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denny
Feb. 18, 2010, 07:51 AM
When you listen to the stories of the various winter Olympic athletes being interviewed, have any of you been struck by what seems to be the total dedication and intensity of their training?

Their extreme physical fitness, the total immersion quality of the past four years of focussed intensity seems more intense than what I sense many of our "Team-bound" riders subject themselves to.

Not to say our "kids" don`t "want it", but I just don`t have the impression it`s quite the same willingness to work their guts out.

Convince me that I`m wrong, because I hope I am---

piggiponiis
Feb. 18, 2010, 08:01 AM
Is that what we want in all cases? I want my kids to have discipline and drive, yes - but I'd also like them to be happy and prepared for all the paths they will have to walk in life. I think it's rare the single-mindedness you are touting delivers that. I also want them to love to ride and love their horses - not view them as tools to their own success. If they can achieve all of the above - GREAT. If I have to choose, I choose good person vs. good athlete.

denny
Feb. 18, 2010, 08:06 AM
You don`t think the skiing/skating athletes are "good people"?

Kanga
Feb. 18, 2010, 08:15 AM
Denny,

Not going to convince you that you are wrong because you are RIGHT!

It just seems that "kids" and many parents of those kids want to be involved in too much other than just having that intense focus on being REALLY GOOD at one thing.

Fence2Fence
Feb. 18, 2010, 08:15 AM
One of the things I noticed is that along with the worked-their-guts-out stories, is that quite a few of the olympians had taken long breaks.

piggiponiis
Feb. 18, 2010, 08:16 AM
My opinion is worth the same 2 cents yours is. I don't want to get into the details, but I was an olympic level athlete many moons ago - not in riding. I made the team but didn't compete due to injury. The injury ended my career and I had NOTHING else. I had not been to school very much. I had moved all over to follow the best programs - so no real roots. I also had no image of success for myself other than through this sport. Maybe all the current athletes (and cast offs we don't get to see) are better managed by their families and coaches and better at managing themselves. For me, the all-consuming life in the sport was very difficult to adjust away from when it was time.

Also, my sport didn't require a generous partner that relies completely on us for their well-being. If it had, I can't guarantee that we always would have had the horse's best interests in mind. Our big goals may have caused us to push when we shouldn't have.

waxman
Feb. 18, 2010, 08:20 AM
One of the things I noticed is that along with the worked-their-guts-out stories, is that quite a few of the olympians had taken long breaks.

in alpine skiing at least thats usually because their injuries require "long breaks" due to the severity of the injuries...

where alse do you get to crash into the ground with little or no protection going 100km/h+?

CookiePony
Feb. 18, 2010, 08:23 AM
I am not observing any Team Hopefuls on a daily basis, so I cannot comment on specific programs.

That said, the NBC interviews by definition focus on the athlete's life in one dimension. So we cannot see the totality of an athlete's daily life.

My OH is an Olympian (Rowing, Sydney 2000) who has told me about her life in training. The scullers trained six hours a day, not all in the boat. They did weights (heavy lifting and circuits) in addition to rowing workouts. At times they also did running and swimming.

Then they rested and ate. Intensively! The resting and eating were very important parts of the training. And then they had other parts of their lives. My OH walked the dog and hung out at the coffeeshop at the local bookstore. But when she was interviewed by NBC they did not ask her about any of that. ;)

She says that she has noticed the intensity that riding athletes put into the care and management of the horses, an aspect that other athletes just do not have to deal with. Not only do we have to keep ourselves fit, but we have the horses' fitness to work on, and their day-to-day care, and their sports medicine needs. All of this takes money, much more money than a rower needs. So many of them have to work by taking in horses in training, or teaching, ar chasing sponsors.

So... I think this is a little case of comparing apples to oranges.

riderboy
Feb. 18, 2010, 08:24 AM
Well, honestly, I was impressed by our athletes. Apolo Ohno, Lindsey Vonn, etc all seemed very dedicated to their discipline and worked hard. I think that's reflected in our medal count. I was less impressed by the Olympics in general. Different thread though.
Whoa-sorry, I thought Denny was talking about our Olympic athletes, not our riders. I'll never answer a post before my second cup of coffee again.

denny
Feb. 18, 2010, 08:26 AM
The really great riders that I`ve known over the past 50 years or so had, I would say, the same kind of total dedication to being, as they say in that Army slogan, "all you can be" that seems to come across in the interviews we`ve all been listening to this past week from Vancouver.

It`s pretty difficult to be really great, and there are costs, no doubt. But I don`t accept that the great riders, by and large, abused horses to get there. Usually they had just the opposite relationships with their horses.

redlight
Feb. 18, 2010, 08:36 AM
Also, my sport didn't require a generous partner that relies completely on us for their well-being. If it had, I can't guarantee that we always would have had the horse's best interests in mind. Our big goals may have caused us to push when we shouldn't have.[/QUOTE]

I think the above is a factor. If you get to the Olympic level and your horse gets injured or you realize your horse doesn't have the talent to be an Olympic horse then you have to either get a new partner or own one that is ready to step into its place. Otherwise you've got the long climb back to the top. Lyndsey Vonn can ski through intense pain but we wouldn't (or shouldn't) do that to the horse. You could make a correlation between pairs figure skating and riding in that they are both partner dependent and each member of that partnership has to be equally talented and committed. They both have to perform their best on the big day.

I don't think the parents of our up and coming riders are any less supportive of their kids than parents in any other Olympic sport. It costs a tremendous amount of money to compete at the Olympic level in any sport.

caffeinated
Feb. 18, 2010, 08:36 AM
There's some interesting videos on the NBC website showing some of the workout routines of skiiers and skaters..

http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/assetid=88729bc8-16bb-4e93-8b66-5888f5077be3.html#lindsey+vonns+workout

What I think is a 'lesson' here isn't so much the drive and dedication, but how many riders, even top riders, also spend hours in the gym every day working on strength and fitness, or doing other sports to complement their regular training schedule?

It seems all these top athletes do a lot of stuff outside their specific sport training to make themselves better... how many riders do that?

(or does this not apply to riding the same way it does in other sports? if it *does* apply, what's the kind of work that would improve our riding?)

Eventer55
Feb. 18, 2010, 08:44 AM
So, take a look at some of the greatest riders and find the common thread. . .

What do we lack now?

OffTheHook
Feb. 18, 2010, 09:09 AM
I was watching an interview with Apolo Ohno and he said something along the lines of:

"Before you go to sleep each night, ask yourself this question: ‘Did you do everything you could today to be at your very best?’"

Even if a rider had enough drive to want to ask themselves this question every night and had the time to be able to fit in the "four 2 hour work outs" everyday, mounted or otherwise, they still need the money and horse to back it up.

Ditto what redlight said.

RAyers
Feb. 18, 2010, 09:18 AM
I think there is great risk in having that narrow focus as piggiponiis discusses. There have been psychological studies on many Olympic athletes who competed at young ages and they have found that the athletes fail to grow out of their sport after they retire. They spent so many years with a narrow focus that in the end they fail at other aspects of their lives.

In other words the athletes become disposable after they accomplish their task, e.g. win a medal. Given the relative obscurity of many of these sports they can't simply transition to coaching or training (not enough public participants) so they become lost.

An example, one of my vets was an Olympic freestyle skier. His mom is one of the Olympic judges and he even judged at Salt Lake. Yet in the end he could not make a life of his discipline. He had to grow beyond his sport. That is not easy. Ask any older football or baseball player.

I think redlight also hits a big issue. The horse. WE judge the athlete more by the HORSE than the rider. Nowadays that requires money up front. In the past a selector could judge the rider and a horse would be provided from the donated pool. Thus you could simply focus on the athlete.

Now, riders have to be as much fund raisers/business managers and athletes.

SEPowell
Feb. 18, 2010, 09:22 AM
This insightful post is a loaded gun. :lol: I think at its heart is the question of the kind of environment needed to promote intense, highly focused, and totally immersed riders/horsemen.

The first question that comes to my mind is can one have these qualities and also be teathered to a trainer?

Is an environment that promotes dependency going to promote the independent bold thinker who has the necessary skill to get to the moment and through the moment?

Can riders be trainer-dependent and also be adept at taking risks? If you equate the word risk to to the word problem the question becomes: Can a trainer-dependent rider be an independent problem solver?

There's some food for thought.


When you listen to the stories of the various winter Olympic athletes being interviewed, have any of you been struck by what seems to be the total dedication and intensity of their training?

Their extreme physical fitness, the total immersion quality of the past four years of focussed intensity seems more intense than what I sense many of our "Team-bound" riders subject themselves to.

Not to say our "kids" don`t "want it", but I just don`t have the impression it`s quite the same willingness to work their guts out.

Convince me that I`m wrong, because I hope I am---

denny
Feb. 18, 2010, 09:36 AM
Here`s what some of the great riders I`ve personally known have done:

Worked extensively with Grand Prix dressage riders, to the point they could easily be mistaken for pure dressage riders---See Ingrid Klimke

Raced over fenced, even including the Md Hunt Cup---See Kevin Freeman, Bruce Davidson, Mike Plumb, Frank Chapot, Kathy Kusner

Ridden to very high levels of international show jumping----see Mark Todd, Bernie Traurig,

Have they ridden in endurance/distance rides, see Lana Wright, first woman Olympic 3-day rider

These are all possible avenues of growth for our aspiring young 3-day athletes. Are any of them doing these things?

Also, how tough and fit are our riders? Do they run, lift weights, do chin ups?

Can they explain, in minute detail, the training scale? Can they walk show jumping courses the way the pure jumper riders can. Are they all around riders and horsemen?

It`s these "extra miles", so often, that have turnedthe great ones into legends.

Not one of these avenues has a "road closed" sign to someone who truly wants to go there.

Bobthehorse
Feb. 18, 2010, 09:45 AM
Definitely some Olympic sports have more promising financial futures for the athletes than eventing does. And a few countries provide lifetime income to gold medal winners. So some of those athletes are working hard hoping for a medal and they also get a gravy train afterwards. In eventing most people need outside jobs as well as sponsorship to support themselves, and to get a well paying job most of them have to go to school. It is certainly a lot harder find outside funding for riders than it is for a sport thats more mainstream. People find it hard to relate to riders, especially in North America.

Also, I think due to the horse, it may seem like riders spend less time training. We have to do so much cross training to keep ourselves fit, because we cant spend 8 hours a day on our horses (unless we have several) like other athletes spend on their skiis, skates or bikes. We have to find less exciting ways to train ourselves.

eventamy
Feb. 18, 2010, 09:47 AM
If you look at a guy like Shaun White though, snowboarding is not just his focus. He crosstrains and competes in skateboarding too, which is similar but not the same. If the summer Olympics had skateboarding we would see him there too. He's one of those lucky few that have found his passion, what he truly loves and enjoys, and happens to be very naturally talented and a lot insane (as these really high level athletes have to be!).
I'm curious about what a lot of these elite athletes do after they win (or don't) their medals. Do they continue as coaches? Many of them have been so focused and put their all into this that they haven't gone to college or prepared for another field. Riders are much more likely to become professionals and have others pay to train/ride/compete their horses, do clinics, become instructors etc. I know many of them do become professionals, or already are, but the equestrian sports are different in that many riders can continue well into their 40's and 50's at a high level. NOT the case with these sports in the winter olympics where you're over the hill at 30 and the toll it's taken on your body causes you to have extreme problems very young.

snoopy
Feb. 18, 2010, 10:00 AM
I believe the problem faced by elite riders today...

In years past this was truly an ammy sport. Even the top riders had only one, two, or three horses. Much time was taken to attend to every detail of the training and management of those horses. There was less competing and more time to train on those areas that needed attention.

The business model has changed so much that riders now have to train, teach, travel for clinics, compete more often, ride babies, etc etc etc. I believe there is not enough time in the day to do all of this to the degree that it was done in years past.

I do not think riders are any less hungry today then they were back when, but I do think the demands put on them to run businesses simply do not allow them to cover every little aspect that is required for success at top level sport as it is today.

Of course there are the exceptions...but this requires many staff and much expense. Most riders are not in the position to provide either.

The british high performance riders get financial help from lottery funding and I know many who would not be able to carry on without this support.

I do believe that if the US riders were to receive some funding in this manner and were able to devote more time to a lesser amount of horses that results would improve. As it is now, most have to chase every dollar they can in order to keep their businesses going and pay the mortgage. All that takes valuable time away from training.

snoopy
Feb. 18, 2010, 10:30 AM
It is also intersting to note those "one horse wonders".

These riders, for what ever reason, be that lack of horses, funding, sponsors, day jobs etc, spend that bit of extra time developing their horses to compete and win at the highest levels.

The term "one horse wonder" does not do the effort any justice what so ever, as these riders have to put the work in. They compete and win, their horses tend to last longer.

There in the perception (true or not) that in order to be successful and have a shot at team selection that riders must have a string of upper level horses

Again there are those exceptions, but perhaps the desire to build huge strings of horses and equally big businesses has negative consequences. The term jack of all and master of none comes to mind. More demands and distractions equals less time to train.

Every event should be a measure of what areas of training need attention, never the less one must be prepared to the highest degree BEFORE getting to these events and that takes time and training...and that becomes more and more difficult with other demands placed on the rider to fund their businessess and personal expenses.

Thames Pirate
Feb. 18, 2010, 10:34 AM
I would agree that it's comparing apples to oranges. There was one thing that struck me. Apolo Ono said he tried to ask himself each day if he had done all he could to ensure he was the best he could be. That's hard to do.

I've decided to take that to heart, but here's the thing; I want to apply it to my ENTIRE life. I am a teacher, so I need to apply it to that (as in, was I the best teacher I could be today?) as well as my personal life (was I the best fiance/sister/daughter/friend I could be today) and my athletic life (did I eat right/train enough/do things around the barn). I am not willing to compromise my relationship with my fiance, for example, so I have told him on Wednesdays and Fridays I will not go to the barn but will spend the evenings with him (though I sometimes go out before work depending on the horses' needs, etc. and of course that doesn't apply when the horses need special care for illness/injury).

There's a huge financial issue here; many of these people have been training hard since childhood--and there's nothing wrong with that. However, their parents have financed their extreme dreams with coaching, equipment, etc--often even moving to be near the best coaches. That's MUCH harder to do in our sport for many parents. They are mostly professional athletes with nothing to do each day but train. Even our most heavily sponsored athletes generally have to work on the side (teaching, instructing, selling) rather than spend every waking hour on a horse or in the gym. It's not a dedication issue; it's a financial one. Most of our elite athletes do spend hours/day in the saddle, give up a great deal, and do the extra things like eating right and working out. Heck, many of our ammies do that. But we can't compare six hours in the gym to six hours at the barn; it's just different.

We DO have those with that single-mindedness. It just manifests differently in the form of horsemanship, etc.

What it comes down to is this: what sacrifices am I willing to make for my riding? I know the answers. As I said, I'm NOT willing to sacrifice my relationship. That's ultimately the biggest thing. I COULD go get a second job, spend every day at the barn, and never have time for myself or fiance. I could insist that we live in a tiny apt with roommates rather than our own home so I don't have to make mortgage payments and can instead take an extra lesson or buy a better horse. Those things are not fair to the fiance, and so I can't do them. It means I probably won't make any Olympic teams, but I'll have to live with that. It's the choice I made, and it's the choice made for me by my parents, who placed the premium on education over horses (I did practically no recognized HT growing up because the rule was that I couldn't miss school for horse things--and I never did). Incidentally, how often does that happen--parents say you aren't allowed to be that single-minded, thus ending someone's chances before they're out of the gate (not saying that's the case with me, but it is with some sports, such as gymnastics or figure skating). It's just another factor.

Then there's the injury to horse factor. Last year I spent HOURS each day rehabbing the horse over the course of several months. I was at the barn twice daily at first, then daily. I was hand walking, bandaging, doing therapy with the horse, etc. I barely had time after that each day to ride, but I would try and catch ride what I could (I can't look a gift horse in the mouth, as it was kind of people to let me ride, but I can't say they were highly trained or even fit enough for 40 minutes mounts, and many were physically NQR), but ultimately my training was put on serious hold. All my finances were also depleted at this time (they still haven't recovered). It was a blow that many athletes in other sports don't understand. I can ride through my own pain well enough, but this is so different from what other sports can fathom. Just to add another factor that separates us from the other athletes (on the upside, I was personally fitter than ever from all the work I was doing for the horse and because workouts kept me sane).

So I will ask myself each day if I've done the best I can to be the best I can. My initial goal is to answer yes 2 days/week. We'll see where that takes me. Oh, and I'll remember that Shani Davis is self-coached and take heart when I'm in my current position of not affording lessons because of tremendous vet bills and adversity.

In short, it's not a lack of focus; it's a choice. It's not a lack of focus; it's a lack of money or family backing. It's not a lack of focus; it's a different game when an animal is involved. And for a select few, the pieces come together and we have our elite.

Oh, and we don't have the same system that many of the other sports do because it's such a unique sport--we're the only ones with living equipment.

gully's pilot
Feb. 18, 2010, 10:34 AM
Denny, I've been able to get to know, a little, a few really great riders, and I wouldn't trade places with them for anything. I think they're right where they should be--I think they have incredible focus and drive, and genuine love for the sport--but they are working at it all the time, in a multitude of ways. Fitness and care of horse--yep. Fitness training (other than riding) for themselves--yep. Outside help for sj and dressage--yep. Oh, yeah, and making a living--never easy in this sport. They do it, and I admire them for it; I'm in awe of how hard they work every single day.

But I've also met many riders in the younger generation who seem to think they don't have to work that hard. They work hard, yes, but not as hard as they think they do. They're waiting for the Fairy Horse Sponsor to show up and hand them a golden ticket--or at least, that's how some of them come across to me.

When you look at the success of very young athletes such as Lindsey Vonn, Shaun White, and CJ Cerskli, you know it's not wholly a generational thing. I think somehow many of our younger riders are getting a skewed view of what it takes to be great in our sport. I'm not really familiar with Young Riders, but I've heard people say it takes a very nice horse more than a very nice rider. Is this part of the problem? Are we rewarding young kids who can buy fancy horses more than young kids who can ride well and make the most of their horses?

bornfreenowexpensive
Feb. 18, 2010, 10:40 AM
I don't know Denny...I think you are wrong on this one. I do know several people who are aiming for the teams and/or developing riders. They are working their butts off.....literally. Riding 8-12 horses a day (sometimes more) AND going to the gym, yoga, personal trainers AND dieting.... I have also known others in other sports on the road to high level and few who went to the Olympics. I don't see our riders working any less...or any less intense....or being any less consumed by the sport. There are many of them that DO work with top dressage, jumper....have done racing, hunting and things other than eventing.

Are there a ton of them that fit that mold....no. And I know because of where I'm located, I'm running into more of them then the average person..because the dedicated ones move to where I am located to advance themsevles in the sport. They are out there and they are doing all of those things....but there are not a ton of them. Which is what I would expect....just like there are not many who make it to the winter Olympics.

ETA: The other difference is these riders are aiming for a lifetime. Not just one or two Olymipics. Since as you have pointed out...you can be competitive in this sport as a rider for many many years. So they are as intense as they should be for a race that is not a sprint...but a marathon.

RunForIt
Feb. 18, 2010, 10:59 AM
Interesting thread...I'll tell you who I admire in our sport because of the message they give: those trainers and riders who are in that 2nd and 3rd tier below the elite riders...those with 1 or 2 nice horses that they train to their very best ability - they're usually in the top ten in any level but never are the winners, train those kids and ammies every day and hour possible to be both good riders and horwsewomen and horsemen, bust their butts making ends meet on their homes and farms...and they more than likely are NEVER going to get to that 1st tier.

Some of these folks DO cross train, and ones I know personally will do whatever it takes to get better - but time and money factor into the big picture...

These folks give me the message that horses and riding matter, that doing the best you can do every day matters. JMHO

Beam Me Up
Feb. 18, 2010, 11:03 AM
I think there are a few key differences.

A lot of skiers/skaters train very intensively for a few years then move on to something completely different.

Olympic riders are not about the quick burst so much as creating a system to sustain the development of their horses and their riding for decades. This does involve physical fitness and training but also a good business model and a source of new horses--all sorts of outside-the-gym concerns.

Additionally unlike other athletes riders do have goals that trump even the Olympics--safe happy and healthy horses. And they usually are willing and able to wait until the next Olympics--a luxury sports that favor the young don't have--to ensure that they preserve their horses.

