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From The Outside Looking In By: Blogger Chad Oldfather. A suggestion for addressing the financial inequality in Equitation Finals.

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  • #41
    When I first got to my hunter jumper barn all I could think about was making it to the big eq finals. I soon realized that even though my TB could jump 3'6 it wasn't exactly something the judges wanted to see... I did however have a ton of friends who's parents had the money, and would allow them to take the online/ homeschool programs that allowed them to travel the circuit with our trainer. While they loved it and I loved grooming at the shows for them a couple of them now are pretty well and truly screwed. Ive seen "show kids" who did regular day programs that turned out fine and are doing great at college. A majority of the online school "show kids" that I know are either really struggling, have dropped out, or never had a plan to go to college. These online programs that are so desired by the kids in the community really are trash education. Some of these kids really are devoted to their riding and the eq, when reality hits and they aren't juniors anymore I've seen so many flounder. I think every horse person has thought about making money in the industry at some point in their "horse lives" I just really wish there was a way to explain the realties of the industry to juniors without crushing every dream they have...
    Originally posted by Coanteen
    To compare wafers and see which saviour is most delicious.
    Originally posted by Cascades
    You're one of those people that complains to the Starbucks manager that your barista's smile wasn't sincere enough, aren't you?

    Comment


    • #42
      It costs an average of $25,000 to go to Maclay finals if you’re from WA state (where I live).

      It costs an average of $3000 to haul to SoCal and back for any of the shows (Thermal, Del Mar, etc).

      Just shipping alone prevents many kids from even their dreams of USET finals. Then hotels, airfare, trainer fees for travel, food and on and on and on. Stuff we all know.

      And, some kids lease horses for the finals from the west coast purely for the sake of their own horse. It’s a lot to travel to that time zone and perform at the top of their game for only a week (as opposed to going to WEF where you have time to adjust and there isn’t as much pressure on only one round).

      Comment


      • #43
        Originally posted by poltroon View Post

        They don't.
        Are you sure?

        Springsteen- Duke
        Karen Polle- Yale
        Mavis Spencer
        Reed Kessler (okay, she’s retired and went to a special school for elite athletes, but still)
        I could go on, but there are plenty that made it happen. And it’s fine if other kids didn’t. But it is possible.

        Comment


        • #44
          Originally posted by NoSuchPerson View Post
          I am not persuaded by his arguments. And honestly, I'm not convinced that this is even a real problem. Oh, I'm not disputing that being competitive in Big Eq requires a level of income and support and a lifestyle that is simply unattainable for the vast majority of Americans, but I'm not sure I would call it a problem.

          Rather, I'm with F. Scott Fitzgerald: "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me." People operating at the elite levels of this sport live in an entirely different world from the rest of us. That's just a fact. Maybe, instead of talking about being "on the outside looking in," as the blogger does, we, the "wealthy enough to have horses but not wealthy enough to show 21 horses in 336 classes at 31 shows," need to live in our own world where we can be insiders instead of feeling like we're poor children with our noses pressed against the glass of the fanciest store in town at which we will never be able to shop.
          I have not been riding a very long while. And this was one of the first things I noticed about the sport. I'm closer to the uber-rich (and thus more aware of them) than I've ever been before. Because equestrian sports are extremely expensive by nature, the range of incomes is skewed in a way that makes those of us coming from even close to normal means feel underprivileged.
          To be fair to the blogger, whose commentary I really appreciate and enjoy, I think the concept of making equestrianism "accessible-ish" to "normal" people is admirable, but I'm not sure it's ever going to be truly plausible for any but the most unnaturally talented in any sport to surpass their peers who have grown up with more opportunity on a regular basis (whether that opportunity comes in the form of money or access to practice time and facilities).

          I think the inequalities that seem to be inherent to the sport are worth discussing, but I am not sure there is any means of truly fixing them, short of funding programs that can consistently provide affordable access to horses and facilities to children coming from truly middle class families.
          When I write that out, I'm not sure horse sports are more deserving of that funding than any number of more affordable life-long sports.

          Comment


          • #45
            Isn’t this what the state organization level 3’6” medals are for? Sure, some of the top riders from that area will compete, but they tend to be more accessible than the major national finals.

