The TCP, or Trainer Certification Program. Can it be saved?

The Trainer Certification Program has been in place with the USHJA for a number of years, but has failed to gain much traction.

For one, it seems illogical to think you need to be certified to go to a horse show. Two, it is very pricey for something which requires renewal every 5 years. Three, it doesn’t have a clear direction.

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I understand being certified to run a boarding or teaching facility, but to write a check? I am riding my horses either way, but being certified to compete sort of gets lost on me. And this country is too large to begin encouraging all competitors to be certified to compete.

I also disagree with the concept of the wealthier clients you have, the higher tier you are in the the certification program. Actually, I might be a better trainer than a lot of people at the top of sport with deep pockets, and sometimes they might even send me one to fix, so because I choose to not compete on that level, or teach kids anymore, I can’t be considered a top tiered trainer? I beg to differ. I have also seen multiple TCP trainers which I have really questioned how they achieved the certification. I even know of examples where TCP trainers have been written up by stewards for borderline abusive behavior.

One of the biggest faults with the TCP is that it is lost between a competition world and real world. This country is making it seem like showing horses is the same thing as training horses, and it is not. They are two very different things.

I looked on the website to see what kind of information was put up for each trainer and I was a bit shocked, actually. They are recording in graphs and charts how many ribbons are won. Holy Crap. That doesn’t seem right. And it proves my point about how this country perceives horse training. Ugh.

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You also need to think about it as a future process. Established trainers do not need the USHJA to tell them they are established trainers. If you have been in this business for more than 20 years, forget it, the TCP is useless to you, right? Zero benefit. You have the clients you have, that is not likely to change. You find the horses you need to find for your clients. The TCP doesn’t help you with that, does it? The TCP needs to aim toward the next generation, not the existing one. And clearly, with incentives, and with benefits. Start thinking about how to entice the under 30 group. Trust me, I have been watching the TCP flail for what, ten years? I’ve lost track. Those members who learned about it at the age of 18, and ignored it are now 28, and lost. gone. uninterested. Let them go. Trust me.

IF TCP wants to have better equipped competitors the fix is easy. Offer classes restricted to TCP professionals. They could be really interesting classes actually, not just 8 jumps and a ribbon. They could be wildly technical, too, with the freedom to incorporate each discipline, hunter, jumper and equitation. Or, similar to what the TB’s have done have a TCP Hunter, or TCP jumper class.

Those classes would be judged with score cards, the rating of the judge would be noted, (i.e.: you have just been judged by a R or r judge, or learner judge) and you may either enter the class yourself or choose a student you train to participate (but you would get credit for). The TCP Restricted classes can even have a finals, so accumulating points throughout the year would qualify you for a final, which maybe you win a County Saddle, or a complete Pony Club Manual set, who knows. It looks like Markel insurance is very involved with the program, which seems like a smart move, since they offer insurance for Professionals, so maybe they might offer their own incentive.

The Score Card would be filled out similar to a dressage test. Say a Dressage test scores ten movements, then has four little boxes at the end to score Submission, Rider Position, Impulsion and whatever. The Score Cards would be generated within the TCP program, depending on what the TCP feels a professional should be required to perform, and put online, and could be downloaded by the horse show secretary as needed.

The score cards would also satisfy the rising desire for feedback. There seems to be a steady increase in really wanting to know what the judge thinks about your round. There was even a push for numerical scoring this year to become standard practice for A rated divisions. Instant feedback for each round.

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If you need a Tiered program, which I don’t think you do, you can offer a tier based on points accumulated during the year in these classes. Maybe with double points offered at the Final.

If the Finals or classes were offered with prize money, the incentive speaks for itself. Have a $10,000 TCP Finals? I actually would consider participating.

I think people like to be reassured that the monies they are putting up for programs are being recycled within those programs. So if the total costs are nearing $2,000 for each individual to be certified, how much is coming back to the individual?

rundown of discovered costs for TCP, according to the website…..

$100 Application Fee

$225 Exam if Application is approved

$500 Clinic attendance (required)

or

$200 Online Certification

$20 Background Check

$?? 400 insurance – varies

$65 Manual fee

Travel Costs for clinic – let’s estimate $500

$75 Renewal Fee every 5 years

The George Morris Equitation thing? Remember when it started and there were all these horsemanship requirements to participate, but no one would do them, and everyone complained, so it was decided to just drop those requirements and expectations? so now it’s just a clinic or something, I don’t even know. or care. Welcome to real life. no one cares, right? bingo. However, I believe it is a very different reality on the State level.

