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Where is the Sportmanship in that?

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  • Where is the Sportmanship in that?

    Pensive from reading this month’s Eventing Magazine recap of the convention in CO, and after listening to Eric Smiley's speech on where the "sport" of Eventing has been and where it is going, I must say a new vein of reasoning has been spotlighted that I think is all to important to gloss over. Obviously, with the noted 11 deaths in Eventing worldwide in the past year safety has been (and should be) the hot topic. Many ideas have been put forth as potential catalysts for these unfortunate accidents and suggestions have been made as to how improvements in safety can be achieved.

    Mixed in the speech with other notable suggestions for safety, one idea proposed was in relation to rider responsibility and the "pursuit of perfection" and “mastering the basics”. I was so relieved that Eric Smiley brought this idea to the forefront in his speech. Aside from the main purpose of this idea - to make the sport safer for Riders and the horses entrusted to them - the inevitable side effect of this idea will translate into Eventing as more of a 1.) "competitive" 2.) "sport" at least at the lower levels.

    Personally, I feel that somewhere along the way "competitive" and "sport" has been diluted by the "move-up mentality", and it begs the question, why? Why are riders, who are not even placing at their current level, "WANTING" to move up? Why are riders more ambitious in regards to the "move up" than they are to the "pursuit of perfection" in the division in which they are currently competing? Eventing is, after all, a sport (an Olympic sport at that), and in sport competition is the basis for the existence of the sport itself. Why is there a general lack of desire to "be competitive"?

    I’m sure I’ll get flack for saying this and I am also aware that this is a generalization, but I do feel we are a bit lacking when it comes to Riders with the will to win AND the perseverance to stay at their current level until they can, at the very least, be competitive enough to place. Sincerely trying, I cannot think of another single sport in which competitors forego winning at their level in order to compete at a higher level. More importantly, most sports do not have the real issues of safety to deal with as we do; I cannot recall any competitors who have died in competition at the hand of a tennis racket/golf club/basketball, etc.

    No doubt, Eventing is a difficult sport and we are not dealing with inanemate objects like balls and rackets, but rather living, breathing, team mates who may decide they just don’t really want to play the game on any given day. But isn’t this why we love and chose this sport to begin with? Just because we have a team mate that doesn’t understand our pep talks before every competition does not make us any less responsible as sportsmen/women to play for the win. Why are some Riders giving up on being competitive at their current level and then moving up to the next level? Where is the sportsmanship in that?

    Once again, safety is the obvious and immediate purpose for this idea of pursuing perfection and mastering the basics in our sport, but I sincerely hope this idea goes beyond safety and works to preserve the actual "sport” of Eventing itself.

  • #2
    If I'd followed your advice with my old horse, I'd still be at BN after 11 years.

    My horse was an eventer, not a dressage horse. He'd be the first one to tell you. It's not a schooling or training issue -- he's very well-schooled, did pirouettes and 10-meter circles and laterals very nicely as long as there were jumps in the ring. Put him in a dressage ring with a judge and no whip and you got an indifferent giraffe.

    An indifferent dressage giraffe cannot win at BN. Or at N, unless there's a trick fence that eliminates half the field and it's pouring and someone puts their armband on their boot and there are three accidents in the warm-up ring.

    It all changes at T and P. The indifferent giraffe was a superb jumper and XC horse. So you'd be 2nd to last at BN but placing and qualifying for championships at T and P.

    I do understand your point and I think safety is very important. But you do not need to win or even place at every level to be ready to move up. The lower levels are, for the most part, a dressage contest with some jumping to settle the placings. This is not true as the fences get bigger.

    Comment


    • #3
      To second JER's comment, there is also an aspect of competing against yourself, or against the XC course designer. Maybe you aren't winning (or in competitive areas with pro riders, placing). My priorities are: 1) safe, 2a) clear, 2b) having fun, 3) improving on your last outing, 4) winning/placing.
      Blugal

      You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng

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      • #4
        I'm with Blugal. I actually think it is a GOOD thing that people event to have FUN, not just to get shiny bits of satin. And if you can be safe about it, then I really don't see the problem.

