Monday, August 6, 2012

Thoughts on Eventing in the Olympics

Well, the Olympics are over and we now have four more years to revamp and hopefully improve our U.S. eventing team. I'm sure there are a lot of people disappointed with our 7th place finish. We had some mistakes including Twizzel and Will Coleman's highly unusual stop on XC and PDutty and Mystery Whisper's substandard show jumping rounds. We had some heart-breaking bad luck with Otis not passing the second vet inspection. But honestly, I am still pretty proud of our team. We did a lot of things right. Karen O'Connor and Mr. Medicott looked great at all three phases to finish in the top 10. Up until the vet inspection Boyd and Otis were looking wonderful as well. Will and Twizzel came back from XC with a great show jumping round with just a couple of time penalties. We have a lot of talent to build on for the future. Bottom line: I would love to take even just one lesson from any of these guys any day! (Although, I have to admit I think KOC would be a little intimidating.)

There is a lot of speculation on what we need to do to improve our team for the future but one thing is certain, we need to improve our dressage. When you start XC almost 20 points behind the leaders that is a lot of ground to make up. Even if all of our riders had gone clear we still would have been behind Germany and GB in the final standings.

However, if there was one thing I could change about eventing it would be the dressage phase. Don't get me wrong I like dressage I really do. I love what I have learned in my dressage lessons and I enjoy watching a lot of the upper level dressage riders and their seemingly perfect rapport with their highly talented horses. But as a sport I am really unhappy with dressage. Why? Because it is so darn  subjective. The winner is based on the opinion of a human being, albeit a highly trained human being, but they are still human and imperfect. In the equestrian world subjective can have disastrous results for our horses.

The most obvious example is big lick of course. Horses went from looking like this:
Okay, it was really hard to find a picture of a TWH that didn't look like it was sitting on it's butt... but I can only hope that they didn't actually start out with the horrible, abusive training/soring/etc you see today.
To this:

And already in Dressage you can see where the future might lead if we aren't careful.

Yes, the wonderful world of rollkur and this is at the Olympics. Can you imagine if in 10 years or so it becomes normal to not only train this way but to also ride your test like this? You might laugh or think it is nonsense but I seriously wonder if the early generations of Tennessee Walker showers/breeders ever imagined just how ridiculous their horses would look one day. I can just hear it "We'll just tie him up so he's standing with his hind legs on top of his front legs for a "short period of time" and then when he goes into the ring he'll have an even better reach behind [but somehow still be correct]" Sounds crazy right? And yet isn't that basically the argument for rollkur? The above picture is of Patrik Kittel already famous for the "blue tongue" incident. Mr. Kittel defended himself by saying that these photos were just "moments in time." You can read about it here.

And here is current second place leader Adelinde Cornelissen as she entered the arena:

One would hope that with eventing, since the horses still have to go on to jump XC and stadium that the insanity will be kept to a minimum but unfortunately as humans we don't have a very good track record. Too often it is win at all costs.

So I guess with all my rambling what I'm trying to say here is I sincerely hope that in our quest to build our U.S. eventing team that we keep our priorities straight and the welfare and safety of both our horses and riders remains first.

And F.Y.I. If you haven't already and if you are also against rollkur you can sign the no-rollkur petition here.


  1. I defi don't agree with rollkur, but I had a funny instance tonight with the pony, where she got so mad at me for trying to have contact with her (a very light contact mind you) she stuck her chin into her chest. I immediately let her go and she just stayed like that... I was thinking "no pony don't rollkur yourself..." lol

  2. Haha, I can totally see that. There was a pony at the barn I rode at when I was in college that would be perfect until about 45 minutes into the lesson. After those 45 minutes were up she would put her chin to her chest and take off for the barn. All the sudden the kids had no brakes. Some ponies are just smart that way, lol.

  3. hate rollkur... seriously makes me mad!

  4. I had an issue with the subjectivity of dressage at River Glen- in my ring, no one really liked how the judge was judging (it didn't make sense) and plus she actually had leased the horse I was riding a few years ago and probably had a higher standard for him than I could ever attain and I'm sure it influenced her opinion. I mean, it would anyone, really. I much prefer show jumping where its just the clock. THEN AGAIN- I was watching cross country and standing with a jump judge and there were MANY refusals- and then again comes subjectivity- when a horse is just stalling, how many refusals do you count? every time he circles? every time they take a step back? how do you judge that? Like with your trainer- tough times...

    But, then again, that doesn't really hurt the horse like dressage has the potential to do. I hate the rolkur thing too. Judges REALLY need to quit awarding it.