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Cracks in the foundation

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  • Cracks in the foundation

    Luhmuhlen only confirmed a long belief. We are really just now seeing the effects of the short format on our next generation. We still have riders at the top of the sport who successfuly competed the long format and who continue to be successful in the short format.

    These riders are great at dressage and showjumping...their problems happen on XC. We see it time and time again.

    These riders maybe missing a vital piece of the foundation...that is riding, adjusting, and thinking.... at speed. AS (an experienced rider) took speed out of the equation and Arthur was able to jump clean XC at 4* level, something which he has had well documented issues with these past 12 months. Perhaps some of this is her doing, but I do not think she should take all the heat either.

    With the onset of the short format we have seen speeds increase across the levels. Riding at speed is not taught anymore, it is not part of the climb up the levels. We used to have phase B that taught us to ride at speed. One could argue that Phase B was not about ajustability because to be honest it was not...at least not from a riders perspective. The horse had to figure that one out for itself. I have long gone on record that I HATED PHASE B. More damage was done to horses on this phase then any other. I was glad to see the back of it.

    But because we eleminated this from the sport doesn't mean
    we should have eliminated the "concept" from our training programme.

    I am not placing the blame solely on the loss of this phase but this "short format generation" is losing out on vital skills.

    A fairly well known rider who never achieved the highest placings said that she was not yet confortable riding at speed. She rode her horse looking to COMPLETE not place...clean and with some time. Both she and this horse got better and better over time...at the expense of possible team appearances.

    We now have a generation that is so intent on team selection that once a horse hits the three star level it is about the winning, the placing, the qualifying scores above solid training principles even at the highest of levels.

    I am not singularly assigning blame on the short format, the riders, the course designers, the horses, the system, the culture, blah blah blah. What I would like to visit is a collection of all of these issues together that is the sport of eventing today.


    Edited to add: Thanks to the sender of the PM. It has been pointed out to me that AS has indeed run numerous long formats so I stand very much corrected when using her as an example.
    Last edited by snoopy; Jun. 20, 2010, 10:45 AM.

  • #2
    Never mind
    Last edited by Eventer55; Jun. 20, 2010, 08:55 AM.
    RIP Kelly 1977-2007 "Wither thou goest, so shall I"

    "To tilt when you should withdraw is Knightly too."


    • #3
      Snoops...oh, Snoops....

      I think there are a couple of issues. The unintended consequences of the short format has increased speed on XC, and increased technical jumping efforts; led to some bad, bad statistics in its first several competition seasons as horses, riders, and course designers adjusted.

      Jim Wofford told me at a clinic in Unionville, PA., about five years ago, that "we will be taking the horses who can jump, and just teach them the cross-country skills" and that endurance (galloping and judicious use of speed) as an element had been removed from the sport. He predicted this at that moment, I believe.

      Then time went on, a safety summit occurred, light bulbs started popping over some heads and course design was the new whipping boy. Clever and unique course designs are now being encouraged, testing scope and rideability yet keep riders and horses from death or death-defying crashes, to various degrees of success.

      Meanwhile, the training of the upper level horses and riders still flopped around beached on the shifting sands of US upper level events -- we have so few, it is so critical to qualify at them in order to go forward, forcing Americans to hurry up conditioning to make European events on a different seasonal cycle.

      We continue to have a real lack of quality horses at the upper levels, (and in comparison to tiny Canada) a disorganized way of winnowing top pairs and funneling them into a good comprehensive program. The Phillip Dutton barn is about as close to a national program as we have, and that's nothing against him or his business, it's just bemoaning the lack of four or five or six OTHER barns just like his that could be funnelling upper level horses and riders into our team lists.

      Lastly the coaching situation has left something to be desired as well, possibly leading to the lack of direction of the US team-bound horses and riders. Soundness seems to be a survival of the toughest by the time we get down to our biggest events -- so many of our best horses are lost in the final weeks prepping for an event by what seems to be stupid mistakes like utilizing old fashioned mandatory "gallops" or horse trial crap that always knocks out one or two good ones that could anchor the team.

      What kind of riders are we making at the top levels? What do they know? And how can they stop ruining their good horses and leave some left on the list to represent our country at the world's biggest showcase of our sport? Why do we have a great and healthy intermediate and advanced set of horses, yet so few internationally qualified horses? What are we doing wrong?