Steely determination is a great thing but riders are forced to add a certain restraint and broader picture at times. It requires a more mature and thoughtful athlete.

hey101
Feb. 18, 2010, 11:33 AM
When I was watching the downhill last night, two things in particular stood out to me...

-the woman who was expected to do very well and she crashed less than 100 yds from the start gates- years of work, the same work that Lindsay Vonn put in, POOF. Dream over.

-Then Lindsay Vonn in her post-victory interview said something along the lines of "I've given up everything for this". Fantastic for her that she won- but everyone else out there also gave up everything, and they didn't win.



What it comes down to is this: what sacrifices am I willing to make for my riding? I know the answers. As I said, I'm NOT willing to sacrifice my relationship. That's ultimately the biggest thing. I COULD go get a second job, spend every day at the barn, and never have time for myself or fiance. I could insist that we live in a tiny apt with roommates rather than our own home so I don't have to make mortgage payments and can instead take an extra lesson or buy a better horse. Those things are not fair to the fiance, and so I can't do them. It means I probably won't make any Olympic teams, but I'll have to live with that. It's the choice I made, and it's the choice made for me by my parents, who placed the premium on education over horses (I did practically no recognized HT growing up because the rule was that I couldn't miss school for horse things--and I never did). Incidentally, how often does that happen--parents say you aren't allowed to be that single-minded, thus ending someone's chances before they're out of the gate (not saying that's the case with me, but it is with some sports, such as gymnastics or figure skating). It's just another factor.



I think this is very well written. Probably very few people ARE willing to give up everything for such a single-minded goal that could take years and years of your life andyou still may never get there... or you may ALMOST get there and then you crash 100 yds out of the gate.

justathought
Feb. 18, 2010, 11:53 AM
... -Then Lindsay Vonn in her post-victory interview said something along the lines of "I've given up everything for this". Fantastic for her that she won- but everyone else out there also gave up everything, and they didn't win. ....

This quote REALLY bothered me. Vonn is an amazing skier and as a former elite athlete in another sport her determination and willingness to work through pain is admirable.

BUT, I don't think that she gave everything up - I think that is a cop out. She chose to do something she loves and does well. Her choice meant that some other things were put aside (for now) but she could have chosen to do them instead if they were more attractive than skiing. She could have easily said that she is so happy that her choice to focus intensely on skiing paid off!

As you said.... its a choice that did not pay off for a large number of the competitors.

millerra
Feb. 18, 2010, 11:55 AM
From a parent's perspective.

I have a young daughter who is showing some talent for ice skating and gymnastics. I am pretty sure I DO NOT want her to focus exclusively on either of these two sports and get sucked down that road. if SHE decides when she is older that she really really really wants to pursue it, ok. But I totally agree w/ whom ever was talking about post -olympic athletes being at a loss and one dimensional. I don't want that for her. I want her to see herself as being a whole, valued person with multiple talents.

The same can be said for research scientists who are highly successful - but they can be very one dimensional - science and nothing else. I have personally not chosen this path as well. I prefer to ride, have kids, etc than focus only on science. It doesn't mean I don't like/love doing research but I also do other things, too.

I agree w/ whom ever said it is a matter of choices and priorties. To each his own...

magnolia73
Feb. 18, 2010, 12:00 PM
I think that the fact that oh... more than half of equestrian is the horse. Apollo Ohno and Shaun White can push themselves as much as they wish to. They can be thoroughly dedicated and push.

But you can't do that to the horses. Horses are so different. Because it isn't just about the athlete managing themself. The horse is the athlete and can't speak. The horse needs to be managed with his needs first, not the riders needs. I don't think an intensely competitive rider is a particular good thing as it can lead to abuse of the horse.

As horsepeople, we would abhor the rider who was so intense that they put the ability to win above all the way some of these athletes do. Indeed, those riders who have pushed through and hurt their partners are pretty much villified in the riding community. We can admire Lindsey Vaughn skiing through her injured shin, but we will judge harshly rider X pushing on a sore horse.

denny
Feb. 18, 2010, 12:07 PM
One thing I find interesting is that every time our riders fail to do especially well at some big event, there`s lots of criticism levelled at everything from our coach, to our system, to our horse breeding program (or lack thereof), to our kid`s horsemanship, and on and on.

But then if someone does do what it takes to become one of the rare true elite, then that person gets criticised too, for other failings, like being obsessive, not well rounded, also on and on.

Do you think most of the greats in virtually ANY sport escape that double standard?

snoopy
Feb. 18, 2010, 12:08 PM
As horsepeople, we would abhor the rider who was so intense that they put the ability to win above all the way some of these athletes do. Indeed, those riders who have pushed through and hurt their partners are pretty much villified in the riding community. We can admire Lindsey Vaughn skiing through her injured shin, but we will judge harshly rider X pushing on a sore horse.



GREAT point. I think the problem lies that we are unable to "talk" to equine partners to gage when too much is too much. All athletes, including equine, at the highest level, endure some degree of soreness but the trick for riders is to know when to hold up their hand for the sake of their partner.

RunForIt
Feb. 18, 2010, 12:12 PM
One thing I find interesting is that every time our riders fail to do especially well at some big event, there`s lots of criticism levelled at everything from our coach, to our system, to our horse breeding program (or lack thereof), to our kid`s horsemanship, and on and on.

But then if someone does do what it takes to become one of the rare true elite, then that person gets criticised too, for other failings, like being obsessive, not well rounded, also on and on.

Do you think most of the greats in virtually ANY sport escape that double standard?

no, I don't think you can escape that tag for several reasons...due to human nature. One, many people have learned to criticize as habit - and will. Two, jealousy and envy seem to be part and parcel of some's human nature and criticism is the observable behavior of those traits...again, JMO. I am sometimes in both camps. :cool:

Blugal
Feb. 18, 2010, 12:20 PM
I have known several very intense athletes but two stick out for me. The one who not only put in the physical work but also did the mental imagery and positive self-talk and "did I do everything I could today" and "I am working towards the Olympics" every day. When her horse went lame after she was selected to the Team, she said it was the most devastating thing that could have happened. If she hadn't been so focused on that one goal, it wouldn't have had the same effect - she ended up deciding to take a different approach for successive goals.

Another who competed in downhill skiing. Spent hours at the gym, moved away for coaching, was doing homework on the bus on every trip. Voted MVP of her team as the hardest worker and the most inspirational. Yet 2 canceled downhills in one year, meaning lack of qualification points, slashed her chances at being selected for moving up to team training. The following year the rules got changed, and selection was focused on the 2-years-younger generation... etc. etc. And suddenly after 8+ years of intensive focused training, she was "too old" at 20 to be considered.

Both athletes told me that when you put everything you have, your heart & soul into something - doing what everyone says an athlete at that level should do, must do, physically and mentally, and the hard work "will pay off" - but then it doesn't - it can be completely crushing. It takes huge strength of character to motivate oneself and push towards the pinnacle, and I think a failure at that level can hurt that type of athlete at a bigger magnitude than what we mere mortals might experience when we have a disappointment, but have many other aspects of our lives to focus on.

RAyers
Feb. 18, 2010, 12:26 PM
It is also intersting to note those "one horse wonders".

These riders, for what ever reason, be that lack of horses, funding, sponsors, day jobs etc, spend that bit of extra time developing their horses to compete and win at the highest levels...



Which begets the question, does the horse make the rider? How does Denny judge the athlete rider as opposed to the athlete horse?

We all know great riders who never stood on a podium.


The same can be said for research scientists who are highly successful - but they can be very one dimensional - science and nothing else. I have personally not chosen this path as well. I prefer to ride, have kids, etc than focus only on science. It doesn't mean I don't like/love doing research but I also do other things, too.

You aren't talking about me? ;) Maybe Sheldon on Big Bang Theory. But that is a great point and also goes to Denny's comment:

Do you think most of the greats in virtually ANY sport escape that double standard?

Everything I do is subject to critique. My papers, my students, my teaching, all of it has to undergo external review. The same is in medical school and subsequent training (it is based on the classic graduate school training throughout history). I like to think that I was smart enough to go and work for 7 years before going back to graduate school and becoming the myopic bastard I am.

Hell Einstein's work is still being criticised!

Reed

JER
Feb. 18, 2010, 12:47 PM
I hope Lindsey Vonn enjoys her gold medal. I hope it's worth the self-absorption, the single-mindedness, the lopsided marriage, the messed-up family life, etc. The NYT profile of her was what you'd expect; I especially liked how Bill Pennington charitably characterized her as 'not given to introspection.'

But for now, the world is all about her and her gold medal. Five minutes from now, not so much.

I don't know that a sport like eventing benefits from that kind of mindset. You have a horse to think about and you need a more flexible approach because the horse isn't a machine.

Single-minded, self-absorbed athletes are a dime a dozen. Truly interesting ones like Sócrates (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%B3crates) are a much rarer breed.

denny
Feb. 18, 2010, 12:54 PM
What comes across isn`t so much that there`s a double standard as much as there are at least two, maybe more, standards of "success".

Some feel that "getting it done" is a worthy goal, in and of itself. When I was at the USET, working with Jack Le Goff, that was our mission. It worked, in the sense that we did get it done.

Others feel that the price to pay is too high. That the sacrifices aren`t worth the rewards. That`s an ok standard, too, as long as it`s truly ok with the individual setting the standard.

The problem is that it`s probably not usually possible to have it both ways, to lead a balanced life, and also stand on the podium.

So it depends upon you. Which do YOU want. I can`t answer for you, nor you for me.


Do I now, 35 years later, think it was worth it for me? Yes.

Would I do it again if I could? Yes.

But there are prices to everything. There`s a price for trying, and there`s also a price for not trying. It depends on you to decide which is the higher price, it seems to me.

EventerAJ
Feb. 18, 2010, 12:57 PM
Both athletes told me that when you put everything you have, your heart & soul into something - doing what everyone says an athlete at that level should do, must do, physically and mentally, and the hard work "will pay off" - but then it doesn't - it can be completely crushing. It takes huge strength of character to motivate oneself and push towards the pinnacle, and I think a failure at that level can hurt that type of athlete at a bigger magnitude than what we mere mortals might experience when we have a disappointment, but have many other aspects of our lives to focus on.

I agree completely with those who have stated how the single-minded focus to WIN and go to the Olympics can create a false shell, a fleeting purpose in life that (especially in our sport) is difficult to achieve and easily crushed.

Would I love to ride for the USA someday? Heck yes! I love competing at the upper levels, the challenge and thrill of completing an advanced course, the not-unrealistic dream of riding at Rolex, Badminton, and Burghley. But you know what? If I base my SOLE self-worth on my competition results, and a preconceived schedule of "ride at Rolex by age 23," I'd spend a lot of my life disappointed and depressed. Sometimes things happen beyond your control, and if those things keep you from your sole goal in life, it's hard to keep going.

Instead of the single-minded drive to compete and win, I take a lot of pride and pleasure in the journey. I love riding and training every day. I love breaking babies, working with young horses, the daily successes no matter how small. Maybe I'll never ride for the USET because I'm *not* obsessive enough about that goal...but I'm a much happier person when I'm able to enjoy other horse-related achievements. When I crashed & burned at Fair Hill CCI** this past fall, I was devastated; but the following weekend, I took two greenies to an unrecognized novice horse trial and both exceeded expectations...and that was just so satisfying. I'm not saying I want to novice forever-- lord no!-- I love the upper levels and that's where I feel like I belong (on the right horse). But, for me at least, the ability to enjoy the little moments keeps me on an even keel, and helps balance out the darkest low days.

I do think the sacrifices are worth the rewards-- but sometimes the rewards aren't exactly what you were expecting. If you can learn to enjoy what you have, instead of what you don't, I think that keeps you going. And appreciating where you are doesn't mean you lack ambition; just that your ambition does not overrun everything in life to a depressing degree.

RAyers
Feb. 18, 2010, 01:04 PM
What comes across isn`t so much that there`s a double standard as much as there are at least two, maybe more, standards of "success".

....

But there are prices to everything. There`s a price for trying, and there`s also a price for not trying. It depends on you to decide which is the higher price, it seems to me.


Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

The young professor next to me is listed as one of the top minds in the US in 2009 and even had lunch with the president because of that honor. At the same time, I wonder how much time he has outside of this world (he is an adventure back country skier). Luckily his wife is in med school. So like you, Denny, like all of us, he chose a path and committed to it to get where he is.

The difference in the horse world is also are we willing to pay the "price" of injured horses in order to elevate the human athlete? That is a question that is NEVER asked in any other sport.

GreyGelding
Feb. 18, 2010, 01:06 PM
I have to comment to say how much I admire the cross-training of these Olympic athletes. Perhaps if the take-away message here, particularly to the amateurs, who may never have aspirations of competing at the higher levels, is that these athletes do many different sports, use many training tools, to build and achieve better overall fitness.

Through my own experience, it isn't possible to stay competition-ready by riding merely 1-2 horses per day, without added cross-training. And how can you expect your horse to perform to the best of their abilities, if their partner can't perform to the same standard?

So yes, drive and ambition, are traits necessary for competitors. And we can agree that this is true whatever the level of competition. But what has stood out the most from watching the Olympic athletes, is their dedication to cross-training, to keeping fitness fun and different.

And in the cold northeast, I need something fun to get me to the gym instead of curled up on the couch with some hot cocoa!

bornfreenowexpensive
Feb. 18, 2010, 01:17 PM
What comes across isn`t so much that there`s a double standard as much as there are at least two, maybe more, standards of "success".

Some feel that "getting it done" is a worthy goal, in and of itself. When I was at the USET, working with Jack Le Goff, that was our mission. It worked, in the sense that we did get it done.

Others feel that the price to pay is too high. That the sacrifices aren`t worth the rewards. That`s an ok standard, too, as long as it`s truly ok with the individual setting the standard.

The problem is that it`s probably not usually possible to have it both ways, to lead a balanced life, and also stand on the podium.

So it depends upon you. Which do YOU want. I can`t answer for you, nor you for me.


Do I now, 35 years later, think it was worth it for me? Yes.

Would I do it again if I could? Yes.

But there are prices to everything. There`s a price for trying, and there`s also a price for not trying. It depends on you to decide which is the higher price, it seems to me.



Honestly though...that's true with being "successful" or the top in most things in life...not just sports.

Mac123
Feb. 18, 2010, 01:21 PM
For me the question is who do I want to be at the end of the day?

Do I want to be a great athlete? Or do I want to be a great person?

Being an equestrian athlete, and a great one at that, is a large part of who I am, but that's not everything to me.

In an ideal world, raw talent and ability and determination and drive would = successful top athlete.

In the real world, raw talent and ability and determination and drive only matter as much as your financial resources. It sucks, believe me, but that's reality.

If I put 100% of who I am into horses (and I have) at some point I have to realize that that's not enough in this sport. I don't have the money.

So I choose to be the best person I can be, and that includes doing everything I can do be the best rider and best horseman and best athlete I can be...but it also includes being a good friend, being a good family member, being a good employee, etc., all the important things in life alongside riding.

I dream big. I would love to be an international level athlete. People have told me I could be one. But at the end of the day, that dream 95% won't come true. And being a good horseman - bringing along horses, helping educate others - and being a good person is just as noble a lifelong pursuit as being a top athlete.

One gets recognition, one doesn't - but that doesn't make one any better than the other.

To me, the important thing is doing one's best in everything. Not everyone can (nor should everyone) dedicate 100% of their life into being an athlete. But that doesn't mean one can't be a dedicated athlete in one's own right.

Donkey
Feb. 18, 2010, 01:39 PM
As a junior I was acquainted with a couple of equestrian Olympians and I must say the ones that made it to the Olympics had an un-nerving and unrelenting focus and obsession with making it. But watching them live on the razor edge striving for success with failure so close around the next corner seemed to be incredibly stressful and the sacrifices that they made did not inspire me to go for it. It takes a special person to follow through and find the right path. Support in terms of money, horses and training will help anyone - perhaps national organizations should look to how other national teams support/manage their athletes for some new ideas.

deltawave
Feb. 18, 2010, 02:04 PM
I was watching an interview with Apolo Ohno and he said something along the lines of:

"Before you go to sleep each night, ask yourself this question: ‘Did you do everything you could today to be at your very best?’"

Even if a rider had enough drive to want to ask themselves this question every night and had the time to be able to fit in the "four 2 hour work outs" everyday, mounted or otherwise, they still need the money and horse to back it up.

Ditto what redlight said.

I was struck--HARD--by the EXACT same moment in that interview. Who among us can answer that question in the affirmative, every single day, for the things we do that are important, not just our "sport"? :eek: Wow, not me.

fatorangehorse
Feb. 18, 2010, 02:13 PM
We are kidding ourselves if we don't think there is a wake of horses with injuries in the barns of many of these riders.

Maybe someon early in their career with only 1 good horse, manages for that not to happen. let's look in Phillip or Buck's barn. a horse shows up, the only interest they have is whether or not it's going to be a 4 star horse. Some of them just don't hold up. I'm not knocking either of them they are brilliant rider, great horsmen and good guys, but that's the name of the game- whether you're Lindsay Vonn skiiing on bruised shins or finishing rolex with 3 shoes, resulting in a career-ending bowed tendon. With that kind of focus and goals, I think it's inevitable.

NeverTime
Feb. 18, 2010, 02:19 PM
I lived for more than a decade in a Colorado ski town with a winter sports training center that countless Olympians have funneled through -- in Vancouver alone, 17 athletes either were born or lived and trained in this one little town of 10,000. So I've witnessed Olympic-level ski training up close and personal.

Truly, I see WAY more parallels than differences. In both sports (in any sport) there are countless degrees of skill and dedication. For the purposes of this thread, the Olympians are the top level in both respects. When I compare our Olympic three-day riders to these Olympic skiers, I see the same single-minded dedication.

In both sports, there's a huge commitment to personal physical fitness at the upper levels. It's expected in skiing, but I've been very impressed in recent years to see how much emphasis top riders are putting on getting to the gym, dropping weight, cross-training, doing core, balance and strength work. (Maybe the best have been doing this stuff all along and I only just tuned into it, but I'm impressed nonetheless. It's definitely not just about hopping on horses for them.)

In both sports, below that Olympic/elite level are the same sorts of divisions -- athletes good enough to compete internationally at the World Cup level but not quite good enough to make teams, athletes serious enough to campaign nationally but not go international, the Junior Olympics/Young Rider crew, and on down to the weekend warriors and just-for-fun participants.

Long way around to my point, but I suspect, Denny, that you are contrasting the dedication shown by these Olympians to what you see from our young riders, or maybe the some of the hopeful youngsters who have been through your program earnestly thinking they'd be Olympians someday but without the drive and work ethic to really get them to that level. It's not fair to compare those two different levels of skill/commitment. Much like we've got juniors and Young Riders, skiing and snowboarding have their own group of Junior Olympians who *want* to see their names in lights but don't really have the gumption or the skill to actually get there.

But the biggest similarity I saw and felt last night? The thrill of brilliance verging on disaster, and the way those girls had to wait at the top while the crashes were cleared, trying to get their heads right and think about what they needed to do instead what could happen. It reminded me so, so much of cross-country, waiting in the warm-up way past your time because a horse is hurt or a rider is down, or just listening to the penalties and falls over the loudspeaker and trying not to let that get to you.
And I felt for the German woman who skiied too tentatively at the end. I've been in her shoes many, many times.

RunForIt
Feb. 18, 2010, 02:22 PM
But the biggest similarity I saw and felt last night? The thrill of brilliance verging on disaster, and the way those girls had to wait at the top while the crashes were cleared, trying to get their heads right and think about what they needed to do instead what could happen. It reminded me so, so much of cross-country, waiting in the warm-up way past your time because a horse is hurt or a rider is down, or just listening to the penalties and falls over the loudspeaker and trying not to let that get to you.
And I felt for the German woman who skiied too tentatively at the end. .

my thoughts last night EXACTLY!!!! Thanks, NeverTime!

Foxtrot's
Feb. 18, 2010, 02:53 PM
Some thoughtful posts here from people who have been there, or been near
elite athletes.

I personally relate somewhat to what pigiponiis said, but perhaps her choice of words from "good person vs. good athlete" should have been re-worded
"well rounded person vs. good athlete".

