Three great forces rule the world: stupidity, fear and greed. --Albert Einstein
Ain't that the truth??? And just think, I learned all this from being involved with horses!
I am feeling the need to pontificate, after a stressful week of bitter cold temps, the end of the quarter at school (and grading up to my eyeballs), and a stomach flu that ran rampant through my little family. UGGG. So, dear reader, you can either put up with me or ignore me. The choice is yours. :)
A little background.....after many years of being involved with various horse organizations as a competitor, I decided to "give back" and volunteer my time. Being a stay-at-home mom gave me "free time" (I use that term loosely...) to say yes when asked to be president of a statewide club. That experience was fabulous. In two years, I met tons of great horse folks and enjoyed being involved from the business end of an organization. I happily passed the reins to another member this past December 2008, but all in all, I loved my time serving as president.
Now, I also became involved with another state club. This was an entirely different matter. Let's just say that I made a conscious decision to NOT be involved with this club after a two year affiliation. I met some great people, but I also met some very horrid people. Rather than get into specifics, let's just say that I learned a lot about stupidity and greed. Hell, a LOT more about stupidity and greed than I ever want to know about.
People are greedy. I know this. But with horse people, there is often a level of greed that astonishes me. Most often, if not always, human greed impacts the horse's welfare. No big surprise there. You've heard the stories of the owner killing a horse for the insurance money. Or the trainer who injects his horse to win a race. Now, while I completely DO NOT condone this behavior obviously, I can understand to a point why someone acts this way. When someone's livelihood is at stake, and the horse is a "business" to them, they take drastic and cruel measures. When it is hundreds of thousands of dollars, while I think the person is sick and wrong, I can understand why someone would do it.
When someone is greedy to the point that they hurt their horse over RIBBONS or TROPHIES, that simply makes NO SENSE TO ME.
Greed to make money? OK, I get it. Greed to win a $1.50 ribbon? Nope, sorry folks, I will never understand.
I love to show. Really, I do. I am very competitive and I like to win. I like to set goals and achieve them. (Now, realistically, I like to do well, but doing well does not always mean winning. And I am OK with that. :)
When my horse is not 100%, I don't push her. Not only is she now 18 years old (well....almost.....in May), but she also has RAO (or heaves). I don't ride her when the temps. are searing hot. I don't ride her when the temps are as bitter as they have been lately. (Yes, I have access to an indoor where my instructor is, but really, why stress my horse's lungs and make her unsound?). I am a firm believer that my horse only has so many jumps in her and therefore I am careful to only jump once, maybe twice, a week.
Before one show this past summer, Dreamy had broken through the fence about 4 days beforehand. It was just a little rinky dink huntery type schooling show, where I had planned to do the normal hunter under saddle stuff, a jumping class, and the fun games....barrels, poles, and trail. Not our normal stuff, but fun nonetheless. A friend was coming up from RI to show with me, etc etc.
Anyway, Dreamy's knee was just so slightly swollen just at the top, though she never had any heat nor was she lame. No one else could probably tell it was swollen, but Ms. Eagle Eyes here could tell. I cold hosed, Buted, etc etc. Within 24 hours it was normal. By all accounts, she was fine. However, I decided to only do the flat classes and skip the jumping and games. There was no reason on this green earth why my mare had to do ALL the classes. Because there was a chance using that knee, landing wrong over a fence, torquing it around a barrel, well, any of that could injure her and I just didn't want to do it.
Now, I did have to forfeit points because of this, to not only a state club but also a national point award system. Did I think about those missed points? SURE! But did the points or ribbons matter??? NO! Because my horses' welfare comes first.
There was also an event at the end of August where Dreamy had an bad trigger of her RAO about eight days out. Did I scratch from the event??? YES! Could she have competed? Maybe. But why in the hell would I ask a horse to run a XC course, heck even just trailer over an hour to the event, so I might win a ribbon and some points, BUT ALSO potentially mess up her breathing issues even more? NO WAY!
AND.....at the National STB show this fall, there was A LOT OF RAIN. The jump ring was a mess. I walked the course in the morning before my first jumping class (I had entered three of them) and with slop up over my ankles, I knew in my heart it was wrong to jump. There was no reason to jump....except for ribbons and points. And you know what? I much rather have a sound and happy horse than a ribbon any day. Did other foks jump their horses? Yup. Did it suck to lose out on ribbons and have to forfeit fees for three classes? Yup. But my horse comes first.