      Snoops, we NEED the answers to these questions and soon. The clock is ticking.
      Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
      Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)


      • #4
        So, okay, we kinda rather hastily switched to a different format for x-c.
        The first issue was that riders thought that they then needed a different kind of horse. A nicer moving wb type. They found that wasn't the case because the CCI's are still long and that take-off and come-back wore heavily on the heavier type of horse.
        Then they misread the conditioning. They treated a CCI like a bit longer HT. That had some serious consequences. We now see that they are conditioning a bit more like the lf. But with more sprints rather that length of time.
        Now, like you say snoopy, the riders themselves have a hole in their training. They don't know that speed can actually help. Maybe they'll wake up a bit and train for that speed now. Maybe the trainers of these riders will require them to do a * lf to get that feel. Or, they will force themselves to be exercise riders for chasers or racers. I certainly hope so. I found my little 1/2* to be so enlightening in that regard.
        Even duct tape can't fix stupid


        • #5
          Snoopy wrote: This next generation of riders have not competed the long format at the highest of levels and IMO it shows. These "kids" are great at dressage and showjumping...their problems happen on XC. We see it time and time again.

          And can this be said for the "kids" from other countries competing at the **** level?


          • #6
            "I am not placing the blame solely on the loss of this phase but this "short format generation" is losing out on vital skills."



            • #7
              Snoopy, you have expressed something important that time is making evident.

              But it isn't just short format only RIDERS, it's Short Format only horses. The equine part of the combination learns just as much from running over fences at speed (B/steeplechase) as the rider does. It seemed to teach something important that the horse could carry over into XC about confidence, speed, balance and trust.

              Even riders who have had many long format runs on older horses probably haven't chased their short format horses at all. Short format is now six years old, you know.
              "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
              Thread killer Extraordinaire


              • #8
                I ride novice and have never been higher that novice, let me get that out front. In that context, it seems that what I have witnessed in the switch from long to short format and all the pros and cons, whys and hows , course design versus horse design was the creation of one thing: Doubt. People seem unsure more now than when I was watching the long format. Which speed XC, which horse XC, etc,etc. I think just creating that sort of questioning can undermine a riders confidence and I don't think thats good. Gone are all the tried and true training techniques, horses and strategies. It was a huge change and I think it'll take awhile to settle out. Just my 2 cents.


                • #9
                  This also goes back to the argument that people are buying WB's to win on their dressage score because they dont have to run steeplechase... all of which i wont rehash...
                  Proud owner of a Spicy mare!!


                  • Original Poster

                    Originally posted by vineyridge View Post
                    Snoopy, you have expressed something important that time is making evident.

                    But it isn't just short format only RIDERS, it's Short Format only horses. The equine part of the combination learns just as much from running over fences at speed (B/steeplechase) as the rider does. It seemed to teach something important that the horse could carry over into XC about confidence, speed, balance and trust.

                    Even riders who have had many long format runs on older horses probably haven't chased their short format horses at all. Short format is now six years old, you know.

                    This is exactly why I signed back in...you said exactly what I was about to add to this thread and what I did not express properly in my OP. Thanks!


                    • #11
                      So much importance is now being placed on having a good dressage score that the horses who *always* get around xc are not acceptable anymore. It ony takes one stop to wipe out that good dressage score.

                      Seems like it would be more important for a team to have all the horses finish the 3 days rather than be at the top of the scoreboard on day one and drop down, down, down as the week goes on.


                      • #12
                        Let's get even more fundamental: MONEY.

                        Money drove the desire to create the short format (keep it on TV and in the Olympics)
                        Money drives the desire to run horses more often (mores runs means more sponsorship).
                        Money drives the desire to sell "ready made" horses to clients who do not have the desire and skill needed (trainers sell top horses to collect fees etc.).

                        The sport evolved to look at horses as tools and only as a means to an end.

                        I know this is a broad brush and no all folks are like this but as a person looks at the sport in general this is the trend. The fall-out is what Snoopy observes.



                        • #13
                          What goes up.....

                          You know it’s all well and good to criticize what’s going on at the top, but I think we're missing the biggest elements to this debacle, what’s going on at the bottom...