To be at the top requires total dedication (and lots of money and support).
It is hard to have a life outside sport and this commitment has to come from within.

flutie1
Feb. 18, 2010, 02:58 PM
Was anyone else both touched and a little bit horrified at Lindsey Vonn's total meltdown after she won? It pointed out the pressure she's lived with for so long. For many athletes, that pressure is addictive just as teetering on the edge of disaster is. Otherwise, why would they do it?

One who has the Olympic dream has to decide whether he wants it badly enough to sacrifice everything else in life to attain that peak. It's a rough road!

bornfreenowexpensive
Feb. 18, 2010, 03:15 PM
Was anyone else both touched and a little bit horrified at Lindsey Vonn's total meltdown after she won? It pointed out the pressure she's lived with for so long. For many athletes, that pressure is addictive just as teetering on the edge of disaster is. Otherwise, why would they do it?

One who has the Olympic dream has to decide whether he wants it badly enough to sacrifice everything else in life to attain that peak. It's a rough road!


I thought part of that meltdown also had to do with the horrific wreck she watched just afterwards......that was a really really bad fall from a very top person......lots of emotions ripping at a person at once.

Dawnd
Feb. 18, 2010, 04:24 PM
I love sport.

I love all aspects of sport - as probably most of us who grew up with "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" ringing in their ears - competition is an important part of who I am. I am competitive at just about everything that I do (it's a bit of a sickness, I have to admit) and it drives people who know me well a bit crazy.

There is a certain person who pushes themselves beyond their existing personal limits to something different. This might be in riding, skiing, housekeeping, science or even drinking. Certainly, not all of it is healthy. And it can leave someone a bit unfulfilled in the end.

I understood Denny's first post to be tossing the question out among us..."who now has this kind of drive..." Maybe the answer is some, maybe none.

Ohno's daily affirmation is spot on and I love Thames Pirate's reply.

The bottom line is, if you want a team that has a chance of winning in any sport (and really at any level), every single member needs to have the desire to push themselves beyond their current level of comfort. Not everyone is cut out to do that.

LSM1212
Feb. 18, 2010, 04:24 PM
If you look at a guy like Shaun White though, snowboarding is not just his focus. He crosstrains and competes in skateboarding too, which is similar but not the same. If the summer Olympics had skateboarding we would see him there too. He's one of those lucky few that have found his passion, what he truly loves and enjoys, and happens to be very naturally talented and a lot insane (as these really high level athletes have to be!).

Actually, they were making comments at the most recent "X Games" that Shaun did give up skateboarding to really focus on his snowboarding. And from his performance last night? It shows. Though he was stellar before... he's even better now.

I'm not sure how I feel about this subject. I agree that it's different because an actual living breathing animal is involved.

deltawave
Feb. 18, 2010, 04:53 PM
Both athletes told me that when you put everything you have, your heart & soul into something - doing what everyone says an athlete at that level should do, must do, physically and mentally, and the hard work "will pay off" - but then it doesn't - it can be completely crushing. It takes huge strength of character to motivate oneself and push towards the pinnacle, and I think a failure at that level can hurt that type of athlete at a bigger magnitude than what we mere mortals might experience when we have a disappointment, but have many other aspects of our lives to focus on.

And this is one of the REASONS that the term "elite" means "rare". Maybe we all have that grain inside us that can blossom into greatness, but SO many things have to line up for it to happen to any one individual. You need time, the mental part, the physical part, AND luck AND timing AND for the weather to be right AND (in the case of horses) all four shoes to stay on AND the buckle on the reins not to break at the worst moment, etc. etc. Some of it is under our control, and some of it is not.

Which is why I always feel badly for people who post that their "main goal" is to "ride in the Olympics" because the odds are just so far against any one individual, and that might have NOTHING to do with inherent talent or being a "good person".

I'd think "riding successfully at the Advanced level" or "making it around Rolex" would be an incredible goal for anyone, but you rarely hear that--it's always "The Olympics" for some reason. I love the Olympics, but don't see it as trumping a good career at the upper levels with multiple horses and lots of success at more humble venues.

But as many have said--to each his/her own. :)

denny
Feb. 18, 2010, 05:11 PM
This is an insightful comment that my wrestling coach at Dartmouth used to tell his athletes 50 years ago. I won`t get it in his exact words, but I think I can give the gist of it.

"If you guys give everything you`ve got to this program, that`s no guarantee that you will make it."

"But if you don`t give everything you`ve got to this program, that IS a guarantee that you won`t make it."

Blugal
Feb. 18, 2010, 05:16 PM
Couldn't agree with you more, Deltawave. My goals are usually one to two levels up from what I am currently doing. I have actually been quite surprised at how well this has worked out for the most part. Maybe the disappointments aren't so big (and the goals aren't so distant) - or perhaps a rock-climbing analogy would work here. When you are reaching for something close to your grasp - if you miss, it's not such a huge fall, AND it's a bit easier to try reaching for it again, than if what you are reaching for is near-impossible to grasp.

Aeternitee
Feb. 18, 2010, 05:32 PM
Can riders be trainer-dependent and also be adept at taking risks? If you equate the word risk to to the word problem the question becomes: Can a trainer-dependent rider be an independent problem solver?

There's some food for thought.

Hey - isn't this the same question as, "does Dressage ruin the Cross Country horse?"

redlight
Feb. 18, 2010, 05:39 PM
Maybe we need something along the lines of the old USET training center. Some have referenced athletes they knew who trained at their sport's Olympic training center. We don't have this in equestrian sports anymore. We are all so spread out and there is no single system used to produce Olympic caliber riders. Perhaps if there was a training center for equestrian you would have a pool of talented riders who lived and trained together and stabled their horses together. They would all be coached by one or more selected "Olympic" coaches kind of like a Bela Karoli (spelling?). Maybe he's not the best example but you get my drift.

I don't know if this would work in this day and age because there are so many schools of thought regarding training but I would think maybe it would be an enticement for young riders to make the commitment. To be hand picked to train at the "Olympic Training Center" I think would give confidence to the riders and parents knowing they were going to get the best training available.

snoopy
Feb. 18, 2010, 05:49 PM
Which is why I always feel badly for people who post that their "main goal" is to "ride in the Olympics" because the odds are just so far against any one individual, and that might have NOTHING to do with inherent talent or being a "good person".

I'd think "riding successfully at the Advanced level" or "making it around Rolex" would be an incredible goal for anyone, but you rarely hear that--it's always "The Olympics" for some reason. I love the Olympics, but don't see it as trumping a good career at the upper levels with multiple horses and lots of success at more humble venues.



Back when the OG format was four team and two individuals:

I cannot remember the exact situation I heard this from but a rider was asked what her goal was and the response was not an unsurprising "to ride in the Olympics"..a la International Velvet.

The response from the clinician/coach/trainer (who ever it was) said "that's great, but you do realize that it is JUST four horses, every four years, and for four days. That is a very small time frame/moment in time to wrap up all your hopes and dreams"
Do the math and calculate the odds.

Whilst this should never discourage someone from that goal, I do think one must keep that bit of common sense and perspective in their head as well.

I am reminded of a quote from Harry Potter:

"it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live"

RacetrackReject
Feb. 18, 2010, 05:53 PM
I used to keep this hanging in my office and I think it really speaks to the way things were when Denny is talking about the past great ones.

What It Takes to be Number 1

Vince Lombardi


"Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all the time thing. You don't win once in a while; you don't do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.


"There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that's first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay, and I don't ever want to finish second again. There is a second place bowl game, but it is a game for losers played by losers. It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do, and to win, and to win, and to win.


"Every time a football player goes to play his trade he's got to play from the ground up — from the soles of his feet right up to his head. Every inch of him has to play. Some guys play with their heads. That's O.K. You've got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you've got to play with your heart, with every fiber of your body. If you're lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he's never going to come off the field second.


"Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization — an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win — to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don't think it is.


"It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That's why they are there — to compete. To know the rules and objectives when they get in the game. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules — but to win.


"And in truth, I've never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn't appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat.


"I don't say these things because I believe in the "brute" nature of man or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle — victorious."

- V. Lombardi

It seems to be that, at least in Eventing, the sentiment is not "I have to win" or "I have to beat XX" like it is in other sports. We are happy with doing our personal best whether it gets you first place or not and are happy with the little things like breaking 30 in dressage or going double clear on a sticky horse, etc. Maybe that is a detriment to our sport, but I think it speaks to the character of our players. FWIW, I would rather have character than a ribbon, so maybe that makes me a loser, but I'm fine with that.

Eventingjunkie
Feb. 18, 2010, 05:54 PM
Not to say our "kids" don`t "want it", but I just don`t have the impression it`s quite the same willingness to work their guts out.

Convince me that I`m wrong, because I hope I am---

There are kids out there working their guts out in eventing just as in other olympic sports. However, if they are successful, they will be put down by fellow eventers as being privileged and spoiled, because obviously their parents funded them and bought them expensive horses. So, instead of drawing attention to themselves, they quietly continue in their dedication to the sport knowing one day they will be the great rider's of the future.

cyberbay
Feb. 18, 2010, 05:57 PM
Denny, your parallels... well, not so sure they're holding up: The environment is so different today! At the risk of sounding disrespectful, the riders you listed are of a totally different competition era... Honestly, do you think they would be able to do what they've done if they were starting out today as young elites?

Suburban sprawl, no one able to keep their horses at home (a lot cheaper!), the cost of horses and their upkeep, the very professionals who are trying to make a living at the sport have to charge prices that discourages a wide participation, thus narrowing the appeal to the public and to sponsorship, the fact that our top riders have to have a clientele to stay afloat...

I mean, is Lindsay Vonn coaching other skiers so she can be in Vancouver???? Snowboarders are a fairly new sport, and yet Shaun White (?) has $8 million in sponsorship!!!! Why won't the horsesport world learn to get out of the insular world of the barn aisle and learn to be business-like?

And I agree with the very early post about how lopsided an intensely competitive person can be. That's a unique personality, and from what I've seen, I am glad I'm not one of them. Redlight has a solid idea, but the training centers got blown apart once litigation began in the show jumping world when certain riders didn't make the Teams.

Blugal
Feb. 18, 2010, 06:27 PM
Well heck, I could be WAY off base here (probably am), but I look at a lot of the "Old Guard" who all seem to have bought 150+ acre facilities in what is now Eventing Mecca, but back in the day when one could buy huge tracts of land like that and it wasn't Eventing Mecca.

Does the young generation need to buy their 150+ acres for schooling & turn-out in, I don't know, affordable northern Saskatchewan, then hope that global warming will eventually catch up and the New Eventing Mecca will become northern Saskatchewan?

mbarrett
Feb. 18, 2010, 06:29 PM
Here's my two cents worth. The difference between the athletes competing in the winter Olympics and our equestrian athletes who have competed in the Olympics is a gaggle of students, owners and groupies who follow them to every events demanding their undivided attention. (Of course, they all have matching coats, buckets and saddle pads. Someone has to pay for the matching attire!)

You don't see Lindsey Vonn and Apollo Ohno coaching and training a bunch of youth and adults at their competitions. (There is youth programs to do that.) They are focused on ONLY themselves. They don't have to juggle several horses to ride, coach youth riders and hold the hand of a client who is riding a horse that is way over their head. (But of course, they SOLD that adult rider the horse, so they are doing whatever it takes to make it work, so they can continue to charge training and boarding fees as well as competition fees. Because they don't want the rider to move to another eventing barn and buy a horse from another rider...)

Lindsey and Apollo have time to train, workout and BE an Olympic athlete. Our event riders have to earn a living. They have to ride and train, coach and events, give lessons and clinics, develop young horses and manage their competition lives. Of course, they have help. Maybe, just maybe, they can get a run or swim in or lift some weights a couple times a week.

My point is, good or bad, most equestrians have to earn a living. Working at Home Depot doesn't cut it in the world of equestrian sport.

That being said, I think that is the reason we (United States eventing) has such a spotty record at international events. Riders don't have time to focus on themselves and one or two horses. There is too many demands on their time. That is just the way it is in in today's equestrian world.

They also don't get coaching EVERY DAY by the Team coach. I bet that Lindsey and Appolo get fantastic coaching every day. Wether it is on the slopes/rink, in the gym, or traveling with the Team, they have constant access to great coaches. They also have access to state of the art fitness trainers, nutritionists and facilities.

What do our riders get? Occasional coaching and some mandatory outings to attend just before an international event. Yes, our riders have "coaches" they take lessons with, but it's not the same.

We need a system of training horses and riders. Oh yeah, I forgot, we had that back in the 70's and 80's. Wasn't that when the United States had the most consistant success in international eventing?

I admire our winter Olympic athletes. They work hard and win or lose, they earn every tear they cry and bead of sweat they drip. To say Lindsey didn't give anything up in her life to earn her medal is just CRAZY! NONE of us could keep up with her brutal training and competition schedule.

Yes, we all give something up in our lives to have our horses. But don't put down anyone for being successful.

Personally, I DON'T think our youth riders have enough access to a variety of riding and experiences. All they do is show, show, show. They need a little variety. But for whatever reason, they don't take the opportunity to get a well rounded education. Denny got the well rounded education, but youngsters today, no way.

denny
Feb. 18, 2010, 06:49 PM
This spring there will be lots of timber races. Name ONE, just ONE, of our team aspirants who is trying to get a ride in any of them.

Name ONE of the above who is currently in Europe as a slave to either a grand prix dressage rider or show jump rider, who gets to hang out day after day, soaking up, by osmosis, the insider knowledge.

Name ONE who is planning to ride a 50 mile endurance race in the next several months.

Name ONE who has done all of the above in the last 5 years.

Don`t tell me it can`t be done.

RAyers
Feb. 18, 2010, 06:59 PM
I suggest the movie "Truth in Motion." It is a free 45 minute film about how the US ski team prepared for the Olympics this year. It is on iTunes or go to Audi.com and search for it there (Audi produced it).

A lot about the business is readily apparent there. Not ONE skier on the team needed to coach or train or whatever to make a living. They skied and trained, e.g. the men's team lived at 10,000 feet in Columbia skiing everyday before they went to Europe to qualify. The coaches give frank interviews about how they will select the team.

IT AIN'T LIKE THE HORSE WORLD!

We need to also realize that skiing and snowboarding are about 10 times more accessible to the general public. Most folks can be on a blue slope after only a few lessons. Thus more folks can identify with the sport. At the same time this interest allows for companies to give HUGE sponsorships to the athletes because they are going to bring in significant numbers of customers. Does anybody really think Ford feels that spending $1 million (or even $100K) to sponsor an eventer is going to bring in reciprocal income? From a large sponsorship perspective english riding is an upside-down investment.

Blugal
Feb. 18, 2010, 07:02 PM
denny,
I don't disagree that a rounded education for a horseman is a necessary thing.

But to parallel your questions:

Did Lindsey Vonn go to Europe and soak up training from a ski touring master? Did she sign up for a freestyle moguls race? Did she take some cross-training from a cross-country skiier?

I don't think so. She spent all her time honing her skills for the disciplines she was entered in (I guess you could say that doing slalom, GS, and downhill is sort of like doing eventing in that you have 3 different but related disciplines) - and her "cross training" was probably mostly done in the gym. (I know someone who skiied competitively and that is what their training program was like - on hill skills, and "dryland" i.e. focused gym/jogging/biking.)

RAyers
Feb. 18, 2010, 07:07 PM
This spring there will be lots of timber races. Name ONE, just ONE, of our team aspirants who is trying to get a ride in any of them.

Name ONE of the above who is currently in Europe as a slave to either a grand prix dressage rider or show jump rider, who gets to hang out day after day, soaking up, by osmosis, the insider knowledge.

Name ONE who is planning to ride a 50 mile endurance race in the next several months.

Name ONE who has done all of the above in the last 5 years.

Don`t tell me it can`t be done.


Denny, I agree it can be done and I am sure there are those with the will, however those with the means are rare and in today's world it is even more difficult when one must consider their life beyond the end of their career in sport.

The shear number of skiers and ski areas/resorts will pretty much assure anybody from the Olympic team has a positions with a major company (since most resorts are owned by corporations) with good benefits etc. Look at Billy Kidd and Steamboat or the Mahre brothers who started their ski training center in Keystone and are now in Deer Valley. They can do a volume business while teaching riding lesson is much more difficult.

Reed

FlightCheck
Feb. 18, 2010, 07:41 PM
Great discussion.

At the age of 18 I was a WS for a BNT. This was "back in the day" - before Karen was an O'C, before David was a household name, before many of you were born.

As I attended 3 day events with the BNT, I was AMAZED at the focus/dedication of the riders who were working towards the top of the game.

They didn't go to the movies. They didn't know the latest songs, wear the current fashion, or really know who any celebrities were. They barely knew who the president was, or any ongoing world events. There were no trips to the beach, vacations, or "days off". Most of them had chosen the riding life over college, because there was not money for both. They had no marketable job skills outside the horse world - this was the early 80's, when computers were just coming out.

EVERYTHING was contingent upon the last event, the upcoming event, the horses' soundness or unsoundness.

And at 18, I knew I would NEVER, ever, be an upper level rider.

TuxWink
Feb. 18, 2010, 08:01 PM
They didn't go to the movies. They didn't know the latest songs, wear the current fashion, or really know who any celebrities were. They barely knew who the president was, or any ongoing world events. There were no trips to the beach, vacations, or "days off". Most of them had chosen the riding life over college, because there was not money for both. They had no marketable job skills outside the horse world - this was the early 80's, when computers were just coming out.

EVERYTHING was contingent upon the last event, the upcoming event, the horses' soundness or unsoundness.

And at 18, I knew I would NEVER, ever, be an upper level rider.

When I was younger, I was heavily into gymnastics, same with my sister. I started training 5 hours a day / 5 days a week in the 3rd grade. At least with the sport of gymnastics, or figure skating, there is a very small window of time you must make the sacrifices listed above. You give it your all, hope for a payoff, but if it doesn't happen you STILL have the rest of your life ahead of you as you are in your late teens. It is also easier to maintain that focus. You train with your peers, live with your parents, and have no financial obligations. You're dealing with a very small chunk of time out of your life as a whole.

Riding at the upper levels is more complicated. Can you you really sustain that self-centered focus on riding for 20, 30, 40 years? Can you even support yourself doing it? I think for most people it just isn't a desirable or sustainable way to live.

eventrider
Feb. 18, 2010, 09:17 PM
The problem is not dedication, the problem is money. A couple of people have hit the nail on the head. When there is no funding, and you dont come from family money, or marry into it, you have to work your butt of just to make ends meet to have your horse and compete and ride. You have to run a successful operation just to keep the lights on. That requires 12 hour days in the barn, 10 horses to get ridden, lessons to be taught, stalls to be mucked, horses to be fed and turned out, blankets to be changed, water buckets to be scrubbed and filled, aisleways to be swept, tack to be cleaned. When does that leave time for the gym, or anything else? I cannot afford to ride in a timber race, because if I get hurt, what will I do? Who will do all of the things above? I cannot afford it. There are no days off. And only the wealthy get to sit back and focus only on themselves and their few personal horses to make a team. The rest have to try to keep the barn running. And this has nothing to do with riding ability, or lack of good horses.

RunForIt
Feb. 18, 2010, 09:40 PM
The problem is not dedication, the problem is money. A couple of people have hit the nail on the head. When there is no funding, and you dont come from family money, or marry into it, you have to work your butt of just to make ends meet to have your horse and compete and ride. You have to run a successful operation just to keep the lights on. That requires 12 hour days in the barn, 10 horses to get ridden, lessons to be taught, stalls to be mucked, horses to be fed and turned out, blankets to be changed, water buckets to be scrubbed and filled, aisleways to be swept, tack to be cleaned. When does that leave time for the gym, or anything else? I cannot afford to ride in a timber race, because if I get hurt, what will I do? Who will do all of the things above? I cannot afford it. There are no days off. And only the wealthy get to sit back and focus only on themselves and their few personal horses to make a team. The rest have to try to keep the barn running. And this has nothing to do with riding ability, or lack of good horses.

I wish you all good things - in a few sentences you presented the reality of eventing at the upper levels. There is no reason to not keep going - the sport, the horses, and the life are worth it - you sound as if you have on the right glasses. :cool:

lstevenson
Feb. 18, 2010, 11:25 PM
What a great discussion!

I totally agree with what eventrider said for most eventers trying to make it to the top. I do think money is the primary problem for most.

