Oct 8, 2012

Changes in Attitudes

Back to the blog! Fate has me; a wedding coming up, some travel, some eye issues, and a catastrophic horse injury (think T-post) and there has been no blog time for the Abster. I cant believe its been six weeks since I was able to post. But I am sitting here now, with dilated eyes after an opthomologist appointment; I cant go outside, so will catch up on HorsesDontCry. I miss writing here every few days and will be glad when things settle down.

I have been a horse girl for a long time and have been lucky enough to be able to do both the show thing (competitor, instructor, trainer, groom, braider, volunteer), *and* the gallop around bareback jumping picnic tables as a kid thing. I love both parts of my riding life.I don’t like when one group, like trail riders, feels superior to show riders, and vice versa. I have friends in pretty much every discipline and every part of the various registries; Freisian friends, AQHA friends, TWH friends, ApHA friends, Paint friends, dressage friends, Arabian friends, mustang friends….The tie that binds us is our love of horses and our disgust with the problems within our own disciplines. My TWH friends are all flat shod, my AQHA friends don’t like the abuse inherent in WP, etc etc. Every one of them has worked within their industry to improve the conditions of their show horses. When some abuses were too entrenched to be changed, they quit the organizations and started new ones. In that spirit, and since I don’t believe that one should complain about things if one is not willing to work to change them, I applied to become a licensed FEI level 1 dressage steward. This does not give me a lot of authority at shows, but it puts me in a position to call for those that *are* in authority, and it puts me on the front line of bit and spur inspections. I was accepted, attended, and passed. I learned so much. I was the only one there who had never shown dressage and many of the things my co-participants already knew were new to me. But the officials were so friendly and supportive and my classmates so accepting I did not stay intimidated for long.

San Diego is horse mecca. We have most of our Olympic dressage team here, which means you can go to virtually any show in SoCal and watch our elite riders hanging out, schooling, teaching. We have barns that bring in the likes of Robert Dover and Gerd Heuschman for clinics. We have Charles DeKunffy just up the way in LA. So I have been fortunate in being able to work at some big shows, and watch, at the ring gates and in the warmups and in the barns, a ton of riders of all levels. In the four years that I have been working at dressage shows, we have not had one bloody mouth. We had one spur mark for which the rider was eliminated. I think there is just a standard in out elite riders that trickles down or lifts up or whatever the general level of training in this area. The warm up and schooling areas are where you see how people really are, and I can’t tell you how many times I have watched our Team riders, just hacking around, horse’s ears floppy, relaxed, eyes soft. Rollkur is not spoken here, overall. I see more hyperflexion and mouth banging at the AQHA shows than I ever see at the San Diego dressage shows. There are some crank and spankers, yes. But they are a minority, don't have more than a client or two, and are neither admired nor emulated. 

I know that this is not true in other parts of the country, and have volunteer friends who say they find a bloody mouth or two or ten at almost every show they work at. Gack.

There has been a lot of angst regarding the FEI and its view on Rollkur and blood. I have felt it myself. ‘They don’t do enough. They don’t care enough. They aren’t strict enough How can they debate that some blood is ok? How can they put a time limit on rollkur, that riders can just manipulate outside the spirit of the law?’ You all know the discussions that fly around the internet fora. But I came away from that clinic with a different view and attitude. They do care. They are making shows have licensed Level 1 Stewards for a reason. They want a team of Level Ones across the country who know the signs of abuse, who are all on the same page, who are all on guard for the same things, and who know what to look for. Things *are* changing. The pendulum is swinging back toward the humane. I give them credit now in a way that I didn’t before. And I’m so happy to be able to be part of it.

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