Sunday, Apr. 14, 2024

High Hopes For The Future Of North American Show Jumping

Our columnist believes the newly established North American Rider’s Group will help the sport further improve and continue to flourish in North America.

August of 2008 left no doubt in the minds of equestrians that North America was officially a force to be reckoned with after Canada and the United States both had brilliant efforts at the Olympic Games in Hong Kong. The United States earned a second consecutive team gold medal, Beezie Madden added individual bronze, Canada won team silver, and Eric Lamaze took the individual gold.

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Our columnist believes the newly established North American Rider’s Group will help the sport further improve and continue to flourish in North America.

August of 2008 left no doubt in the minds of equestrians that North America was officially a force to be reckoned with after Canada and the United States both had brilliant efforts at the Olympic Games in Hong Kong. The United States earned a second consecutive team gold medal, Beezie Madden added individual bronze, Canada won team silver, and Eric Lamaze took the individual gold.

Indeed, North America proved itself, but the fact remains that show jumping is often considered second-best to our European counterparts. It’s a persuasive belief that the Europeans just do it better, in all aspects, from preparing horses to promoting the sport and putting on a great competition.

Bolstered by the momentum of the Olympic Games, September of 2008 brought with it an exciting new development for show jumping in North America. Chris Kappler, McLain Ward, Beezie Madden, Norman Dello Joio, Jimmy Torano and Kent Farrington founded what is now the North American Rider’s Group, a group that’s only six months old now, but steadily growing with positive goals for Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Taken from www.NARG.org, their mission statement is: “To effectively represent the varied interests of the active riders and the associated trainers, coaches, horse owners, corporate sponsors and others involved with show jumping.” Their goal is “To be universally recognized as the effective voice of North American riders and the associated trainers coaches, horse owners, corporate sponsors and others involved with show jumping.”

Their goals include improving the quality of shows, encouraging the growth of the sport and monitoring rules ensuring that they’re for the welfare of the horse and followed uniformly. I’m confident that this group will serve as the barometer of our sport, one that it needs at this time.

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An additional NARG goal is to reevaluate the current mileage rule, which I feel is long overdue.

It’s often said that competitors are able to express their opinions to a show management that fails to provide a quality competition through “talking by walking.” But the fact is, for most competitors, attending a show outside the mileage constraints is financially not feasible. It’s unreasonable to punish a competitor who wishes to attend a competition with the best footing, schedule and an emphasis on safety for the horses by expecting them to ship hundreds of miles away to get it.

Revising the mileage rule will certainly require shows to step up their game to maintain their numbers, rather than relying on the convenience factor that has kept many unfavorable competitions in business in the past years.

It’s been questioned if the NARG is truly necessary with the U.S. Equestrian Federation and the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association already in place, but I believe that NARG is going to serve as a necessary complement to the great work that these two organizations already do.

With the assistance of NARG, the USEF leaders will be able to get unified feedback on one of the many disciplines they represent, which will serve to streamline the improvement of our sport.

The USHJA’s mission statement: “Advancing and representing the hunter and jumper disciplines by fostering an educated community of equestrians that promotes the welfare of the horse and fairness in competition” is one that can only be helped by the addition of a group looking at the other side of the sport. With the USHJA leaders promoting an educated group of equestrians, the NARG can look to the other aspects of the sport, including competition management, and ensure the standards continue to be raised across the board.

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The three groups working together for the good of the sport will be the best way for North America to grow itself in the show jumping community at large. The USEF governs the sport, the USHJA serves to educate, and NARG steps into the role of questioner, not allowing the sport to get stagnant, instead offering advice and ideas for change.

It should be kept in mind that NARG is meant to be an altruistic group, without motives based in commercial gain. Of course commercialism has a place in our sport, as advertising executive Earnest A. Jones once said, “Only for the phony is commercialism—the bending of creativity to common utility—a naughty word. To the truly creative, it is a bridge to the great audience, a means of sharing rather than debasing.”

This belief holds true for us, when we mainstream our sport, we help it grow.

Realistically, however, we need to temper that with the insights of those of us entrenched in the sport. We need to temper it with the mindset of what is for the good of the horse is for the good of the sport. If commercialism is set loose without boundaries or questioning, the art that is the original sport is jeopardized, and I believe the NARG will step up to help define the balance between the two, which is where our sport will find its niche in North America.

John Madden


John Madden, Cazenovia, N.Y., is married to international grand prix rider Beezie Madden. Together, they operate John Madden Sales Inc., where they train horses and riders. The horse business has encompassed John’s entire life, and in addition to his business he’s the Organizing Committee Chairman for the Syracuse Sporthorse Tournament (N.Y.) and on the USEF High Performance Show Jumping Computer List Task Force. He began contributing to Between Rounds in 2008.

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