But I have also seen a few lazy rich kids who truely don't have the dedication to work hard enough. They want it all just handed to them, and think their unlimited money will make up for their lack of effort. And sadly, sometimes it does.

Carol Ames
Feb. 19, 2010, 12:25 AM
Are you talking about our winter Olympians, or our equestrian ones?:confused:

Not to say our "kids" don`t "want it", but I just don`t have the impression it`s quite the same willingness to work their guts out.

Carol Ames
Feb. 19, 2010, 12:27 AM
e: Originally Posted by eventrider http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/images/buttons/viewpost.gif (http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/showthread.php?p=4697023#post4697023)
The problem is not dedication, the problem is money. A couple of people have hit the nail on the head. When there is no funding, and you dont come from family money, or marry into it, you have to work your butt off just to make ends meet to have your horse and compete and ride. You have to run a successful operation jus

Barnfairy
Feb. 19, 2010, 12:41 AM
This spring there will be lots of timber races. Name ONE, just ONE, of our team aspirants who is trying to get a ride in any of them.

Name ONE of the above who is currently in Europe as a slave to either a grand prix dressage rider or show jump rider, who gets to hang out day after day, soaking up, by osmosis, the insider knowledge.

Name ONE who is planning to ride a 50 mile endurance race in the next several months.

Name ONE who has done all of the above in the last 5 years.

Don`t tell me it can`t be done.Maybe it can still be done, but does it need to be?

You better than anyone ought to know how the sport has evolved over the years particularly at its most advanced level...why would you expect the riders to be the same?

Don't get me wrong. I don't dismiss the importance of dedication and drive. I too am struck by how many young riders I've come across who are wonderful riders but will probably never be true horsemen.

This said by someone whose parents to this day have never watched her compete. Should I have run away from home as a teen when I had Olympic aspirations?

Support, both financial and moral, are crucial factors which otherwise dedicated young athletes may lack.

His Greyness
Feb. 19, 2010, 01:33 AM
Throughout human history members of one generation, as they age, have complained about the decadence and effeteness of the generation that succeeds them. Of course, the biggest influence on the development of that depraved generation has been the complaining generation that preceded them. :p

Hilary
Feb. 19, 2010, 09:09 AM
I think several people have nailed a big part of the issue: Money.
Back in the 60s you COULD buy a large farm for $5000. It might have been 3-4 years worth of income, but is sure isn't the 10 years that it might currently be.

"back when" did you have to pay to live and train at the USET headquarters? Or were you allowed to live and breath riding?

If you were so lucky as to be chosen did you also have support yourself financially as well as become the best rider you could be?

And I'm going to pick on Bruce for a minute - he is upheld as one of the true eventing stars. If you listen to the story of how he got to the USET headquarters for the first time you can choose only to hear that he rode his pony bareback right into the rotunda. Or you can also remember that when his truck broke down, mum came to pick him up in his sports car and when the time came and the coach said "buy this horse (Irish Cap) so your son can have a shot at the team" the parents did.

Not to say he didn't work hard and has an incredible gift, but he also had the support to be able to hone and perfect it. Did he have to have a night job folding pants at Sears to make sure the vet bill got paid?

Lisa Cook
Feb. 19, 2010, 10:31 AM
My son is on a ski team, and he also events. One thing that has struck me is how much easier it is to dedicate the hours to training when you are dealing with inanimate equipment vs. living animals. It is far easier to buy 2 sets of skis and have it for hours & hours at a time, than to try & duplicate those hours with riding which would require multiple horses.

Financially though....the top level junior skiers probably have just as much of a financial hurdle than top junior riders. The best skiers at competitions in New England, are, almost without exception, from boarding schools. They are on the snow for hours every day & dry land training for hours when they come off the mountain. $40k/year for these schools, and they start at grade 6. We get the brochures on a regular basis. Then, at additional costs, are the trips to the Alps/Mt Hood for training on the glaciers in the summer. I'm still trying to figure out when the parents actually see their children. But the point is....for the elite junior skiers, access to money is very much a factor, for those posters bringing up finances.

One exception...Leanne Smith, competing on the US ski team. She's from New Hampshire and came up through the ranks skiing on local mountain teams and her high school ski team. Good for her. :) She's only a footnote in the standings at the end of the day in the Olympics but she's already beat very long odds to get to where she is....kinda like the rider who comes up from pony club to make it to the elite level.

TBCollector
Feb. 19, 2010, 10:55 AM
The problem is not dedication, the problem is money. A couple of people have hit the nail on the head. When there is no funding, and you dont come from family money, or marry into it, you have to work your butt of just to make ends meet to have your horse and compete and ride. You have to run a successful operation just to keep the lights on. That requires 12 hour days in the barn, 10 horses to get ridden, lessons to be taught, stalls to be mucked, horses to be fed and turned out, blankets to be changed, water buckets to be scrubbed and filled, aisleways to be swept, tack to be cleaned. When does that leave time for the gym, or anything else? I cannot afford to ride in a timber race, because if I get hurt, what will I do? Who will do all of the things above? I cannot afford it. There are no days off. And only the wealthy get to sit back and focus only on themselves and their few personal horses to make a team. The rest have to try to keep the barn running. And this has nothing to do with riding ability, or lack of good horses.

NOW we have a winner.
All due respect, Denny, but every rider you identified as fitting your definition of the ideal eventer either came from or married into money. It's fairly revealing that some of us are oblivious to this obvious truth. When one knows one's bill are being paid - and that one's future is essentially secured, team selection or not - there's more inclination/time/freedom to pursue the dream.

TBCollector
Feb. 19, 2010, 11:02 AM
Oh, and Eventrider...I'd take your talent and work ethic over about half of the Developing Riders (which has become a euphemism for "those with expensive, nice horses and the means to procure more expensive, nice horses.")

Bobthehorse
Feb. 19, 2010, 11:03 AM
I'd think "riding successfully at the Advanced level" or "making it around Rolex" would be an incredible goal for anyone, but you rarely hear that--it's always "The Olympics" for some reason.

When I hear people say that, I either think they are not very knowledgeable about eventing, or care more about the recognition than the personal goal. I think most eventers agree that winning Badminton or Rolex is more prestigious and telling in our world than Olympic gold. The Olympics is not the most difficult championship for several sports, but it is the one that gets the most recognition from the masses, its something every single person understands, so its a recognizable accomplishment. Everyone outside the horse world always asks me if Im trying to get to Olympics, and I never know what to say. So to me, that kind of goal speaks to the priorities of that person.

LAZ
Feb. 19, 2010, 11:34 AM
The problem is not dedication, the problem is money. A couple of people have hit the nail on the head. When there is no funding, and you dont come from family money, or marry into it, you have to work your butt of just to make ends meet to have your horse and compete and ride. You have to run a successful operation just to keep the lights on. That requires 12 hour days in the barn, 10 horses to get ridden, lessons to be taught, stalls to be mucked, horses to be fed and turned out, blankets to be changed, water buckets to be scrubbed and filled, aisleways to be swept, tack to be cleaned. When does that leave time for the gym, or anything else? I cannot afford to ride in a timber race, because if I get hurt, what will I do? Who will do all of the things above? I cannot afford it. There are no days off. And only the wealthy get to sit back and focus only on themselves and their few personal horses to make a team. The rest have to try to keep the barn running. And this has nothing to do with riding ability, or lack of good horses.

I am not an upper level rider, but I do compete and run an active boarding/showing barn. I am the only person that makes my business go--I do not come from money and it is only whatever income I make. Eight years ago I had a fall & hurt myself (fractured a vertebrae) and had to take it really easy for about 6 months. I spent the next 6 years digging myself out of the hole I got into when I couldn't ride or teach much.

I have done a bit of everything 50 mile races, event, dressage, low level jumpers, fox hunting, trail riding, ran in a ladies timber race once. I have done other high risk things, including racing cars, skiing and skydiving.

I sure measure the risks I take now, part of that is age and part of that is just the realization that I never, ever want to be in debt like that again.

When it is just you making things work, and you have something to lose, you can't afford to take the risks you once did. Sad, but true.

denny
Feb. 19, 2010, 12:21 PM
Read about her in this week`s Chronicle. It`s exactly what I`m talking about.

And none of this "It`s a different world, now" because the great ones always find a way.

RAyers
Feb. 19, 2010, 01:52 PM
Read about her in this week`s Chronicle. It`s exactly what I`m talking about.

And none of this "It`s a different world, now" because the great ones always find a way.

But here would be my question back to you, Denny. You say "great ones" however, does competing at the top of any sport define "greatness" in the ideal of ability and true knowledge? I do not mean to take away from anybody's accomplishments. Yet, we see time and time again, in this sport and others situations where we find out the folks at the "top" were in a sense living a lie or presenting a "false" success (be it using drugs, cheating the rules, or simply buying their way [e.g. America's Cup in the 80s]). Sure these folks have "found a way" but is it the RIGHT way?

Reed

Barnfairy
Feb. 19, 2010, 03:36 PM
Read about [Kusner] in this week`s Chronicle. It`s exactly what I`m talking about.

And none of this "It`s a different world, now" because the great ones always find a way.You're right, it is irrelevant that the world has changed because when it comes to the elite, the overachievers, the real world rules the rest of us abide by don't apply.

But please, don't tell me the great ones have found their way on butt busting dedication alone without support. Aberali, Unusual, and Untouchable were USET horses.

Dawnd
Feb. 19, 2010, 04:30 PM
They didn't go to the movies. They didn't know the latest songs, wear the current fashion, or really know who any celebrities were. They barely knew who the president was, or any ongoing world events. There were no trips to the beach, vacations, or "days off".

I thought that the above made me a loser. I had no idea it meant that I was focused! :lol:

denny
Feb. 19, 2010, 06:01 PM
Barnfairy----Read the article. Kathy earned her way onto the USET, and then doors opened.

My point is that it`s still possible, in 2010, to become an elite rider, even if you come from very modest means, if you have several requisite qualities.

1. Intense drive, hunger, fire in the belly, whatever you want to call it.

2. A fierce work ethic.

3. Talent.

4. Athleticism---strength, agility, fitness.

These qualities will open doors enough for you to get to the place where you can push open other doors---as Kathy did.

Without all of these qualities, it`s unlikely that you`ll keep at it long enough to force open those first seemingly locked doors. You`ll decide the struggle isn`t worth the uncertain prize at the end.

That`s what happens to most riders. They stop trying. They forget what Winston Churchill said about giving up. Which was never do it.

Blugal
Feb. 19, 2010, 06:18 PM
denny, I think you are missing a very important component: charm and/or business sense. If you have all of the items in your list, you can still be up a creek if you are unable to convince someone to finance your dream, be that owners, students, a husband, what have you.

bornfreenowexpensive
Feb. 19, 2010, 06:19 PM
Barnfairy----Read the article. Kathy earned her way onto the USET, and then doors opened.

My point is that it`s still possible, in 2010, to become an elite rider, even if you come from very modest means, if you have several requisite qualities.

1. Intense drive, hunger, fire in the belly, whatever you want to call it.

2. A fierce work ethic.

3. Talent.

4. Athleticism---strength, agility, fitness.

These qualities will open doors enough for you to get to the place where you can push open other doors---as Kathy did.

Without all of these qualities, it`s unlikely that you`ll keep at it long enough to force open those first seemingly locked doors. You`ll decide the struggle isn`t worth the uncertain prize at the end.

That`s what happens to most riders. They stop trying. They forget what Winston Churchill said about giving up. Which was never do it.

I do agree with you Denny....but there is also an element of Luck.

Luck that when that baby horse that you are green breaking falls...you don't break your neck or back and end up in a wheelchair or worse. Luck that you keep healthy. Great skill is what keeps riders from getting hurt at the elite levels...and luck is what keeps them from getting hurt when they are gaining that skill.

Not everyone who has all the of the qualitities you described above will make it. That is life.....it isn't always fair and just working hard will not always get you accross the finish line...but if you don't try, you certainly will not get there.

I saw that myself when working for one of the great show jump trainers. Looked at what was needed for me to make it as an elite rider.....the gamble involved. And decided to instead earn my living elsewhere where I had a different gamble. Trust me....to make it to the top in anything...sports or any top paying career....it takes talent, hard work and sacrafice. Only way I've seen that can make a solid living without putting in that work and having some talent is buying a winning lotto ticket....and trust me, I've been trying to make it that way for a long time;)

There are still riders out there clawing their way up....and there will be more "great" horsemen. To be elite is to be one of a few. But "great" horsemen are few and far between....as they were for prior generations and as they will be for current generations.

denny
Feb. 19, 2010, 06:29 PM
I never said it was easy. I said it was still possible.

JER
Feb. 19, 2010, 06:40 PM
My point is that it`s still possible, in 2010, to become an elite rider, even if you come from very modest means, if you have several requisite qualities.

'Possible' but highly improbable.

Keep in mind that the United States has an 'unusually low level of social mobility.' (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2006/04/b1579981.html) France, Canada, Germany, Norway, Sweden -- grow up there and you stand a greater chance of bettering your social class. The only western country that rivals the US for the bottom run of the social mobility ladder is the UK (and a study that came out last summer said the US now ranks below the UK).

The American Dream is not just a myth, it's a lie. This is a tough country to live in.

The British Olympian and journalist Matthew Syed wrote a piece for the Times recently about how money was a huge factor in making it to the Olympics.

The Olympics: you need brass to go for gold (http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/the_way_we_live/article7020963.ece)


This may sound a little strange if you accept the notion that sport has nothing to do with social class; that the Olympics is a meritocracy in which individuals succeed on the basis of hard work and talent rather than cash and privilege.

But look at the statistics and you will see instantly the connection between Posh and podium. According to a report leaked last week, more than a third of British competitors at the London Olympics in 2012 will hail from private schools — a staggering number when you consider that only 7 per cent of children are educated in the independent sector. But consider this, too: a full 58 per cent of athletes who won gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens were educated at private schools, including a good few from the super-elite public schools such as Eton.

(Syed himself has posh creds -- he's an Oxford grad.)

denny
Feb. 19, 2010, 06:47 PM
Wow, are you pessimists, or realists? Or maybe the two are synonymous!

I absolutely believe it`s still possible, so maybe I`m the stupid optimist. But I am an optimist about this, and I think we`ll see some some kids prove I`m right in the next few years.

bornfreenowexpensive
Feb. 19, 2010, 07:44 PM
Wow, are you pessimists, or realists? Or maybe the two are synonymous!

I absolutely believe it`s still possible, so maybe I`m the stupid optimist. But I am an optimist about this, and I think we`ll see some some kids prove I`m right in the next few years.


Well...I'm a realist. I know there will be some who make it. And I will cheer them on. But I do think that people need to know what they are doing...run that race, take that gamble...and enjoy the race as much as the finish. But don't feel entitled to win just because you gave it your all...

retreadeventer
Feb. 19, 2010, 07:57 PM
It's fun to make money and win. Certainly getting an Olympic medal is very lucrative. Perhaps it is the motivation -- not necessarily to be GOOD at eventing, or horsemanship in general, but to be good at getting an Olympic medal. Don't need to gallop horses at the track or race over timber. But need big owner with nice horses.

Mac123
Feb. 19, 2010, 08:21 PM
Wow, are you pessimists, or realists? Or maybe the two are synonymous!

I absolutely believe it`s still possible, so maybe I`m the stupid optimist. But I am an optimist about this, and I think we`ll see some some kids prove I`m right in the next few years.
I used to be a realist that erred on optimism. Now I'm a realist that errs on pessimism. It's the horse world that has caused that switch.

I'm a jumper rider, but we run into the same problems. I do find your attitude a bit optimistic and just the slightest bit offensive as well.

I come from no money, but damn if I haven't worked hard, learned a ton, and ride really, really well. No decent show record due to lack of funds; I earn my measly 15 bucks a training ride from a local barn riding low end, average horses, most with "issues." I have worked for a couple people in the business during college but neither were BNTs.

So here's my real world: I can go get an entry level position, because that's about all I'm good for with my "resume." Which usually means I'll earn a few hundred a week and maybe some coaching/free board. Maybe get into a place that lets me show, most likely not. Most likely, though, I'd have to be a WS - a non paid slave. I will have no life, no chance at finding a significant other, forget having a family.

And...the horse world pays a pittance - if anything. I have health insurance (must have - back condition). I have a car payment. I have living expenses. I have a horse and associated board/vet/farrier expenses. I have showing expenses (the measly that I can afford, anyway).

So how do you propose making that work? Yes, I could give it all up and struggle my way through. Shocking, I know, but I want to be able to pay my bills. I want to have a relatively secure position - maybe even some retirement socked away! I don't want to end up like countless, countless horse people I have met who are 50 years old, going from city to city, scrounging for groom jobs or a ride, no life, no home, no family, no friends, and nothing to show for any of it.

There IS a huge element of sacrifice to being an elite athlete in any sport. The difference in ours is that any person who desires normal, healthy things - like making a decent wage, having insurance, seeing their family on more than Christmas and Thanksgiving, getting a day off sometimes - is seen in our sport as not having enough commitment whereas all those things are normal as a skier or a basketball player or a hockey player .

I will not throw my life away on the chance, a small, small chance that I can be that 1 in 1000 statistic of being a 23 year old to combat having no money, no resources, no good horses, no sponsorships (things ALL the top young jumper riders have) and rise to the "elite" levels.

You may call that lack of dedication; I call it making good, realistic choices about living life.

You want someone to blame? Blame the trainers who charge so much 1/2 the talented kids are priced out of the business. Blame the horse show management that 3/4 the talented riders can't afford to ride above the local level. Blame the trainers who blather about kids who won't work hard while never helping kids along for free just to see them succeed. Blame the USET/USEF for not talent scouting at the grass roots like they used to and instead only using points to determine talent. Blame the trainers who use people as slaves and burn them out before they have a chance to shine.

But don't do a lump assumption that all us young riders "just don't want it" or "just aren't talented enough" or "just won't give it all up." Because you may be a success story of someone who gave it all up and succeeded - exponentially. But how many hundreds out there to your one gave it their all and never got anything but a wasted life in return?

I'm 23, and I went to college, graduated with honors, and have found a compromise. I work 2 part time accounting jobs and ride whatever I can at local barns, show whatever I can at local shows. I HAVE to be a "professional" because I can't afford the sport otherwise so I can't show in ammy classes where I could win money to help show fees.

But I get to ride and make myself the absolute BEST rider I can be. And though I may be riding a kid's QH or OTTB doesn't mean I'm not making that QH or OTTB the BEST horse it can be. I can ride crap and make it nice, because I don't have any other choice. And though I may never be a household name doesn't mean I couldn't ride circles around some of the "elite" young jumper riders if given a chance.

Barnfairy
Feb. 19, 2010, 08:26 PM
Barnfairy----Read the article.I did. That's how I know Kathy didn't have to finance those horses while she was earning the rides on them.

DLee
Feb. 19, 2010, 08:31 PM
Mac123,
Great post.

purplnurpl
Feb. 19, 2010, 08:31 PM
Not one of these avenues has a "road closed" sign to someone who truly wants to go there.

No, you are right.
But, they do all have a "PAY NOW" sign.

deltawave
Feb. 19, 2010, 08:45 PM
This thread is kind of making me muse on the subject of "do we really define equestrian sports as SPORTS?". Or is it more of an "expensive hobby where we compete"? I'm drawing a blank to find another sport that makes such a gigantic demand for piles of money in order to be successful, and one wherein all ages, shapes, sizes and genders share the playing field, and one wherein the elite still compete with the humble in the same divisions.

It's an odd combination of things, surely.

bornfreenowexpensive
Feb. 19, 2010, 08:58 PM
This thread is kind of making me muse on the subject of "do we really define equestrian sports as SPORTS?". Or is it more of an "expensive hobby where we compete"? I'm drawing a blank to find another sport that makes such a gigantic demand for piles of money in order to be successful, and one wherein all ages, shapes, sizes and genders share the playing field, and one wherein the elite still compete with the humble in the same divisions.

It's an odd combination of things, surely.


Sailing? Other sport I grew up around....

Barnfairy
Feb. 19, 2010, 09:14 PM
Sailing? Good call. 'Also falls into the "expensive hobby where we compete" category...

denny
Feb. 19, 2010, 09:42 PM
Mac123, you`re still very young. Don`t think because it`s hard, it can`t happen.
I was 33 when I got my shot. I`d been competing already for 20 years. Go back somewhere in this thread and re-read what my college wrestling coach told me. He was right, and that was 50 years ago, and he`s still right.

deltawave
Feb. 19, 2010, 09:44 PM
Dog shows? Does anyone consider that a sport? Of course Westminster would be more equivalent to a halter class than to eventing. Maybe utility dog trials? Schutzhund or agility trials? Are they a sport?

