A plan for horse sport in the U.S.

29 Jul

1986 World Dressage Championships, Dr. Reiner Klimke  reportedly dragged the rest of the German team with him to watch the cutting horse exhibitions, telling them, “Now THAT’S the kind of riding we need—horses really light and responsive, riders who let the horses work!”

Dutch team rider Bert Rutten also competed at these Championships ( after being part of the Dutch team at the 1984 Olympics and coach some years later) and he noted that ‘cowboys—at least the good ones—are a great resource of Americans. The horses are light, they have real work ethic, they sit down behind. It’s a good place to start—because no one from any other country is going to  give you the knowledge. You are always better developing it at home.”  Bert was very proud that he was invited to have a go on a cutting horse ,”and I only lost my first cow! After that, it was great.”

Yes, sure, cowboys can only take horse sport so far—it is a different connection, a different ultimate goal. But after watching so much misguided, half-baked ‘training’ going on, at least they provide a process that in the best hands (Ray Hunt, Tom Dorrance,  Reata and Buck Brannaman) creates a foundation for a horse that understands the non-negotiables:  work ethic; go/whoa; of all the directions you could go, ‘forward’ is by far the best choice.

In the United States, with all the big distances to cover and lack of a unified training process, I cannot help but wonder why more use is not made of United States Pony Club, when clubs exist in every part of this huge country..

Our Olympians—as well as SO many all around good horsemen—used to come from the ranks of Pony Club. Moving up the levels meant being able to care for a horse, help another  rider, accept responsibility, be able to explain decisions, and in general be someone to whom a horse might be entrusted, whether for an hour, a day, a year.


Olympic bronze medalist Hilda Gurney used to teach a local Pony Club and  in turn, ask other high-level riders and trainers to guest-teach, to seek out talent. This produced, among the many horsemen, the current president of the U.S. Eventing Association as well as several well-known dressage trainers.

It should not be that  difficult to reproduce this kind of ‘pay it forward’  program.

Maybe this is the infrastructure we need to get all the other horse sport  programs going.

To find the next generation full of passion and ambition as well as talent.

uspc kids


One Response to “A plan for horse sport in the U.S.”

  1. Karen Drown July 31, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    My girlfriend Lyn called me from Toronto, I believe, to tell me about Dr. Klimke’s insistence that the German riders watch her horses. She built Hidden Valley Ranch for her quarter horses. Karen Drown

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