I think encouraging horsemanship comes from a different area in this country. I don’t think it should just come from the USHJA, which is still relatively low on the popularity scale. However, chances are there are more horse people signing up for the state level organizations, such as the Maryland Horse Show Association, Virginia Horse Show Association, etc. When introduced to horse showing, more people than you think start with their own state horse show organization, see if they like showing, and move on from there.

Exploring options on the state level. In order to become a member of a State Show organization, what if you had to pass a ten minute written horsemanship test? Would you do it? Junior memberships have two different categories (members under 12 exempt)  12–14, and 15-18. Adults have two different categories – Professional and Amateur. Members over 50 are exempt. Then, add on from there. Safe Sport Training, for example. If the USHJA wants to prepare the tests, fine, use the money you take from us and issue them to the affiliate organizations and you can even take it one step FURTHER. If the MHSA member has passed the test, and taken Safe Sport, the USHJA MEMBERSHIP fee for that year is REDUCED. Give credit for the MHSA membership which meets USHJA criteria. That is your incentive. right there.

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Remember the affiliate organizations have to PAY the USHJA to be an affiliate organization. A whopping $250 per year! There are hundreds of affiliate orgs in this country. (There are some State organizations who refuse to do so because they don’t see the benefits, and I tend to not blame them. There are none) What does that money get used for? Maybe it should be directed back to the members who choose to do their education through the affiliate organizations.

The background checks could work the same. This is a hard sell for a lot of people. Yes, there are children and every show. What worries me is that there will be a growing number of people who simply avoid showing on the national level just because of boosted requirements, like background checks. However, if you were to give credit to the membership for doing the process, you might not continue creating a gap.

What if there are too many affiliate organizations? Most states have more than one show organization, so how do you solve keeping track of them all? Well I have news for the USHJA, maybe it is time to start amending relationships on the state level and do a little extend-a-paw thing work WITH affiliates instead of against them. Data collection is the way forward? Use your staff to start collecting data on affiliate state level organizations.

I have never seen any movement from the USHJA which would indicate they would support discounts in membership dues, but even the USEF has made strides with options, so I think maybe we are seeing the writing on the walls here.

We have too many classes, no show manager wants to add yet another class. I get it, but what is worse, losing the program all together, or finding a way to put a TCP class in the schedule? If there is one thing I have seen is the lack of ability for all factions of horse competition to work together. Each group in this country is fractured and separating more each day.  You have to start somewhere, right? Or maybe another idea is out there, I feel like the answers are right in front of us, we just have to look closely.

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Bore me with the details, please. 2k17 USHJA Annual Meeting.

Where was the AM meeting this year? San Antonio, Texas. It’s nice there. Food is good. Temps are nice. Not that the temps matter because meetings are generally held inside, in windowless rooms. Sometimes small rooms. Stuffy rooms. I arrived, was handed a packet of information and a schedule. The schedule is a handful of cards with a list of meetings and events.

The first item of business is reading the giant book of rule proposals. You have heard me discuss this before. Brian Lookabill is the MC, from the stage at the front of the room, he quickly reads the intent of each rule in the book, pausing for two seconds after each one, and looks up into the audience to see who is brave enough to stand up at a mic and start discussion. This is when I start sweating. Actually I started sweating when I awoke at four am Monday morning. But now I am reminded once again why wearing black is so important.

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Book 1 of 2, not including two more smaller amendment booklets.

I had questions and issues. and not just two questions and issues. several questions and issues. Throughout the week, in all of these large forums, or small, stuffy rooms, or in the hallways, I did the best I could to get my voice heard. I know I wasn’t right all the time, and I didn’t feel the need to be right all the time, but I found a way to at least speak out loud. I have to say, this year, more people knew my name. No one lynched me. People did sit next to me at meals. (at least a couple anyways)

The process from Day 1 to Day 5 is the longest five days of your life. From opening the Rule Book for the first time to watching the Final Vote the last day can suck the life out of your brain cells in your head. I have an enormous amount of respect for people closely involved in EVERY aspect of Governance.

