Archive | January, 2013

Blood, toil,tears and sweat

28 Jan


Dressage:  horses dancing, controlled by not much more than the rider’s thoughts and wishes, la la la — except when it is not, and someone decides that it is abuse.

Naturally, horse sport’s governing body, FEI, has laid down regulations, rules, principles, concerns, to govern horse welfare, all as clear as mud.

For dressage–and for dressage only, not show jumping, not eventing and certainly not endurance– there is a ‘blood rule’ which basically states that if blood is seen on a horse in competition, the judge at C upon seeing it and informing the rider, shall eliminate the pair from further competition.

Naturally, that rule has been amended. Should the judge(s) not see any blood, then the FEI Steward who performs the equipment check AFTER the ride can inform the judge(s) that blood has been found. This last confirmed by the FEI Vet, naturally standing close by,  rather than in the nearest bar with friends.

Neither decision–by judge or vet is subject to appeal and both decisions are final.

Once again, WDM in Florida was the source of excitement. Last year, after  publicizing the star riders that had been invited to the 5* event, it was discovered that two riders did no9t have enough qualifying scores. Late meetings went on into the night and finally, a solution was found: the event was downgraded to a 4*.

This year, a rider and horse finished their test, went out to the equipment check. An official score was announced.

Two hours later, the score disappeared and zeros appeared in the relevant boxes.

The facts are slow in being released. Apparently, the FEI Steward found a drop of what appeared to be blood on the horse. No blood was found on the rider’s spur and no open cut could be found on the horse. Nevertheless, the Steward reported the findings,such a they were, to the judge at C and the decision was made: elimination.

The now abolished  FEI associate members, International Riders and Trainers Clubs, have asked FEI for clarification of the decision to eliminate.

Just a reminder to all the  abolished member clubs: some time between now and the next Olympics, you all (except for show jumpers) might want to also ask FEI to re-visit the regulation wherein should a team member,horse or rider, be found guilty of banned substances, the entire team is disqualified from further competition.

Show jumpers,on the other hand, can continue to compete as individuals should a team member be found guilty as described.

FEI Regulations passed at last General Assembly, Nov 2011
<< Furthermore, on the basis of guidance received from the IOC, it was clarified that if one member of a Dressage, Jumping, and Eventing team is disqualified for an anti-doping violation, the entire team would be disqualified. However, in Jumping the team members that did not commit the doping violation would still be able to keep their score for purposes of the individual placings.>>

I mean…as long as FEI is in discussion with its abolished associate members, might be a good time to ask about this,too.


As the world turns…

21 Jan


I already wrote about the Longines-FEI obliteration of Rolex


but what truly concerns me is the rationale for this abrupt, dictatorial, totally non-transparent fait accompli from on high ( or Haya,LOL).

Total conjecture and speculation on my part–but I cannot help but believe that after the current FEI’s presidency is over, (if it is ever really “over”) the influence and direction of FEI will be controlled by the decisions made now:

that is to say, the next FEI president;

horse sport supremacy on the part of  the globe-that–is-not-European Equestrian Federation;

the commercialization and lack of interest in horse welfare from the international federation itself; etc.

What about the stakeholders’ voices?

Is apathy really so great that no one cares what happens so long as a few crumbs are thrown in their own general direction, in their own little frog pond?

The FEI has discovered the weakness of the internet: that news may now be instantaneous, but human nature is such that the only result is endless internet discussion.

Cannot believe this, but I find myself rooting for EEF and Rolex—may some sense of fairness prevail.

Human beings are not designed to live in a state of heightened awareness 24/7.

Nevertheless,  there needs to be a conscious decision to leave one’s tiny part of the world better off. That day, that week, that month, that year, that life.

For example– US Olympic rider Jan Ebeling decided to bring together his local community of dressage enthusiasts and trainers. For a weekend, he and wife Amy opened their farm, The Acres, and thanks to generous local sponsorship, discussed everything dressage: over a wonderful catered lunch, he talked about what it takes to pursue a dream, and during lessons given by himself and Olympian  Hilda Gurney, the training of horses was explained for the audience of a few hundred.

We want more pony riders? Why not have some of our top trainers offer to reach out to Pony Club at the regional level, and offer a training session or two? (When Hilda Gurney ran Woodland Hills Pony Club, several Olympic medalists came and taught, not to mention international trainers). Delegate someone to reach out to the local media for coverage. Have a contest for a child , for an adult,for the dog down the street that best  sings “I love you”to its owner.

When California Dressage Society was founded, the members got together,decided on a clinician,and arranged a clinic. Now, it has to be an ‘event’ that takes months,even years, to plan.

Has the world truly  become that much more complex that simple acts cannot be achieved?

If  horse sport stakeholders are to regain some power, perhaps they better start exercising their options.



