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  1. #1
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    Default Michael Pollard's Where Do We Go From Here-COTH article

    He seems to be doing a series and the first one has some interesting thoughts and ideas.
    http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/where-do-we-go-here

    It's certainly worth discussing.
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  2. #2
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    Very interesting
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    Default Re: Lost in the shuffle

    It sounds like he's thinking more about the few (20?) NCAA programs in the country rather than the schools with equine science degrees and IHSA teams. Because most college programs aren't really geared toward producing top hunter riders, either. For most schools to prepare riders for the FEI levels of dressage, eventing, and show jumping would take a whole lot more than a discipline shift.

    The NCAA riders (who are the ones getting scholarships) are already top equitation kids, so it's hard to say that riding for four years in college is really taking their riding to another level, even if the programs and instruction are excellent. I would equate those riders with the eventers that MP seems to be talking about - the kids competing at NAJYRC or maybe doing well at Prelim.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scaramouch View Post
    It sounds like he's thinking more about the few (20?) NCAA programs in the country rather than the schools with equine science degrees and IHSA teams. Because most college programs aren't really geared toward producing top hunter riders, either. For most schools to prepare riders for the FEI levels of dressage, eventing, and show jumping would take a whole lot more than a discipline shift.

    The NCAA riders (who are the ones getting scholarships) are already top equitation kids, so it's hard to say that riding for four years in college is really taking their riding to another level, even if the programs and instruction are excellent. I would equate those riders with the eventers that MP seems to be talking about - the kids competing at NAJYRC or maybe doing well at Prelim.
    Like Michael I was never on a college team, so am speaking as an outsider.
    What I have read in COTH it appears most of the college teams have folks ranging from beginner to experienced riders. So the competitions focus on basic H/J W/T/C flat classes and jumping or Western Pleasure type classes.
    As I understood him, he is suggesting the programs incorporate the 3 Olympic disciplines. So the NAJYRC kids, at that level or aspiring, have programs to continue their "training." Just think about how many kids have posted on this board that they want to ride at school, but their preferred college either doesn't have a team or it is a low-level H/J-WP program.
    There is much to say for cross-training in different disciplines and there are some really good coaches at some of the schools. The same as with other college sports, some schools are always in the top 10 of any sport.

    What he is suggesting is a way for kids to continue working on their equestrian goals while attending college/university. He is opening the conversation for how we bridge that gap between HS age and young adult.
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  5. #5
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    I agree with Michael. Eventing programs at universities would open up opportunities not just for the college age crowd, but also additional opportunities for trainers to showcase their coaching abilities and bring along promising riders.

    At my barn rider's parents are trying to get them to focus on lacrosse, field hockey, and soccer...where they have the chance to get scholarships and play at the university level. Some of these kids have some decent talent, but are being pushed away from the sport for more main stream ones in hopes that it will fund some of their education.

    As far as my own child, she went overseas to a university with a riding program that has great trainers as well as a good reputation for courses in agriculture, sport, and equine. As a parent it is good to know that she will be getting quality instruction and an education while at the same time continuing to reach her goals and getting experience at international competitions.

    I will encourage my daughter to move close to a good university on the East Coast to start her business when she comes back to the states. I know of over 20 eventing riders in the last four years that were looking for a university with an acceptable barn and a 3-4 star trainer within 45 minutes.

    As a small time breeder, I think Europe's approach with their young horse competitions is a much better model than what we have in the states. I like the age appropriate competitions and the prestige given to the breeder's of these young horses. I currently have a weanling, 2 yr old and 3 yr old...I am trying to figure out their futures. If the U.S. had some type of program matching up and coming horses with up and coming riders I would consider participating.



  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by fooler View Post
    Like Michael I was never on a college team, so am speaking as an outsider.
    What I have read in COTH it appears most of the college teams have folks ranging from beginner to experienced riders. So the competitions focus on basic H/J W/T/C flat classes and jumping or Western Pleasure type classes.
    You're thinking of IHSA teams.

    NCAA teams have top equitation riders compete in eq on the flat, eq o/f (3'6"), western horsemanship, and reining.

    When I rode for an NCAA team (a few years ago now), all of the western kids had top ten placings at worlds and several had world titles. The english kids were pretty much all Medal/Maclay qualifiers and there were a few winners riding for other teams.

    So a bit of a different world than IHSA, which does have beginner through advanced classes.

