Archive | June, 2014

Sign the Petition please:

30 Jun

standing on soapbox

A new candidate for FEI Presidency: me!

I propose a candidate who sees everything with a fresh view; years in horses as well as marketing and entertainment; years pouring blandishments into the ears of critics, wining and dining the multitudes in order to create the proper atmosphere for good reviews and good fortunes.

The incumbent will win by a landslide, but still — a message can and should be sent.

Here we are, rolling towards WEG, rolling towards the election for the FEI Presidency. Rolling towards the next 4 years of equestrian sport. Wondering, really, if the state of equestrian horse sport is such that NO ONE is even bothering to offer to run for this job,which has become more of a corporate entity than an organization dedicated to horse welfare as the highest priority.

But why?

Sponsorship for equestrian just comes from the same tired almost cliched sources, when there is an entire world out there that loves horses and could be tapped for contributions: entertainment,–the list goes on and on.

Horse welfare is corrupted in nearly every discipline–and yet the rules and regulations already exist to control and reduce the problem. We need our organization to ENFORCE the existing rules, not make more and more plans and regulations.

The partnership with the horse is the single most important part of horse sport. We need stories that touch the heart, that reinforce what is so special about our love for the horse, our partnership with this amazing creature. The horse is the star,and yet so little research, so little funds, spent by our own organization to understand, to promote.

My ‘candidacy’ is really meant to be a message to FEI :

that the stakeholders really do care about horse sport and welfare of the horse ;

that we want to keep the lines of communication open in both directions, but expect real change;

that we need transparency in reality, not just as a thought on a page.

Recently, FEI held elections for Rider Representatives for each discipline. Here is how the voting went (and yes, there was a glitch in the online voting link which FEI says it corrected a week or so before the deadline closed):

Jumping – 52 voted/2,399 eligible to vote
Dressage – 58/632
Eventing – 62/3,271
Driving – 45/461
Endurance – 169/3,337
Vaulting – 26/229
Para-Equestrian – 16/258
Reining – 3/268


So the fault of seeming indifference is on both sides.

And yet, I offer myself on the sacrificial plate, just to enliven the upcoming “election”.

shaking hands

Here is the link to the petition: Vote For Me, and am hoping to collect enough signatures that we send a clear message to our organization.


Please sign the petition and help send a message.

Thank you.













Boundaries and paradoxes

22 Jun


Horse sports are a matter of paradoxes, like so much else that humans enjoy


In dressage, we ask horses to ‘go to the line’ and display movement that a horse usually reserves for high excitement, high emotions, even sex.

A stallion piaffes, passages in front of a mare.  Another stallion sits down on his haunches, rears in front of his competitor,  gracefully pirouettes away from a hoof blow.

In jumping, a horse usually only jumps something that is in the way of a speedy exit to save his life, and he more than a few times will jump flat, barely clearing whatever the obstacle is.

Migrating across country, horses can be seen in a steady jog or ‘pony trot’ to conserve needed energy, save tired muscles.


And yet: we ask them to piaffe, passage–and then drop into the zone of serenity and calmly, confidently stride out in a measured ,stretching walk, only to pick up again into total excitement at the other end of the arena.


We ask them to jump huge fences set at odd angles and distances that require enormous push power and reaction to tiny aids that have to be very precise if the horse is to keep its focus and clear a course. The best partnerships are built on trust and confidence–the horse truly believes he can clear the moon, let alone the rails that form the course.

We ask them to gallop across terrain, hurtling over various objects, some solid, some less so, when any sane horse would go around just about every one of them.


London Olympics - Equestrian Jumping(McCool Photography)

In breed classes, those wonderful horses bred for work, Morgans, Saddlebreds, are kept in dark stalls, chased with popper bags, shod in unbelievable ‘action’ shoes, and asked to look as though they are out of their minds as they careen around the ring,to0ting a rider, pulling a light cart.

Spectators are always looking for the seam of high drama–and then bemoaning when it crosses over into unhappy behavior from the equine partner–let alone serious tragedy.

Flapping tongues, nervous sweat, wringing tails, tense performances– that’s about all the drama once can get out of a dressage arena. Of course, once in a while, the angels sing and we get to watch poetry in motion, a human-equine partnership where it truly feels as though there is a conversation going on, a sublime conversation that we are privileged to watch.