January doldrums

15 Jan


Horse sport  really IS a microcosm of life itself.

The other day, an email exhorted me–and everyone else– to live as though today is The Last Day. To really smell the flower; to  recognize what a gift that next breath is; to live in heightened awareness.

But the reality is…in order to have heightened awareness, there has to be feeling like a zombie,or at least muddling through some otherwise precious moments of time as though they do not matter all that much. Squandering the riches,etc, for no particularly good or bad reason.

Highs require lows,and vice versa.

That is the commitment of horse sport: to seek the highs,accept the lows, and juggle the frustration.

This is the only sport humans have ever devised that requires an alien partner, that asks for communication between species on such an exquisite and wordless level. Humans may work with dogs, with dolphins, with primates–but NOTHING is the same as sitting on, listening to, making suggestions to a horse.

The next show season is just about to get underway, washing away the doldrums that were part of the post-Olympic depression. This last Olympics in particular produced so many highs in horse sport: Michael Jung putting his name in  the history books, becoming World, Olympic and European champion all at the same time; Carl Hester producing two of the dressage Team Gold horses AND riders; Nick Skelton finding the desire and the spirit and the luck to produce yet another  unbelievable showjumping athlete, Big Star, for Britain’s jumping Team Gold.

It is of course not possible to have sport like that every week– the Olympics definitely has set the bar.

But this show season, it feels as though the bar is going to be raised again. There is that much optimism,that much promise.

Fingers crossed.


And —


Bigger. Better. BiggerBetterbiggerbetterbiggerbetter

7 Jan


NextOne Edward Gal/Next One


In 1984, the Los Angeles Olympics was a huge event. The remarkable re-appearance of U.S. Olympian Hilda Gurney and her legendary partner,Keen (after a long, mysterious neurological problem that paralyzed Keen) was a jump-start for interest in dressage in the U.S.  The Dutch team was Annemarie Sanders, Tineke Bartels, and Jo Rutten (3 major figures in international dressage)–but the 4th rider, the reserve, was Bert Rutten,  the 20 year old son of Jo. He went home without his reserve horse–it was sold to Germany during the Games.

If the internet existed back then, these would be stories that EVERYONE knows and appreciates.

Now, with the Olympics livestreamed and news reported almost as it happens, it is difficult to find awe and inspiration on a daily basis.

London Olympics, dressage found Carl Hester in a unique limelight — not only did he produce 2 of the 3 Olympic team gold  horses, he produced another rider,and the combination won Olympic individual gold and currently hold two of the three world records in the sport.

This past weekend, at the CDI 3*  Drachten (Holland), Edward Gal rode the winner of the small tour, Asther de Jeu, including a wonderful freestyle ride that was also their first. Despite some jitters, the mare gave proof of extraordinary talent and a willingness that made the partnership extra special.

In the Grand Prix tour, Edward rode his Olympic partner, Undercover, and showed that his faith in this remarkable athlete may be vindicated as the horse settled in to the test as the movements unrolled.

But perhaps the bigger story was the 2nd and 3rd place.

Second went to Edward on Next One, a Dutch gelding he took on at age 12, a small tour schoolmaster. The trainer of trainers, Herbert Rehbein, once said that the way to train a horse is ‘to find something to love about it, so you can reward it.’  The past few years, Next One, who turns 18 this year, has continued to develop into an international Grand Prix horse,and at  this show, he won both the GP and the freestyle with convincing,deserved scores.

Third in the Grand Prix and second in the freestyle was Hans-Peter Minderhoud on Lord of Loxley, a horse used to a rider’s long legs as he was shown this last year by Australian WEG team rider Brett Parbery. Here, with the extra training time and the truly superb riding of Minderhoud, the horse showed every inch why Parbery hoped to make his Olympic team last year.

Congratulations to the riders from Harskamp (now under contract to Glock) and  a great training program.


The Dutch are now considered one of  dressage sport’s titans, but of course it was not always that way. KNHS, the Dutch Equestrian Federation,  hashed out a plan that has taken them to the top. They have done this without the lottery funding that Great Britain currently enjoys.

In the U.S., Olympian Robert Dover produced the 2nd Emerging Dressage Athlete Program–aimed at younger dressage  riders, and endeavoring to give them the kind of support,information,and education that the highly successful Emerging Athlete Program (run by The Legend ,George Morris) offers to  younger hunter/jumper riders. Over several days, riders were given riding lessons, worked with a sports physio, farrier, media consultant, and generally prepared for athletic competition.

While USEF (United States Equestrian Federation) continues to moan about ‘needing more money’ and ‘needing more money’ and needing more –wait for it– money, Dover has found a way to get a major program off the ground.

So perhaps USEF needs to better balance how to find resources for programs as well as infrastructure.