                          Spend a weekend at a recognized bn-p event and then go to a bn-t unrecognized event. Over and over you'll see elements of the same "challenges" confronting the eventing world at the top but in grievous miniature at these levels.

                          Control: Not as wide spread of a concept as it should be. And I don't mean, "Hey my horse pulled me at home, let's throw a gag on him and then I can event!" No I mean is the horse and rider going through all 3 phases in a manner that suggests that over all of the questions the horse will be obedient to the rider? I'll ignore the one or two moments where the xc machine horses get excited for a fly fence. That's fine. But in dressage are you seeing yanking for transitions? Are they doing their tests accurately by showing transitions at or very close to where they are expected? Or are they a full 5 strides beyond when they change?

                          In stadium can they balance a horse on course without realigning its molars? Is it a round the spectators watch normally or are you seeing people turn away, look down and hear "peanut gallery noises"???

                          On xc can the pairs maintain a pace appropriate for the challenges before them? Can they adjust said pace as needed, again without the molars being aligned or worse, removed? Do you watch them and think, “Wow this person's doing a nice round.” Or are you checking to see that yes the ambulance is in fact nearby.

                          And over and over can they grasp that ascension to the next level should only come when they have successfully acquired and demonstrated that they have acquired the skill set of the level they're at now??? And are their trainers standing their ground enough to keep riders at levels where they belong and need to be until they hit their lightbulb moment and can safely move up a level????

                          Now in my time spent spectating, fence judging and watching fellow competitors from the warm up I'd have to say we're batting at or near 50%. The other 50% should be demoted back a level. Now this isn't the same proportion at all levels. But I mainly have been watching Bn-P.

                          The sport however rewrote the rules such that some of the bad 50% are in fact completing the requirements and bouncing up the levels. Not improving as they do so, just carrying forward a foundation built on sand. And this is clearly evident with some of the 2* and 3* riders. (Who I am saying have improved as their ascended but not as much as they could have) I heard over and over from Fair Hill CCI*** and CCI** last year how some of the 2* and 3* riders were sheer white at the thought of competing in mud. (Now let me say it was a lot of mud, I wouldn't enjoy it. But footing and weather are challenges of the sport. We all know that) But rather than say "Oh man I don't think I should ride out here, I think its best to scratch." the riders with all their baggage and fear went out, did horrible warm ups befitting of a D rated pony clubber and then at the first complex had their horses quit or sensing their anxiety. Where was the wise move there? What happened to learning how to send a horse through the deeper footing, supporting them knowing they’ll likely chip in more and need a lot more support and confidence from the rider?

                          And this demonstrates very clearly my last point:


                          Its not a fence's fault, it's not a judge's fault, it's not your trainer's fault, and it's not the fault of the little kid who purchased the illegal in Md, but not in Pa firework and shot it off at you and your horse as you approached the bugaboo water jump at plantation ....(Ok maybe I'd give you that one )

                          Stop wasting time making excuses, suck it up that an outing found a weak spot you have and go spend the energy fixing the damn weak spot. I swear the walk through the barns at Plantation last fall after the CIC was like a whiner's convention. STOP! Own up that you or your horse made a mistake. We all do it. But if instead of blindly blaming something or someone else you take responsibility and work on it, then my God you may actually learn something and improve how the $300 plus of your entry fees gives you a return on your investment!!!

                          All of these issues exist at all levels in some way, shape or form.

                          And all of us need to look within ourselves and find where we aren’t making the grade and decide to work on ourselves. I am not suggesting walking up to another rider and telling them off about any of these issues. It’s a personal journey strapped into a team bus and that in and of itself makes for interesting dynamics. We all want the glory, we want the blue ribbon but we aren’t all prepared for the kind of inner dissection of your capacities (physical and mental) that it takes to get there. The (overall long term most consistent ) winners are the ones who don’t make excuses, who know “Crap! I knew I should have added a stride there and he felt weak and I didn’t give him enough gas. Ok I better work on it.” They’re frustrated and mad at a stop the same as everyone but instead of bitching they go home and fix it.

                          Ok I think I have rambled enough and made enough of the things I think are killing us a whole, public.

