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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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  • #61
    Originally posted by Rumorhasit93 View Post
    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).
    totally understand. But aren’t there Washington-based finals those kids could strive for? There are numerous 3’ and 3’6” finals in Northern California a kid could compete in if they can’t afford Thermal or LA shows, much less east coast. Is it not the same In WA? How are these different from what the author is proposing?

    Comment


    • #62
      I love/hate how we endlessly talk about these topics ($$ to show/fairness or unfairness in the system/talent vs money/how to make the playing field more even/etc) as if anything is going to ever change.

      Love because it shows how passionate we all are about it. Hate because there's nothing we can really do about it.

      The rich will get richer, things will continue to get more expensive, those who can play will play and those who can't won't, the system will always favor making money, and that's the long and the short of it.

      We can bang our heads against the wall and kick around different philosophies and hypotheticals all day long, but that's all they will ever be.

      Let's just all go ride our horses and have the best time we can with what we all have today.

      Comment


      • #63
        I always feel that when we have these conversations about talented kids not having opportunities due to finances, we're actually talking about a subset - moderately talented kids of moderate means.

        Massively talented kids of moderate means - the Tori Colvin/Emma Kurtz/Jacob Pope types - will get there. And...on the other hand, there are undoubtedly kids with significant talent who will never uncover it, due to the fact that they will never get the opportunity to take a riding lesson because of financial limitations.

        It's those kids - the moderate talent/moderate resource - that are the focus and the concern of these discussions. And we sometimes lose sight of that.

        I like the idea of having different divisions based on number of shows or # of rounds, but I see challenges in execution - when do you start the clock? Do people start gaming the system?

        Perhaps this would do wonders for the unrated show system - if you were categorized according to the # of rounds at an A show, I can see people going to more unrated shows to gain experience without changing their show categorization.

        On a different note - the author is comparing equestrian sports to high school cross country. I think that you can't compare an individual sport that is independent of one's high school with a high school team sport. When examining other sports to see what ideas we can glean, it's better to look at sports like gymnastics, figure skating, tennis.

        Comment


        • #64
          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.
          A couple of thoughts:

          I think we all do damage when we stick to the mythology of America being a classless, "anyone with pluck and vigor" can make it. And not for nuthin, but the disparity between rich and poor and the effects of inherited wealth (money as well as "cultural capital" like parents for whom going to college and even grad school was natural), has not been this large since the end of the 19th-century. We really have divided rich from poor in this country and made upward social mobility harder than it has been for the last two generations.

          So if you, as a parent, feel the keen desire or obligation to "level the playing field" for your kid, you are on a fool's errand. Furthermore, I don't think you are doing your kid a favor to imply that they ought to find that "pluck and vigor" necessary to withstand a tide of economic stagnation.

          No, that does not mean you should tell your kid to "give up and quit." As others have said, figure out a "work around" or a place where your kid can be successful.
          The armchair saddler
          Politically Pro-Cat

          Comment


          • #65
            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.
            I dreamed of going to Harvard or Yale, and that wasn’t going to happen for multiple reasons. So glad my mom didn’t tell me to just give up. How silly is that?

            I will share with you the strategy I employed to get me to my goals. At the time, I wanted to go be competitive at the Appaloosa Nationals. We didn’t even have the money for regional shows let alone the Nationals. And to compete against the Walmart heiress? How could I do that? My parents absolutely could not pay for this.

            So, I stopped trying to keep up with the Joneses. I showed local shows (I paid my own entries) and invested in lessons. Lots of them. I worked job after job (as a kid!!) to save money. I also invested some of it. In college, I worked 3 jobs and carried 18 credits. I chose a local school as my dad had passed and my mom had terminal cancer and I needed to be home to take care of her. In all of this I still found time to ride and to work at a barn in trade for lessons (job 4). I had a 4.17 in HS and a 3.28 in college working like this. It’s what I had to do.

            I’d saved my money. I had limited time to go to Nationals as mom was dying. At 20 I bought the best horse my lifetime (yes, lifetime child savings) could buy. I put him with the best trainer I could afford (they were 5 hours away and had been trainers of the year). We went to the Nationals and won, and I was even offered 3x what I paid for the horse after winning.

            What did I have? Not money, that is for sure! But I had ambition. I had skill from all those lessons. I had trainers who saw HOW HARD I was working, as a child and as a student, to participate in this sport. And I found a way to make it happen. Trainers like a kid who tries hard like that.

            I get tired of articles about the haves and the have nots. They make me cringe. If you tell someone they can’t do it, then they probably won’t even try. Why do that to your kid?

