Archive | September, 2013


23 Sep

What does it mean to win?  To come in first?

Sure—everyone who goes up center line, who enters the arena, they are all winners. And everyone loves a winner:  that special, heady feeling of success, achievement, magic.

This past week, there were all kinds of winners in horse sports across the board..

Schooling shows, regional championships, national championships, international qualifiers…. everything had nail-biting moments, reasons to cheer, reasons to commiserate about what might have been and surely would be, next time.

But everything took a back seat this past weekend, as I read Facebook entries from the family and friends of U.S. event trainer/rider—and wife and mom – Amy Barrington, who is surely fighting to win as she starts rehabilitation at  the world-renowned  Shepherd Center, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Barrington –yes she was wearing a helmet–suffered a serious traumatic brain injury as the result of a riding accident.

The first signs of consciousness have already appeared, the first yes/no, the first squeezing of hands—the first smile. It will be a long road.

Here’s to you, Amy, and family and friends. Yours is the  success I hope and pray for.

Amy B holding reins

(Amy holding her reins for first time since accident.)



Good-bye to two great hearts

16 Sep

There was a ‘golden age’ of horse sport, at least in the US, when the American teams were the ones to beat, certainly in show jumping and for a while in long-format eventing.  The US had strong programs, strong coaches in the three disciplines of jumping, eventing and dressage, and won its first Olympic team bronze in dressage after a long dry spell.

There were families who had horses, supported horse sport, produced next generations. Very much as it continues to be in Europe.

Then, everything in the U.S. took a different turn, so that today, we have less open land, far fewer horse-culture families, very different international structure and coaching.

But the U.S. remarkably kept finding sponsors—the key to a sport’s health.

Two of the top American horse sport sponsors recently passed away, and the sport is so much the poorer for their absence. They came from different parts of the U.S., but settled in Southern California. They all rode at successful FEI level, then began to explore other ways to contribute to top sport.

Linda Fowler  created Epona Farm in order to provide USEF with a West Coast outpost,  hosting training sessions, clinics, and eventually providing a base for Olympic medalist and  trainer Debbie McDonald. Behind the scenes, Linda  made unheralded contributions of all kinds, trying to help  match success to her passion for top sport.

Dick and Jane Brown  formed a 25 year  union with Debbie’s Olympic team partner, Guenter Seidel. But even more, they helped guide the U.S. into understanding how to fundraise, how to create both shows and parties to help take sport into the 21st century.  The arena at Gladstone, US team headquarters, is named for them.

Linda Fowler and Dick Brown are gone, but Jane Brown is still with us: a toast to a great human being, unique and wonderful indeed. Condolences on the loss of your great partner.

From the head of David Pincus…

9 Sep

This week’s blog entry is brought to you courtesy of David Pincus, whose lovely essay is already dividing horse people on various social media.

Thank you, David !

horsehead sculptures



We all know that currently the sport of dressage is under scrutiny , a group of horse lovers are hell bent on eradicating what they perceive as abusive training methods from the sport their actions are : to expose riders with unethical riding style and expulsion of show officials with defective eye sight not able to perform their duties effectively.

This educated body of experts after a long scientific research has identified exactly what is abuse and what not and circulated on the internet their findings, from what I gather , horse abuse is centred only around the horses neck and head ,any position of either the neck or head which deviate from the straight as a plank is considered un-natural and abusive to the horse .

Contrarily to every ones thinking the FEI, BEF and BD are taking these issues very seriously and in order to prevent tongues wagging and air turning blue from these allegations , conducted their own research and findings of how to preserve the image of the sport in the public’s eye and prevent disturbing images from being displayed on the internet.

There were suggestions to exclude spectators from all international competitions, obviously on a vote this idea was rejected as impractical , in most shows the only spectators are close relatives of a competitor or associates of some official that provided his mates with free admittance . The second idea was to conceal the working in arena from unauthorised photographers , that failed too as equine photographers are a very resilient characters willing to live and work in the most inhospitable environments including the Danish wild bush, in pursuant of their goals, they use modern technology like CIA spy drones to foil any attempt to hide any bit of information from the public.


After long consultation with all the stake holders the governing bodies came the idea that changes to the sport are the required solution and recreated international dressage, the following changes were undertaken.

On the first day of a FEI championships tests will be ridden bitless, on the second day all tests will be performed bridle less and the final championship class will be performed tack less.

