The point of Two-Point

Now that it is November, and every horse in America will be suffering from some sort of back pain and raising a hoof begging for a massage session for Christmas, maybe we could follow it up with an equally, if not more, effective method of learning to ride better, and have a Two-Point December.

The two-point (jumping position) could possibly be the most important and least practiced position when it comes to riding horses. It forces you to balance on your feet, not the mouth of the horse, and strengthens your core all the way down to your heel. If you are one of those people who takes No-Stirrup November seriously, try following it up with a Two-Point December and in those total 8 weeks, you may revolutionize your riding. Forget about looking silly, or wonder what your friends might say when you are spending hours with your butt up in the air, because you will forever give yourself an edge. And I am not talking a few laps around the ring, try an hour.

If you gallop horses at the racetrack, your life depends on knowing what a good two point is, but not as many people these days start on that kind of oval.

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Exercise Rider Tara Lewis 

 

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Tara jogging a horse, relaxed and not interfering 

Fox hunters also have an advantage. If more riders disciplined themselves without waiting to be told how to get better, we might be able to accomplish more things as instructors.

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Stacey Lewis keeping pace in near perfect two-point position, PC Tammie Monaco

If two-point is intimidating, think of it in another light. Think of it has the high part of your post. You don’t need to bend over with strain awkwardly placed on your back. Number one problem people have going to the high part of the post? Keeping the heel down. Second problem? Gripping too tight with the knee. Third problem? Using the mouth for balance. That is what the mane is for. Once you get past these weaknesses, you will be amazed at how quickly your body strengthens.

You can give yourself free lessons just by spending more time in the two-point. Your horse might….. no HE WILL….. even thank you. Then maybe your trainer can do more fun stuff with you. Eventually, you will understand better when to use the two-point, and when to use a deep seat when you are on a particular horse, in a particular class, or just simply riding around.

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This year the judge asked for the Lead Liners to demonstrate a two point for the MHSA Regional Finals. 

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Winner of the first Lead Line class Kate Williams. She might be going places. 

When you conquer November with No-Stirrups, December in Two-Point, then January combine the two. Two-Point with no stirrups? I have seen it done. Recently. I believe in ride-off of the Medal Finals….just maybe watch Cooper Dean…

https://www.usef.org/network/coverage/PennNational17/

Here is the thing about riding. It isn’t supposed to be so easy everyone can do it. I don’t think it should be like golf, or soccer. It should be hard. Because it is hard. Equestrians all over the world are constantly trying to prove why riding is hard so making excuses for your horse’s behavior is counter productive.

“My horse scoots away when I go up to the two point…….”

Yes, I am sure he does, I would too if I were him.

Two point is the “up” part of the posting trot. So if your horse scoots away from the two-point, then something is changing from the “up” part of your post to what you think is the correct two-point position. Are you walking or trotting? Walk it out. Perfect the walking two-point, complete with changes of direction, circles, and halt transitions. Then, STAYING in the two-point, ask for the trot. What changes? You have to have enough self-discipline to be open to learning, so are you willing to do ten walk-trot transitions until your horse doesn’t scoot away from you?

Personally, I think No Stirrups November took off in popularity because it didn’t make people feel inadequate, or green in their riding, it made them feel committed. The difference with practicing in Two-Point is that there will be a general crisis in how people are perceived…..as a beginner. However, in reality, you should be considered more compassionate to your horse, and maybe even a better horseman. Horse welfare has become the top priority for this electronic age we live in, whether we like it or not. We string people up for a variety of wrongdoings in the horse world on every level of perceived abuse. So using the two-point more in your riding will not only help you become a more sophisticated rider, it will have a positive outcome for your horse when performed correctly. (ie: Use the mane, not the mouth, for balance.) Your horse will love you so much more than you could ever know. I guarantee it.

One last thing. Don’t tie your stirrups to the girth. This isn’t a good idea. This is one of those examples of common sense, at least in my eyes. This is one of the most dangerous learning techniques I have ever witnessed, and it will not necessarily benefit your riding. It could also blow your knees out.  Do the two-point instead, that will change your leg and your life. Feel the burn.

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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?

**

 

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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be careful what you search for…

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

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

hush…

Derby this, Incentive that.

Derby and Incentive Finals!

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

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

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

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

Sunday: Ticketed Warm up, Horses shipping in

Monday: Junior Hunter Day one

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

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

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

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

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

8:30 pm *GALA*

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

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

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

Still room for improvement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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Alan in the tower

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

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

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

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

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

Deciphering what is USHJA and what is US Equestrian.

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

Cost of media.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forgive me FEI

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Broom carries Sparteine

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

Conjecture

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

Also a good name for a horse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

or,

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

Where would Equitation go? Recognized or unrecognized?

How would horse shows work?

The United States Hunter Jumper Association.

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

But do we need the USHJA?

USHJA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opinion.

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

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

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

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

 

USHJA By-laws.

USHJA Foundation By-laws

USOC By-laws

US Equestrian By-laws.