Archive | September, 2012

Making A Plan

24 Sep

In the United States, we need a plan.

A new perspective, for horses to remain part of our culture, part of our future.

Everywhere, horses seem to be marginalized.

There is far less open land for trails. There is far less open countryside for ‘horse in the backyard.’

There are far more regimented, organized, moneyed ‘non-profit’ or for –profit  organizations, all designed to provide the ‘horse experience’ for a fee and at some level no one else has thought of before.

We need a new plan.

I propose thinking of horses as a commodity—like cotton, like the NBA, like breakfast cereal.

For starters, we need one ID number for each horse—not one for each of ten or more organizations, all with their hand out, collecting the same fees over and over in order to ‘pay for’ the awards  that seem to just spawn each year: less and less meaning, more and more pretty colors.

We need a database. The idea has been around for at least the last 10 years and never moves out of the sluggish backwater.

We need a structure that allows some far-seeing sponsors to support the cause of The Horse, not a specific horse for a specific rider, whether that be a 10 year-old in Pony Club or an Olympic hopeful.

We need some way to use Pony Club (and 4-H) and local barns as a place to cultivate and then develop talent, and to instill the love of horses early enough that it carries on through adulthood, at least for some, so that they will move on to the more specialized world of horse sport. Waiting to look for potential team members—stars– from those who  already have moved on to regional or national competition means  merely finding the ambitious without necessarily the talent.

Horses, riding—it is all seen as exotic at best, elite at worst.

What seems to be disappearing in the US are children growing up around horses, ponies, equines. We may have more riders these days, but we definitely do not have more horsemen, more people with horse sense.

We have templates from other countries to look at and adapt. What we are lacking, so far, is the will to re-organize and reinvigorate.


Plans, short/long range, everything in between…

17 Sep

After an Olympics, there is usually euphoria or letdown.  In equestrian, Great Britain is still euphoric after all the medals. Here in the U.S., there is letdown and its  inevitable consequence–planning.
Looking at Great Britain, everyone points to The Money from the now well-discussed Lottery Funding,and that is an obvious part of the solution. When riders have the kind of aid and foundation  High Performance majordomo Will Connell was able to provide, then riders can concentrate on competition and success.

But  if it is ONLY money, then there is really no need for the Olympics; for competition; for being human.

No. In Great Britain, several years ago, they formulated The Plan:

In a nutshell, the plan promotes the Horse as part of daily reality. Not just horse sport, not just breeds, now just local or regional shows. Instead, under one umbrella, the idea that horses are necessary and worthwhile–and ways to keep people believing in that.

When people talk about the U.S. being ‘too big’, the solution seems to be to find a size/region that is manageable.

The hard part is going to be to come up with a plan and an organization chart that is all-inclusive and that enough parties can agree upon for how the  power/communication  will work so it is both two-ways and satisfactory.

Of course, first there will have to be a development period:

I nominate George Morris to head  the study into

developing this kind of plan for the U.S.

The internet has made the idea of  ‘size’ much more manageable and has provided a wonderful tool for creating a centralized database, search tool, information exchange.

GM  (often referred to in terms reserved for deities) has the knowledge, the passion, the experience of horses in general as well as horse sport to give something so pie-in-the-sky some semblance of success. His own success as a rider in several sports, his passion for the horse, his involvement with teaching, giving back, creating the next generation — I cannot think of any other horseman who has more gravitas or is more fit to be the guide in this as in so many other achievements.


On a more specific level, this past weekend, the American  Olympic dressage team rider Jan Ebeling decided to ‘pay it forward’.

He and his wife Amy invited the local population of trainers to come to The Acres, the Ebeling’s farm in Moorpark, California for lessons, for community, for co-operation.

Olympic rider Charlotte Bredahl on Strauss , at the recent two-day clinic at The Acres in Moorpark

Over the weekend,several local trainers and their students rode, including  Olympic rider/trainer Hilda Gurney (who  rode with Jan and then later returned the favor by providing commentary while Jan himself rode). Olympic rider Charlotte Bredahl rode; Grand Prix trainer Kamila Dupont lectured on “Joint Maintenance.

Sponsors included Superior Saddlery; Eurofit (fashion/clothing); Cavalor (feed/supplements); Mounty (specialized equestrian products); Platinum Performance (vet researched supplements).

Jan Ebeling watering the arena between riding/teaching at The Acres’ recent ‘open-day’ clinic for local equestrian dressage community

During  lunch, Jan talked about the Olympics, about the need to find and then set “personal best”,whatever that goal might be, and fielded questions from the nearly hundred or so people who attended.


When the clinic was over, I just thought how wonderful it could be if this event, like so many others, could be featured on a centralized website; because if these individual and local efforts can be seen by others, so that everyone realizes their efforts are recognized and encouraged,then surely the Plan will  be achieved faster and better than anyone currently believes possible.