                          Feel free to debate. And of course for every rule there are exceptions. But I think the movie “He’s just not that into you” makes an EXTREMELY good point. People like to live thinking that the exceptions are the rules (Jane Doe trained herself and her ottb to the Olympics, so I can too!). And in fact they’re still the exceptions, if you could live by the rule thinking it’s the rule, (You’ll need a trainer at some point) then life would come and go a lot easier.

                          "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries


                          • #14
                            Is this same conversation being had in other countries? Or, put another way, are other countries having the same problems or issues with short vs. long format? My impression, and it is only an impression without empirical data, is that USA performance (as measured by results, if nothing else) in international competitions has steadily deteriorated since the advent of the short format. If I am right about that, there could be a variety of explanations, some related to the short format itself, and some not necessarily related to the short format. But, for whatever, reason, we don't *seem* to have adapted as well as many or most of the other countries.

                            It will be interesting to see how the USA does in the WEG, on its home turf. If the results continue to slide downhill, the leaders of the program will have a lot of soul-searching to do (in addition to the soul-searching they should already be doing).


                            • #15
                              We just had a xc clinic at our farm last week. It was geared toward the lower levels and beginnerish eventing.

                              Many, way to many, riders made statements like this. "This is first time I have heard about rhythm and balance. My instructor says just keep kicking!" WTFB?

                              We sent 18 of them home with questions for their regular instructors.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by tuppysmom View Post
                                We just had a xc clinic at our farm last week. It was geared toward the lower levels and beginnerish eventing.

                                Many, way to many, riders made statements like this. "This is first time I have heard about rhythm and balance. My instructor says just keep kicking!" WTFB?

                                We sent 18 of them home with questions for their regular instructors.
                                Yeah, I know. I had one of those trainers for more years than I care to remember. We simply were newbies, didn't know any better and swallowed it. Fortunately, we got out of that situation and are now with really good trainers. The real kicker, our old trainer is ICP certified!!


                                • #17
                                  It's a great analogy, Snoop. I can only use it to reflect on my own pitiful accomplishments in the sport, but it sure is valid.
                                  Click here before you buy.


                                  • #18
                                    So education is the answer. Typical Americans, we have to be hit over the head with it before we get it. Does anyone sense the British, the Australians, the Germans ROLFPITP at us? We are not competitive in Europe. That means we are not competitive internationally. That means we aren't working our intermediate horses upwards correctly. That means whatever is feeding our intermediate group, the funnelling of preliminary horses and riders into that critical level, is suspect...XC says it's the "foundation of sand", Snoops says it's steeplechase or lack of speed work. Blame the focus on dressage instead of XC, the lower levels' lack of basics, oh, and the favorite finger-point, money.

                                    My point is, that's all background to the problem of not being internationally competitive. To BE internationally competitive we need HORSES and RIDERS with excellent dressage, excellent to pristine cross-country, and good (no more than 2 rails) stadium skills. That's it. Really. We'll medal with four solid pairs with those skills. WHY IS THAT SO HARD TO FIND. Little bitty Canada has NINE of those this year!!!!
                                    So where are these AMERICAN event riders? Well, the riders fall off pushing young horses to make a sale, and break bones! The horses go lame from preventable mistakes! They get to a big event and forget the damn dressage test! Horses pull shoes! (Find a freakin' farrier PLEASE!) Coaches forget to tell riders it's not a 10 minute cross country! Oh and who can forget the illegal boot debacle! GAUUGHHHH. It's like we're the Homer Simpson country of the eventing world!
                                    Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                                    Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by JAM View Post
                                      Is this same conversation being had in other countries? Or, put another way, are other countries having the same problems or issues with short vs. long format?
                                      In the UK I think people have just moved on. The long format isn't coming back so people have adjusted to the way the sport is now. There are still unaffiliated 3 day events with R&T and the chase, so there is an interest at a low level I guess.


                                      • #20
                                        Reed talked about money. That lead into the eventing professionals who need to keep their businesses going if they aren't stinking rich. Who compete all year round, don't foxhunt, don't do point to points and hunter paces. Those outside things, for which the eventing professionals have no time for themselves or their horses, taught both horse and riders lessons that carry over to eventing. Most of the Brit top level riders came up through foxhunting. Ours don't.

                                        Remember how proud Denny was of his student who won the Maryland Hunt Cup this year?
                                        "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                                        Thread killer Extraordinaire