So let’s get to it…

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I personally think all falls from either horse or rider at a sanctioned competition should be noted and recorded. No matter the severity. No matter the circumstance. I don’t even think the amount of detail is necessary. But record keeping and data collection is the way forward now. Any sport which you are REQUIRED TO WEAR A HELMET probably ought to have an idea of how many falls from either animal or human occur on a yearly basis. To me it is a no brainer. pun intended. (Pun was used by several other people besides me). Some stewards are already comfortable recording all falls, some are not.

Now it is being discussed that falls of HORSES in a competition ring must be recorded by the judge and a steward must be immediately called, so it can go in the stewards report. Not just anywhere and all over the grounds. Just the ring. Let’s start with the ring and go from there.

I grappled with the fear people must have. I have a hard time identifying with fear of other people. I refuse to let anyone have that much power over me, unless they are literally holding a gun to my head. (that’s probably pretty scary).  To every steward who is influenced by a show manager to withhold information regarding a fall FROM a horse or fall OF a horse, please help me out. Are you being pressured by a show manager to avoid recording falls at horse shows, because the show managers are afraid the data collected will affect their licensing? So is it easier to push back against a rule change rather than risk not getting another gig at the show? Am I saying this right? What if it was your own child who fell? Would it change your loyalty?  If so, you should be reassured, you are so valuable as a steward right now, you will absolutely be hired all through the year by various shows around the country. There are not many of you out there. You are valuable. Please think this through.

And then I really started to worry, just exactly how many falls go unreported? Damn. By Thursday, this proposal was approved.

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carrying a vote forward

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Numerical scoring required for A rated divisions. I’m a big nope, but on Monday I didn’t stand up to discuss it. Other people did, however. Passionately. Eventually the proposal was voted down this time around, but it might be back again, who knows.

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The mandatory use of Safety Cups took up more hours than you can possibly imagine in discussion. I am not even going there. For those of us who already thought Safety Cups were mandatory everywhere, I think you should just assume this again.

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50 shades of cruelty.

The new schooling rule proposal really set me off. Apparently a group of stewards (ironic, I know, right?)  got together in a task force and created several pages of schooling rules to unite ALL the disciplines (Hunter, Jumper and Equitation) and respective schooling areas. Like… what? Since when are the jumpers preparing their horses like the hunters? and vice versa? The task force wants to see Swedish Oxers (still allowed in hunter/eq warm up) reduced to an almost imperceptible height difference of 6” from low to high and high to low. 6 bloody inches. And walk jumps? nope, they don’t want walk jumps. Regardless of the fact walk jumps are still allowed to be used in hunter course design…

Apparently it is deemed ‘cruel’ by some members in our community to achieve a ‘rub’ during the warmup of a class. I don’t think of it as cruelty, I like to think of it as smart training. Maybe you think I am wrong.  I prefer not to have a horse be anything less than careful when in the show ring. I think it is terrifying when a horse hangs a leg or forgets to bring his landing gear up properly and falls over the jump. So yes, when I stood up in front of a room full of people and said “you bet, I need a rub sometimes for my warmbloods”, (not really the TB’s I ride) I was met with resistance. I wonder about the future of how we warm up horses is going to evolve and how far the regulations of this will become. If there is a constant push from a task force to eliminate the Swedish oxer for Pete’s sake, when will the jumping of a cooler become obsolete?

By Thursday, the proposal was set forth from the Jumper side, but disapproved from the hunter and equitation sides. (The rule is in the book three times) Although that doesn’t mean it won’t get pushed through in January, it gave me a small sliver of hope that we will still be allowed to set proper Swedish oxers in the future.

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Bonus monies. Bonus prizes. You know when that cool wheel spins at the World Equestrian Center and gives you a cash prize if you win the class of the day?  Know someone who won a saddle? A car? Lease of a car? Those “monies” or cash equivilants are supposed to be put toward the Jumper rating of the horse show, and directly affects the mileage rule and rating of the competition.  Since the material in this rule change needs more clarification, it has been referred to January.

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Stallions? Stallions in the Maclay? Thoughts? Yes, juniors can ride stallions in the jumpers, and in the talent search of the USET, but there is a bit of pushback to see more stallions in the warm-up areas and national equitation classes.  I was so surprised to see the Jumper Working Group readily approve the rule proposal, but at the end of the week, the Board of Directors voted it down. Try again next time, I guess.

