Why on earth would you report on an amateur rider allegedly kicking her horse in the middle of a show ring? Is this a witch hunt somehow? Are you trying to make the sport look bad?
I imagine those questions might run through a lot of people’s minds when they see our brief news item about a rider caught on video displaying unsportsmanlike behavior while showing at the Hampton Classic.
The video looks like someone recorded a snippet of the show’s official video of the round, and it was shared with us by a horse show participant in a “Have you seen this? Shouldn’t someone do something?” kind of way.
Granted, we all know that horses in a competitive setting are corrected on a regular basis. And there are certainly issues like illegal medication and excessive longing that are immediately more harmful to a horse. Kicking your horse in the belly isn’t the worst thing you can do to him by any means.
But it’s not a good thing to do. It’s not an effective correction. It’s a fit of temper taken out on an equine. And, as anyone who has ever seen George H. Morris teach, allowing temper or anger to enter into your training of a horse is counterproductive and an affront to horsemanship.
It’s interesting that I was proofreading the cover of our 80th anniversary issue on the same day I oversaw the posting of this news item. The coverline is “Eight Decades Of Advocating For Horses In Sport.” It’s in the Chronicle’s mission to be a voice for the horse, to cover horse sports in such a way that the spirit of horsemanship is never lost. We take that mission seriously.
In this day and age, with social media and live streaming, there are fewer and fewer secrets in horse sports. Penelope Leprevost faced intense criticism and scrutiny from the Federation Equestre Internationale for how she treated her horse after he tripped in a warm-up area—a moment captured on video by a spectator and then posted on social media. In some ways, this is good, as riders and trainers are held to a higher standard of behavior when they know the world is watching. But it also can be bad, when internet commentators create a flurry of indignation perhaps outsized to the offense.
With our commitment to advocating for the horse and the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s renewed dedication to horse welfare, we felt reporting on this video was an informational example to riders.
Are we on a mission to capture any and every weak moment of a rider or trainer? No. We’re not going to stalk warm-up areas with our phones. But when a valid case of questionable treatment of a horse is brought to us, we’re going to pick up the phone and make calls. And if we find there’s a legitimate concern, we’ll write about it. It’s what we’ve been doing for 80 years, and we’ll keep doing it.