Absolutely, there have been snags here at the FEI World Equestrian Games. The weather during Week 1 forced the cancellation of the dressage freestyle and caused general disruption. Endurance was a mess. Planned construction on the grounds wasn’t finished in time.
But there have been plenty of bright spots as well, not the least of which is that the sport has been fantastic. There’s been one unexpected bonus as well at the Games: No dogs allowed.
Well there are no pet dogs allowed. Working dogs sniff us every morning as we go through security, and there are plenty of service dogs working, especially during the para-dressage competition. But that’s it. No Jack Russells or Corgis or Labs or Heinz 57s on golf carts, walking with owners or back in the barns. And I, for one, am thrilled.
Don’t get me wrong. I love dogs. As a foxhunter I couldn’t do my sport without a few dozen canines running around, and there’s nothing lovelier than going on a hack with a pooch trotting alongside.
I get the love that people—especially horse people—have for their dogs. They’re constant companions that in many cases are kinder and better friends than any human could be. I love that we have dogs almost every day at our office in Middleburg, Virginia, and I catch-walk one nearly every day during lunch.
But dogs with irresponsible or inattentive owners at shows pose real problems to the sport and to the other attendees. First and foremost: They disrupt the competition. We’ve run countless photos of horses being chased by dogs at the biggest shows around including the Rolex Kentucky CCI****, Devon (Pennsylvania), Plantation Field CCI*** (Pennsylvania) and Red Hills CIC*** (Florida) among others. And barking dogs don’t exactly add points to a dressage test or hunter round.
or how about?
Then there’s this:
One steward told me about a loose dog in the barns spooking a horse, who then got loose and broke a leg, which meant the horse had to be euthanized.
There are the dogs on “invisible leashes” that occasionally somehow come unhooked despite great training. There are the announcements about dogs left in cars or those unhooked pups now in doggie jail at the show office. Vendors complain about wet dogs wandering into their booths and shaking near the merchandise.
Responsible dog owners leave their dogs in a stall while they’re riding and leash and curb them when they’re not. But it only takes one laissez-faire owner to cause a problem, and it’s never just one. At the end of the day perhaps most dogs would be happier at home anyway.
It’s lovely not to be tripping over expandable leashes or having errant dogs begging at one’s feet here, or having to avoid piles of dog waste. It’s a marked change that multiple people have noticed.
But then again I am looking forward to heading home and seeing all my fuzzy friends. And I’m sure at the next show there will be plenty of pups to pet.