        I do think the idea of rushing up the levels just to be able to say "I compete at Prelim" is ridiculous, and often ISN'T safe. But I also think we need to concentrate on safety regardless of level or ambition, not concentrate on whether people can win or not.
        Proud member of the EDRF

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        • #5
          I`ve said this before, and I`ll say it again, because it addresses the natural human tendency toward denial. Here it`s self denial about one`s own readiness to move up.
          It goes back to an expression of Jack Le Goff`s from 35 years ago, and I heard him say it in different ways many times over the decades:
          "DON`T TELL ME HOW WELL YOU RIDE, GET ON THAT HORSE AND SHOW ME!"
          That`s why I say, use the "watch them ride" test.
          Does the rider stay tight in the tack, or is he/she loose and precarious?
          Can the rider rate the speed, balance and impulsion of his/her horse, both between jumps, and on the approach?
          Does the rider get the horse fairly consistently to the right take off point?
          Does the rider have general, overall control of the situation so that spectators don`t watch with their hearts in their mouths?
          If the rider looks like an imminent train wreck, why in God`s green earth would he/she want to move up, other than out of a sense of self denial about his/her skill level?
          http://www.tamarackhill.com/

          Comment


          • #6
            "It is better to upgrade a year too late then a day to early" from Peter Gray via Gen Gutowski.


            It is something that I say to myself everytime I ride. Now this did not dim my desire to climb the latter but rather kept me focused on "mastering" the level I was working at BEFORE the upgrade.
            Have I moved up without any wins? Sure have... but the horse was ready, physically and mentally. There just happened to be better performances on the days I was competing.
            Safety is the responsibility of the rider, with that responsibility comes accountability for ones decisions.
            I never understood the "need' to move up to a certain level in order to validate my riding ability....not have I ever done so.
            I have had the odd "whoopsie" but never have these occured because my horses were not fully understanding of what was required of them.

            I liken moving up before you're ready to skipping a grade in school... just because you excel in one or two classes and the thinking is that the other classes will come in time. Often with the move up before one is ready, the area(s) of weakness show themselves more readily.

            I have never been about ribbons or glory but rather fun/enjoyment, personal challenge, and safety. None of these were ever obtained on a horse that was not ready. Infact I cannot see how you could obtain any of these things without proper preparation.

            I recently read a blog from a competitor at the last Pan Ams...the road she took..and was surprised at all the entries where by all she could say was Yes the performance was lacking but we got that all important "qualifying" score. NEVER once did she master a level but was rather forcused on the bare minimum in order to get to the next level. One of her horses went from NOV-INT2* in a year and a half...all on heavy competing schedules and the least possible performance to upgrade.

            Slow down folks....there will always be time to upgrade safely...and ENJOY the ride.

            Ego and vanity are the enemies in our sport, leave both in the tack room.

            Comment


            • #7
              We've all been focused on people moving up too fast - it's been the topic of thread after thread on this board, and hours of meeting time. But just for a moment, let me ask -- are we really sure that this is the crux of the issue? It's a convenient answer, it lets "us" blame "them" for being too selfish/competitive/ignorant/ambitious/clueless to try to move up too fast, but seriously, is this where the issue is? Of the major accidents last year, I don't think any of them were from someone in their first or second event at a new level. Are we sure we're asking the right question here? (And I mean not just anecdotally - we can all remember watching a oh-dear-God Preliminary rider scrump around a course, but I'm talking about something statistically significant).

              The reason I ask is that if this is the issue we're fixating on, don't we give a pass to course designers by saying "the courses are fine, if only the riders were ready"? I'm not saying it's an either/or part of the equation, but I'm fascinated by this focus on an issue that's so easy to make "blamable" on "clueless" riders.

              Comment


              • #8
                The value of event horses has also effected safety. As demand for horses competing at prelim and above has exploded, there is a pressure to produce them too quickly. We who have been Eventing for twenty years or so, used to produce horses mostly for our own use. Now, trainers need to get horses to the upper levels so they are marketable to riders who either don't have the ability, the patience or the knowledge to train their own.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by GotSpots View Post
                  Of the major accidents last year, I don't think any of them were from someone in their first or second event at a new level. Are we sure we're asking the right question here?
                  I'm curious. Of the 11 deaths last year, how many were inexperienced or "not qualified" for their levels? Of serious horse injuries, how many were ridden by "clueless" riders?
                  "Oh, sure, you may be able to take down one smurf, but mark my words: You bonk one smurf, you better be ready for a blue wave."---Bucky Katt

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I think you have to allow that the sport of eventing, like it or not, means different things to different people. Some do it for reasons that others would find completely unappealing, in other words. Doing it for the ribbons and awards is as legitimate a reason as doing it for the bugs-in-your-teeth yahoo feeling of a great XC ride. Maybe not to one person, but to another.

