Archive | May, 2013

Bread and circus…

27 May

Excellence is wonderful.

British dressage rider Phoebe Peters has dominated recent Pony Championship classes,whether in England or the rest of Europe, beating heavily favored riders from  all over.

American dressage rider Charlotte Jorst and her  6-year-old  Dutch stallion  Vitalis have set record  American scores (9.2) in the US qualifiers and look set to take one of the coveted spots for Verden’s World Young Dressage  Horse Championships later this summer. After the Championship success of the amazing, British bred, trained and ridden Farouche, will another long-legged chestnut come out on top?

Austrian show jumper Hugo Simon, a legend unto himself, still at the very top of his sport, looks set to celebrate his 71st birthday in August with no doubt another win over BIG jumps on a demanding course, possibly  riding CT–his successor to  ET, Simon’s partner for unbelievable successes and  a horse that has been cloned and is a legend in its own right. (Who even knows that horse legends have been cloned, outside some of the small world that reads horse sport media??? )

It is excellence that makes spectators become involved and care enough to wonder what the next performance will bring. It may be excellence that helps an athlete to attract attention in the first place, but  it is the always-real possibility of failure that keeps a top athlete in the public eye.

In most sports,  in much of the world, these riders and their horses are champions and are covered as such, favorites of  media coverage. Their success–and failure–is part of everyday print,  TV,radio and the  internet .

US dressage rider Jan Ebeling and his partner, the mare Rafalca, made the US Olympic team for London–and then proved to be the center of a media storm not because of his excellent results before and during the Olympics, but because  his “dancing horse” is part-owned by Ann Romney, wife of GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Jan-Ebelingfinger

The past few months, Jan and Rafalca have been competing in CDIs and have received their highest scores ever, even as they are getting ready to be part of the prestigious  U.S. team that will compete at Aachen later this summer.

Where is the media interest now? Where is the acknowledgement that two athletes are in the best form of their lives?

There is always debate on what makes horse sport attractive and whether it is a good idea to make it more like other sports or keep it unique. Should riders dress more like gymnasts or cyclists in spandex?  Should helmets now sprout sponsor decals?. Does it help to make jumping cross-country easier to avoid even the idea that such effort can have an unsuccessful outcome?   How much success is due to better social media manners instead of hours spent riding/thinking/solving problems/getting better?

Horse sport has the added problem that half the available stars do not speak, do not endorse anything and do not give interviews, no matter how photogenic they may be.

Is circus a dirty word or a pinnacle to strive for? Maybe it has to  be both  in order to succeed.

America’s horse

20 May

mustangs

 

They are the forgotten.

Of course, that can be said about so many on this planet–people, plants, entire species.

When someone wants whatever it is the forgotten have–usually air and water and land and resources– then loss of memory is a convenient human trait.

Mustangs indeed arrived in North America along with their European riders. But horses lived on this continent millions of years ago, their fossils and remains found all over the place for those who want to look.. The argument rages on–are horses native wildlife and therefore a protected species, or just an introduced  fauna now becoming a ‘pest’ and taking water and grass and land and space away from competing life forms such as cattle?

“Unbranded” is a movie about land and space and mustangs, here is a link to the trailer:             

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                          http://vimeo.com/60700338

Four friends decide to ride mustangs across several thousand miles of the horses’ original habitat. To make a statement, to give themselves an achievement, to speak out for something they believe in and want.

UNBRANDED-MOVIE-TRAILER-440x287

Sure, life is about opposing forces and everyone cannot be a winner,certainly not all the time. But even as the world becomes more streamlined and technological, and as we all become a global village–mere points of optic fibre light–it is nice to remember that once there was space and time and we were just visitors..

 

 

Monday…

13 May

So there is a scandal in horse racing–steroids– and a scandal in endurance–steroids.

The Thoroughbred Daily News has undertaken a 6-part series: “A History of Drugs in Racing.”

Part I:

http://www.thoroughbreddailynews.com/restricted/pdf/magazine/Magazine-Drugs%20in%20Racing-Part%20I.pdf?CFID=72873979&CFTOKEN=35090085

Part II:

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http://www.thoroughbreddailynews.com/restricted/pdf/magazine/Magazine-Drugs%20in%20Racing-Part%20II.pdf?CFID=80389990&CFTOKEN=22516891

Part III is titled:  “The International Difference” and I look forward to reading it.

The Swiss Equestrian Federation, now joined by several others, has requested a  major inquiry into the current scandal-plagued situation, etc etc.

It can only be hoped that this request, plus the court of public opinion (rolling on floor giggling) is enough to effect positive change.

 

Meanwhile, with horse sport in full swing as the top sport competitors start backward countdown from next year’s World Equestrian Games in Normandy,  something positive is called for– and here it is.

Totilas---Rotterdam

 

 

Yes, this is still  the gold standard . The fantasy  made as real as may be possible when trying to create partnership between two sentient beings, one of which is  alien.