    I will say, though, that while Mr. Pollard's ideas are interesting, what he's talking about isn't likely to happen. Having riders compete in the upper levels of the Olympic disciplines would cost a fortune. Universities that only have equestrian as a sport for the Title 9 benefits just aren't going to spend the money. So now it's up to the riders to finance it themselves, limiting college level riding to the very rich that are already able to compete at that level.

    If equestrian sports were more main stream, it might be feasible, but as it is, it really isn't. Heck, my university's athletic director used to ask which style we rode - "Eastern or Western?".

    Very unlikely that you'll get the football/basketball level money for what is seen as a filler sport.
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  7. #7
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    It has some interesting thoughts but not so sure college is the appropriate place to bring elite level riders and horses up.

    Funding and getting elite level horses is one issue...particularly when most get <3' capable donations or those years from anything substantial. Another issue would be the schools are state or privately run and may not care to devote time and funds to it or may not be able to do so under their exsisting charter or state requirements.

    I often wonder...and may get flamed for asking but...instead of private indivduals spending millions to field already finished (and usually foreign produced and made) horses in Olympic disciplines? Use the millions to fund a major development program to help many riders???? Let that Olympic year go and work on 4 or 8 or even 12 years down the road????

    We seem to lack a pipeline like some other countries have established yet considerable money goes for an individual finished, ready to go horse for a rider to go elite with...follow my thinking here?
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  8. #8
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    I think college level equestrian sports are a challenge because the horse is such a big part of the equation. IHSA is fine and it's fun, but in terms of real learning and taking someone from competitive junior to pro, there are better steps. There are some skills- catch riding etc. that are of use but really it just kind of keeps people in the saddle.

    Most programs are quite shoestring and the horses are more like schoolies than ones that you could do "real" dressage on or would not die out on XC. They are donations. A lot of programs don't have horses - they rely on local barns for lessons.

    I think you'd end up with a pretty small universe of schools that could offer the ability to compete in a collegiate setting in the FEI disciplines. I know some of the schools could, but really, most could not. (And I believe there are a few schools that do).

    I think the main issue is that even at the lowest levels, if you want to do an FEI discipline, you need your own horse. Period. There are very few places that offer eventing (at all) or dressage much over training level on school horses. To pull together donor horses or lesson horses for a bunch of colleges that were useful at a substantial level of talent would just not happen.



  9. #9
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    SNL - it doesn't have to all or nothing.
    Ok, maybe the teams are 'limited' to a high end of Training or Prelim, but still have the opportunity to learn and train. . would that be so horrible?
    The teams could host competitions, dressage, eventing and/or H/J. A breeding ground for future organizers??

    Granted it would not all happen at once. My guess is the colleges near high competition concentration would be the first and have the stronger teams. Such as Mid-Atlantic states, Eastern Penn, CT, NY and south Florida.
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  10. #10
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    As others have said, varsity college equestrian programs are almost always a product of Title IX, basically an opportunity to give scholarships to women to equalize the men's sport juggernauts of football and basketball.

    But even with Title IX, a university requires a lot of presentation, paperwork, and persistence to get varsity status for a sport. You have to show that your sport will have sufficient participation, that there's sufficient interest in it among the campus population, and that it will have a positive impact on the general student population. You have to justify the budget for coaches and facilities. You have to propose a competition schedule with travel and related expenses.

    IHSA programs flourish because they can draw participation from a significant number of students. If the competitions were limited to only the top 6 or 7 riders, these programs wouldn't serve their purpose of getting the girl-athlete numbers up.

    An alternative to a trad college team is the 'center of excellence' model, which the UK did in numerous sports in the run-up to the Olympics. The US has done this, with very mixed success, in some sports. (USA Swimming had some kind of fiasco in this realm.) The idea is that you train at a center based at or near a university while you study for a degree at that university.

    This would be significantly more complicated in the US than in other places due to the very strict money rules in NCAA sports. The money would almost certainly have to come from private sources, and the support given to the rider-athletes would put an end to any NCAA eligibility.

    A private center would almost certainly have to be funded by USEF. As Michael correctly points out, the general membership might not be too keen on contributing to USEF these days:

    I believe there is a large portion of disgruntled fans who may be willing to contribute once we demonstrate that our efforts, integrity, and our utilization of their money is worth supporting.
    But that road is long. There's a lot of fences needing mending and bridges requiring structural repair work.

    I do like his idea for a revamped version of young horse competitions, and I agree with him that recent European excursions have perhaps not been worth it.