                    There is also some degree, I think, of "peer pressure" in this sport, where there is a very slight current of feeling that one is not REALLY doing eventing if one is not riding at Prelim, or Training, or whatever. My own general (and vague) sense is that Preliminary is some sort of unofficial "line in the sand" between "real" eventing and "wannabe" eventing. Perhaps because my own personal level of talent, time and ability makes Prelim a barely-achievable goal, one I may never actually get to again--it's quite possible that others might perceive this "line" as existing somewhere else. This is just my own personal sense of it. But that "feeling" was there even when I was doing strictly Novice for years and years. Again, just a personal sense.

                    So why the pressure to "move up"? It is probably as variable among individuals as their reasons for gravitating towards eventing in the first place! I'll truncate my mental meanderings there. I think you can't pigeonhole eventers very well as to their reasons for doing the sport, moving up, not moving up, whatever.
                    Click here before you buy.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      On Dressage

                      I do think it would help if people truly considered why they don't win. Yes. Dressage is not gonna be great with some horses. But at BN and in some cases, N.... the bar does not seem to be that high in terms of needing a spectacular dressage horse. I've scribed at a few competitions in a pretty competitive area and many of the problems in dressage are a lack of skills or an incredible amount of tension in a horse. The horses getting good scores are typically relaxed, accurate, obedient and have some impulsion. Especially at BN, I've noticed a wide variety of frames being scored well (ie, if you can't get your horse round, but you have everything else, you are sitting pretty well).

                      I don't know- if you can't at least get a relaxed, accurate and obedient dressage test at your current level, you should not move up. I would think it would be the exceptional horse where those faults don't carry over to the jumping ring. And many people who probably think they are getting beat by the next Keltic Salierno at BN are actually being beat by Chuckles the QH who goes in relaxed, obedient and ready to work. There might be one or two really fancy horses, but the rest are quite average. I mean, I've seen paddling horses, gaited horses get nice scores by getting things right.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I dunno, I think Novice is the MOST competitive division, dressage-wise. With scores in the TEENS, even a nice-moving, well-ridden, obedient horse that scores in the mid-high 20s is going to be in the middle of the pack at best!
                        Click here before you buy.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I do see that mentality, but I think the crazier rides I see are at Training. I do see some wild rides at Prelim, but IMHO *usually* people have enough sense not to risk their necks at Prelim when they are not so pretty at Training. Maybe I am wrong though.

                          I am kind of the opposite because I am a perfectionist. I am at Novice right now, and I think my trainer believes we could do Training in the fall if wanted. However, I have a whole list of things I want to be nearly perfect before I go Training. I am the kind of person who needs to be pushed a little to realize that they are not as horrible as they think!

                          Also, sometimes the scores are there, but the rider has a nice, honest horse. My horse is not totally push button, but he does put up with some awkward rides that I give him.
                          T3DE Pact

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by GotSpots View Post
                            We've all been focused on people moving up too fast - it's been the topic of thread after thread on this board, and hours of meeting time. But just for a moment, let me ask -- are we really sure that this is the crux of the issue? It's a convenient answer, it lets "us" blame "them" for being too selfish/competitive/ignorant/ambitious/clueless to try to move up too fast, but seriously, is this where the issue is? Of the major accidents last year, I don't think any of them were from someone in their first or second event at a new level. Are we sure we're asking the right question here? (And I mean not just anecdotally - we can all remember watching a oh-dear-God Preliminary rider scrump around a course, but I'm talking about something statistically significant).

                            The reason I ask is that if this is the issue we're fixating on, don't we give a pass to course designers by saying "the courses are fine, if only the riders were ready"? I'm not saying it's an either/or part of the equation, but I'm fascinated by this focus on an issue that's so easy to make "blamable" on "clueless" riders.
                            Good point! I don't have anything to add, but think that this definitely needs to be considered. This is illustrated by the fact that even pro riders have had falls on x-country.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by GotSpots View Post
                              The reason I ask is that if this is the issue we're fixating on, don't we give a pass to course designers by saying "the courses are fine, if only the riders were ready"? I'm not saying it's an either/or part of the equation, but I'm fascinated by this focus on an issue that's so easy to make "blamable" on "clueless" riders.
                              I totally agree with this!