            Comment


            • #46
              I love Chad Oldfather's blogs and appreciated the thought and analysis that went into this one. However, I think the fallacy of his proposed tier system is in the underlying premise that every kid who shows up at the finals is there to win. I think the reality is that for 85% of the entries in the Medal and Maclay finals, getting there and doing the thing IS the goal. They know going in that their chances of getting to the second round if they haven't done thirty prep shows with one of the name trainers are about the same as lightning striking. They go hoping they make it all the way around with a decent trip, and if they do, cross it off the list as a win.

              As far as the recurring themes of innate talent vs hard work and pay to play vs grass roots accessibility, I tend to think that equestrian sports should probably just stop pretending that they are even remotely comparable to sports like soccer or track or even golf. If a billionaire's child decided she wanted to play soccer for the US Womens National Team but she didn't have the baseline level of talent required, it's pretty unlikely that even billions of dollars could make up for that even if she worked extremely hard and had the best coaching and opportunities money could buy. It's different in equestrian where you can stack the odds greatly in your favor by buying (leasing) the best horses and paying for however many shows and making sure you have the right person standing at the gate.
              Last edited by Groom&Taxi; Nov. 27, 2019, 03:42 PM.

              Comment


              • #47
                I’d like to add, that when people mention about talent and working your way up in the sport. It’s not that easily. A working student that is talented, and gets to show, often must have short term goals, not big eq finals goals. Sale horse riding WS’s often have horses for one or a few shows. They get sold.
                The objective for trainer of a talented WS is to do well in a big eq class, is not really to get the WS qualified. It’s to get a good record on the horse so it’ll sell or get leased the following week.

                Sure, you see WS’s for the top barns compete at finals, but their end goal is the same, sell the eq horse for top dollar. The top barns have better selections of top horses for their students & those barns have the money to allow their WS the opportunity to showcase at the finals. But, even those WS sometimes get horses pulled from them last minute for a client.

                But for, a normal WS at an A barn, it’s week to week & the horse sale is what’s the goal, not the talented kid getting to finals. Talent is used to sell horses, not to showcase talent. Usually once a kid ages out, they get less horses to show & more to train in the barn, cause a new talented Jr will be found to get horses sold in the jr classes.

                Comment


                • #48
                  Originally posted by poltroon View Post
                  Remember that today's young riders aren't just the international riders of the future - they're also the audience for the sponsors we'd like to have as well as our future owners and judges and trainers.
                  That's true. When I was a kid and awake enough to first paying any kind of vague, kid-like attention, let's say in 1980, there was still talk of the way horse showing and the Big Eq was part of a feed system to an Olympic team. This was perhaps before 1980, but there was a kind of patriotism and paternalism that meant if you had an Olympic horse, you might be tapped to have it used but the USET. The relationship between the USET and AHSA was tighter. Heck, I got some USET Swag and the Grand National held at the San Francisco Cow Palace back then,

                  Now, I think it's just something that professional horse trainers and billlionaires do. There is no amateurism in the Olympics. Perhaps nationalism has decreased, too. But I don't see the same tight connection between the horse showing industry that I might pay into and an Olympic team. And after feeling priced out (and clearly not "part of" that scene as not their ideal customer), I just can't see sending my sponsorship dollars to any elite horsey endeavor. I would, however, be psyched to sponsor classes at the level of horse show that I actually attend.
                  The armchair saddler
                  Politically Pro-Cat

                  Comment


                  • #49
                    Originally posted by Rumorhasit93 View Post

                    Are you sure?

                    Springsteen- Duke
                    Karen Polle- Yale
                    Mavis Spencer
                    Reed Kessler (okay, she’s retired and went to a special school for elite athletes, but still)
                    I could go on, but there are plenty that made it happen. And it’s fine if other kids didn’t. But it is possible.
                    I was educated at brand-name universities and taught at them.

                    I think your data is pretty insufficient to make a point other than the one you can conclude with "it's possible." Or rather, what you mean is, "it's not impossible for a kid to cobble together sufficient education and a glittering athletic career" and get into a great college. But! You might have a hard time making that argument if these kids did the whole thing again, without the money to pay for home schooling and had an admirable but less spectacular show career. When I was around Yale, they admitted just 6% of all applicants. They could have filled their class with 4.0 GPAs, perfect SAT score several times over. If you wanted to stand out in that crowd, you needed to accomplish something great--- and it helps to be either very rich or very poor while getting that done (e.g., a friend of mine who grew up on an Indian reservation and applied to Stanford only because her guidance counselor got a brochure in the mail and it was on the same coast).