            Why not instead either compromise and set a local goal that is perhaps in reach, like a local medal final. OR put some onus on your child - see how badly your child REALLY wants this - and see if your child is also willing to make a sacrifice. It shouldn’t just be mommy and daddy struggling so Susie can go indoors. If Susie doesn’t want it bad enough to have some skin in the game, then by all means save your money and take your family on a nice trip to Hawaii. But if Susie is constantly studying the top riders, working to foot some of the bill herself, trading barn work for lessons, etc... then help Susie get a sponsor so she can make a real attempt at her dreams. Don’t just throw your arms in the air and have a pity party for yourselves. And quite frankly, if Susie REALLY wants it, and I mean REALLY REALLY wants it, she will find a way.

            I hear a lot of kids proclaim they want to go to medal finals or the Maclay. I see very, very few who would give up their summer to work to help actually pay for it. Same goes for shows.

            Comment


            • #66
              Originally posted by BLBGP View Post

              totally understand. But aren’t there Washington-based finals those kids could strive for? There are numerous 3’ and 3’6” finals in Northern California a kid could compete in if they can’t afford Thermal or LA shows, much less east coast. Is it not the same In WA? How are these different from what the author is proposing?
              There are not medal finals here....surely nothing like down in California. I think Oregon H/J Association has a final. Our Maclay Regionals would probably be it...only 13 entries this year.

              Comment


              • #67
                I think it is all about finding goals within the activity that are meaningful to you and achievable with the energy you want to give it. I also think, especially as I've gotten wizened by life experience, that some of these goals are maybe not worth seeking.

                Kids from wealthy families who have a guaranteed scholarship and are possibly legacy admits - yes they do make it to the Ivy schools, and I'm happy to see that and happy to see them succeed there. But I was never worried about those kids.

                Horses teach a terrific work ethic and create goals. That was a factor for me. Behind every tough moment in my schooling and career, I was thinking about creating financial independence so I could have horses and land for horses. This is the good side. I didn't have so many opportunities that I could escape school. But, I was competitive on the local circuit in the Los Angeles area and did have fun with those weekend shows and local medal finals.

                These kids who end up following the show circuit, riding in 31 AA shows a year, many of them far from home, whose parents don't have the money to charter the private jets, those are the kids I worry about. The ones who got enough taste to think that pouring themselves into the junior career was all they needed to do to be successful in life, who blew off school. Those kids who don't have those rich parents aren't so much getting into Harvard. The sport can eat them alive, especially if they get hurt. Even those who get to that rarefied cadre to compete at the Maclay - most of them won't be able to build a life on that. Other sports do this too, some more than others (cough football cough). If anything, horses are better because it can be such a lifelong activity. But I think counseling juniors and parents to think critically about this particular path is worthwhile.

                Once upon a time, the Big Eq was the main path to a career as an elite show jumper. Winning those finals was almost your ticket. Now not so much. We see that many of the winners don't go on as pros and many of those who emerge as pros didn't win or weren't even contenders.

                There are so many possible goals in horses and so many paths.

                My daughter was in a different activity and she was clearly outcompeted by someone who is amazing, who put her whole heart and soul into that activity. I told her, "you know, it's okay that you don't want to put in that kind of time and want to just do this for fun." Finding goals that are realistic, knowing that you like going sometimes but not every week, filling the classes, this is an important part of sports and activities too. Being part of the base. She is not the sort that can do it all and she would have had to choose between her youth activity and her school, and she chose school.

                Every time we looked at some of those choices, I was thinking, which of these is going to matter in 5 years, or 10.
                If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

                Comment


                • #68
                  Originally posted by atl_hunter View Post

                  I dreamed of going to Harvard or Yale, and that wasn’t going to happen for multiple reasons. So glad my mom didn’t tell me to just give up. How silly is that?

                  I will share with you the strategy I employed to get me to my goals. At the time, I wanted to go be competitive at the Appaloosa Nationals. We didn’t even have the money for regional shows let alone the Nationals. And to compete against the Walmart heiress? How could I do that? My parents absolutely could not pay for this.

                  So, I stopped trying to keep up with the Joneses. I showed local shows (I paid my own entries) and invested in lessons. Lots of them. I worked job after job (as a kid!!) to save money. I also invested some of it. In college, I worked 3 jobs and carried 18 credits. I chose a local school as my dad had passed and my mom had terminal cancer and I needed to be home to take care of her. In all of this I still found time to ride and to work at a barn in trade for lessons (job 4). I had a 4.17 in HS and a 3.28 in college working like this. It’s what I had to do.