Good luck to horsemen everywhere  in trying to top this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, you do not have to re-invent the wheel

9 May

 

Sheikh+Mohammed+Newmarket+Races+o4DxJmfkvgll

 

 

 

The governing body 0f horse sport, FEI, is undoubtedly veering out of control.

The somewhat aristocratic air has given way to a dictatorship, and the results in sport have been woeful. In trying to promote ho0rse sport in new areas of the globe, FEI has too often sacrificed the other parts of the globe–the very parts that helped FEI gain its stronghold.

One of the latest debacles is the proposal to cut Olympic dressage  qualification in the Americas to one. Just as dressage at the Olympic level (Grand Prix) is becoming a reality for many of the 37 South/Central American countries, they are basically being told not to bother. The perennial heavyweight countries at the Pan American Games have been the United States and Canada.

Now, at least one of those countries has to  hope to  travel to World Equestrian Games (France) and try to be one of the top four teams in order to win an Olympic slot. The countries expected to fill those slots will travel a few hundred miles and barely change time zones.

But wait–help is not only on the way, the entire plan has been outlined successfully.

Faced with a destruction of the show jumping  Nation’s Cup series, when FEI–so grateful for the huge cash input from the Saudi Equestrian Fund–planned to make shows like Aachen, Spruce Meadows,Hickstead all BID for the right to hold a qualifier, the European countries took a deep breath, and the European Equestrian Federation was conceived.                                          

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                                       http://www.euroequestrian.eu/

Starting with 26 members, now 43, the EEF includes the major European  horse sport players. And indeed, in numbers, there is a counter-balance of power. The idea of bidding for qualifiers has quietly disappeared; horse sport once again goes on in Europe as it has for some time. Also, the EEF is now home to Associate Members recently suspended by FEI:

IDOC – International Dressage Officials Club

IDRC – International Dressage Riders Club

         IEOA – International Equestrian Organisers Alliance
         ISJC – International Show Jumping Officials Club
         IVC – International Vaulting Club

So, I propose to the countries of the Americas–now is the time for the EFA– the Equestrian Federation of the Americas.

Just click on the link above, adapt the policies and statutes,and stand up for horse sport on a continent’s level.

 

Sometimes, the story just is better than the high concept…

6 May

badminton press conf

See the guy on the right, the one no one is really looking at or directing questions to?

Well, that is who won Badminton Horse Trials this year. Jonathan (Jock) Paget. The OTHER Kiwi. Not Toddy, not the darling of the moment, Andrew Nicholson, but Jock Paget. He was 1st and 14th with his two horses, Clifton Promise and Clifton Lush. He helped New Zealand win the team bronze at the London Olympics, which help[ed him gain 3rd place in the world rankings.

Before turning to horses full time, he worked as a bricklayer and thought about being a bronc rider (must be an honored profession down in the Antipodes, coz  Ozzie WEG dressage rider  Bret Parbery dressage riders also started as bronc rider).

In any case, all the buzz has been about the Grand Slam aspirations of  British rider William Fox-Pitt (5th today )Kiwi rider  Andrew Nicholson (3rd) and  German rider Michael Jung (2nd). All great riders with great equine partners.

But only one person to date has ever won Badminton on the first try– The Legend, Mark Todd. Who has won 4 Badmintons, the most recent in 2011 after returning to the sport he left for several years.

And now, another Kiwi has achieved this honor. Yes, this is Jock Paget’s first Badminton and first double-clear show jumping round at a 4*.

Somehow, it just feels right, as horse sport changes and morphs into new versions of the disciplines, it just feels right that The Legend’s achievement has been passed to another Kiwi–and no longer the unknown one.

+++++

The Derby. By which Americans mean the Kentucky Derby and the rest of the racing world is divided between loyalty to the Epsom version and the New World  copycat version.

In any case, this year’s Kentucky Derby was won by total class: The owners,the Phipps, one of the last great racing family dynastys–100 years and this is their FIRST Derby winner–  they have bred for ‘the look of eagles’ through countless generations of slim,eager,ambitious equine hopes and dreams. The trainer, Shug McGaughey, one of the few (and getting fewer) great horsemen still in the ranks of trainers, up there in the pantheon with Sunny Jim, Leroy Jolley, Johnny Nerud–only without a Derby winner. And now he has  one, hopefully a great one, in Orb.

At a time when horse racing is in disfavor and ill repute worldwide, this touch of class cannot but help restore some of the glamor and shine that has always been the horses’ great hearts.

Here’s to you, Shug!

shug orb

(It takes a team in horse racing: Orb,wearing the Phipps family colors, ridden by Joel Rosario and trained by the incomparable Shug McGaughey)

+++++++++++++++++++++

CarlGollySaumur

A photo of Carl Hester and his new partner, Dances With Wolves (Golly),after winning the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Special at Saumur CDI.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.