                    What that means, then, is that you'd have to find a middle-class show kid who parlays that into an impressive admission, or anyone reading would be right to see your data and say "So what?"
                    The armchair saddler
                    Politically Pro-Cat

                    Comment


                    • #50
                      OK sidetracking for a moment away from the are we rich or poor and is this a problem or not, lines of thought.

                      We have tried (as small factions of organizations) to push forward the idea that year end awards should be based on the best percentage of your overall results for the years. Rather that we suggested to make it not points won overall, because those with more financial ability to compete more with more horses would always be weighted to out perform those who are relegated to a budgeted approach. The idea was that your best 5-25%(Or whatever you choose) of results over the course of a show season with X Association/Org is what the awards should be based on. So there is more of a leveling factor as we cut through the numbers.

                      Also one idea I have seen tossed around but that's never stuck to the wall is the idea of including more non-mounted judged stuff a la the EAP program. Horsemanship, Vet, health, welfare, stable management knowledge all can be something that folks really need more time with and could be incorporated to bring the equalizing up. These are similar ideas as to Pony Club but realistically if you told a person that JUST wants to ride that they can ride but they also have to practice how to do a spider wrap, or know more about early onset signs of choke versus colic, or be able to assess a horse's body score as well..... Maybe being a thorough horseman wouldn't be as fun to do all the hard work and they would head to soccer or ice skating or whatever.

                      The current system is never going to be as fair as we'd like without some tweaks.

                      Me personally I am not rich. I have a spreadsheet file where I input all the shows I am considering and I go through the prize lists and input all the costs involved to go. This includes gas/truck depreciation mileage, rough estimates for food and accommodations for me as well as barn coverage costs if I end up staying away for a night. I may not do a ton of shows but I know going in what I can swing and what I can't.

                      I work hard at home so that when I do show up I go to gain experience from the ring that can benefit me in the long term goals. We all know when things aren't going well at home so maybe if we were more honest with ourselves and students we could skip some shows and do more homework to help everyone (and their wallets) in the long run. Or go to a schooling show more often when you need ring time but aren't read to be competitive enough to justify that $1500 weekend at the AA show.

                      Em
                      "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

                      Comment


                      • #51
                        Originally posted by MHM View Post

                        One critical difference is that the soccer ball was probably produced for pennies in a factory somewhere, and the kid could learn to play soccer just as well whether the ball cost $5 or $5000. The pony, on the other hand, had to be bred and raised in the first place. Then somebody had to put years into it to get it broke and trained enough to go around the ring. That’s true whether it is a sweet, plain short stirrup pony, or champion at Devon, although the prices on those two ponies will be very different.

                        Plus if the kid loses interest in soccer a week later, the soccer ball can go in the closet. The pony still needs to be fed, shod, etc., until the kid gets interested again, or the pony gets sold, whichever comes first.
                        But the fact of the matter is that other countries manage it way better than the US does. And they have to breed, break, train, house, feed, shoe the animals in those countries, too. I grew up in a country where equestrian sports were accessible for the middle class, you didn't have to be uber rich. I frequently browse sales ads from that country and the prices of the horses alone are a tiny fraction of what they are here. Everything from the show fees, the boarding fees etc is significantly lower. So why is it exponentially so much more expensive in the US? And maybe it's not US equestrian sports as a whole, maybe it's just the hunter/jumper discipline and there are other disciplines here that are significantly less than hunters/eq/jumpers. But, at least in my area, the access to any discipline other than H/J/E is practically non-existent. I couldn't find my kids an eventing barn to ride at if I drove 100 miles in any direction. Yet within that 100 miles I could take my choice of 1000+ hunter/jumper barns. So my choice for accessing English equestrian sports that involve jumping is H/J/E or nothing at all.

                        Comment


                        • #52
                          Originally posted by Alterforme View Post
                          Sure, you see WS’s for the top barns compete at finals, but their end goal is the same, sell the eq horse for top dollar. The top barns have better selections of top horses for their students & those barns have the money to allow their WS the opportunity to showcase at the finals. But, even those WS sometimes get horses pulled from them last minute for a client.
                          That is absolutely true, and it also applies to trainer’s kids. Right off the top of my head, I can think of at least three people I knew when I was a junior who were excellent riders and consistent winners all year. But when the equitation finals rolled around, their regular equitation horses got sold/leased/hurt/whatever, and they went to the finals on horses that were, let’s say, unproven.