Barnfairy
Feb. 19, 2010, 09:47 PM
Dog agility is a sport. Doesn't come close to the expense of showing horses.

I think I need to spend some more time alone in a cabin (http://www.hyphenmagazine.com/blog/2010/02/winter-olympics-spotlight-apol.html).

Thames Pirate
Feb. 20, 2010, 01:48 AM
Mac123, you`re still very young. Don`t think because it`s hard, it can`t happen.
I was 33 when I got my shot. I`d been competing already for 20 years. Go back somewhere in this thread and re-read what my college wrestling coach told me. He was right, and that was 50 years ago, and he`s still right.

Denny, I'm inclined to agree with Mac to a great degree. There is so much more than just hard work involved. There is luck, there is money, and there is the right horse. There is support (having someone push you, believe in you, and the emotional support). There is talent, there is heart, and there is location (it's hard for someone in SD to have the same opportunities as someone in PA). There are so many factors, and while hard work can overcome a breakdown in one or even two areas, there is more to it than that.

I am 30. I spent two years as a working student, having competed through Novice in high school and catch ridden in college--during which time one horse was given away due to navicular and another had a close encounter with a tornado that also involved a fence. The WS horse had colic surgery just after lining up the position (and the day after I bought him) and just before I started. He (an OTTB) underwent a personality change and became very hot. I worked my tush off getting him rideable (over 6 months and while fighting recurring colics), only to have him develop mystery lameness. Months of workups at Auburn, time off, careful management, and nothing--still mystery lame. I gave him away. I was fortunate to have reserves and to buy a new horse (I have some financial backing--again, some money--not tons, but some). By the time I bought the horse my time as a WS was pretty much up. I waited tables, eking out a rent and board payment while sticking around with BNT in the hopes of still working off the occasional lesson. After a year (without shows, lessons, and with less than most adult ammies have) I decided grad school and a career would allow me money to compete. I FINALLY busted the Novice barrier and completed 4 Trainings (3 clean). Things were finally going my way. I was starting to think of a fall season at Training and possibly Prelim. Then the really bad stuff happened--my horse has had mastitis, an abcess, fluid in a tendon, a run in between my horse's hock and a fence, and a severe torn muscle--oh, and acute renal failure--most of those injuries were treated without bute and with sheer labor (wrapping, icing, the works). I can work hard. I have held down a first-year teaching position and a job waiting tables on the side--and still riding. I have nothing to show for my hard work competitively--I still have nothing beyond those few Trainings, and now that the horse is finally sound (after 18 months) I have no more money. I am still in it, though. I have no money, no luck, a decent horse, and not enough talent. It wasn't until the last few months that I found the first coach to believe in me and to push me--I've never had the support. I have had to recognize that I am not going to the top and that even my goal of a P3DE is probably a pipe dream any time in the next decade; I had my shot, and it didn't work out--largely due to bad luck.

I know I don't have Olympic drive, but I certainly have P3DE drive. Everyone at my barn would tell you I have heart and that I have stuck with it for blow after blow (including many not listed here--financial, familial, etc). I work harder and have a greater attention to detail than most of the people with whom I ride or have ever ridden (including the BNT), yet I am still stuck with my 3 Trainings. I'm proud of those, BTW. I don't have huge backing, but I intend to find a way to compete this year (I scheduled my wedding around the T3DE here and am working to find the money for the trip to CA for the final QR). I will figure it out; and if it doesn't work out, I'll try again. In the meantime I will work hard, enjoy the ride (with all its ups and downs), and see what I can do to make it happen. BTW--any fundraising ideas for a trip to CA for a HT or to pay off my vet?

My point is that luck and other factors can play a huge role. My sister, who has more talent than I do, has had even worse luck than I do (she lost her first horse to leukemia and her first greenie in an accident--all before graduating high school--and things haven't improved much for her since). Anyone (ammie and pro alike) who knows us has said we're horsey cursed. Luck is certainly a factor. So is money. Talent, hard work, and heart can only make up for so much. I think you can have many of the factors (work, talent, heart, money, luck, support, location, etc.) in place--but if you have two or more against you, you're SOL. So can one overcome a lack of money? Yes. Can one overcome the lack of talent? To some degree. Can one overcome hard luck? Sure. Hard work can cover one of the other deficits. It can't cover multiple deficits. It's that simple. By the same token money can cover a deficit or sometimes two--which is why some people can buy their way to the top.

Hard work is still a critical component. It always will be. However, it is offensive to think that those of us who aren't there have given up. It is offensive to think that those of us who aren't there just didn't work hard enough. I'll agree that it's equally offensive to assume that those with money didn't work for it, but hard work is just one of MANY, MANY factors.

I do like what your coach said, though--which is why I'm still putting myself out there, still taking risks, still doing what I can to improve (it's amazing what one can do with a video camera and some good books). At my last show my coach (the first time I've been coached at an event, BTW) was thrilled with me; I left it all out there and got myself eliminated in the process. I've never been prouder of the big E!

I guess what's offensive is your suggestion that people just don't work hard enough. Many do and are never "discovered." Others do not work but have all the other components; is it possible they are the ones you're seeing?

denny
Feb. 20, 2010, 07:43 AM
Go reread what I said. You need 4 things, and hard work is just one of them. For 50 years I`ve watched riders come and go in this sport, so my insights are based on some degree of experience.

Drive, work, talent, athleticism---a potent combination. But a rider needs ALL FOUR if he/she doesn`t have $. And even then there`s no certainty, which is what my wrestling coach said.

And I agree with whoever said to add schmooze-ability---As Jim Wolf says, you have to sell someone else on YOUR dream.

That`s all I`m going to say about this.

deltawave
Feb. 20, 2010, 07:54 AM
I'm wondering about numbers of riders, too.

I haven't been eventing THAT long, about 15 years, but I sure do seem to remember that the upper levels weren't very full back then. I don't remember there being 3 divisions of Advanced at shows, for instance. But that, perhaps, is due to faulty memory and my proximity to big shows, which has always been "not very" until very recently when a teeny handful of upper level venues has cropped up out here in flyover country. :)

Timex
Feb. 20, 2010, 08:03 AM
So, at 30 i still have a chance, is that what you're trying to tell me, denny? ;)

Sorry, have to disagree with some of what you've said. Do I have the drive, the work ethic, the athleticism and the talent? My former trainers have said so. I've been busting my butt in my little backyard barn, teaching and training, trying to turn out the nicest little all-around horsepeople I can, and make the most of the not-always the highest-quality horses. My normal day has me galloping racehorses in the am, schooling greenies, hunters and dressage horses in the afternoon, and riding a jumper, reining horse and saddleseat horses at night. I can drive, and we gymkhana, along with showing, both breed and open. Would I try a timber race? Sure, but we don't have them in upstate NY. Would I love to even just compete internationally? Sure. But is it worth it to me to hand my kid over to my ex to raise, sell my horses, give up my business to maybe, just maybe have a chance? Nope, its not. I've worked too hard for what I've got already, not going to throw it away for that slim of a chance. Its the choice that I've made, and I bet more than a few other riders have made as well.

snoopy
Feb. 20, 2010, 08:38 AM
I guess my question would be:

What is the payout for all this drive, determination, sacrifice, tears, etc?

An Olympic medal in eventing hardly paves the way to any payback in the long term. It is not like that medal is a ticket to big money endorsements nor is it a given that it would better your business.

The dream and the Olympic medal/place does not pay the mortgage, the electricy bill, the car payment, the college fund for the kids, the medical bills etc etc etc.

It would seem to me that the sacrifice is too great when you look at the end result.

Until there is funding to help our athletes and the payout much greater then it does not make sense on paper.

I know of a few Olympic/WC riders that do not have squat for all that work. I know elite athletes that are unhappy people because they are advancing in age and are chasing every dime they can to pay for life outside horses. Most of them have no health insurance or a pension.

People like to train with the flavour of the month, so an Olympic place/medal years ago does not fill up their dance card today.


Call a spade a spade. It is an expensive hobby that has Olympic inclusion. If you do not have the money to fund that hobby you had better find someone that does. Even then this is fleeting and you are at the mercy of fickle owners who can (and do) take it all away for the next best thing. That insecurity is enough to put anyone off.

You may include me as a realist....and reality would dictate you look at the whole picture and not just one moment in time that may never come...and often doesn't.

We send our children to college so that they have the education and skills to look after themselves for the rest of their lives and I believe chasing an Olympic medal in OUR sport does not.

Equibrit
Feb. 20, 2010, 08:47 AM
It doesn't cost a ton to strap your skates on early every morning and go do the work. Keeping a horse in training with you for several years is a totally different story.

Meredith Clark
Feb. 20, 2010, 08:48 AM
I guess my question would be:

What is the payout for all this drive, determination, sacrifice, tears, etc?

An Olympic medal in eventing hardly paves the way to any payback in the long term. It is not like that medal is a ticket to big money endorsements nor is it a given that it would better your business.

.

I wonder if our riders, or team in general had better management or PR could they get the cover of a Wheaties box if they won gold?

I'm not saying they'd get paid $$ like Tiger Woods but there are a lot of Olympic Sports that come and go out of fashion, I never watched speed skating until Apollo... with some tricky PR could Eventing be the next big sport?

snoopy
Feb. 20, 2010, 08:57 AM
I wonder if our riders, or team in general had better management or PR could they get the cover of a Wheaties box if they won gold?

I'm not saying they'd get paid $$ like Tiger Woods but there are a lot of Olympic Sports that come and go out of fashion, I never watched speed skating until Apollo... with some tricky PR could Eventing be the next big sport?


No and the reason is that in this country it goes back to being perceived as an elitist sport for the rich and can you blame those who think that way?! It is NOT an easily accessable sport for everyone who may have an interest. Big sponsorship comes to those sports that DRAW the masses in....anyone can pick up a tennis racket, ice skates, basketball, baseball etc ect. Not everyone has access to a horse and all the expensive gear. Big corperations want to reach the masses and in this country horses are not the masses...and I believe never will be regardless of PR.
How many kids take up tennis every year after wimbledon...tons, why because it is about buying a racket and some lessons. THAT could take them all the way to wimbledon some day. How many kids take up eventing after watching an hour of rolex on telly?

snoopy
Feb. 20, 2010, 09:07 AM
Lets us look back to the "glory days" of the 70's/80's....

Those top riders that put eventing "one the map" not only this country but elsewhere in the world.

Most came from monied backgrounds and those that did not had sponsors who helped. There were more sponsors then elite riders....now there are not enough sponsors to go around.
Without personal wealth or sponsors, all the talent and drive in the world is not going to get you a team placement. The sport is just do damn expensive and has no payout.

VicariousRider
Feb. 20, 2010, 09:19 AM
Sailing?

Actually, not necessarily.

My brother is a big-time yacht racer who is aspiring to do 'round the world open ocean races professionally. The key in that sport is networking. If you can get on the boat and you are good you will get asked back and can work your way up from slave to skipper.

Brother, who is still at slave status, gets most expenses paid, flown to the boat and flown home, free accommodations (at WORST on the boat which on a race boat is like camping but often in a rented "crew house"), the boat is owned by an owner (like an UL horse) and the top crew members often have sponsorships (private and commercial). The low guys often have side jobs like working in a sail loft making sails.

To get the skills as a kid it helps to have great instruction but most fancy sailing communities have non-profit (read: free) sailing schools to teach the local kids to sail, mostly out of guilt :) . So, they have access to great, free instruction.

Dingy sailing is much more expensive to get into because you usually have to start with your own boat but there is a lot of commercial sponsorship. ROLEX loves sailing arguably as much as horses!

retreadeventer
Feb. 20, 2010, 09:45 AM
Wait a minute.

I disagree that eventing, or equestrian sports, can't support an Olympic medal winner. Our Olympic medal winners in the US who were approachable, and learned how to say "yes", put on a smile and accept invitations, and act like human beings, certainly have made a living in the sport. The medal was certainly an enhancement to those with the "drive" (one of Denny's four criteria.)

This is a niche sport at best and not mainstream, so BIG money (as in millions) will never come this way, and it's not realistic to point to that as a drawback. But I think Olympic medal winners with drive can EASILY make a living. No they can't live like lottery winners. But I wouldn't hold that up as the standard.

Denny's four: Drive, work, talent, athleticism
By drive, I'm including educating yourself under that one -- and you know, if you choose something you want to make your life work why not study it. Know conformation and veterinary issues. Make good decisions about prospects to buy and horses to stay away from. Limit your liability by partnering on horses. Be smart. Know business, protocol, manners, social customs, veterinary medicine, sports medicine, biology, construction, animal husbandry, math, accounting, mechanical engineering, etc. (Hey I've used just about every one of those fields just in the last week in taking care of my snowbound farm!)

Work - that's easy. Show up. Every day. No matter what. No excuses.

Talent -- not quite as easy, but you know talent can happen if you work hard enough and use your drive, and if you have a little bit of that inner spark, genetic predisposition, or affinity (however you define it) for riding an event horse. That might not be something you can develop, you might be born with it -- but if you are, and you DON'T have the drive and work ethic it won't go anywhere.

Athleticism - that's another thing that is workable I think. Anyone with talent can hit the gym!

Is that what Denny's four mean to you? If not, why not?

Hilary
Feb. 20, 2010, 10:09 AM
Hey Denny - YOU stirred this pot...... interesting opinions on all sides. (also, I interpreted your starting post as "what's wrong with people who won't work hard enough" which is great for pot stirring and puts people on the defensive.

Deltawave brought up something else that occurred to me- in the late 60s and early 70s, who were the current Karens and Phillips? Was there an established group of riders who were already making up the teams when you, Bruce, Wofford were coming up?

At the last Pan Ams there was a big discussion over whether the teams should be for the up and comers, aiming for the olympics in the next couple of years? But we sent Karen and Phillip, two of our most experienced and successful riders. Sure they were on greener horses, but it didn't allow 2 lesser experienced riders to have a shot.

Today there are a lot more people wanting and able to be on the team yet there are still only 6 slots.


Reminds me of the Thelwell cartoon of the bucking pony with mom telling the rider "Now now Madeline, let Christobel have a turn".

mcw
Feb. 20, 2010, 10:20 AM
I am young. I have an intense desire to be the best horseman that I can. I was a WS for years. But I had a conversation with my trainer the year before I graduated college that changed my perspective on what I wanted to do with the horses. She told me that I had the talent to be a professional, but said, "Martha, you love your horses too much. You can't buy a new, up and coming horse because you are working every weekend and everyday after school to pay for your lessons, your board on Junior (my young riders horse), as well as your board for your 20 year old pony with Cushings because you have to know that he is taken care of. You would be miserable riding for an owner or on a team where you couldn't always make the best decision for the horse. You will be happiest owning your own horses, but you've got to have some outside source of money. For that reason, you need to find a good job with flexible hours that will allow you to do what you love and are good at- and do it for yourself."

So I got a job, I work my rear end off and have no social life, I try to soak up every bit of knowledge I can. But I don't do it to go to the Olympics. I do it to be able to afford to give my retired horse the same care that I give my young horse, and to give the young one the best chance at success I can. My focus with my horses is not getting on a team, but I don't think that that means that I don't have determination or that I don't work hard at this sport.

deltawave
Feb. 20, 2010, 11:18 AM
with some tricky PR could Eventing be the next big sport?

But the "be careful what you wish for" argument always comes up here.

We already lament the changes that have been made to the sport to make it more politically correct/user friendly/idiot proof. No more long format. Disney character jumps. A further bastardization of the Olympic format (two SJ rounds) so we can wring team medals out of an individual endeavor, or is it vice versa, I can never remember. Huge entry fees. Horses doing 15-20 events in a season. "Florida or bust": you can't REALLY be serious about the sport unless you compete 11 months out of the year. Etc. Etc. Etc.

I'm with Snoopy.

purplnurpl
Feb. 20, 2010, 11:43 AM
I guess my question would be:

What is the payout for all this drive, determination, sacrifice, tears, etc?



There is none.
Just personal satisfaction.

I also ask you; of the BN riders/trainers/coaches...how will these athletes survive after retirement. Do they have a savings account and retirement fund?
What would happen if he/she was injured and no longer able to compete?

What is left?

What is left after the one horse you pour your money, efforts and love into is injured. If you are on the brink—you’ve dished out 5 years of blood sweat and tears for this animal—and then your partner is injured. Really, you have nothing.

How many times can you rinse and repeat before your heart and soul is defeated?

Ajierene
Feb. 20, 2010, 12:00 PM
I was looking for some sort of biography on Denny to get a more clear understanding of how he made it where he did. I found one for Bruce Davidson that illustrates many points I want to make about 'not working hard enough'.

I graduated high school with a dream to be an Olympic Jumper. In my neighborhood, we participated in neither 4H or Pony club. None of the other girls my age were interested and since my family was not supportive to the point where if I wanted to go to the barn to earn money cleaning stalls, I had to bike there after school and my mom insisted on picking me up at about 6pm (when she was done work). So, I got there at about 330pm, cleaned about 10 stalls, which took an or so, then begged a ride on a horse, if I could.

The 'luck' factor plays in here. Again, my dad thought horses were a phase. So, off to college...a semester later he decided I would not graduate so he was not going to pay. Well, working retail weekends did not give me the opportunity to ride on the college club (it did not have team status). So there goes being seen there. I was unaware that working student positions were actually available, let alone how to get one.

In college and following college, I found time to train horses for some people and gave riding lessons. After breaking my ankle and losing the opportunity to care for the horses of a very wealthy person in the area - that probably would have opened doors - I went back to retail and decided it was better horses were a hobby anyway. While most of my training clients left me alone, those that were more likely to be longer term clients tended to want me to do things with horses that I did not want to do.

How does this correlate with Bruce Davidson?

-Bruce Davidson's parents insisted he buy and sell ponies to earn his right to ride. He did not have to board these horses to keep them. (his Chesterlands Farm was a wedding present from his mother-in-law.....and the rest of us joke about marrying money to support our addiction!) *no, I don't think that's WHY he married Carol..but it helped*

-He trained with the USET, on USET horses (after being recognized on Irish Cap).

-Bruce married into the Hannum family, enabling him to break ties with Jack LeGoff and the USET and do things 'his way' with the Hannum money.

This is just another example of someone who came from a nonhorsey background and would probably be a pencil pusher if his parents were as unsupportive as many other nonhorsey parents.

This is also an example of how times have changed. How many up and coming riders are able to ride other people's horses to earn their points? Bruce brought one horse through the ranks and it earned him the nod from LeGoff to ride multiple horses without have to go to each owner of that horse and 'sell' his abilities. Bruce never, as far as I can see, had to sell himself to sponsors to get to the top. This is NOT the same model as today.

snoopy
Feb. 20, 2010, 12:25 PM
Drive, work, talent, athleticism---a potent combination. But a rider needs ALL FOUR if he/she doesn`t have $.


Not "if" Denny..."AND".


There MUST be money in the formula whether it is personal or sponsored. It is the sorted topic of coin, never the less, it is a very real and vital component.
Especially today.

I do believe with out the four Denny mentioned that all the money in the world will not get you ( or keep you) to the top in this sport.

You may be able to buy a top class four star but you still have to have the "talent" and "athleticism" to ride it, the "drive" to maintain it. You still have to "work" but maybe not as hard....depending on what Denny's meaning of work is.

Mary in Area 1
Feb. 20, 2010, 12:39 PM
And sometimes, even with ALL four AND money, you are still S**T outta luck. Ask Ab Lufkin.

snoopy
Feb. 20, 2010, 12:41 PM
And sometimes, even with ALL four AND money, you are still S**T outta luck. Ask Ab Lufkin.



VERY good example.

Tamsin
Feb. 20, 2010, 06:00 PM
I have to agree with those who say that luck and money are crucial factors in equestrian sports. I will be truly surprised if Denny is right and kids from very modest means prove that they can get to the top of the sport in the next few years just through drive, work, talent, and athleticism. I don’t see how this is possible. Someone has to pay for many, many lessons from excellent trainers, competitions, travel, horses and all of the enormous expenses that go along with maintaining competitive horses. A family with very modest means can’t even come close to paying for this, not to speak of a rider without family support at all. And if you don’t have these things, how can you become an elite rider? Being a working student doesn’t solve the problem since these positions generally pay nothing and cover none of the above expenses (with the possible exception of lessons). In fact, without financial help, it’s difficult for a young person to spend time as a WS.