    As for a fall CCI****, I think it's worth considering that having one CCI**** in the US has not led to greater success for US riders on the international stage. The stats might indicate the opposite. Of course, the ascension of Rolex to CCI**** coincided with the long-term stagnation of the CMP 'program', so it's hard to connect cause and conclusion.

    This is a very interesting series of articles. Michael is strong in the brains department as well as the riding department, and I think it's much to the benefit of our sport that he's doing his thinking in public.



  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by fooler View Post
    SNL - it doesn't have to all or nothing.
    Ok, maybe the teams are 'limited' to a high end of Training or Prelim, but still have the opportunity to learn and train. . would that be so horrible?
    Try limited to a 'high end' of Novice - as magnolia points out, most horses in programs are school horses whose primary job is to give lessons all week. I attended a school with a very strong riding program with a number of VERY nice horses (and it was *not* on a shoestring budget), lovely facilities & a number of good instructors who taught a variety of classes (it was not simply 'low level hunter extravaganza'). And even there, if you wanted to be regularly jumping over 3', particularly in a competition setting, you needed to apply to bring your own horse - the schoolies were not going to be doing that. And really, once you hit that point, why bother being limited by what the school has to offer - pick a school in an area with trainers & a competition schedule that works with your goals and go from there.



  12. #12
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    Would the schools be willing or able to fund, travel to attend or host any kind of competition for some of their students governed by a non collegiate body like USEA/USEF/USDA?

    Maybe that can be worked out? Or not? Right now I believe that would be outside of what they are able to do with a school sanctioned/at least partially funded activity.

    I continue to think that trying to entice some of those who now dump a bundle into buying a horse then donating it for a particular rider/driver to use Internationally so they don't go without one to, instead, put that money into grants to support and develop riders and younger horses. Would that donation be better used for the future?
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  13. #13
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    JER - I agree with your comments regarding the Young Horse and mending fences.
    Regarding 4* - I see at least some corelation to CMP's 'coaching' and the US riders' results.

    As to riding teams at University. There have been several threads about what happens to the YR's once they age out, how many kids are allowed one year between HS and University before having to drop out of competition, how can young adults (22-30) earn a living-pay off school debts and compete.
    In short the US does not have the 'depth on the bench' as you see in the countries winning at the International competitions.

    Normally Mom&Dad stop supporting the eventing habit once the kidlet graduates HS or maybe one additional year. There after kidlet has to make decisions. Michael is trying to add more options.
    In addition to "your chosen major/minor" kids could continue to increase their overall equine education.
    In my experience - many kids TODAY, not back when I was that age, spend more time in the saddle and less time learning the rest. I could see where the University teams could incorporate the PC or BHS horsemanship and stable management lessons. Maybe offer opportunities for kids to continue PC rating work or offer BHS style certificates.
    If you have the funds/backing to compete at higher levels while at school, then do so. However for some it might be the bridge to introduce or keep others in the sport when they have to sell their own horse in order to attend school. Time and interest will tell if schools would actually have teams riding at the 1* and above levels. IMO - it would be at Training or below because of the reason already given and time restraints for most people.
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  14. #14
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    If I had the money I would give it directly to an eventer of choice. To me, giving money to a national organization means that at most only 60% of the money makes it to the actual feet/hooves on the ground.

    I do think adding a fall **** would be beneficial as well as raising the level of the existing Rolex to be more on par with Badminton or Burghley.



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    To me Bromont is the logical choice for a fall 4*. It is in another country with different funding sources, but US riders already go in volume to the competition there.

    IF Bromont gets the 2018 WEG, and the applicants are now down to only 3--Vienna, Rabat, and Bromont, they will have to build a 4* course for that.

    There isn't any reason, is there, why NCAA Equestrian has reining, which is a discipline, and only equitation of the h/j variety for English? I think that MP is saying that colleges and the NCAA should focus on the actual disciplines and not equitation.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by vineyridge View Post

    There isn't any reason, is there, why NCAA Equestrian has reining, which is a discipline, and only equitation of the h/j variety for English? I think that MP is saying that colleges and the NCAA should focus on the actual disciplines and not equitation.
    I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding regarding NCAA equestrian, and I apologize for having not been clear in my original comments on this thread.

    All of the disciplines in NCAA equestrian are judged as equitation, including reining. This is because the NCAA did not want it to become a contest of who got the better draw. If it were judged as the discipline is, scores would be based largely on the quality of the horses drawn and not on the rider. As the NCAA is about human athletics and not horses, they require that NCAA equestrian be judged on the rider. Hence, equitation.