                  I’d saved my money. I had limited time to go to Nationals as mom was dying. At 20 I bought the best horse my lifetime (yes, lifetime child savings) could buy. I put him with the best trainer I could afford (they were 5 hours away and had been trainers of the year). We went to the Nationals and won, and I was even offered 3x what I paid for the horse after winning.

                  What did I have? Not money, that is for sure! But I had ambition. I had skill from all those lessons. I had trainers who saw HOW HARD I was working, as a child and as a student, to participate in this sport. And I found a way to make it happen. Trainers like a kid who tries hard like that.

                  I get tired of articles about the haves and the have nots. They make me cringe. If you tell someone they can’t do it, then they probably won’t even try. Why do that to your kid?

                  Why not instead either compromise and set a local goal that is perhaps in reach, like a local medal final. OR put some onus on your child - see how badly your child REALLY wants this - and see if your child is also willing to make a sacrifice. It shouldn’t just be mommy and daddy struggling so Susie can go indoors. If Susie doesn’t want it bad enough to have some skin in the game, then by all means save your money and take your family on a nice trip to Hawaii. But if Susie is constantly studying the top riders, working to foot some of the bill herself, trading barn work for lessons, etc... then help Susie get a sponsor so she can make a real attempt at her dreams. Don’t just throw your arms in the air and have a pity party for yourselves. And quite frankly, if Susie REALLY wants it, and I mean REALLY REALLY wants it, she will find a way.

                  I hear a lot of kids proclaim they want to go to medal finals or the Maclay. I see very, very few who would give up their summer to work to help actually pay for it. Same goes for shows.
                  This is a powerful story - and both inspiring and terrifying to read. I credit your ambition, your determination, and your success. Setting a local reasonable goal makes sense but tow impediments exist - 1) no one tells these kids and families the truth about possibilities and 2) its asking kids to give up a dream that they are not ready to abandon.

                  BUT, I also worry as a parent, as a teacher of 20 plus years, and as a former elite competitor in another sport that these are the exception stories that we tell to keep those hardworking dedicated talented students working long long hours without telling them that the odds of a story like yours coming true are, in reality, quite slim.

                  Contary to your last sentence - I have watched MANY MANY hard working talented kids with talent do exactly as you have done and spend years well into young adulthood without ever getting that opportunity or moment that you experienced. There is always a element of fortune along with the hard work -- and that element of fortune just does not happen as frequently as we would all like. The hard work, the talent - those are all preparation for that moment of fortune - and that is why we think we can "make it happen".

                  I do not believe that we can create an even playing field. BUT I am sure that we are losing - and worse disillusioning - super hard working kids with talent. FInding a way to address that is a step in the right direction.

                  Comment


                  • #69
                    I think this attitude that the equitation finals are the be-all, end-all of a junior career really contributes to the problem here. Like atl_hunter , my parents had a very frank conversation with me as a teenager about their financial realities and what would/not be feasible for my junior years. Going to finals was not going to be realistic. My trainer took clients to shows that we could not afford, like WEF, the Hampton Classic, and Lake Placid - so I didn't go, and instead, we focused on making realistic goals, like qualifying for junior hunter finals (and planning to go when they were held in NY). The equitation wasn't held up as this absolute measure of achievement.

                    We ended up lucking into much more horse than we could ever have afforded to buy if she weren't so quirky and so complicated to ride, and because of that, I started working my tail off to be able to financially contribute so we could chase a dream we didn't know was possible - and even with that, there were still major financial considerations that dictated where we showed and what we did at those shows (40-50 horses in the GP? Going to do the high junior/a/os instead) and did 6 shows a year instead of a lot more.

                    I really think that you can accomplish a lot without having a ton of money, but it means having realistic conversations early and often about what the measure of accomplishment will be. My parents had those talks with me repeatedly as a teenager and my goals were adjusted accordingly. It didn't scar me for life.
                    https://www.youtube.com/user/supershorty628

                    Comment


                    • #70
                      Originally posted by BLBGP View Post

                      totally understand. But aren’t there Washington-based finals those kids could strive for? There are numerous 3’ and 3’6” finals in Northern California a kid could compete in if they can’t afford Thermal or LA shows, much less east coast. Is it not the same In WA? How are these different from what the author is proposing?
                      Meh. Our facilities here are pretty sad. Maclay regionals this year was sad. The course and work off, in my opinion, did and does not adequately prepare anyone from some 9 to be competitive at finals. You have to go to Thunderbird or maybe Oregon to Hunter Creek or Bend for a decent show facility in this area.

                      Comment


                      • #71
                        my thought is how far down the food chain do you chase the financial inequality - the author can't afford to have his daughter chase the maclay finals, but can afford 5 shows on the A circuit - many parents can't afford that. It's a tough reality that horse showing beyond the local schooling show circuit is becoming more and more a rich man's sport and I am not sure if there is an answer to that.