And luck is a factor in any life, but especially significant when horses are involved.

eventrider
Feb. 20, 2010, 07:09 PM
I guess my question would be:

What is the payout for all this drive, determination, sacrifice, tears, etc?

An Olympic medal in eventing hardly paves the way to any payback in the long term. It is not like that medal is a ticket to big money endorsements nor is it a given that it would better your business.

The dream and the Olympic medal/place does not pay the mortgage, the electricy bill, the car payment, the college fund for the kids, the medical bills etc etc etc.

It would seem to me that the sacrifice is too great when you look at the end result.

Until there is funding to help our athletes and the payout much greater then it does not make sense on paper.

I know of a few Olympic/WC riders that do not have squat for all that work. I know elite athletes that are unhappy people because they are advancing in age and are chasing every dime they can to pay for life outside horses. Most of them have no health insurance or a pension.

People like to train with the flavour of the month, so an Olympic place/medal years ago does not fill up their dance card today.


Call a spade a spade. It is an expensive hobby that has Olympic inclusion. If you do not have the money to fund that hobby you had better find someone that does. Even then this is fleeting and you are at the mercy of fickle owners who can (and do) take it all away for the next best thing. That insecurity is enough to put anyone off.

You may include me as a realist....and reality would dictate you look at the whole picture and not just one moment in time that may never come...and often doesn't.

We send our children to college so that they have the education and skills to look after themselves for the rest of their lives and I believe chasing an Olympic medal in OUR sport does not.

Snoopy,

I really think this post hits the nail on the head. I have been there (twice now), and the insecurity is enough to turn off even the most dedicated. What I have seen is people doing anything to stay at the top, and walking all over others to do it at any cost. I know for a fact that two of our most famous riders personally own nothing, have no savings, no retirement...nothing. If or when their big money donors pull that plug they will be alomst 60 years old with nothing but some gold medals on their shelf to show for it. And we epitomize them as the top top riders in our sport. The only people I can think of that are in the elite ride category are either in this same position, or married money or had money to not worry about it. There are many cases of top riders marrying money, getting to the top, and then divorcing at retiring to nothing and with nothing. I wonder what the best choice in life is. I wonder if these dedicated, industrious people that are at the top could do if they put their effort into humanitarian projects, etc?

deltawave
Feb. 20, 2010, 07:25 PM
their big money donors pull that plug they will be alomst 60 years old with nothing

That freaks me out, but it's not a whole lot different than someone marrying money and never bothering to see to their own affairs as far as savings, financial independence, a career of one's own, and the know-how to live independently of "big daddy". Unless you have a big, fat prenuptial agreement (is that spelled right?) you could suddenly find yourself with . . . gornischt. (nuthin')

IMO someone who is going to commit themselves to that sort of relationship ought to have the smarts to set up some sort of safety net, perhaps in the form of a contractual "parachute" or something. I wonder if this is ever done with sponsors?

Kanga
Feb. 20, 2010, 08:05 PM
Snoopy & Eventrider,

I agree with everything both of you are saying. It is very grim for the rider without the financial support and almost next to impossible. My question for the 2 of you is...

What possibly could be done to change this? What type of help should be offered for the ambitious rider that is proven or even the younger ones coming up that are not? What can we start, to help change this problem?

Short of someone winning the Lottery and setting up some type of foundation for this or even trying to convince a millionaire to donate millions for this, I don't know any other answers.

Lisa Cook
Feb. 20, 2010, 08:34 PM
In reading this, though, I'm reminded of a young lady I know, who is currently a senior in high school. This girl comes from a VERY modest background...divorced parents & her mother runs a daycare.

When she was 13, she bought a 4 year old green broke, nasty, evil horse. That thing lawn-darted her with every ride. But he was all she could afford. How she didn't die on him, I have no idea. She cleaned stalls at the barn every day to keep her naughty horse boarded so he could try & kill her every day. She did whatever odd jobs other boarders would give her. If anything needed to be done, she'd put her hand up & volunteer.

And guess what....that horse ended up being a model equine citizen 4 years later. Qualified for the AECs in the first ever 2 recognized events for both of them. He is now packing a pony clubber around like a pro.

She applied for, and got, a full-ride scholarship to the GMHA Junior Horsemanship camp. Luck came into play....this fall, I found her a NICE 5 year old TB who was for sale for essentially some money paid toward the back-board owed by his owner...less than the cost of most OTTBs that come out Suffolk.

She boards him at a coop where the board is cheap. She works at the coop, and she works at the barn where I board. The coop doesn't have an indoor, but her (and my) dressage instructor down the street has one, and very generously invited her to use it whenever she wanted to. This girl rode her horse over to that indoor, a 10 minute hack, at least, in all weather, all winter. My dressage instructor said, it would be a blizzard outside, with wind blowing sideways and zero visibility, and here would come Rachel with her horse, emerging out of the storm to school in the indoor!

She's the kind of kid that people want to help. She is the nicest, sweetest girl I've ever met, she has an amazing work ethic, and she's willing to ride her 5 year old TB through blizzards in the dead of winter to get a dressage school in. If anyone can prove Denny's theory correct, she can. :)

snoopy
Feb. 20, 2010, 08:51 PM
Snoopy & Eventrider,

I agree with everything both of you are saying. It is very grim for the rider without the financial support and almost next to impossible. My question for the 2 of you is...

What possibly could be done to change this? What type of help should be offered for the ambitious rider that is proven or even the younger ones coming up that are not? What can we start, to help change this problem?

Short of someone winning the Lottery and setting up some type of foundation for this or even trying to convince a millionaire to donate millions for this, I don't know any other answers.




Even when riders are selected for grants by the USEF to contest burghley, blenheim, pau, this does not cover all the expenses and it has been made very clear that international experience is required before they get a look in for possible team selection....where does that money come from?

And even if selected to ride on the team, riders are still required to pay some of the expenses associated with that team appearance. Ask anyone who rode/traveled at Sydney.....where does that money come from?

RAyers
Feb. 20, 2010, 09:11 PM
...

What possibly could be done to change this? ....



Make Rodeo and Olympic sport

eventrider
Feb. 20, 2010, 09:43 PM
And.... although I may regret actually saying this on a public forum.....
What riders are selected to teams and receive these grants that Snoopy talks about? Not always, but mostly, riders with money to back them. The "Team" isnt stupid...they know it takes money to fund this sport, and they are aware that the riders with this money,either by a private sponsor or by a parent/grandparent that has left a trust fund, are the riders to put on Developing Rider lists and then put onto shorter lists. If there are two equally talented riders, with equally talented horses, but one has money and the other doesn't...guess who gets selected?

So...my advice to up and coming riders is...either have family money, marry into it, or get a big individual sponsor to back you. Then you are golden.

I am not sure why this is not more public....unless riders are too afraid they wont get put on any list or team if they say anything.

I have no idea how it was back in the "golden days" of eventing, but I know that many, if not most of the riders that rode for the "Team" then, had money to back them in the ways I have listed above. I dont think it has changed too much.

So the moral is...work hard, have dedication, put in everything you have got....and be savvy enough to secure a big individual sponsor (one of the dwindling few out there), or come from/marry money and then you might have a shot at a team...if that is really your end goal.

I might be wrong...but I believe Snoopy can attest to this first hand.

deltawave
Feb. 20, 2010, 09:57 PM
She's the kind of kid that people want to help. She is the nicest, sweetest girl I've ever met, she has an amazing work ethic, and she's willing to ride her 5 year old TB through blizzards in the dead of winter to get a dressage school in.

And whether she gets help or not, or makes it to the Olympics or not, she is probably going to grow up to be a fine person. Which in the grand scheme of things is a far better reward that a gold medal. :)

snoopy
Feb. 20, 2010, 10:06 PM
eventrider

I have never ever been near consideration for a team place...have not ridden at that level. But I have been around those enough to know the ins and outs, the nuts and bolts of how the system works.

When "the team" says to a very talented rider "how many horses do you have at the upper levels and who are your sponsors" well the writing is on the wall. They do not ask about talent, drive, work etc. They want to know about cold hard cash.

I would also like to point to one rider in particular...John Holling!

Great rider, great horseman, great ethic, media friendly, well regarded, the whole package.
He has the talent, the drive, the work ethic. Another rider capable of representling the US. Until he comes up with a few super horses and the money to fund them, he is $hit out of luck.

Tamsin
Feb. 20, 2010, 10:13 PM
In reading this, though, I'm reminded of a young lady I know, who is currently a senior in high school. This girl comes from a VERY modest background...divorced parents & her mother runs a daycare.

When she was 13, she bought a 4 year old green broke, nasty, evil horse. That thing lawn-darted her with every ride. But he was all she could afford. How she didn't die on him, I have no idea. She cleaned stalls at the barn every day to keep her naughty horse boarded so he could try & kill her every day. She did whatever odd jobs other boarders would give her. If anything needed to be done, she'd put her hand up & volunteer.

And guess what....that horse ended up being a model equine citizen 4 years later. Qualified for the AECs in the first ever 2 recognized events for both of them. He is now packing a pony clubber around like a pro.

She applied for, and got, a full-ride scholarship to the GMHA Junior Horsemanship camp. Luck came into play....this fall, I found her a NICE 5 year old TB who was for sale for essentially some money paid toward the back-board owed by his owner...less than the cost of most OTTBs that come out Suffolk.

She boards him at a coop where the board is cheap. She works at the coop, and she works at the barn where I board. The coop doesn't have an indoor, but her (and my) dressage instructor down the street has one, and very generously invited her to use it whenever she wanted to. This girl rode her horse over to that indoor, a 10 minute hack, at least, in all weather, all winter. My dressage instructor said, it would be a blizzard outside, with wind blowing sideways and zero visibility, and here would come Rachel with her horse, emerging out of the storm to school in the indoor!

She's the kind of kid that people want to help. She is the nicest, sweetest girl I've ever met, she has an amazing work ethic, and she's willing to ride her 5 year old TB through blizzards in the dead of winter to get a dressage school in. If anyone can prove Denny's theory correct, she can. :)

She sounds lovely. But she hasn't made it to the top and, despite your good wishes, it's terribly unlikely that she will. That's the problem: there are hundreds of excellent young people insanely devoted to riding just like this girl. I know one myself. But most of them will eventually have to confront financial realities and give up their ambitions. That is unless extremely good luck comes along and someone starts picking up all of the bills.

eventrider
Feb. 20, 2010, 10:13 PM
Sorry Snoops,

I was referring to your connection that has clearly fallen under this unspoken rule and been excluded due to it. I agree that there are many very talented riders out there that have produced multiple nice upper level horses that arent on any team.
Actually, I would love for someone to post an example of a rider that has been on teams that doesnt or didnt have big finances behind them. I am sure there is someone......notice I said teams.

LexInVA
Feb. 20, 2010, 10:22 PM
Hi C-Train. :)

Mac123
Feb. 20, 2010, 10:22 PM
Mac123, you`re still very young. Don`t think because it`s hard, it can`t happen.
I was 33 when I got my shot. I`d been competing already for 20 years. Go back somewhere in this thread and re-read what my college wrestling coach told me. He was right, and that was 50 years ago, and he`s still right.


Go reread what I said. You need 4 things, and hard work is just one of them. For 50 years I`ve watched riders come and go in this sport, so my insights are based on some degree of experience.

Drive, work, talent, athleticism---a potent combination. But a rider needs ALL FOUR if he/she doesn`t have $. And even then there`s no certainty, which is what my wrestling coach said.

And I agree with whoever said to add schmooze-ability---As Jim Wolf says, you have to sell someone else on YOUR dream.

That`s all I`m going to say about this.

With all due respect, sir, you have seemingly missed my point.

You have insinuated that those who do not throw their *all* into this sport do not want it bad enough or are not dedicated enough to the sport to be successful.

My point is that reality and living smart doesn't allow me to throw my all into the sport. It's not a question of dedication or desire; it's the question of being able to be 100% dedicated.

With the expense of our sport - the expense to be IN the sport, much less being competitive at any level at all - is so incredibly significant how can you expect the people like me to give the sport the dedication it deserves?

It's not a question of "if I get that chance." I know it's still possible; I know I'm still young. It's a question of "do I throw everything away, potentially my life, to help make that chance into a reality?"

But even that is an academic, theoretical question. You say a rider needs 4 things to be successful and respectfully, I strongly suggest you begin thinking of things in terms of 2010, not thirty years ago. We MUST have LOTS of money for this sport. Not $5,000 for an OTTB project and a few thousand for competitions, but upper five to low sixes, for an "elite" horse - and one should, of course have a string of them.

Not to mention the thousands of thousands in board/care + many, many more thousands in competition costs and coaching + thousands in equipment.

In terms of being an elite athlete, drive, talent, work ethic and athleticism mean NOTHING without funding, support, superb horseflesh and access to quality coaching.

If the four qualities you believe in DID matter these days, the USEF, USEA, USDF, USET and top riders/coaches would be heading to local shows several times a year and pulling from the grass roots where these qualities are truly actually seen.

Listen, my chance could come and I pray it will - and I work as hard as I can to make sure I am prepared. But the sincere improbability of it means I cannot make riding my life but only a part of it.

deltawave
Feb. 20, 2010, 10:31 PM
She sounds lovely. But she hasn't made it to the top and, despite your good wishes, it's terribly unlikely that she will. That's the problem: there are hundreds of excellent young people insanely devoted to riding just like this girl. I know one myself. But most of them will eventually have to confront financial realities and give up their ambitions. That is unless extremely good luck comes along and someone starts picking up all of the bills.See, I don't think this is a "problem" worth lamenting over as much as people are doing here. Being an excellent horsewoman and a genuinely good person is not a "problem". :) Hopefully the adults in this girl's life are supportive of her dreams and ambitions, but are also encouraging her to grow up with two feet firmly planted on the ground and avoiding the notion that she has to "get lucky" or "marry well" in order to make her dreams come true. She needs to know she can make her OWN life. That "marry well" stuff just makes me cringe every time. :dead: What she needs is a set of dreams that span from the achievable to the fantasy-worthy. And the equipment to go chasing them for herself, not to wait for someone else to hand it to her. If her ambitions are diverse, based in reality, and mature, there's no reason she should automatically have to "give them up".

eventrider
Feb. 20, 2010, 10:35 PM
Hi Lex.....I am going to get in trouble for that arent I? I realize my anonymity is non-existent. I am willing to suffer my consequences.

LexInVA
Feb. 20, 2010, 10:58 PM
C-Train, I don't think you could get in trouble if you robbed a bank, dipped both of your hands in finger paint, wrote your name on the wall, and touched every window on your way out leaving hand prints. Besides, you're not spilling state secrets. They have said it before many times, just not quite so openly. What could they even do to you anyway? It's not like they have a surplus of proven talent on the roster to draw upon at this point and their rope is getting shorter every year when they start importing talent for money. Sure there are some up and comers on your tail but you know as well as anyone that there is a drop off once college hits and there are very few who have kept at it during that young adult phase which is where you really learn how to whack the mole. If anything, you've shown that you're committed and have sacrificed quite a bit of your young adulthood to the sport while many of the so called "chosen ones" rode on the dime of others only to leave after getting a taste, so I'm sure you'll have a bright future ahead of you. At the very least you won't likely end up working at Hooters to pay your way. :winkgrin:

Mary in Area 1
Feb. 20, 2010, 11:15 PM
Actually, I just thought of another aspect that seems to be very helpful to making the teams these days: An Australian accent!

RAyers
Feb. 20, 2010, 11:16 PM
... At the very least you won't likely end up working at Hooters to pay your way. :winkgrin:

Hey, in the end we are all prostitutes for what we love.

As for my opinion about you, Christian, it hasn't changed one bit. You haven't said one thing I haven't heard from others at your level. I'll stand behind you.

Good on ya all, mates!

Reed

Ajierene
Feb. 20, 2010, 11:19 PM
Actually, I just thought of another aspect that seems to be very helpful to making the teams these days: An Australian accent!

he he he....importing now. Wait, does that tie into the complaints about immigrants taking the jobs of Americans?

His Greyness
Feb. 21, 2010, 04:54 AM
OK Kiddies, here's a little math problem:

According to the American Horse Council there are 9 million horses in the USA.

Four of these horses (and their riders), in any Olympic year, will be selected to represent the USA in the eventing competition at the Olympics.

Now assume that the USET implements the most thorough, well funded and inclusive talent spotting and rider development program you can imagine.

How many horses (and their riders) will be selected to represent the USA in the eventing competition at the next Olympics?

TBCollector
Feb. 21, 2010, 08:48 AM
Mac, Snoop, and C-Dawg...your posts have been so spot-on that I'm almost embarrassed to reply to them...
I enjoy the provocative banter on this forum as much as anyone. But I do think that (occasionally) some of the issues broached border on $hit disturbance...especially when introduced by people who enjoy the means so many of those they are criticizing do not.
The pain of being overlooked simply because one was not born with the proverbial silver spoon really comes through in so many of these posts.
C-Dawg, I don't know what you do. Marry an old, rich guy. Start sleeping with a rich guy. Suck up to Bunny Mellon...hell, she supported John Edwards' love child; why not a talented rider (and you're still young enough that she may even adopt you).
Unfortunately, it appears you have ethics that will prevent you from engaging in such behavior, despite the possibility that it might help your career.
I would hate to see you and others like you get so fed up and discouraged that you just call it a career and move on to something else. C-Dawg, I know you are smart and savvy enough to succeed in whatever you do...and law school is always there for you. But please don't...not yet. Try to become the exception to the rule. Keep riding and training those nice horses and focus on the one or two that can take you to the big dances. The worst that can happen is that you'll make some very lovely horses that will bring in some very lovely Benjamins.

tuppysmom
Feb. 21, 2010, 08:48 AM
His Greyness,

I love the saying at the bottom of your post!

Goes along with a favorite from one of the "old timers", who has passed away,

"A man is never a profet in his own town".

As for the math, well.......

retreadeventer
Feb. 21, 2010, 08:51 AM
Okay so you need a good horse. Don't have to be a super rider, just have the right mount. Takes money to get noticed and the credentials to ride on an Olympic team, about a 4-year path which has to include some foreign competition and Rolex. So partner up with someone or several someone's who can help fund that road to the top. What is so different about this procedure than horse racing, other equestrian sport, other high profile sport? NASCAR - owners, sponsorships; other sports, sponsorships; etc. When I had racehorses and we had our eye on a good yearling, we partnered up. Don't get the big controversy over having enough funds to compete. Part of being good enough is having the right horse (that takes education and luck) and finding and schmoozing the partnerships. There's nothing onerous about that. Done everyday, perfectly legal, spreads the risk. Oh and once you get the money and the horse -- gee whiz -- gotta be smart enough to take good care of it. Perhaps that's the REAL underlying reason for Denny's lament. Lack of education and poor horsemanship of the up and coming riders. There may be some fuel for that fodder discussion. If there is some pot stirring, that chunk is rising to the top in my opinion just about every WEG/Olympic cycle. (Stupid USET Team Rider Tricks.)

RAyers
Feb. 21, 2010, 09:10 AM
OK Kiddies, here's a little math problem:

According to the American Horse Council there are 9 million horses in the USA.

Four of these horses (and their riders), in any Olympic year, will be selected to represent the USA in the eventing competition at the Olympics.

Now assume that the USET implements the most thorough, well funded and inclusive talent spotting and rider development program you can imagine.

How many horses (and their riders) will be selected to represent the USA in the eventing competition at the next Olympics?


Again, make RODEO an Olympic sport if you want the most numbers involved. Otherwise, of those 9 million, at BEST maybe 100,000-200,000 are used in English disciplines (based on the membership in USEF). In that, only maybe 20,000 are eventers. Thus, We are starting at about 0.1% of the total anyway.

Retread, go back to my post concerning sponsorships. NASCAR, PBR, individual skiers, the Kentucky Derby, etc. can all get sponsorships due to a large PUBLIC interest and involvement in those sports/specific competitions. Folks watch Rolex much like they watch curling in the Olympics. It is interesting and even fascinating at that moment but it is not something they will actively do.