My theory is that there will always be another rinky dink hunter show, there will always be another event, there will always be another jump course. But there will never be another Dreamy. And why would I put her health at risk and potentially create a situation where I might never ride or jump her again? I love both my horses too much to ever risk their lives for ANYTHING, especially something as silly as a ribbon. And you all know by now how much of a ribbon ho I am. :D
So back to my point.....I have seen some horrendous things this past year where people treat their horses like crap in order to win ribbons and points. I KNOW this happens at all shows and on every circuit. But when it happens right in front of me, it makes me pissed. Horses cannot tell us to stop. Horses cannot tell us, "Hey, I don't feel great and I am only doing this because I am a good animal and want to please you."
Would you ever take a Lyme infested horse to a horse show? A coupe of days after it was diagnosed and started on its IV medication? If the vet told you it was OK to ride, meaning I easy hacks assume , would you take it to a horse show and ride it for 10 hours straight? Well, I have seen folks do this and it is disgusting and sad. A lame and crippled horse......trying its best to please its rider....but feeling the acute affects of Lyme disease. Coming out of a class and giving the horse its Lyme meds. SICK. And all for ribbons.
Would you ever take a horse with a major stifle issue and ride it daily? We are not talking a stifle issue that gets better with exercise. We are talking a stifle issue that is so bad the horse can barely organize its limbs. A horse that the vet told you not to ride. A horse that crashes into jumps when asked to jump. Yes people, a horse with severe stifle issues that a rider is asking to JUMP for god sakes. And then thinks it is funny and wants to frame the picture of the horse crashing into the fence. SICK.
Would you ever ride a horse that is so tight through its back that it can barely canter or jump? And of course, according to the rider, it cannot be lame because it does not limp! WTF??? But it's sure as heck lame, seeing as it is so short behind it looks like it might fall over. And then to canter around unbalanced and four beat. Flail over jumps, with a rider that is not only making the horse use its poor body in a hurtful way, but also holding onto its face so tight that the horse has no prayer of using its neck. Seen it folks and it ain't pretty. All for ribbons.
And it does not end there. Folks are so greedy for ribbons around here they actually LIE for them. LIE FOR RIBBONS????
Put the horse in the wrong division hoping no one will catch them so they can smoke everyone and WIN WIN WIN! Put a horse in a division lower than it should be in to win. Fudge points sheets to place for year ends ahead of riders who really deserve the award (this specifically happened to a friend of mine in a different state, not me personally. But it is still wrong). And the worst thing? I have seen JUNIORS doing this! Where are the parents????? Never mind, I know the answer to that one.....they have no clue what their kids do.
Edited to add: Some of these situations have been dealt with through the proper channels (such as show management and judges). Also there have been times I have had a judge tell me their was not much he/she could do for various reasons. And finally, some of these incidents did not happen to me personally, but to different friends of mine and when told the situation all I can do to "resolve it" is convey my dismay. So for any of you who truly think I am just "complaining" and being "unprofessional", I have indeed taken care of these situations in proper ways. I just don't feel the need to detail exactly every little detail about how I dealt with it. Now THAT would be unprofessional and would not really serve the purpose of why I posted what I did. I am merely being general and discussing things that make me sick and disgusted. If you feel YOU are one of the above people, well, sorry. I have not identified who you are and therefore will not remove my post. If you are THAT angry, perhaps the reason for your anger is.....SHAME or EMBARRASSMENT? Just a thought.
I don't mind being beaten in the show ring or in points by a horse that truly is a better horse than mine. But to see a horse win that is being shown every weekend despite being lame and sick? Because we all know, the more you show the more points you get! So we can't take a weekend off if the horse is hurt! Because then we are losing out! Or being beaten by a horse that really should move up a level/division? That is just plain wrong. And yes, it makes me angry.
So long story short? As much as I love ribbons, I am not greedy for them. I am not stupid enough to lie for them. And really, my horse's welfare comes first. But you know? There is this nice little thing called karma. And I believe in it.