Looking back at our equestrian world in 2008, I realize there were some incredibly high highs and some downright subterranean lows.
Despite dire predictions, the summer Olympic Games in Hong Kong were a success. The forecasted heat and humidity and threat of typhoons didn’t adversely affect humans and horses, and the fear of equestrian sport’s isolation in Hong Kong didn’t leave us feeling as complete outcasts in the mainstream media Olympic coverage.
Safety continued to be an issue in eventing, though, and sadly we were relieved when we returned to the office from a competition and didn’t have to write about a horse or rider death or injury.
On the other hand, 2008 brought about a myriad of new challenges that most of us probably wouldn’t even have imagined a year earlier. Who would have believed that it would cost us $200 to fill up the diesel dually? That gas prices could rise to more than $4 per gallon, that the price of a bag of grain could rise more than 40 percent, and we spent a small fortune just feeding ourselves. Then there was the economic train wreck that pulled into the station at the end of the year, which we’ll no doubt track well into 2009 and beyond.
Nevertheless, there were many, many reasons to celebrate in our world in 2008. We reported far more accomplishments and successes than ever before. So, here’s the Chronicle editorial staff’s top 10 best and worst moments of 2008.
• The U.S. show jumping team earns a second consecutive Olympic Games gold medal.
• McKinlaigh and Gina Miles jump to the eventing individual silver medal at the Olympic Games.
• Rich Fellers’ second-placed finish with Flexible in the FEI World Cup Show Jumping Final.
• The USHJA International Hunter Derby inaugural year receives rave reviews.
• Eric Lamaze—from banishment to Olympic Games individual show jumping gold and Canada’s equestrian hero.
• Darren Chiacchia’s recovery from a critical injury.
• Ravel’s emergence as a top U.S. dressage horse.
• Chester Weber’s individual silver medal at the World Four-in-Hand Driving Championships.
• Mike Plumb, the first equestrian inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
• Gas prices fall to $1.50 per gallon.
• The loss of superstar eventing pony Theodore O’Connor in a stable accident.
• Gas prices rise to more than $4 per gallon.
• Courtney King-Dye and the U.S. dressage team eliminated from the Olympic Games after Mythilus’ positive drug test.
• Once again, doping horses becomes the most frequent headline for equestrian coverage at the Olympic Games.
• The battle over the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit in Florida.
• The death of multiple horses in eventing competition, including during the Rolex Kentucky CCI****.
• The dire economic climate created a glut of unwanted horses.
• California wildfires devastate horse owners and cause cancellation of the Tevis Cup.
• The FEI Dressage Committee resigns amid controversy.
• Princess Haya questions the future of equestrian sports in the Olympic Games.
So, overall I believe we’ll look back and recall 2008 as a year of milestones—some will be notable for their impressive and amazing qualities while others will retain notoriety for their catastrophic results.
What were your highs and lows of 2008? We’d love to know! (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tricia Booker, Editor