The money is still SMALL in our world in comparison to the costs that are expected to be fronted by the rider. Thus the rider will have to spend as much time fund raising as training, taking away from training time in order to create the syndicate that would hopefully fund them (opposite of Denny's desire).

Reed

snoopy
Feb. 21, 2010, 09:32 AM
Okay so you need a good horse. Don't have to be a super rider, just have the right mount. Takes money to get noticed and the credentials to ride on an Olympic team, about a 4-year path which has to include some foreign competition and Rolex. So partner up with someone or several someone's who can help fund that road to the top. What is so different about this procedure than horse racing, other equestrian sport, other high profile sport? NASCAR - owners, sponsorships; other sports, sponsorships; etc. When I had racehorses and we had our eye on a good yearling, we partnered up. Don't get the big controversy over having enough funds to compete. Part of being good enough is having the right horse (that takes education and luck) and finding and schmoozing the partnerships. There's nothing onerous about that. Done everyday, perfectly legal, spreads the risk. Oh and once you get the money and the horse -- gee whiz -- gotta be smart enough to take good care of it. Perhaps that's the REAL underlying reason for Denny's lament. Lack of education and poor horsemanship of the up and coming riders. There may be some fuel for that fodder discussion. If there is some pot stirring, that chunk is rising to the top in my opinion just about every WEG/Olympic cycle. (Stupid USET Team Rider Tricks.)



But you are citing NASCAR a sport that reaches many many more people and where corperate sponsorship is easier to obtain....corperations are actively looking to sponsor where as I do not see many big name and monied corperations beating a path to eventing.
So those who do get sponsorship in eventing are usually getting that sponsorship through wealthy individuals. That is a lot harder. Corperations get something back for their money, individuals do not. They get the personal satisfaction of having a horse at international events, but really they get little prize money, certainly not enough to offset the expense of funding ONE upper level horse. So other then that, what do they get...car passes at an event, entry into the hospitality tent for some food and drink, a purple/green/yellow braclet to allow them into restricted barn areas at events.
For some that is all they want in return for the expense...but coperations want something in return to make that investment worthwhile.

"So partner up with someone...."

If you think it is that easy then you are living in a fantasy world.

Horse racing is a different kettle of fish all together...money is made, huge amounts actually because of the betting. I do not recall a betting booth at Rolex or Badminton, or any other big event.

"don't get the big contoversy over having enough funds to compete...."

You are joking right?!:eek: Do you know how much it costs just to campain an upper level horse for the season?? I am only talkiing about entries, travel, food, time away from lessons, etc.

Add to that the cost of maintaining that ONE horse and you are looking at mid 5 figures.

Come on have a bit of perspective.




Take a gander at the ahtf site and you will see many on there that are driven, focused, talented etc. They have links to flashy web pages and snazzy videos. what most there lack is....FUNDING.
It may look nice and wrapped up in a tidy package but let us not be fooled...they are in essence, BEGGING.


I have an example...Kim Severson. What is she lacking, why is she not out there? Reason...lack of horses and the funding required. You would think she would have no problem securing sponsorship, correct? Well ASK her what it has been like with out Linda's help.

eventrider
Feb. 21, 2010, 10:19 AM
I didnt intend to make anything about this thread focus on me. I simply was trying to give a perspective from the other side. There are many people out there doing just what I am doing. And in the same predicament as far as money goes. And I hate to say it, but even having the right horse isnt that difficult. I have had 4 in my barn in the last year that had all the "pieces" to be team horses. Of course they were all sold to fund my business. That doesnt worry me because there will be 4 more this year that come through the barn as well. Honestly, it all comes down to the money issue. And as everyone has stated, there just isnt enough wealthy individuals to go around. There is no financial draw for big money sponsorship, so it all comes from the kindness of a wealthy individual who has their own motivation for sponsorship. And if you are lucky, or suave enough to find one, what happens to you when they leave. That is a LOT of worry to be under. And Kim is a great example.

RunForIt
Feb. 21, 2010, 10:30 AM
I have an example...Kim Severson. What is she lacking, why is she not out there? Reason...lack of horses and the funding required. You would think she would have no problem securing sponsorship, correct? Well ASK her what it has been like with out Linda's help.

Snoopy,

I'd suggest that Kim's situation also highlights the reality that our national organization is not set up so that even "the best" get a leg up...you aren't gonna get a more committed, hard-working, TALENTED rider than Kim, but she seems to be short on selling herself. I'm very lucky to know her a bit, and keep hoping someone will look past schmooze and glitter, and really want to support a talented rider and trainer as well as a great situation for a talented horse. I'm beginning to understand that those ideas aren't necessarily paramount in Team selection or promoting our pool of talent...sad situation.

JER
Feb. 21, 2010, 11:22 AM
So...

Say you're an up-and-coming rider, perhaps one from the west coast, in your mid-to-late 20s. You have a wonderful horse, a supportive owner and solid results at all the right venues.

Because of all of the above, you are invited to the final Olympic selection trial. Because of your careful horse management, riding skills and your good fortune at having a talented horse who is peaking at just the right time, you go to those selection trials and smoke the competition.

Sounds like a recipe for Olympic glory, doesn't it? But this happened in 2008 and the above-referenced rider didn't get a ticket to Hong Kong or even gas money for the drive home.

No amount of hard work can overcome that particular Team mindset. But that's the reality riders face.

Why would any thoughtful person stake their life on that system?

deltawave
Feb. 21, 2010, 12:18 PM
An interesting point (OK, maybe not) having just read the Kathy Kusner article.

She herself had this to say, at the end of the article, about her focus, drive, and goals to be at the top of her sport.

"Whatever was going to happen . . . was just going to happen. . . . It was about the joy of it all, and the rest was a byproduct."

Lovely sentiment. Obviously from her many accomplishments this woman is not a stick-in-the-mud in the ambition department. But it doesn't say anywhere that her goal from day one was the top of the sport, the Olympics, whatever. It all came together for her, largely by her own effort, and also due to the fact that she had some wealthy backers.

flutie1
Feb. 21, 2010, 01:19 PM
Warning - this is partially tongue in cheek ...

The highest dollar equestrian sponsorship currently is enjoyed by the gay rodeo circuit. Connect the dots anyone?

RAyers
Feb. 21, 2010, 01:28 PM
Warning - this is partially tongue in cheek ...

The highest dollar equestrian sponsorship currently is enjoyed by the gay rodeo circuit. Connect the dots anyone?


I need to but diamond studs on my bucking saddle?

TBCollector
Feb. 21, 2010, 01:40 PM
So...

Say you're an up-and-coming rider, perhaps one from the west coast, in your mid-to-late 20s. You have a wonderful horse, a supportive owner and solid results at all the right venues.

Because of all of the above, you are invited to the final Olympic selection trial. Because of your careful horse management, riding skills and your good fortune at having a talented horse who is peaking at just the right time, you go to those selection trials and smoke the competition.

Sounds like a recipe for Olympic glory, doesn't it? But this happened in 2008 and the above-referenced rider didn't get a ticket to Hong Kong or even gas money for the drive home.

No amount of hard work can overcome that particular Team mindset. But that's the reality riders face.

Why would any thoughtful person stake their life on that system?

If you're talking about who I think you're talking about:
Unfortunately, some serious but not unanticipated backbiting went on behind the scenes with another rider who had the selectors' ear(s). Also, said horse was determined to have soundness issues, which astounds me because I was at those selection trials and the damned thing skipped around like a cat.

SevenDogs
Feb. 21, 2010, 01:59 PM
If you're talking about who I think you're talking about:
Unfortunately, some serious but not unanticipated backbiting went on behind the scenes with another rider who had the selectors' ear(s). Also, said horse was determined to have soundness issues, which astounds me because I was at those selection trials and the damned thing skipped around like a cat.

To be fair, I think the dressage is a significant factor in team selection, and unfortunately, this horse/rider has never been able to produce competitive dressage scores. As great as the horse is at the jumping phases, you have to be competitive at the dressage to make international teams and this just hasn't happened.

riderboy
Feb. 21, 2010, 02:47 PM
I've read a lot of the posts on how financially difficult the upper levels of the sport can be. That's tough, and I sympathize. It's also tough to get an education, lots of it, all very expensive, get a job and show up for a demanding, high pressure job everyday. And I don't get any ribbons or my picture in a magazine for doing my job well which is simply expected, ALL of the time. I know there are financial pressures on our athletes and they are not alone. It's also tough "out here". I know some of the upper level riders have taken the ball into their own hands and planned ahead by getting an education or starting a business. While that might not be a way to become completely self supportive it mght be better than depending on the whims of a sponsor for support.

flutie1
Feb. 21, 2010, 02:59 PM
I need to but diamond studs on my bucking saddle?

Dude!

frugalannie
Feb. 21, 2010, 03:04 PM
Did anyone happen to catch the segment on ABC News Saturday evening about the "new secret methods" being used by the top USA Olympic competitors?

Lindsay Vonn spends 8 hours a day in the gym,and one of her exercises is to walk parallel tightropes while bouncing a medicine ball off a wall and catching it again.

Shani Davis spends 11 hours a day either in the gym or on the ice, and he "wasn't strong enough" to win last night's race.

Shaun White has a secret training facility in Utah (and apparently has to helicopter in to it).

I respect and admire these and all the elite athletes. But I don't know how training regimens like these can be applied in equestrian sports unless there is LOTS of money around to provide for horse care, and a whole string of top-notch ponies available for practice, practice, practice.

And I wonder about the old saying that jockeys are the fittest of professional athletes. How would our top riders' fitness stack up against these Olympians?

JER
Feb. 21, 2010, 04:10 PM
When I hear that '8 hours a day in the gym' stuff, I wonder if they're getting good exercise advice. You can't engage the sympathetic nervous system for long periods of time at all and you lose a lot of benefit to the exercise at that point.

Consider that the runner-up to Vonn in the downhill, a girl who is the same age as Vonn but has more Olympic medals (including gold), spends her summers surfing in Maui.

LexInVA
Feb. 21, 2010, 04:16 PM
People who do sports are far more fit than gym rats.

PhoenixFarm
Feb. 21, 2010, 05:14 PM
The burgs of eventing are littered with the remains of people whose entire life became dedicated to getting a pink coat, and for whatever reason, did not. Go into a bar in Middleburg, or Unionville, or South Hamilton, and you'll see them there, nursing their beers, and lamenting the unfairness of them all. And it's heartbreaking, and sad, and unfair. But it is reality and I think every kid with Olympic rings in their eyes should be required to go sit with one of these folks, and get an eye and earful of what the future can hold.

There are a myriad of reasons people don't make it. And that's why it's a hard problem to solve: Some people don't work hard enough, some people have bad luck, some people aren't good or dedicated enough, some don't have the money or the personality to solicit money, some people get blackballed. Many people have some combination of the above. But, the answer isn't as simple as "have money" or "work harder". If it were, the nut would have been cracked already and we'd have squadrons of four star riders waiting in the wings.

All of that being said, I do think lack of dedication and work ethic IS an emerging problem. If you have money, you need these things in some measure, but if you don't have money and no work ethic you have NO shot. None, zero, zilch. If you have it, and have no money, you still may not get there. But without it and without funds you've got no shot.

Even at my relatively grass roots level, I see a whole lot of kids who are busy complaining about how unfair it is that they have to work harder for less that the kids with money, rather than just doing everything they can to work with what they've got. I see kids who turn down rides on fancy four year olds who could be a big time horse in the future, because they can't be bothered to wait that long, and hold out hope a going two star horse will drop in to their lap.

But it is too simplistic to say that this is only about work ethic, any more than it's only about money, or only about politics, or only about . . . whatever. It's really complicated, and that's why its a process that breaks so many.

I also wanted to add that I remember my mother once saying that she was grateful none of her children were talented enough to be considered for the Olympics--because she didn't think she was capable of the level of sacrifice and dedication required of a parent to make that happen. She would say, "I would have felt guilty about not doing it, but I still wouldn't have done it." I used to be offended by that. Now, as an older person, I kind of get it.

Carol Ames
Feb. 22, 2010, 11:48 PM
I, too, have been told "it's just as easy to love a rich man as...:winkgrin:" unfortunately, I have Not found that to be true.:no:
Mac, Snoop, and C-Dawg...your posts have been so spot-on that I'm almost embarrassed to reply to them...
I enjoy the provocative banter on this forum as much as anyone. But I do think that (occasionally) some of the issues broached border on $hit disturbance...especially when introduced by people who enjoy the means so many of those they are criticizing do not.
The pain of being overlooked simply because one was not born with the proverbial silver spoon really comes through in so many of these posts.
C-Dawg, I don't know what you do. Marry an old, rich guy. Start sleeping with a rich guy. Suck up to Bunny Mellon...hell, she supported John Edwards' love child; why not a talented rider (and you're still young enough that she may even adopt you).

TBCollector
Feb. 23, 2010, 08:19 AM
To quote another great lady: "What's love got to do with it?" ;)

sisu27
Feb. 23, 2010, 09:22 AM
We are kidding ourselves if we don't think there is a wake of horses with injuries in the barns of many of these riders.

Maybe someon early in their career with only 1 good horse, manages for that not to happen. let's look in Phillip or Buck's barn. a horse shows up, the only interest they have is whether or not it's going to be a 4 star horse. Some of them just don't hold up. I'm not knocking either of them they are brilliant rider, great horsmen and good guys, but that's the name of the game- whether you're Lindsay Vonn skiiing on bruised shins or finishing rolex with 3 shoes, resulting in a career-ending bowed tendon. With that kind of focus and goals, I think it's inevitable.

Hmm...I disagree with this. Just because a horse doesn't make it as a 4* horse does not mean it is broken. It means it does not have what it takes to be a 4* horse. Of course there are exceptions but sometimes you get a horse that doesn't hold up for N. That's just horses. I am lucky enough to hang around an Olympic eventer sometimes and he openly says if it doesn't have 4* potential it will move on. Doesn't mean he pounds it and breaks it to find that out. These guys are good enough to know pretty early on. That is part of what makes them elite. It also makes much better sense in the business aspect to keep the horse sound and sell it as a lower level horse. Perhaps I am naive but I do not believe that part of being an elite eventer means leaving a trail of broken horses in your wake. Or at least it doesn't have to be that way.

What I also gain from observing this rider is the knowledge that it is hard work to get to that level and stay there. It may not be 6 hours in the gym every day but it is up before dawn, riding 10 horses a day, coaching in between, making sure the farm is running as it should, managing staff, being on the phone, selling horses, buying horses, dealing with wife and kids, doing clinics, attending functions, travelling extensively... Being able to do this every day with a smile on your face is also what makes them elite.

It has been discussed before but I see a generational/societal difference. I just don't see as many kids lately that are willing to make the sacrifice to go all in for their riding career. Work ethic is lacking. Mental fortitude is absent. I hear them talking about when they will get to Rolex and I've yet to see them put in the time and effort to get a horse properly fit. And the parents continue to stroke little egos and encourage pie-in-the-sky dreams. You can't get there from here. Those kids will never stand on a podium but maybe they could have if it was taken seriously from the infant stages of their career. I am not a parent so perhaps I know not of what I speak but I find it frustrating to see natural talent go to waste. I suppose the other side of the coin is the possibility of creating a Tiger Woods or an Andre Agassi. The prodigy that ends up a shell of a human being. Is there no middle ground?

RAyers
Feb. 23, 2010, 11:55 AM
Hmm...I disagree with this. Just because a horse doesn't make it as a 4* horse does not mean it is broken....



I think what was meant, based on my experiences in both h/j and eventing, is that any top rider has through their career used up horses literally and left some quite broken in their wake. I know I have. I am not proud but honest about it. That is part of the learning experience to be a top rider. You don't truly understand injuries or such until it happens to you and your horses regardless how many times or who tells you something. On the flip side, you also never develop the understanding of how to bring a horse back either.

Sadly I can count around 10 or so horses that as the result of my actions had to be fully retired because of my mistakes. All I can do is promise to never make that mistake again and be a better horseman/rider. And this was when I was riding with a World Cup trainer and another who was one of the pioneers of women in eventing (e.g. she was one of the first ladies who rode the old National 3-Day).

Reed

Plumb Loco
Feb. 24, 2010, 10:04 AM
Comparing Olympic riders and all other Olympic athletes is like comparing apples and oranges. No other Olympic athlete has to train their own body AND the body of their partner. You can be the best rider in the world, but if you don't have the ability to tailor a training program based on the individual needs for each horse, then you are not going to make it.

Riders who have an edge understand their horse(s) on a Temple Grandin level.

It's hours spent in and around the barn - knowing what each horse's poo looks like on a daily basis - being able to glance out in a field and immediately know that old grey mare has a tummy ache just by the way she's standing.

These things are not going to be understood by the rider who never mucks a stall or who never has the time to sit out on the pasture fence watching how their horses interact with each other.

Carol Ames
Feb. 24, 2010, 11:18 AM
Klimke in his book das miilitaer, includes an appendix listing worlds' Olympics and other championships at that level; he lists ( a number of, problems:o:mad: with course design / weather, and :eek:number of horse fatalities; reading that left me shaken:eek: and shaking; shortly after an Olympic medalist lost two **** horses in cross country accidents and the decision to not go further with my horse of a lifetime was made; at that time the attitude “Let’s see how tough this horse:eek: is…was openly expressed in the media; this was already AFTER Lexington 78 but, before the Barcelona:o Olympics; we need to be very careful what emotions we imply with our words. We may not intend to be callous but, in an effort to imply" Olympic/ upper level thinking exactly that attitude:cry:
is often implied.

Carol Ames
Feb. 24, 2010, 11:37 AM
I do not think riders are any less hungry today then they were back when, but I do think the demands put on them to run businesses simply do not allow them to cover every little aspect that is required for success at top level sport as it is today.

Of course there are the exceptions...but this requires many staff and much expense. Most riders are not in the position to provide either.

The british high performance riders get financial help from lottery funding and I know many who would not be able to carry on without this support.

Carol Ames
Feb. 25, 2010, 09:36 PM
the sport changed immensely:(, it is no longer possible to take a "sketchy:sadsmile:" mover , who gallops and jumps so:eek: fast that he makes up for a poor dressage score with bonus;) points; now a quality horse, one who could make up to be a dressage or show jumping :cool:winner; as well as going to Florida in the winter;):cool:, is now mandatory in order to be ready to do the Rolex All this requires $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$:eek:$$$$; the horse who, can’t do anything else well :sadsmile:is no longer:no: adequate.

LisaB
Feb. 26, 2010, 09:31 AM
Okay, question here and it's totally prying into the lives of the great ones. So pardon my intrusion.
So, these great riders did endurance rides, rode in Hunt Cups, did gp jumpers. Fabulous stuff.
So, back in the day, how were they funded?
I mean there's a lot more potential ULR's now and they have to make a living. So, how did the great ones do it?
We all know BD married it. But are there some out there that worked for it and still were able to do those other disciplines?
I just think of all the current great riders and between riding all the horse and teaching and selling and marketing, there's no way they can do anything else. Like nab a steeplechase horse and be able to race and train them.

eventrider
Feb. 26, 2010, 09:53 AM
LisaB, that is a great question because I cannot think of anyone that was not funded...mostly by marriage as I recall. Bruce, Jimmy, Denny, Mike...all were funded by family money or marriage if I am not mistaken. So is Karen, so was Kim...by sponors. I would love to hear about the people that were riding for "The Team" and werent funded. I dont think there is anything wrong with that, just that money seems ot be the number one factor in "making it".

mugsgame
Feb. 26, 2010, 04:05 PM
Have read the comments with interest. Over here in the UK we have a huge programme of junior and Young Rider training some of which is funded by lottery but they have had to show results, they are under pressure to perform all the time as there are people queueing up who would take their spot on the team.

Laura Collett is one rider who has come from nothing but been very lucky to have had her talent spotted and have the right horses at the right time. She is also a terrific networker and seems to have owners willing to support her.

Many of our top riders come from very horsey backgrounds with parents who have competed at the highest level so talent spot horses and made sure their kids had the best training and support even if they did not have lots of money. If they do not come from horsey backgrounds they train with the best and work - Pippa Funnell was a groom for 8 years for a legendary trainer and was lucky to be given young horses to work on. Oliver Townend worked for Ken Clawson and his hunger for success meant he rode horses others would not and probably is a good example of 'you ruin many good horses on the way to the top'.

You need 3 of 4 things in eventing - luck, talent, dedication or money.