                              Originally posted by RHdobes563 View Post
                              I'm curious. Of the 11 deaths last year, how many were inexperienced or "not qualified" for their levels? Of serious horse injuries, how many were ridden by "clueless" riders?
                              I think not one.

                              Here is my thoughts on this- No one said to any of those riders before they left the start box on that fateful day that they should not go. And I don't think that any one of them were "dangerous" and would be the ones that we speak about here on the COTH before "it" happened or have been assessed the dangerous riding penelty.

                              I think the money needs to go into course designers, developers, education and studies. I personally think that big square tables might be better left off courses, as it seems that those are the jumps that cause the greatest harm to horse and rider if a mistake is made at them. The same questions can be asked at a different kind of jump- or if one cares to argue that point, does that question need to be answered anyway?

                              I like our sport the way it is. I like what we have, and I really don't want to see things changed too much. Again, I will say it- it's up to US to make sure we are ready, and not up to someone else to make sure it's okay- imagine the possible lawsuits if that were the case. Each injury would/could result in someone saying that someone else is responsible for that rider going out that day. I forecast that being the end of eventing.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by quiet girl View Post
                                The value of event horses has also effected safety. As demand for horses competing at prelim and above has exploded, there is a pressure to produce them too quickly. We who have been Eventing for twenty years or so, used to produce horses mostly for our own use. Now, trainers need to get horses to the upper levels so they are marketable to riders who either don't have the ability, the patience or the knowledge to train their own.
                                Quiet Girl,Very good point. Also, does it seem like unsuitable horses, no mater what their training level, are sometimes competing in a higher level then they should b/c of jumping style etc? It seems like this type of thing would have gotten better and not worse.

                                Also, at what levels are the most accidents occurring? I do know of one but would rather not talk about it specifically, but in that case it was a freak accident where horse and rider were very well prepared and had been competing at that level regularly.
                                "Bold Words was classier than all his competition. Straighter knees and a slim, elegant neck." -Nan Mooney My Racing Heart

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I'll go on to add that in life - its not just about getting there - its about how you get there.

                                  You can never discount what time and experience do for you.

                                  I grew up with thinking (and being taught) that eventing was a sport of training and progression. It's one of the main things that appealed to me when I first encountered the sport.

                                  So many other disaplines of riding were plagued with trainers and riders who knew 'quick fixes' to get a horse to carry their head a certain way or to move a certain way.

                                  The sport of eventing in its very conception is and has come from the idea of training basics that are building blocks for future higher levels education.

                                  Its disappointing that even this sport has lost what made it so special to begin with.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Here's my thoughts. Please correct me (especially Denny)
                                    In the 60's, 70's and early 80's, the jumps were quite natural and quite scary airy things. I've seen pictures of these jumps and they give a shiver up the spine. I would think running up to them full blast, the HORSE would balance himself off these scary things. If not, it's usually the horse that suffers the consequences. The rider suffers some broken bones but generally gets thrown way away.
                                    So, we didn't like seeing the horses being put down in the middle of a course. We started to give the riders something to think about without punishing the horse. Basically, the rider goofs, they fall while the horse glances off or stops. Now, because riders are doing more dressage, MUCH more gymnastics, consequently, the jumps are getting even more technical and more solid. So, now we have to go faster, jump with incredible accuracy, and jump big. This leads me to believe that it's the riders' mistake, the rider is paying. Is this right? No, not to cause deaths. Injuries and penalities, yes of course.
                                    Even duct tape can't fix stupid

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Also, at what levels are the most accidents occurring?
                                      If you go here, then scroll down to post #9, you'll see a list of eventing deaths with relevant details.

                                      Keep in mind, these is a list of fatal accidents, not overall accidents.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Even in a growing sport this level of fatalities is unacceptable. Even one is too much. What to be done? Studies for sure - rotational falls, table style fences seem to be part of the causes. In an article in Horse and Hound a couple of years ago or so the theory was put forward that with the amount of money riders have, they can afford the big-time horse but lack the skills to ride him at that level and push themselves to the horse's ability of competing.

                                        One question: One fatality was caused by a portable jump not being secured to the ground. We use them a lot round here to make the courses different each year - should they remain legal, or is it a design issue?
                                        Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

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