Comings and Goings

10 Sep

How to make dressage more interesting—take a few tips from Glock Horse Performance Center in Austria:
GHPC Entertainment highlights:
Thursday, 6 September at 8pm.: vocal duo Marshall & Alexander

Friday, 7 September at 8pm.: star tenor Paul Potts & Orchestra

Saturday, 8 September at 8pm.: violinist David Garrett in concert
Each day and evening, Star guests

Sunday, 9 September—only the horses.
And sure, not everyone can pick up a phone and have Burt Reynolds agree to mingle with other spectators in the deluxe stadium tables, and not everyone can have their own star riders, Hans-Peter Minderhoud and Edward Gal, appear in the startlists—but everyone CAN start making dressage more of an entertainment surrounding the horses and raise the bar for rewarding athletic performance.
Not to mention favorites such as  ‘pimp my pony’;

ride and drive:

mixed team competition (jumper/polo/dressage/reining/whatever all doing one another’s sport)
I can dream, right????


…If only USEF had done this after McLain Ward/Sapphire at World Cup Final, maybe we would not still have this farce. Everyone may remember the famous pencil-prod on the same spot 17 times which ‘proved’ hypersensitivity according to the FEI vet and which disqualified Ward, the leading rider at that point.
<< Canada’s Sport Council establishes a Hypersensitivity Protocol Task Force. The objective of the Task Force will be to review the International Equestrian Federation’s Protocol for Thermography and Clinical Examination (Hypersensitivity of legs) to ascertain, from the perspective of Canada’s equestrian sport community, if the protocol and its application are achieving the intended outcomes in an equitable and effective manner.>>


Olympic gold medalist , Canadian show jumper Eric Lamaze says on Facebook that he plans to take a break from competition to think about his and out of the sport. As of now, he says he will return to show jumping in early 2013.
Even after the tragic loss of his amazing partner, the stallion Hickstead,  Lamaze threw himself into Olympic preparations for London. Now, he will spend some time in California and recharge.
Best wishes to Eric Lamaze, a true champion.


World-class American rider Leslie Morse, best known for her partnerships with the stallions Kingston and Tip Top, is now planning an extended stay in England. She will take some of her top Kingston and Tip Top babies to work with her longtime mentors, Kyra Kyrklund and Richard White.
The ‘babies’ have just started showing Prix St.Georges, and Leslie says her stay is open-ended: “ Time is short and we all need to live our passion .”


King’s Excalibur and Leslie at home schooling–taking after Dad–

Leslie and Kingston


In defence of dressage…The Guardian UK

3 Sep

It is spelled with a ‘c’ because the following article is from The Guardian, a British newspaper (or tabloid or rag, depending on your viewpoint).

Yes, the Paralympics continue and yes the Bunderschampionat in Germany just finished anointing the top German sport horses and yes Burghley 4* just came to an exciting conclusion, but I am still in thrall to the Olympics…
So here is the link (in case you also also want to see the comments):


As the British dressage team celebrate one bronze and two gold medals, their sport is taking a hammering in the press. Sports editors couldn’t pick the GB team out of a lineup, and published photos of the Dutch team instead. Giles Coren said it was like having “Crufts at the Olympics”. Pundits imply that it is less sport, more circus act and portray it as an activity for a tiny, rich minority. And yet British dressage hosts 2,000 days of competition a year throughout the country, and 2.4 million people in Britain ride frequently. So why the unpopularity and misconceptions?

Many people assume you must be a millionaire to compete in dressage, because of the cost of the horses. True, top dressage horses are eye-wateringly expensive. But what critics fail to realise is that riders rarely own the horses on which they compete, just as jockeys do not own racehorses. Sadly, top riders such as Carl Hester and Dutchman Edward Gal have had their best horses sold out from under them.

To get to the top in any discipline requires full-time training, which means athletes must have independent means or some form of sponsorship. Yet Charlotte Dujardin started as a groom, a minimum-wage job if ever there was one. In fact, there is a paid career path in dressage that seems to me to be lacking in many other sports that are somehow perceived as more accessible.

Following on from the idea that you have to be rich is the idea that you need no talent, that the horse does all the work and that consequently, riders don’t need athleticism. This is nonsense. Watch a horse and rider perform dressage from a distance, and the rider looks as if they are hardly moving. Then watch the close-ups of passage, that strange slow motion trot that was originally used in military parades. There is a tremendous amount of movement in passage (take it from me as a rider, the thought of dressage without a sports bra is too painful for words) and so for the rider to create the illusion of sitting still, they must move in synchronicity with the horse. The difference between each movement lies mainly in the use of your hips, legs and core muscles. Even at my low riding level, I have a nicely defined set of abs and the cardiovascular fitness of someone 15 years my junior.

Dressage, from the French word “dresser” (to prepare), was initially a means of training cavalry horses. This is not a sport for the effete or the afraid. If you have no talent, money alone will not bring you success. Dressage horses weigh several hundred kilos and have minds of their own. All the power that is used to drive a horse around a canter pirouette can just as easily be used to dump a rider on the floor. What the critics forget is that dressage is actually one of the most inclusive of sports. Men and women, young and old, compete against each other on equal terms. The coverage it is receiving saddens me. I fear that portraying it as elitist will make it so, and that those from poorer backgrounds will not be tempted to try it. While critics carp and snipe about an inner circle, that circle will never be widened.

So to anyone who watched and is at all tempted to take up horse dancing, I say phone your local riding school or the British Horse Society and find out what you can do to get involved. If nothing else, you will meet a wonderful animal that, as the poet said, carries all our history on its back.