There was a very good article recently on whether you can make money out of eventing and the answer was no. The riders made their money out of selling, livery, breeding etc The eventing was almost a shop window. This makes it a very tough option for many to try and make a living.

Christa P
Feb. 26, 2010, 05:38 PM
I haven't read the entire thread, but another point with equestrians vs. most other Olymoic sports is the age factor. Many Olympic athletes need to be at the top of thier sport by thier mid teens - twenty. By 25 many are considered to old to be competitive at that level.

With eventing and SJ, human athletes are not even allowed to compete at the top levels until they are 18 and frequently are just getting seasoned that level in thier mid twenties - 30, and then, if they have the $$, they can continue to be competitive at the highest levels for 30 or more years. In dressage they can compete earlier, but will rarely have the necessary skills honed enough until, once again, mid twenties - 30.

So at the age many Olympians are at the top of thier sports, the equestrians are still building the skills that will get them there.

Christa

Ajierene
Feb. 26, 2010, 08:56 PM
I was thinking about this again as I was watching a bit on the background of some of the Winter Olympic athletes. Every medal winner they mentioned had million dollar sponsorships. Not 'going to have', had. As in, some had these sponsorships and endorsements before even entering their first Olympics and those that did not, could likely look forward to it.

So, how do they afford to train all day? Well, one day doing a photoshoot or commercial and the rest of the week training while the check is being cashed.

How many Olympic equestrians could look forward to endorsements after the Olympics? How many went back to their hovels to scrape up enough money to buy their next Olympic hopeful?

kt-rose
Feb. 28, 2010, 08:35 PM
I've been reading this thread all along and debating about posting but hesitated...I think what eventrider says is so very true...you need the 4 things Denny says plus you have to have serious money. Where is it going to come from? A lot of it used to come from folks like me. I am no Jackie Mars but I can afford to keep 2 horses in training with upper level folks, pay all the vet bills, entries, winter in Aiken, Wellington, etc. But I am becoming hesitant because in the eventing world you can only do this for love of the sport and the horse and this sport eats horses. I am carrying the retired horses to prove it. No matter how hard you work to take care of them and keep them sound, how much you spend on training and vets, this sport still breaks them. To be successful they have to compete too often, they have to work too hard and they get so little down time, now that going south for the winter is almost a requirement for the horses, there is no real break. The sport has to change if folks like me are going to continue to send the horses we love out there. Right now I have 2 youngsters I bred to event -- bred to be my Rolex babies :) (gotta dream, right!!!). My favorite is going to a hunter trainer. I will not put her out there to get broken. It is not a matter of money -- the hunter trainer is even more expensive than the eventing, entry fees etc are way higher but I have some hope my vet bills will be more reasonable. The other youngster is tough as nails, has six legs and has never taken an awkward step in her life...she is possibly the last horse I will send out into the eventing world. If the sport can eat up a horse like her, then I am done. I will do whatever it takes to do the very best job we can to develop her correctly. I love eventing -- when it goes the way it is supposed to it is the most fun for horse and rider, the best challenge -- but if eventing can't find a way to structure the competition so my horses don't get eaten alive in order to be successful, I'm done. The hunter world is not near as fascinating but at least the horses I've bred and love will come home to hunt, cart me around the lower levels, whatever.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that what our riders need is money, folks like me to pay the bills for the horses they are riding, but unless eventing can do a better job of structuring competition, qualifications, course design so that we feel good about sending our horses out there, that money is going to be hard to find. Eventing has to prove to me that it cares about my horses the way I do if it wants me to pour the neccessary funds into developing them as upper level horses. It's either that or provide enough prize money so that it becomes a business rather than a passion and attracts a whole different group of owners.

eventrider
Feb. 28, 2010, 08:59 PM
Kate,

Really well said and THANK YOU so much for your input! I agree that the sport has got to change, or the priorities of the riders have got to change. It is doable to produce a horse to the upper levels successfully without breaking them, but the riders have to have a different goal than making a team. That way, they can pick and choose more carefully, not start the season so early in the year, and not compete every weekend. I am going to jinx myself right here, but I have never had a horse that I rode or produced ever have any unsoundnesses. That includes tendons/ligaments or concussion related to the sport. I have had pasture accidents, but that can happen to horses in any sport. So maybe it has to do with goals and why someone is doing the sport. On the other hand, there are always going to be those freak accidents that happen on course and have nothing to do with conditioning/pounding/etc.

lstevenson
Feb. 28, 2010, 09:09 PM
To be successful they have to compete too often


I agree with most of your other points, but have to take exception to this one. Do many riders compete too much? Yes, probably. Especially since the loss of long format 3 days. But do they have to compete excessively to be successful? No.

How often to compete is a choice, and a rider can certainly be successful by picking and choosing a few select competitions before a major goal.

Maybe as an owner you could make some stipulations to the trainers you send them to on how often your horses are competed, and some mandatory down time?

OverandOnward
Feb. 28, 2010, 09:20 PM
Here`s what some of the great riders I`ve personally known have done:

Worked extensively with Grand Prix dressage riders, to the point they could easily be mistaken for pure dressage riders---See Ingrid Klimke

Raced over fenced, even including the Md Hunt Cup---See Kevin Freeman, Bruce Davidson, Mike Plumb, Frank Chapot, Kathy Kusner

Ridden to very high levels of international show jumping----see Mark Todd, Bernie Traurig,

Have they ridden in endurance/distance rides, see Lana Wright, first woman Olympic 3-day rider

These are all possible avenues of growth for our aspiring young 3-day athletes. Are any of them doing these things?
The question for dedicated riders who have not yet made it might be -- On whose horse? Who paid for the upkeep of TWO athletes, one who can survive on ramen and peanut butter (probably not at their best though) while sleeping in an attic, one who needs considerably more expensive upkeep?

If a human athlete can scramble to pay for their own upkeep, gear and training, what happens if you add the load of an upper-level horse as well? For the years it takes to climb up the levels?

I know of riders who have totally dedicated themselves to their sport ... but just couldn't wangle the horsepower. One even exclaimed offhand that a serious rider could not get that degree so they would have an option, there would not be time to do that and train adequately, serious riders go all in on the riding. But the one horse available had health issues and it didn't happen.



Also, how tough and fit are our riders? Do they run, lift weights, do chin ups?

Can they explain, in minute detail, the training scale? Can they walk show jumping courses the way the pure jumper riders can. Are they all around riders and horsemen?

It`s these "extra miles", so often, that have turnedthe great ones into legends.

Not one of these avenues has a "road closed" sign to someone who truly wants to go there.
Know for a fact that some of them can. Dunno how many.

Know that some young riders with high ambitions also do the gym training. But again, unless they can be the lucky one with access to the necessary quality of horses ... it doesn't happen.

It takes more than dreams, dedication and strength training. It takes more than one upper level horse. At least two, one horse to be sidelined with issues and one horse to compete. So that's an upkeep of more than 2 athletes, really ... few sports have equipment THIS expensive and hard to get.

Even the top name riders can find themselves without a ride for the big event. Those with longer strings of ready 4* mounts are the ones that always leave the start box. This is a huge hurdle for young climbers.

kt-rose
Feb. 28, 2010, 09:25 PM
Thank you for your input, eventrider! I've lost horses to colic, to a pasture accident and a bunch to old age...what I find difficult here is to strike the balance between sponsoring a horse to support the rider and the sport and doing the best thing for the horse -- I wish eventing as a sport could make those one and the same. And I think it needs to because there is no money to be made here...we do it for the love of the horse and love of the sport. You can't take people like me who are investing everything they can into developing a horse we love and expect us to sacrifice our horse and our investment for some team goal. To get that, you are going to need to change the sport so there is a financial payoff someone other than me will care about more than the joy and honor of developing a talented horse for a talented rider. I just hope that over the years I have learned enough so that when this next filly of mine goes out, I know enough to do the very best job of developing her, being her advocate and making sure she stays sound and has fun! My goal is only that she be the best she can be and I have to keep my eye on that and take what comes along the way. If along the way I realize this can't be done, she'll make a great Working Hunter/Derby horse...

kt-rose
Feb. 28, 2010, 09:28 PM
I agree with most of your other points, but have to take exception to this one. Do many riders compete too much? Yes, probably. Especially since the loss of long format 3 days. But do they have to compete excessively to be successful? No.

How often to compete is a choice, and a rider can certainly be successful by picking and choosing a few select competitions before a major goal.

Maybe as an owner you could make some stipulations to the trainers you send them to on how often your horses are competed, and some mandatory down time?

You are absolutely right, and after a few years sitting out and thinking about how I want things to go for my horses, the major thing I plan to change about how I manage them is to take far more control of the schedule!!!!

JER
Feb. 28, 2010, 10:10 PM
I agree with most of your other points, but have to take exception to this one. Do many riders compete too much? Yes, probably. Especially since the loss of long format 3 days. But do they have to compete excessively to be successful? No.

How often to compete is a choice, and a rider can certainly be successful by picking and choosing a few select competitions before a major goal.

Maybe as an owner you could make some stipulations to the trainers you send them to on how often your horses are competed, and some mandatory down time?

:yes:

As an owner, you choose where to send your horse. You can choose to support the trainers/riders who share your values.

This is what I've done with my horses. My current mare competes only as much as is necessary to achieve whatever goal -- and she gets long breaks.

1516
Feb. 28, 2010, 10:18 PM
Your example is more than an example.... It is not fiction. It happened in 2008. But rest assured, that rider and that horse are better than ever and not ready to give up. Keep your fingers and toes crossed that THIS YEAR the results will be different. Only time will tell......

Say you're an up-and-coming rider, perhaps one from the west coast, in your mid-to-late 20s. You have a wonderful horse, a supportive owner and solid results at all the right venues.

Because of all of the above, you are invited to the final Olympic selection trial. Because of your careful horse management, riding skills and your good fortune at having a talented horse who is peaking at just the right time, you go to those selection trials and smoke the competition.

Sounds like a recipe for Olympic glory, doesn't it? But this happened in 2008 and the above-referenced rider didn't get a ticket to Hong Kong or even gas money for the drive home.

No amount of hard work can overcome that particular Team mindset. But that's the reality riders face.

Why would any thoughtful person stake their life on that system?[/QUOTE]

Grandysgirl
Mar. 1, 2010, 07:56 AM
We all know that riding is not the most inexpensive sport in the world. Not only do you have all of your own gear, but then you have all of the gear (and food, and health care) for your horse. As you ride up the ranks it only gets worse.

Setting a goal to make the US Equestrian Team and compete at the games is not one that is ever made lightly for anyone, but for those individuals who have no sponsors nor family money to rely on it becomes an even greater, almost insurmountable, obstacle.

I truly believe that if we are going actually send the best to the games that we all need to step up and great a single application process for those individuals who are riding at the levels to be considered for the games. That application process will be utilized for scholarships, sponsorships, etc, so that they can focus on their own training and the training of their horse vice scrambling for the funds to even try to get there.

If we don't do that, we won't actually be sending the best athletes to the games, we will only be sending those that can afford to get there.

purplnurpl
Mar. 1, 2010, 10:15 AM
Oh and once you get the money and the horse -- gee whiz -- gotta be smart enough to take good care of it. Perhaps that's the REAL underlying reason for Denny's lament. Lack of education and poor horsemanship of the up and coming riders.

ouch.
I'd like you to repeat that statement to Jennie B. Because I'm sure she has lost her team mount/s to poor horsemanship. (rolling eyes)

ACMEeventing
Mar. 1, 2010, 10:32 AM
If we don't do that, we won't actually be sending the best athletes to the games, we will only be sending those that can afford to get there.

With the exception of one bright star, these last summer games made me question if I even want to watch anymore. As an outsider looking in (Olympically speaking), but being close with one or two exceptional individuals that would represent our country with excellence, I am completely disheartened with the entire process.

I know it must be an honor "just to be at the selections", but how about some term limits? Not trying to be offensive, and I may get flamed, but I am having a hard time feeling the "olympic spirit" anymore.

Ravencrest_Camp
Mar. 1, 2010, 11:27 AM
It also makes much better sense in the business aspect to keep the horse sound and sell it as a lower level horse.

That would be true if they were riding their own horses. But the business model for today's upper level rider/trainer is that they ride, train and compete someone else's horses. In which case the "smart" business decision is to keep that horse going at all costs. The more rides, the more competitions to horse does, the more $ in your pocket. And when that horse gets used up, the owner buys a new one. Which usually involves a commision and or a finders fee to the trainer.

I think that's called a win-win. :no: ;)

Ajierene
Mar. 1, 2010, 01:39 PM
With the exception of one bright star, these last summer games made me question if I even want to watch anymore. As an outsider looking in (Olympically speaking), but being close with one or two exceptional individuals that would represent our country with excellence, I am completely disheartened with the entire process.

I know it must be an honor "just to be at the selections", but how about some term limits? Not trying to be offensive, and I may get flamed, but I am having a hard time feeling the "olympic spirit" anymore.

This triggered another thought. Comparing most other Olympic sports to the Equestrian sports leaves something else not considered - in most other sports, an Olympic athlete is done by their mid-twenties. I can recall one swimmer in her 30's that was a star of the Olympics BECAUSE of her age. A downhill skier in this Olympics - 31. How old is Mancuso or Vonn? I don't know...that are not 'over the hill' according to Olympic tradition.

The main reason I bring this up is because 'aging out' creates a natural turnover process that the Equestrian sports do not. Most athletes go to three Olympics, maximum. How many have some equestrians been to? How many have they tried out for?

Foxtrot's
Mar. 1, 2010, 02:18 PM
In Canada I often feel we don't send our best athletes - we send our best wealthy athletes. It is just so hard to get the funding to get to the point where funding starts to come in.

But an Olympic athlete is a special (oddball) person. Prepared for the sacrifices that normal people would not endure. Not every young person has that - but it does not take away from the value of sports for every child at whatever level they participate at. That certain passion that endures - it is rare.

Foxtrot's
Mar. 1, 2010, 02:25 PM
One last word I forgot - our Canadian eventing athletes at the top are mostly extremely generous with their time and give back to their commuities that have supported tham. They make the rarified title "Olympian" seem more reachable somehow when you know them and they know you. Granted they need $ from clinics, but it goes further than that...time given to Pony Clubs etc.

ACMEeventing
Mar. 1, 2010, 05:47 PM
This triggered another thought. Comparing most other Olympic sports to the Equestrian sports leaves something else not considered - in most other sports, an Olympic athlete is done by their mid-twenties. I can recall one swimmer in her 30's that was a star of the Olympics BECAUSE of her age. A downhill skier in this Olympics - 31. How old is Mancuso or Vonn? I don't know...that are not 'over the hill' according to Olympic tradition.

The main reason I bring this up is because 'aging out' creates a natural turnover process that the Equestrian sports do not. Most athletes go to three Olympics, maximum. How many have some equestrians been to? How many have they tried out for?

Really good point.

JER
Mar. 1, 2010, 06:21 PM
This triggered another thought. Comparing most other Olympic sports to the Equestrian sports leaves something else not considered - in most other sports, an Olympic athlete is done by their mid-twenties. I can recall one swimmer in her 30's that was a star of the Olympics BECAUSE of her age. A downhill skier in this Olympics - 31. How old is Mancuso or Vonn? I don't know...that are not 'over the hill' according to Olympic tradition.

The main reason I bring this up is because 'aging out' creates a natural turnover process that the Equestrian sports do not. Most athletes go to three Olympics, maximum. How many have some equestrians been to? How many have they tried out for?

Except that the AVERAGE age of an Olympic athlete is 27/28.

The average age has risen steadily since the abolition of the amateur rule which was, by design, a way to keep the common rabble out of 'pure sport.' And if you can make a living in your sport, why not keep going?

The gold medal pairs skaters from China are 36 and 31. The snowboard cross winners were both over 30. In skier cross, there was an all-mums semifinal. There was a 40 year-old (and others in their late 30s) competing in the men's alpine downhill. Clara Hughes won her millionth or so medal in speedskating at 37. Norway has Nordic skiing stars well into their 30s in their 5th Olympics -- because you can earn a handsome living as an XC skier in Norway.

And I haven't even mentioned the curlers.

The point is, when there's a living to be made by staying competitive in a sport, it starts to skew older. This happened with the equestrian sports -- look at today's teams vs 1976 -- and it's happening in other sports if the money is there.

TBCollector
Mar. 2, 2010, 08:03 AM
Your example is more than an example.... It is not fiction. It happened in 2008. But rest assured, that rider and that horse are better than ever and not ready to give up. Keep your fingers and toes crossed that THIS YEAR the results will be different. Only time will tell......

Say you're an up-and-coming rider, perhaps one from the west coast, in your mid-to-late 20s. You have a wonderful horse, a supportive owner and solid results at all the right venues.

Because of all of the above, you are invited to the final Olympic selection trial. Because of your careful horse management, riding skills and your good fortune at having a talented horse who is peaking at just the right time, you go to those selection trials and smoke the competition.

Sounds like a recipe for Olympic glory, doesn't it? But this happened in 2008 and the above-referenced rider didn't get a ticket to Hong Kong or even gas money for the drive home.

No amount of hard work can overcome that particular Team mindset. But that's the reality riders face.

Why would any thoughtful person stake their life on that system?[/QUOTE]

I don't know for sure if we are talking about the same person...but the rider I am thinking of who fits that description was told at those Trials that the thing keeping them off the Team was that the rider had to accumulate more "bigtime horses" to be seriously considered by selectors.

LexInVA
Mar. 2, 2010, 08:10 AM
That sounds logical. Three horses would be ideal though two is clearly enough. One simply doesn't cut it when you factor in the "What if?".

LisaB
Mar. 2, 2010, 10:16 AM
So, kt-rose, what's changed?
Is it because they are running the horses basically year-round?
And why are they running them so much? I honestly believe it's a select few that really want to do that (i.e. Oliver Townend). I just see that madness of trying to get qualified for events and riders in a panic because they missed one event and are 'out' for the rest of the season. Is it the qualifications? Is it that we don't have enough CIC's so they can go to the next one? Is it greed?
If the rider chose to do one big event a year, would that maybe make you think that you would send a horse to them?

1516
Mar. 3, 2010, 01:32 AM
I don't know for sure if we are talking about the same person...but the rider I am thinking of who fits that description was told at those Trials that the thing keeping them off the Team was that the rider had to accumulate more "bigtime horses" to be seriously considered by selectors.[/QUOTE]
I don't know who you are referring to, but this rider was not told that

NeverTime
Mar. 3, 2010, 07:49 AM
What is the reason for talking about the selection trials like they were a top-secret process? It's eventing, not national security, and it's all been discussed before.
For the sake of clarity, why not just say, "I'm talking about Jennifer Wooten."
Good grief.

LexInVA
Mar. 3, 2010, 08:15 AM
Woot woot!

JER
Mar. 3, 2010, 09:07 AM
What is the reason for talking about the selection trials like they were a top-secret process? It's eventing, not national security, and it's all been discussed before.
For the sake of clarity, why not just say, "I'm talking about Jennifer Wooten."

Oh dear.

I didn't mean to be secretive (at all) when I brought it up. I thought everyone knew who it was.

JER
Mar. 3, 2010, 09:49 AM
When you listen to the stories of the various winter Olympic athletes being interviewed, have any of you been struck by what seems to be the total dedication and intensity of their training?

Which brings me to the quote of the Games, as chosen by the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2010/feb/28/winter-olympics-vancouver-best-worst):


"My name is Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset. I skied the second lap and I f****d up today. I think I have seen too much porn in the last 14 days. I have the room next to Petter Northug and every day there is noise in there. So I think that is the reason I f****d up. By the way Tiger Woods is a really good man."

Dedication and intensity, indeed. Or something.

(Odd-Bjorn Hjelmeset was part of a silver-medal-winning XC relay team.)

1516
Mar. 3, 2010, 11:26 AM
me too!

Carol Ames
Mar. 4, 2010, 03:28 PM
Denny, how were you during the selection trial years/ seasons?:winkgrin:

Sandpiper
Mar. 5, 2010, 12:36 PM
I'm a little late to this thread, but here is my take on what I found inspiring at the Winter Olympics (it's a bit long-winded, so I'll just post the link here):

Inspiration across Sports: Figure Skating as Dressage on Ice (http://sandpiperdiary.blogspot.com/2010/03/inspiration-across-sports-figure.html)

I hope some of you might find it inspiring, too :)