    Now if somebody could convince the NCAA to go another way, it might be beneficial. But that brings us back to the issue of the horses and their quality.

    In general, I do not think that college athletics is the appropriate place to use as a development center for future Olympic equestrians. I wish that it were otherwise, but my experiences as an NCAA athlete make me think that it is pretty near impossible.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SaturdayNightLive View Post
    I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding regarding NCAA equestrian, and I apologize for having not been clear in my original comments on this thread.

    All of the disciplines in NCAA equestrian are judged as equitation, including reining. This is because the NCAA did not want it to become a contest of who got the better draw. If it were judged as the discipline is, scores would be based largely on the quality of the horses drawn and not on the rider. As the NCAA is about human athletics and not horses, they require that NCAA equestrian be judged on the rider. Hence, equitation.
    This is the real issue with college riding - the horses that are donated to colleges are a wide variety and have a varied set of skills. And most colleges aren't going to spend the money to go out and buy a string of lesson horses that are capable of competing at the upper levels of our sport to give their students the experience they need. And most colleges don't want the liability risks that go along with combined training - especially putting a student on a school owned horse for a 3 day event! Dressage and hunt seat/western equitation work because they are in a controlled environment - no school administration is going to send a kid out cross country over a training (hell - probably even a novice) or higher level course on their dime because of the risks.



  18. #18
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    I think MP is naive if he thinks the way of the future is through the colleges. The sport is too expensive and will never draw enough people to come close to covering its expenses. There is a good article in the WSJ today about college and sports like golf and tennis. The argument there is that sending kids through college golf and tennis programs is actually putting the US behind in those sports.



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    I think the idea of TEAMS is a great one, but that perhaps at the collegiate level it won't work.

    But what about a more serious Area team program OR just "teams" that are put together any way they want, such as through barns, for example. It's kinda funny that we use the label, like "Team O'Connor" or "Team CEO", but a team isn't actually fielded by those entities.

    What if, like polo, they were?

    Whether it were a wealthy owner or a non-equine, commercial business or an Area or a state or whatever, what if the team concept became a more integral part of the sport? Imagine Team O'Connor competing against Team True Prospect against Team Davidson and so on? Or Team Thin Line against Team Smart Pack, etc.?

    The thing about teams is not only the coherence in competition, but also the support and flexibility in developing the individual elements. Back the days of Ledyard and Gladstone and LeGeoff, the parts of the team were more-or-less interchangeable, weren't they? Well, if a team system developed, there would be more "movable parts" across the whole system, I suspect.

    But I'm just speculating about this. It was fun to think about.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FitToBeTied View Post
    I think MP is naive if he thinks the way of the future is through the colleges. The sport is too expensive and will nev
    As I read the article I did not sense either naivete or absolute belief collage was the training ground for the next set of Olympians...

    Often, for the aspiring equestrian, there are no good choices. Either you forego higher education and become a semi professional, or you go to college, putting your riding aspirations on the back burner. In either scenario, it’s difficult to recover precious lost time.


    ...Additionally, we have a culture where (probably correctly) many families do not find it acceptable for their children to skip university in order to pursue riding ambitions...
    So an honest assessment that given the importance of college, the US may be losing very good riders who have to make tough choices or follow parental wishes.



    This dilemma correlates with an interesting trend that became very apparent to me at the last Olympics. The sports in which the USA is most successful are those that are benefited by the opportunity to obtain university scholarships and participate in intercollegiate competition. We are starting to see more and more universities offering scholarships for their riding programs. However, currently, these programs aren't geared to help produce top Olympic riders. Perhaps if we redirected these riding programs and teams towards the three Olympic disciplines, we could bridge the gap between 18 and 21, and develop the strength and depth found in other U.S. Olympic programs.
    In this he seems to be pointing out that if we can keep these top young riders riding, even if the pace is slower it means that when they are done with college they have not lost so much that they it may take much longer (if ever) to get back to a level that elevates to an Olympic rider.

    We see so many Professionals in the Olympics now we seem to forget that there are also many college age (or younger) kids getting an education while being able to support their athletic endeavors. Maybe not in riding right now, but MP's idea is to start to build that bridge so down the road there *is* a path for young riders.

    I would imagine that it would be a uphill battle, but a school that starts to produce Top Quality riders (and maybe associated breeding program) would start to draw applications and attention to the school which may mean more endowments, corporate funding, or even government assistance.

    His point is while we keep saying "It can't happen" other countries are saying "yes it can" and are creating the next generation of top riders and creating a larger base of lower level supporters.



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