule put forward to the USEF.

I hope all of our members read through the rule change proposals. Because if sweeping changes across the board are going to start with the Hunter Breeding classes, we could be in for a helluva ride.

 

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WIHS, the jungle.

WIHS is one of the most talked about shows in the country isn’t it? You either love it or hate it, the hassles that go along with it seem endless, but let’s face it, it is a unique horse show, and with it comes a unique experience. I love it. It’s stressful, tiring, but when it goes right, it is incredible. It takes at least a week to recover from WIHS, sometimes longer, and there have been loads of competitors satisfied with one and done, like please Lord, never let me make the stupid decision to walk this concrete jungle again…..

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The ramp of tears can also be the ramp of glory as you rise from the basement of the Verizon Center onto a world of complete strangers looking sideways of your outfit which you either borrowed from a friend or spent thousands on custom tailoring. The strangers carefully step around the poop on the sidewalk and pause only to watch a horse or two descend from a tractor trailer, before moving on with their lives. I cannot imagine working in a city. I cannot imagine being forced to work in a bricked up, windowless, and smelly room, with a coffee pot and microwave to help get through the day.  How lucky we are to do what we do. Maybe the strangers walking to work, or walking through the city think we are part of the circus, but that is just fine by me. At night, the city sparkles and speaks around you while the country mouse voice inside you whispers a thousand times, do you think my car will still be where I parked it?

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It must be so expensive to run and operate the week of craziness in downtown D.C., in late October, but to me, it is all worth it, and for the most part it is executed beautifully. The learning curve took a while, however, and I remember the utter chaos the first year, destroying the city with a line of trucks and trailers backed up all the way around the Capitol, waiting to unload one horse at a time, then one pitchfork, a trunk, one bale of hay, two buckets, a feed tub, a saddle, a muck bucket. You get the idea. It was an awful mess, and we have come a long way since then, baby.

Now, perfectly orchestrated shuttles provided by the best transport company in the country, (and the one with the most tractor-trailers – Johnson) carefully deliver a dozen horses horses at a time, complete with equipment, and an entire trailer can be unloaded or loaded in under ten minutes.  It is like watching a pit stop at Formula One. Brilliantly executed and inexhaustive in their efforts, the Johnson team has a lock on the constant, cycling horse movement from the Prince George’s Equestrian Center to the Verizon Center, and back again.

You need a special kind of horse to compete downtown. Lungeing is limited, warmup is dangerous and ridiculous, and doesn’t match the actual atmosphere of competition, so most horses are surprised when all of their friends are held back in a corner of the basement as they return to step into the ring for the first time alone, to be judged. Often it is merely who can survive the course without a major spook and not really a level playing field of judging the best horses in the country. Since the numbers accepted are so low for each division, you hardly need to pick up a pen for the judges card to determine the winner. Just kidding, sometimes it isn’t that bad…

Not that my opinion matters, but wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a class where the horses looked more comfortable with their surroundings and not suffering from shock as they stepped into the ring, and would it kill anyone to provide ONE actual show jump to sniff before slamming them with ferns and giant walls and blinding lights at show time? Just leave one big oxer in the ring while the masses are swirling around in a mad dash to get quiet. Is that really asking too much? I don’t know, I can’t stand watching classes which are merely determined by the course, and not given a chance to be properly judged, but maybe thats just me. We have seen the best of the best try to be a proven winner, only to have the horses question reality at the first jump. Is it really good for sport to watch a horse lose it’s heart in front of everyone? I guess it is, because you won’t find any green rails, decoration, or even a fake wall in the tiny warm up area.

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This year the very first horse of the week entered the ring at 7:52 am on Tuesday morning, only to suffer a heart wrenching rail and leave with a score of 45. Some way to start a long week, no?

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Scrolling through the start lists, I also noticed an odd number in a division, which I always find peculiar, since in the past numbers accepted in each division are fairly consistent and locked in at an early date. This is to keep the show moving at a precise and accurate pace. Yes, horses scratch, and it is nice to fill a spot at the last minute, so the waitlist is constantly being accessed right down to the wire for each division. Some might even claim there is manipulation in timing a scratch just right in order to skip over a competitor on the wait list who might live too many states away…But I don’t ever recall seeing the accepted numbers increase to include a competitor still on the wait list. 12 is 12 is 12. right? Unless you are wealthy? Special? Pretty? 13 is my new favorite number, it just pops out of nowhere when you scroll through the list of horses competing today.

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So I had to check the guidelines. again. Maybe it is nothing to accept a 13th horse into the Amateur Owner division, but it leaves me a little queasy. Do you think anyone else noticed it, too? Is it ok because the horse is already competing in another division, so while it’s here, by all means be the 13th horse in the A/O division? Is that how it works? Does that work for me, too?

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Then I am reminded how these big “Indoor” shows are costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to put on, so need an extraordinary benefactor, or fifty, to put on. But is it really good for sport when it looks as though an extraordinary benefactor gains an advantage, just because of being an extraordinary benefactor? I guess it is. I guess it is also how a show manager is able to escape responsibility for poor conditions in Virginia because he can sponsor an annual meeting in Palm Springs…. Or similar to the FEI refraining from scolding endurance competitors for treatment of horses because the FEI General Assembly is being held and funded by those same Sheiks in Bahrain. Maybe I digress.

It is fine. Fair. Of course. We NEED the money to see these great shows continue, we NEED participation in order to pay for the use of the giant scoreboard. Play on, but maybe don’t think some of us will forget about the lucky number 13. The other exhibitors in the A/O division will have to suck it up this year, because the money has spoken, once again. Our culture, interesting, varied, and extraordinary as it is, will, honestly, never change. What a shame. But it is noticed, at least by one person.

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Guns N’ Horses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Springequipe pakt zilver in landenwedstrijd

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

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

Is that a real question?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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be careful what you search for…

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

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

hush…