Difficult times require innovation and creativity, and our columnist believes our sport horse community will heed the call.
It’s that time of year again, when the national governing bodies are meeting to discuss new proposed rule changes, committees are getting together, sharing ideas and looking at the future, and breed associations are preparing for a new season. And we, enthusiasts in the sport horse world, are considering our plans for the new year too.
Certainly, considering the economy, this is a very difficult year to be making these transitions and future plans. As a community, I think we’re all faced with the possiblity of some difficult choices. Some of us will have options, and some of us will be forced into making certain decisions. We will be seeing many difficult situations arising during these times.
We can look at this as a depressing or negative time, which of course in many ways it is. Yes, without a doubt these are hard times, however, I would like to look at the glass as half full. Perhaps these difficult times will make us dig deep and come up with ideas and incentives that will create a better situation in the long run.
If we consider the economy from a breeder’s angle for a moment, maybe when times were really good, he could breed all of his mares—even the mares that weren’t producing offspring that really represented themselves. Maybe these offspring were sold, went out into sport but didn’t fulfill their goals. Now, perhaps, these mares will be left open; this is a tough decision to make, but in the end maybe this choice is better. It’s time to analyze this situation and realize that maybe in the past passion led the way in the decision to breed this mare.
There’s no question that competitions are important for our sport, but perhaps we should look deeper at different incentive programs and develop different, creative ideas to acknowledge competitors. Especially during hard times, we need to make horse shows more fun or make them more enticing to attend. Show managers may have to use innovative new programs or classes or awards to attract people to their competitions, and, again, this crea-tivity could be quite beneficial to the future of our sports.
Let’s not forget competitors in this equation. Maybe a rider didn’t need to attend as many horse shows or schooling shows as she did last year. What’s in her and her horse’s best interest? Should they stay home and train a bit more to get stronger and improve movements before going out and performing again? Maybe her passion ran away with her, and she went to quite a few horse shows because they were fun. Perhaps it might be better for her to stay at home more often and work on the basic skills of training before venturing out to a few select shows.
As some of us travel to our association annual meetings this winter, we should make sure to address some of these thoughts if our sport’s leaders aren’t already considering them. Those of us in horse sports need to understand and appreciate that during these hard times we need to come together so that we’re looking at the whole picture, not just one tier or one side of the sport. If we all work together to improve the entire sport—and encourage everyone to become involved and engaged—we can improve the entire community.
On a positive note, I’m glad to say that I’ve already heard some good ideas discussed, and I have confidence that our national governing body and affiliate organization leaders are concerned too. I’m confident that we will see a positive outcome from these hard times.
Let’s hope that during this economic crisis not too many people have to make big sacrifices and that we can make smarter choices. I’m confident that as a community there will be better times ahead, and, hopefully, some great ideas will develop. We may have more limited funds, but that doesn’t mean we should limit our creativity.
Scott Hassler, the National Young Horse Dressage Coach, resides in Chesapeake City, Md., and has trained many horses to Grand Prix. The U.S. Dressage Federation Sport Horse Committee chairman since 2001, he helped establish the sport/breeding record-keeping system now active in the USDF and U.S. Equestrian Federation. He began writing Between Rounds columns in 2005.