Where do we draw the line? Who gets to draw it?

28 Aug

Below is a link to a new shooting star in gymnastics,  Li Qi of China:




She is 13 years old, this routine is extraordinary. So extraordinary, was almost relieved she slightly muffed the final landing so she remains human and fallible.
But to perform like this…to make THIS extreme suppleness, athleticism, expression and power, balance and rhythm into her comfort zone…one has to accept the training sessions were not always pretty.
Why is this all right and not all right for horses?
I know, I know: we are their guardians, their stewards, trying to be their partners. We must speak up for them, because partnership is the crux of what we do in horse sport,whether it be to have a perfect pirouette, sliding stop, triple to an in-and-out, cones, etc etc. Partnership and communication–that is horse sport’s glory and fantasy.

Lately, there is another round of outcries about horse sport, horse welfare, training techniques, etc. Ugly photos, extreme positions..and so on.

All I ask is that people try to differentiate between what might be necessary and what is not. Which horses go into the arena basically focused and successful—and which ones do not. Because in the end, we must judge PERFORMANCE, not supposed intent.
This is why the judges at Young Horse and Aachen –among many others– gave marks that rewarded the performance they saw, not suppositions.

I know this is a can of worms, but the time to discuss this rationally is upon us. We always need to question, to debate–but we do NOT need to witch-hunt. The days of internet bashing simply have to stop: they do the sport no good, they do the trainers no good, they do us, the audience no good.


4 Responses to “Where do we draw the line? Who gets to draw it?”

  1. Per Waaler August 28, 2015 at 8:55 pm #

    The physical aspect of this is not as serious as the psycological. Look at your gymnast, and assume she does not want to perform. Now twist her arm behind her back untill she screams “i give!”. repeat this every time she gives you a hint of her plans for secession, and you have a performance baced on an implied threat, not on an invitation to dance, and an acceptence of it. As to the media uproar, this is only because of the unwillingness of the establishment to do somthing about the problem. It is kind of a gurrilla warfare waged against an impossibly large opponent, using the most obvious targets to win its points. Does it work? Will it continue? Instead ask yourself: What would hapen if we applied a 0 tollerence at shows. Not even LDR (aka rollkyr). What if we used nose band testing devices, to insure that the horses with many 100 of pounds of preasure on their nosebands, (and thereby also on the pole, as the nose is conical, and makes the noseband seek downwards with the preasure.) What if the judges were told not to judge the front legs, and adhear to the description in the rules. Would this “ruin the sport”? if so, we should not call it a sport, but a gladiator exebition. Enough is enough! There will still be winners, and loosers, and many of the ones winning will be the same. There will still be sold horses for alot of money, but they might come from different trainers/dealers. It is alittle like poletics. If one side wins, someone gets favored, at the sake of someone else. But the horses must not be the loosers!

    • horsesportnews August 28, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

      How can we assume she does not want to perform? She has been BRED to perform-=-in truth, probably almost as much as the horses have been BRED to want to please us. Dr. Klimke said, “We ride horses because they let us.”
      Sure, I see lots of dead-eyed horses, but most of them have not been ‘abused’ , just ridden with inconsistent, unclear aids and they have come to accept that. Why? Because that is what they are bred to do.
      That is why Ed-and-Toto were so magical. Why Charlotte and Valegro are standardbearers for partnership that looks effortless. Because they gave us athleticism plus grace–that specialness that touches great partnerships, whether it is Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, or a rider and a horse.
      You really think the JUDGES are ruining the sport?
      The judges are there to judge PERFORMANCE.
      There is a reason very few horse-rider combinations ever move us, the spectators, and it is because the riders do not develop these special partnerships. Why? Because at the top of any sport, there can only be a few great ones. If every schoolkid can run like Usain Bolt, then what is the point of USain Bolt?
      What is the point of sport?
      But NO ONE at the very top got there only because someone made them do it, human or horse.

  2. Per Waaler August 29, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

    I am not asuming she does not want to perform. I am persuming she is wanting to perform for personal gain. I am asking what if she would not want to perform. like a horse that does not want to perform. Obedience is only an issue if one of the dancing pair does not want to. And in this case the code of conduct is there to asure that the other of the pair does not get their will thorugh by means that compromice the horses wellfare. Fred astair never had to twist Ginger Roger’s arm to get her to dance, did he? I always wach the warm upps. Very interesting. There is tremendous difference in how some riders ask little, and reward greatly (Kristina Sprehe, Carl Hester, Uta Graff, Ingrid Klimke, Helene Langhaneberg among others) and others remind their horses of who is the boss! Zero tolerence of abusive training methods would not inflict any hadshipp on the preformences of theese riders, while others would have great problems. So what. Like in politics, some winn and some lose.

    • horsesportnews August 29, 2015 at 10:21 pm #

      Per–when I watch your horses on video, they look like willing partners. Ditto when it is Carl, Ingrid, and others.
      I do not know about your horses, but even Carl and Ingrid have moments where the horse is NOT a willing partner. It is just not that black and white.
      What I love is the HOW–the tiny incremental ‘asks’ to get the horse re-focused, and if not offering, no longer saying No.

      If we are going to limit competition to the handful of rider/trainer/horsemen who can do this, then no one will really be able to afford to put on shows or pay the judges (who are always being told it is their fault anyway–as though they do not want arenas full of happy horses ridden by superior riders whose rhytm and balance and aids are never in question).

      The problem is: who gets to be Benevolent Despot of Dressage? Who gets to watch Rider A and point that way (exit) and Rider B goes this way (enter).
      ANd what is the point? The sport needs to GROW, not get smaller,

      I do not cross the street,as we say, to watch most performance tests and mainly watch warm-ups at a show. The test goes as the test goes. Enter A up centerline,etc etc.
      When it is one of the riders I particularly enjoy,then I watch everything I can, try to see and feel the tiny little adjustments.

      Is it OK that the rider over there is not highly schooled, sits a little unbalanced and therefore is overly attached by the reins? Even as they approach Enter at A, the horse gaits get flatter and the back locks more as it knows the reins are soon going to become the primary means of the rider staying on…and the scores will reflect that.
      Is that preferable to the rider over here who is obviously over-riding and demanding way outside any comfort zone known to mankind, but has a lovely seat and is doing the demanding because the rider can and believes in it? ANd the horse is used to it because it then goes into the arena and gives a decent 70+ performance…?

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