Essays of an Equestrian

It is my observation that times are a-changing. With the continuing debate over competition riding at the international levels (and even regionally or locally) the cry of the masses is being heard and that cry screams that horsemen from all over the world are unhappy with the current trends and status quo.

Could you ever have imagined the day when over 41,000 people would dare tell Olympians and Olympic judges that they are wrong and what they are seeing in the show ring is not only displeasing, but anger causing?

There have been calls for new organizations other than the FEI to be formed as well as the ongoing righteous “Say Yes To 401” campaign that people are working their hearts out to support. Surely this is all taking a toll on the sport and just like my own show dreams have fallen to the wayside, I would dare say that many others agree with how I feel.

Good job at promoting dressage FEI. Bravo.

Let’s face it…….. dressage is not a ‘user friendly’ sport. It takes horsemen who have been riding for decades and basically tosses them back into the cradle and tells them they know nothing. And even as you rise up the levels you stand a chance of being tossed back down again if your basics are not fundamentally sound. Your training pyramid tumbles down like a desert ruin in ancient Egypt.

When it comes to financing a bid to some sort of success in dressage, boulders are stacked up against you. The horses cost more – way more – than in many other equestrian sports. Whereas $50,000 buys you a solid 2nd level horse in dressage, the same amount of money brings you a much, much higher level of performance in quarter horses or in breed competition like Palomino for instance.

Even when you attend shows you see the scism between disciplines. It costs twice as much to rent a stall and tack stall at a dressage competition than it does at Quarter Horse or Palomino shows even though each if conducted at the same facility. Entry fees differ as well and show the same differences in pricing.

Plus, it should be noted that when you go to a Quarter Horse or other types of shows there are often multiple judges scoring you and placing you. You can win under one judge, get second under another, and be unplaced by a third. This gives some equality to the judging and offers riders the most bang for the buck.

So now I find myself considering my chosen sport, dressage. Dressage costs me more to show in, forces me down to the bottom trying to scratch, bite and claw my way up. Often I’m told that I should have a “warmblood” to be serious and be truly competetive. A horse capable of top performance at top competitions costs over a million dollars, and even something younger and less trained costs over $100,000. The yearly fees for the various organizations costs a ton, lifetime horse registrations and what not costs as well. Lessons and clinics are a fortune. The cherry on the top to this mess is the fact that the training and riding practices of many of those winning in the highest places are not practicing anything I’d want to do any damn way.

Now the latest FEI is doing is trying to appease us all with three diagrams, the second of which seems to look like a rider leaning back and pulling on the reins to me. Instead of having the balls to take a stand and uphold their rules on rolkur/hyperflexion/WTF riding they are trying to please all parties. Look at the horses being ridden this way…. do they look pleased?

I’m sorry, but this is all a bunch of crap and quite frankly I tire of it.

I love my horse and have no plans of giving him up, but I think I’m just going to ride him and enjoy him. Every day dressage is leaving a worse and worse taste in my mouth.

How about you, dear masses? How do you feel?

Is the new era in dressage the end of an era?

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The good will of the horse is like the scent of a rose. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.