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Notification of Special Competitions.

The debate is about having two Special Competitions occur next to each other. Unintended consequences? Example – One full blown national show is holding it’s regular horse show and offers a National Hunter Derby on Saturday Night. However, ten minutes down the road, a Special Competition pops up, and a generously funded National Derby with five times the prize money and better prizes. Everyone at the national show leaves for the day to go compete in the fancy National Derby. Should this be allowed or prevented? Who should the Federation protect here? It won’t matter right this second, it has been referred to the January meeting for further discussion. This is actually a bigger deal than I give it credit in this blog, and a lot of people should be very concerned about the term Special Competition. If you are one of those people I would highly recommend you read the rule proposal.

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Dropping the age of Steward applicants to 21. At the moment, any 21 is allowed to apply for licensing within the USEF except as a steward. To meet the demand and fill the void of lack of stewards in this country, the suggestion to drop the age came up. and was shot down. But I questioned this, actually. It takes a long time to go through the process to become a steward. It is highly unlikely that a 21 yr old kid (probably still in college) is going to successfully earn a license within the year. Stewards get vetted very heavily and can be denied for a variety of other reasons which have nothing to do with age. The maturity aspect I get, but I am not so sure this proposal should have been disapproved.

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Lunging. Should there be a rule about how many horses to lunge in a 10,000 square foot area?

Over legislating the show prep? Is this horse welfare? Sissy Wickes believes this is the start of grappling the harsh realities of lack of horse welfare at many competitions. She says we have to start somewhere.

Trainers are not taking responsibility for their horses being sent out to lunge. True.

I actually think it is about staying ahead of a serious issue. However this is also referred to January meeting.

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The rule regarding nose nets was withdrawn. Maybe that should come back again next year with a nose net sponsor (kidding). Correctly written and promoted, it would stand a better chance.

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Catch riding now has more definition within the rule book. Well, it will, anyways. Chances are this additional description will come into play at some point in the future, but will you have to have letters from peers to prove you are actually a Catch rider? There are some overlapping influences which blurry the lines between Catch riding and actual training or coaching. I am already thinking hmm, maybe I should start carrying an affidavit from the people I ride for. Yikes.

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Think entering a ring, circling and leaving the ring without jumping a jump constitutes as a completed course in the hunters? Not anymore. That practice will have a rule change behind it now to prevent cheaters from splitting divisions.

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We are still going to be jogging all sections of Green Hunters.

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Background check for criminal activity? Start getting familiar with those words together in your life now if you haven’t already. This will be the future of our sport. If you want to sign an entry blank, you will be expected to go through Safe Sport Training, concussion education and a criminal background check. It might be shelved for now until the next meeting in January, but we have not seen the end of the discussion.

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The practice of non judges judging Year End Championships (i.e. equitation) needs to stop in the eyes of many people. Those are not really all of my own words, but I did hear them this week. And I have heard this a lot.  Remove the guest card for the Medal, Maclay, and whatever high profile classes riders qualify for. A third person is not out of the question, but two licensed judges need to be in the judge’s box.

So the USHJA put a proposal forward to add the newly formed USHJA 3’3” Jumping Seat Medal Finals class to the list of exceptions for ‘Guest’ Judges as it is currently allowed with the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search, US Hunt Seat Medal, WIHS Equitation Final, and ASPCA Medal Final. Guest judges do not necessarily have a judges card, in other words. There was overwhelming static about this practice, so the other classes might be reverting to the same guidelines in the future, and we might eventually be seeing an end to ‘Guest’ judges to those classes someday. Fingers crossed.

The rule was disapproved, by the way, so no ‘Guest’ judging likely for the 3’3” medals. Too early to tell if someone will put a rule change forward next year to remove other Finals from having unlicensed judges, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Now is your chance to think about how to start that ball rolling….

**CORRECTION: THIS RULE PROPOSAL WAS WITHDRAWN, NOT DISAPPROVED.**

 

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Dangerous rule suggestion. Adding this sentence into GR702 Violations: Making untruthful statements, misrepresentations, or engaging in fraudulent behavior in any horse sales or lease transaction. This is where being married to an attorney is so helpful. When I pointed out this proposal to him, he said the challenges of enforcing that rule would exceed the capability of the USEF. So when I stood up sweating and said that I think this was why we already have attorneys in place to cover bad horse deals, I also took the chance to remind people we are all horse dealers, and that horse dealers go back to the beginning of time as having shady reputations. We all know what we sign up for here.