                          One of them was a six year old pre-green horse that had been showing for less than six months. And that rider had an excellent trip at the Maclay final, except for one refusal at a rollback oxer off the rail. The pre-green horse had never seen a turn like that before. Without that one jump, he would have been called back near the top of the class.

                          Instead of winning or getting a ribbon, they were all completely undermounted and went home empty handed. They carried on with their lives, and one of them went on to be a very successful Grand Prix rider, but on the days when it counted to get a ribbon at the finals, they were riding the spare horses, not the strong contenders.

                          Comment


                          • #53
                            MHM, yup! That happened to a friend of mine. Her equitation horse that she was leasing was sold one week before the finals. She basically had a catch ride on an unproven horse and unfortunately a stop as well.

                            Another friend just didn’t have the horse (sold) or the funds after qualifying.

                            That’s life.

                            Comment


                            • #54
                              Please forgive me if this comes across as bitter. I'm nowhere the writer Chad Oldfather is, but here goes ...

                              I completely understand Chad's frustration ... it's the myth that pervades our culture of the scrappy underdog winning the day. The myth of "you can be successful if you're talented and work really hard."

                              We parents want to support our kids in their dreams. When do we turn to our kids and say, "just quit. Give up now - no matter how good you are, no matter what you sacrifice, you will NEVER compare well against kids who can afford to purchase an advantage?"

                              It stings because I *can't* level the playing field for my kid.

                              We can get really, really close though ... at huge financial impact.
                              Last edited by M'al; Nov. 27, 2019, 04:37 PM. Reason: Edited for clarity

                              Comment


                              • #55
                                Or you can encourage your kids to ride for the sake of spending time with awesome horses and people, or to compete at the top of a different level of shows. Or just to get as good as they can get and see what happens.

                                It is totally possible to love and enjoy a lifetime of horses without competing at medals finals. Hell, i have ridden mostly for free with a bunch of olympians, Olympic alternates, multiple national team riders, etc, traveled a lot with horses around Europe and hung out with a number of the upper echelon of the sport and enjoyed my life pretty thoroughly. I've scouted horses for olympians, and had Olympians look at my horses.

                                All this and I'd only classify myself as a competent flat rider and a cowardly jumper, short, chubby, but hard working, smart, willing to try, and always looking to learn something.

                                I know I've said this fifty or sixty times on the boards, but if you really think you're something special and you're willing to work hard and harder, and you're relatively young, apply to the Shockemohle apprentice program.




                                Let me apologize in advance.

                                Comment


                                • #56
                                  Originally posted by Rumorhasit93 View Post

                                  Are you sure?

                                  Springsteen- Duke
                                  Karen Polle- Yale
                                  Mavis Spencer
                                  Reed Kessler (okay, she’s retired and went to a special school for elite athletes, but still)
                                  I could go on, but there are plenty that made it happen. And it’s fine if other kids didn’t. But it is possible.
                                  I think the original comment about the kids not going to school was referring to high school, not college. As in, how do they go to high school when they are showing a gazillion days a year. As for college, of course it’s possible for someone who is a bazillionaire to go to Yale or Duke or someplace like that. Have we forgotten the lives of the uber rich revealed by the college admission scandal already? Not suggesting their parents bribed anybody (unofficially anyway) but private tutors and large donations can do extraordinary things for people.

                                  i think the problem with the article is that for every not super rich parent on the sidelines there is an even less rich parent and less rich and less rich and when you think about the parents who don’t even have time or money to drive their kids to Kentucky Horse Park to visit Its sort of hard to empathize with the rich but not super rich parent hanging out in the parking lot because his kid didn’t make the cut in the finals.

                                  Comment


                                  • #57
                                    Originally posted by punchy View Post

                                    I think the original comment about the kids not going to school was referring to high school, not college. As in, how do they go to high school when they are showing a gazillion days a year. As for college, of course it’s possible for someone who is a bazillionaire to go to Yale or Duke or someplace like that. Have we forgotten the lives of the uber rich revealed by the college admission scandal already? Not suggesting their parents bribed anybody (unofficially anyway) but private tutors and large donations can do extraordinary things for people.