It did require some changes to the scale of training as riding from behind into a contact was no longer applicable, the other technical requirements stayed the same.


Top Competitor took the the sports reputation and image very seriously ,he was going to insure that every thing will be transparent out in the open and if any natural fundamentalists are around he will expose every thing, proving to the world that dressage riders has nothing to be ashamed of.

He was delighted with the FEI latest move and supported it wholeheartedly.


At the first CDI employing the new rules Top Competitor was working in for the “Bit less, bridle less, no saddle championship”.

As he entered the main arena he was pleased to see the electronic judging machine in place, programed for the new judging system, its laser tentacles’ zooming on to his horses bio acceptable head position.

It was one of his ideas, in order to make the judging fair this roll was taken away from human beings and intrusted to a machine that will not show weakness of nationalistic or personal biases, even if it was developed and made by Siemens in Germany , financed by a Danish body called “horses for grazing only” this machine was bias less .

The strength of the new system was that the elements required to be evaluated were reduced to one: the HEAD POSITION.

As competitors performed the test the the computerised scanners would lock on to the horses head position, even if the horse only lower the head to rub his nose or remove a fly a loud sirens would announce a warning “nose approaching the vertical, nose will reach vertical innnnnnnn!!!!!!!!!! 5, 3 , 1, seconds, vertical breached, we have rollkur, repeat, we have rollkur. Please can all spectators with video evidence report the offence via the BD forum’. and FB or TWITTER groups to the FEI. All you human judges if you want to one day be intrusted with the judging again please note this is RK not a fly removing action”(all this in 7 languages including Swedish)

As the test is ridden tack less, should a head position deviation happen , obviously the offender is most likely to be the horse who would be penalized for SELF ABUSE ,

on the 3rd offense the horse would be struck out of the competition with the rider completing the test on his own..

Top Competitor’s test was un-interrupted, the sirens kept stump the giant search light never illuminated, he was leaving the arena in a free walk on no rein with a big smile on his face;  just as he was about to exit the stadium he saw a group of ladies dressed in combat fatigue a appearing from behind the bushes excitedly shouting to each others “ LETS CHECK HIS BITS”

Top Competitor gave them one of his sideways looks and calmly replied back “the only bits left on me or my horse you ladies aren’t doing any CHECKING well not in front of all these people unless there is a special prize ”

Judging judging judging

3 Sep

judgepanel Two



The European Championships in Dressage and Show Jumping were just amazing this year

Roger-Yves Bost and the great mare, Myrtille Paulois  ( Dollar du Murier  x Grand Veneur)  , were individual Show Jumping champions with just super rides , a total of 1.58 TIME faults. ‘Bosty’ proved all over again that confidence in and  the ability to stay in balance with the equine partner is more important than classic style.  

Best of all in show jumping, except for the odd water jump, there is hardly any need for judges: whoever leaves the fences up and gets through the timers fastest is the winner.

Dressage, of course, is all the opposite.

If ever a sport was about the journey, not just the destination—it is dressage.

Each and every step — even the before-the-bell  warm-up around the outside of the arena, as well as the walk around after the final salute—it is all the fodder of endless discussion and dissection.

No one using any methodology known to mankind could expect that 3,5,7 or any other number of judges could come up with exactly the same  scores for what they are watching.

In fact, if there could be an exact way to measure everything in subjectively judged sport—then the spectator ratings would undoubtedly fall to nothing. Perhaps this is why soccer, for example, refuses to have instant replay: much more media coverage if fans can agonize over every referee decision.

Certainly, half the fun of subjective sports is the ‘water cooler’ discussions, where the judge opinions are mercilessly torn apart and cruelly proven incorrect, in favor of some other more personally favorable ranking.


Anyone who wants to criticize dressage judges should at least once get a Grand Prix dressage test sheet and score each box in REAL time—with comments when called for.

Studies have shown that transparency—the public availability of scores by movement for each judge—is the single best way to improve judging and the public perception of judging. Certainly this has been true for dressage and there is no one (hardly anyone) who might dispute that our current judging is the best the sport has ever experienced.

Which is not to say that the judging decisions at Euros were all perfect. Some of the scores were silly and others were so chauvinist, it was a kind of throwback to 2004.

Nevertheless, I am grateful that the scores were made public and can only applaud the decision to do this. And can only hope that this decision will carry over not only to Normandy next year but to Rio and the 2016 Olympics.


I am still waiting for the  2012 Olympic dressage scores to see the light of day…