This was followed by a slightly condescending reminder that this was a direct request from the membership to put this proposal forward, and that USEF was simply listening to the requests of the general membership. The room was then told we were stubborn about accepting Safe Sport and it took 5 years to get Safe Sport to pass though the rule change process. When the scolding was finished from the USEF exec, I glumly sat down in my seat. Actually, I said to myself, when Safe Sport was introduced to us five years ago, it was being slammed down our throats with little or NO EXPLANATION. Five years ago we were all told we were in some sort of violation of sexual misconduct. Five Years ago, a room full of shocked horse people looked at the stage and said WHERE IS THIS COMING FROM? WHO MOLESTED WHOM?? It took five years to correctly learn about Safe Sport Policies, and understand where the hell it was coming from. Learning, Understanding, and Acceptance is a process of yeah, just about five years with horse people.

So there.

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Hunter Breeding outcome. One horse per handler per class? What exactly happened? I can guarantee you each voice was heard. I can guarantee each side was argued. I can guarantee you the BOD felt they each received too many emails over this one.  In the end a sort of compromise was made. Only at National and Premier horse shows will the rule of one handler, one horse, one class apply. At Regional shows, it will be entirely up to the show manager. This now has to go forward in January at the Kentucky meeting.

From Kimmy: “To say this has been a long and emotional week has been an understatement. Breeding people are a passionate group, I think after this week there’s not a one that can deny that. Passion derives from an intense belief in something, and that is how I describe my experience and opinion this week. Passionate Belief. I believe that hunter breeding is an excellent tool in the toolbox of young horse ownership, but unfortunately that tool has gotten a bit rusty creaky and on it’s way to being replaced. I came this week, along with my fellow committee members, to bring about a plan to revive this ‘industry’ and bring in new blood, as well as encourage our current exhibitors to stick with it. We as a committee educated ourselves to the needs of the members as a whole, and I can assure you that every one of us made these decisions based on our total commitment and love for hunter breeding and young horses. I am walking away this week with a renewed belief in the process of USHJA, albeit a little less naive, but most importantly feeling that I put my passionate belief behind a rule I feel will be one step (among many steps) to revive hunter breeding and the involvement of the horse industry.”

From Emily: “I wish the Board would have left the entire restriction up to the individual horse shows. Many struggling areas only have access to the HB through A and AA shows where multiple handling is taking place to keep the shows filled like Florida, Connecticut, and PA . The best compromise would have been the recognize the regional differences and allow the horse show managers to restrict as their individual horse show’s exhibitors needed/wanted. Not all A and AA shows are created equal in the terms of Hunter Breeding. While I am extremely appreciative to a small concession, I know from experience that this was not the best choice for the exhibitors in each sect of the country.”

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Extreme Side Note: Kimmy Risser received the distinguished service award forth USHJA at the awards banquet Tuesday night. This is a big deal, and I am happy for her recognition!

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Kimmy Risser receiving her award from the USHJA

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Moving on from sweaty armpits. Some meetings were about information gathering, not about rule proposals, and how to move the sport forward, and maybe to get a feel for what the members are going through this year……

The vice grip of horse show managers…

I cannot even imagine the dinner talk about my daily explosions regarding various horse show managers in this country. But I likely couldn’t help it. Why couldn’t I help it? Because I had to endure a presentation of a new USHJA Championship event..>>> A Finals to be held in Las Vegas geared to all of the C rated divisions in the USHJA, think Children’s, adult and children pony hunters… Guess who was running the presentation? I’ll give you a hint. His name was Tom Struzzieri. The amount of energy he is putting toward this event in Las Vegas? Apparently an enormous amount of energy and time, which I wonder should not be put toward his own existing facilities and shows in this country. Forgive me if my reluctance to jump on the USHJA Vegas Championship train is a direct reflection on my view of HITS horse shows.