                                    i think the problem with the article is that for every not super rich parent on the sidelines there is an even less rich parent and less rich and less rich and when you think about the parents who don’t even have time or money to drive their kids to Kentucky Horse Park to visit Its sort of hard to empathize with the rich but not super rich parent hanging out in the parking lot because his kid didn’t make the cut in the finals.
                                    Yes!!!!!!!!!!

                                    Comment


                                    • #58
                                      Originally posted by M'al View Post
                                      Please forgive me if this comes across as bitter. I'm nowhere the writer Chad Oldfather is, but here goes ...

                                      I completely understand Chad's frustration ... it's the myth that pervades our culture of the scrappy underdog winning the day. The myth of "you can be successful if you're talented and work really hard."

                                      We parents want to support our kids in their dreams. When do we turn to our kids and say, "just quit. Give up now - no matter how good you are, no matter what you sacrifice, you will NEVER compare well against kids who can afford to purchase an advantage?"

                                      It stings because I *can't* level the playing field for my kid.

                                      We can get really, really close though ... at huge financial impact.
                                      It's not at all a myth that you can be successful if you're talented and work really hard. But, successful must be defined within the context of reality.

                                      No matter how talented and hard working, a young man who will never be taller than 5'9" has virtually no chance of being successful at basketball if you define success as being a professional basketball player. However, that same young man can be successful in basketball if you define success as something that is realistically attainable.

                                      Life presents kids with all kinds of obstacles that, realistically speaking, can't be overcome. As a kid, I had the completely wrong body type to ever be really successful in equitation - longer upper body, really short legs, short neck, and built like a box with arms and legs. So, I turned my efforts to other divisions where I had better opportunities for success.

                                      As a parent, yes, you want to support your kids in their dreams, but one of your jobs as a parent is to help shape your kid's dreams and direct their efforts to realistic goals.

                                      And come on, the only alternative to footing the bill for your child to compete at the highest levels of the sport is NOT turning to your kid and saying "just quit, give up now." That's just silly. What you do is turn to your kid and say, "We can afford for you to take X lessons/week and go to all the shows on the Oakridge Summer Circuit, where you can compete for end of season awards in equitation and children's hunter."

                                      "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
                                      that's even remotely true."

                                      Homer Simpson

                                      Comment


                                      • #59
                                        Originally posted by NoSuchPerson View Post

                                        It's not at all a myth that you can be successful if you're talented and work really hard. But, successful must be defined within the context of reality.

                                        No matter how talented and hard working, a young man who will never be taller than 5'9" has virtually no chance of being successful at basketball if you define success as being a professional basketball player. However, that same young man can be successful in basketball if you define success as something that is realistically attainable.

                                        Life presents kids with all kinds of obstacles that, realistically speaking, can't be overcome. As a kid, I had the completely wrong body type to ever be really successful in equitation - longer upper body, really short legs, short neck, and built like a box with arms and legs. So, I turned my efforts to other divisions where I had better opportunities for success.

                                        As a parent, yes, you want to support your kids in their dreams, but one of your jobs as a parent is to help shape your kid's dreams and direct their efforts to realistic goals.

                                        And come on, the only alternative to footing the bill for your child to compete at the highest levels of the sport is NOT turning to your kid and saying "just quit, give up now." That's just silly. What you do is turn to your kid and say, "We can afford for you to take X lessons/week and go to all the shows on the Oakridge Summer Circuit, where you can compete for end of season awards in equitation and children's hunter."
                                        Quoting this because NoSuchPerson hit that head on! Great post!

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                                        • #60
                                          Originally posted by MHM View Post

                                          I believe three of the equitation finals this year were won by kids who were the offspring of trainers. So they were not the richest kids in the ring, by far. They may have had lots of riding opportunities, but they did not buy those opportunities. They had to earn them.
                                          Being the child of a trainer provides access to opportunities that are not available to most kids. Given access to the same opportunities that are a lot of kids that would perform as well over time. The fact that trainers' kids are disproportionately represented is evidence of the opportunity they are afforded and the benefits that come with it. Its not at all clear that "earn" is the correct description here.

                                          The blog makes the point that there is nothing that can replace time in the saddle and experience in performance -- Malcolm Gladwell makes this point well in his writings. I think the author of the blog makes an excellent suggestion of recognizing achievement within a peer group --- and getting that recognition might just be a door to bigger opportunity.
                                          Last edited by juststartingout; Nov. 28, 2019, 10:38 AM. Reason: correcting spelling

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