In the sports that include jumping, the drama of flat arenas is usually a spectacular round–either brilliant in the savage confidence and power on display–or the number of rails knocked down.

In cross-country, as we have seen all too often in this age of internet immediacy, we have death. And death is a pretty big show-stopper, a pretty implacable boundary. Is the solution to ‘make fences that fall down’ as Olympic medalist Hilda Gurney suggested years ago..? Gurney, a team bronze medalist in dressage , also won the U.S. Open Eventing Championship with her OTTB, the home-trained Flag’s Elf. The preparation so many years ago ,when long format was the pinnacle of the sport, prompted her to start thinking even then about ways to make it safer for the horses–the partner who does not get asked if he wants to do it that day.

And now,of course, we have endurance,which used to be a test of conditioning and horsemanship as riders tackled courses renowned for terrain, for tricky places where one had to decide whether to walk and lose time, or trot and trust in the fitness program.

But endurance has become ‘endurance racing’ and like racing itself, the seamy, polluted and corrupt part of ‘the sport of kings’ has tainted the very image of the sport. Endurance in horse sport has become flat-out racetrack courses with riders going as fast as they can for the 160 km.

The result has been death, leg fractures, drug-induced heart attacks–all of the horses. Unlike cross-country, no riders seem to get hurt in this ‘sport’.

The paradox here is that a sport that was devoted to fitness and horse management is now increasingly ruled by riders who may never have even seen their horse ‘partner’ before that day, that race–and certainly have no idea as to the horse’s fitness, idiosyncrasies, needs,preferences.

I am sure everything will go wonderfully on the big stage that is World Equestrian Games. There will be only ‘pretty pictures’ for the media and spectators–in all the disciplines.

Afterwards, it will be business as usual.

Wow, WEG is around the corner

7 Jun

Carl Pippa

(Two top horsemen–Carl Hester, Pippa Funnell)



If anyone wants to know how influential Carl Hester is–just look around at all the horses that now get regular turnout; get hacked out; get ridden in snaffles; that get to live like horses rather than jewels in a setting. It is just amazing how many people tell me they ‘have always done this’…

On behalf of horses everywhere: THANK YOU, CARL!

Shout-out to Eric Lamaze, for forging new partnerships after the loss of the incredible air machine/partner, the KWPN stallion  Hickstead. Of course, the experience and knowledge and Mr. Lamaze’s incredible timing did not get lost, but the desire to mind-meld, to find and use the required energy to forge the special relationship necessary for top  of the podium top sport –that seems to be back, making the WEG podiums ever more complex to predict.

In dressage, no one needs any special talent to predict the team gold.

Barring heretofore never seen catastrophe, Germany has such depth this year, they have more than the requisite formula of THREE horses that can score over 80…they actually have extras and near extras.

Only team coach Monica Theodorescu can have that kind of smile on her face; everyone else is scrambling to figure out how to stand on the lower podiums.

In an embarrassment of riches, mostly descending from Donnerhall,Germany will now have yet another major arrow in the quiver– the unmatchable Totilas is back and hot on the hunt for a team spot.  The horse is nowhere near the level of artistry or partnership he displayed in those legendary years with Edward Gal. But the horse is such a phenomenon, under the skillful tutelage of super-coach Sjef Janssen, the horse appears happy enough with his lot in life, and still shows his unreal piaffe, which the judges are3 only too eager to reward.

In eventing, the ridiculous FEI suspension of Kiwi riders Jock Paget and Kevin McNab has been strangely lifted. Too late for Paget to really have a season; too late for him to be given back his Burghley title; too late for either rider to recover the income, the life,etc, in the strange world of FEI where one is presumed guilty and must somehow prove innocence. Which would not be so terrible if : A–such logic ruled ALL such drug suspensions, but do not seem to truly affect certain riders in endurance. And that is B as well.

Endurance at WEG will probably be incredibly well-regulated and protected: the sport has never before suffered such public scrutiny andhorror at the major abuse of horseflesh in top endurance. Leg fractures, heart attacks, horses followed by screaming crowds in vehicles, horses illegally whipped and flogged–the list just goes on and on.

But WEG, I will make bets with anyone, will see everything hunky-dory in endurance.  I only hope the improvements last longer than this one competition–but am not holding my breath.

So the road to WEG features lots of combinations, which makes the actual competition more interesting than in the days when everyone moaned that the order could be called out even before a horse took its warm-up circle, no matter what sport.