But that wasn’t all of it. Later, I walked into a Competition Management meeting and took a seat. The room quickly filled up to standing room only. The chairman had prepared and distributed a spreadsheet. I looked at the spreadsheet. An eye twitched. It was my eye. I started sweating again.

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So the Chairman flew his own plane to the Annual Meeting the night before his committee meeting, distributed a piece of paper which basically says, “see? horse shows are not the problem”, and sat back to let us consider that a bit. I am pretty sure that I was so set off by the arrogance of it all that I made little sense when I stood up and questioned it. But I was fuming…..Why was I holding the spreadsheet in my hands? What was the purpose of putting it out there? Was it because there is concern that horse show managers are seeing a drop in business??? Ya think?? Where is the innovation you need in a business model to attract a clientele? Where are the horse show managers who answer the multiple pleas of exhibitors for a break?

Oh wait, World Equestrian Center. Did I mention the World Equestrian Center was this year’s main sponsor for the Annual Meeting in San Antonio? I meant to, sorry, my bad.

Maybe that’s a bit too snarky. I actually have heard appreciative gestures and reduced office fees of a few show managers around the country, so there is some action between managers and exhibitors. You are being noted, and I hope those gestures are working. But I am still fuming. Being part of the solution might be a better way forward for the horse show managers.

Later in the week, I reacted similarly in the Competition Standards meeting..

I. sat. on. my. hands. for nearly 90 minutes while the room around me disclosed the deepest and heartfelt problems horse shows/managers are causing to our lives. Yes, LIVES. The lives of horses and people depend on the quality of show standards. Mainly Footing. Most of us can live with other subpar conditions, but footing? Not so much. Not enough science is being contributed to improve footing right now. And wow, horses are really, truly breaking down at a much faster rate than they should be.  It was suggested that the veterinarians provide some data about the effects of bad footing to the USEF, so we can better help the industry, our lives and the lives of our animals. I listened and listened and listened. So did the committee. But the elephant in the room? Guess who wasn’t there? The irony was not lost on me that the one person who should be hearing the 90 minutes of gruesome details of the realities of crappy footing refused to be in the meeting, nor was he ever seen again after making his Vegas Championship presentation. My hand crept toward the sky and that was all she wrote. My apologies Frank Madden, but this is why you are in the Chairman seat, and not me. What else can I say? I am really pissed off.

It appears the compliance officer of the USEF IS working hard to meet the demands of exhibitors, (mainly requiring improvements on show grounds) but in all honestly, we are probably a few years out before those demands can be met. The only hope is that the realities of removing licensing from horse show managers will make them care a little more.

Irony is a funny thing. Someone like me never forgets about irony. And I never fail to notice an opportunity for hush $$$.

The also very grim reality is convincing you to fill out the three questions on competition evaluation when you see something bad at a horse show. (Like footing). I think you would like the USEF compliance officer, Matt Fine. He is super calm, super patient, non confrontational, and appears compassionate for our cause. But he can’t work without you. How do I implore the importance of filling out competition evaluations? It is a simpler process, it is now fully anonymous, and here’s the thing. Sally Ike really does read them. Every single one. So does Matt Fine. And without the information from the members, we really are in an uphill climb. It is online. It is three questions. Please, Please, Please.

To me, (and I said this out loud) the perception is one of two things.. A – The Horse Show managers are in denial about the fact that horse shows have footing issues. or B – Horse Show managers do not give a shit.

Another very alarming discussion (not a rule proposal) was about reducing the amount of Premier shows in this country. I guess there are people who believe the national and premiere points are so similar, that it shouldn’t be a big deal to lessen the over 200 shows listed as premier. Just make most of them rated national. (or single A.) Let me tell you the fall out of this…. Have you seen how many points it takes to get ponies into Devon and Indoors???? It is outrageous. Those ponies will end up showing more, not less, to get into those big shows in the culture we have created, and it will be really, really bad for ponies. Don’t do it. But if this does happen, in order to prevent a monopoly, take the suggestion from Swan Lake’s manager Mary Bast, and limit each show manager to no more than 2 premier shows a year.

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The TCP needs it’s own post. stay tuned.

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It is done. I am heading home. There were other issues popping up here and there, but I would be surprised if anyone is reading this far into the summary of the 2017 USHJA Annual Meeting. I mean, it is dull, I get it. But each year a little more clarity is earned. Just a little bit.

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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.

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