Monday, May. 27, 2024

We Need To Take Charge Of Today’s Technology

Is technology helping us or hurting us in the horse world? That’s a question our columnist has been pondering.

We’ve had our world changed through modern technology in the past few years, and it’s certainly impacted us in the horse world. In fact, so much has changed that it’s sometimes difficult to keep pace.

For example, being able to fill out and send your entries online has been a huge step, and now you can see jump orders and start times online too. Planning our show days has never been easier!
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Is technology helping us or hurting us in the horse world? That’s a question our columnist has been pondering.

We’ve had our world changed through modern technology in the past few years, and it’s certainly impacted us in the horse world. In fact, so much has changed that it’s sometimes difficult to keep pace.

For example, being able to fill out and send your entries online has been a huge step, and now you can see jump orders and start times online too. Planning our show days has never been easier!

And, at the end of the day, if you’re curious as to how a horse or rider did in their classes, results are just a click away. Immediate online news reports and articles from around the world are also available to read 24/7, so you can always follow how U.S. riders and horses are doing no matter where they’re competing—even at the Olympics in Hong Kong.

Text messaging, conference calls, e-mails, MySpace.com and bulletin boards are the norm. It’s now incredibly easy to watch videos and DVDs of our horses too, whether online or at home, and see exactly which horses are for sale or how their training is developing almost instantly.

I love my computer. I love receiving and sending e-mails and being able to follow the horse show results online, but I also think this technology boom has some down sides. We all ask, “How did
we ever live without our cell phones?”

Yet when my cell phone or computer is on the blink for a day or more instead of becoming frantic I almost find it to be a welcome relief.

One of the major downsides I’ve seen is the lack of uniformity throughout our technology sector. Horse show entries come to mind first. I think if all entry blanks were uniform it would be easier to correctly fill them out online. Each horse show requires the same information, but the forms are usually in different formats.

Not all prize lists are online either, so we must refer to those we receive in the mail (if they’re still being mailed). Some prize lists are only available online, but who wants to download 50 pages of a prize list and then carry it around?

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I don’t think online prize lists encourage you to read the regulations and special rules for each show. Sometimes having that prize list right in your hands to read helps you to not to miss the fine print items. We horse people are notorious for not reading the fine print, which is unfortunate. We usually look up the judges, the closing date for entries and the class time schedule. But do we read advertising in our prize lists online or in hard cover? We should to support the businesses who support us.

Rated horse show secretaries are now required to send their results electronically to the U.S. Equestrian Federation. I still think we should be sending them via overnight courier the day after the show. Receiving electronic results still hasn’t helped the USEF office staff keep up to date on points for the zone and national standings. There must be an easier way, either electronically or by mail, to keep us abreast of the points.

One of the other downsides in our technological world is the unmonitoried bulletin board. Now don’t get me wrong. We do have some wonderful websites out there with a lot of great information and sections on their sites where people can post topics and comment on them.

Unfortunately, some bulletin boards are travesties. People post obscene and rude accusations about people, horses, trainers and owners. Most of the information is hurtful and filled with untruths. The worst part about them is the fact that these poison pen writings are unsigned. If you’re going to write anything, have the guts to sign your name!

I’m fascinated as to the motives behind these anonymous posters on these websites. What do they gain from these interactions? Why do they find satisfaction in lying about people whom they don’t even know? While most of us choose to ignore these websites, many people do not and end up upset and discouraged.

I believe it’s better for all of us to take the time to read magazines or visit the websites that don’t have these dreadful bulletin boards. We should only support the websites that are educational and those that are monitored closely.  Before the Internet, people didn’t have the opportunity to hide behind a fictitous name and write whatever made them feel good and someone else feel terrible. The truth isn’t something they understand or want to realize. Plus, defending yourself on these websites is very often fruitless and more discouraging.

One of the other technological breakthroughs of today is text messaging. Yes, it’s a time saver and handy for sending information right there on the spot. But have you noticed that our kids only know how to text? Many can’t look you in the eye while speaking to you.

Most of these kids also have a hard time carrying on a coherent conversation. It’s now rare to see these juniors watching our top trainers and riders in the schooling area, and they seldom watch our top
professionals show. What an educational opportunity they are missing.

They’re too busy texting their friends. These kids are even texting our judges as to their performance or lack of a placing in a class! How would they know how the other competitors did who placed ahead of them? At the side of the ring they’re either on the Internet or texting instead of watching what’s going on in the ring. Sadly, these kids know that if anything interesting happens it will likely end up in a video on YouTube that they can watch later.

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Speaking of videos, it’s nice to be able to get a video or DVD on a prospective horse or pony so easily now. Over the years I’ve found that videos or DVDs can make a good horse look so great and a bad horse look great too. While videoing it’s easy to cover up a missed lead change, a spook or a poor jump. Just erase and redo!

YouTube has many videos of many sale horses, although sometimes you can’t exactly tell what’s going on in a video. When people make videos they tend to show the walk, trot and canter forever–even lead changes over and over again. I think it’s so much nicer to try a horse by going to the barn where the horse is stabled or to a show to try it. How can you possibly see conformation or soundness faults in a video? 

These technological advances have, in many cases, created even more challenges for professional horsemen. Unfortunately, picking up the phone isn’t always the first time you hear bad news. Now professionals (or their students) read it on the Internet before they hear it in person.

Professional horsemen must be aware of these technological pitfalls, such as unmonitored bulletin boards, and learn to understand how today’s information is passed from person to person. We need to insist on verbal communication and validation instead of instantly believing the “news” we hear or read from people who post horrible untruths and lies anonymously.

As the season winds down and we all prepare for the summer championships, fall indoor shows and year-end finals all over the country—and the Olympics!—we need to start putting a positive spin on our riders, owners and horses. Let’s negate the world of unsigned and negative bashing. There’s a wealth of great information on the Internet, especially right now during the Olympic Games. Take advantage of the knowledge you can soak up by reading a blog by one of our Olympic riders, for example. 

Most of us are in this world of hunters and jumpers because we love our horses and ponies, and we love to show at nice horse shows. We cannot allow this world of technology to overcome us in the wrong ways. We must insist that technology help us go forward into the future and grow as a sport because it’s here to stay. 

Susie Schoellkopf



Susie B. Schoellkopf serves as the executive director of the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, which is the home of the Buffalo Equestrian Center and SBS Farms in Buffalo, N.Y. An R-rated U.S. Equestrian Federation judge, Schoellkopf has trained numerous horses to USEF Horse of the Year honors, including Gabriel, Kansas, Big Bad Wolf and GG Valentine. She started writing Between Rounds columns in 2002.

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