                        Comment


                        • #72
                          Originally posted by Rumorhasit93 View Post

                          Meh. Our facilities here are pretty sad. Maclay regionals this year was sad. The course and work off, in my opinion, did and does not adequately prepare anyone from some 9 to be competitive at finals. You have to go to Thunderbird or maybe Oregon to Hunter Creek or Bend for a decent show facility in this area.
                          Never realized how lucky I was to grow up in the Los Angeles area as a place to enjoy horses. It's a good reminder of how much place affects opportunity even at the low and middle levels.
                          If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

                          Comment


                          • #73
                            Originally posted by poltroon View Post

                            Never realized how lucky I was to grow up in the Los Angeles area as a place to enjoy horses. It's a good reminder of how much place affects opportunity even at the low and middle levels.
                            Totally. I worked for a barn in LA for two years and even the people who couldn’t afford many shows got to go to Del Mar and the oaks. Pretty cool!

                            Comment


                            • #74
                              Originally posted by Rumorhasit93 View Post

                              Totally. I worked for a barn in LA for two years and even the people who couldn’t afford many shows got to go to Del Mar and the oaks. Pretty cool!
                              And this actually raises a good point.

                              The author's suggestion is to break equitation into divisions based on number of shows/classes completed.

                              But....I would think that the reason most kids with Big Eq dreams don't show more is financial - they can't afford it.

                              How are those same kids going to be able to afford to ship a horse off to the lower division national final if they don't happen to live reasonably close to the venue? Traveling to a horse show is not like traveling to a cross-county meet.

                              Comment


                              • #75
                                Originally posted by Darkwave View Post

                                And this actually raises a good point.

                                The author's suggestion is to break equitation into divisions based on number of shows/classes completed.

                                But....I would think that the reason most kids with Big Eq dreams don't show more is financial - they can't afford it.

                                How are those same kids going to be able to afford to ship a horse off to the lower division national final if they don't happen to live reasonably close to the venue? Traveling to a horse show is not like traveling to a cross-county meet.
                                Right. Kind of my point in an earlier post. USET finals is a good example, because they have east and west coast finals. So, if you’re from WA or any state that is included in the west coast finals, you still have to pay upwards of $3000 just. To. Ship. Your. Horse.

                                Which arguably is justifiably expensive (insurance, your precious partner is being taken care of, gas, etc.)

                                Comment


                                • #76
                                  Just sitting on a real horse *once* is a luxury 100's of millions of children will never afford, even when they grow up and make their own financial decisions.

                                  As if just living within a 1st world country makes one entitled to do whatever one desires. What if the next [non-pedo] George Morris were growing up poor in the serious _hole of Gary, Indiana right now? What if the cure for cancer lies within her or his future capacity too? If lamenting our society's great shortcomings were a worthwhile thing to do, the latter is probably more worthy of attention. Humankind doesn't benefit from America sending a rider to a fancy horse show.
                                  Power to the People

                                  Comment


                                  • #77
                                    Originally posted by supershorty628 View Post
                                    ...........
                                    I really think that you can accomplish a lot without having a ton of money, but it means having realistic conversations early and often about what the measure of accomplishment will be. My parents had those talks with me repeatedly as a teenager and my goals were adjusted accordingly. It didn't scar me for life.
                                    This. And the entire post. Everyone has a choice of how they will define their own success.

                                    This thread is a strange read. Why is something is not worth doing unless one is at the highest level with the maximum wins? Those are certainly nice-to-haves. But are those really the values that people want to define their riding and showing, to teach their children? It's possible to ride at a horse show and have more fun than the winner, with the help of some good friends of like mind.

                                    Maybe ribbons should be the icing on the cake, but not the cake itself. Things might feel much less frustrating when all things are not ideal.

                                    OK I'll bow out.

                                    Comment


                                    • #78
                                      Originally posted by supershorty628 View Post
                                      I think this attitude that the equitation finals are the be-all, end-all of a junior career really contributes to the problem here. Like atl_hunter , my parents had a very frank conversation with me as a teenager about their financial realities and what would/not be feasible for my junior years. Going to finals was not going to be realistic. My trainer took clients to shows that we could not afford, like WEF, the Hampton Classic, and Lake Placid - so I didn't go, and instead, we focused on making realistic goals, like qualifying for junior hunter finals (and planning to go when they were held in NY). The equitation wasn't held up as this absolute measure of achievement.

                                      We ended up lucking into much more horse than we could ever have afforded to buy if she weren't so quirky and so complicated to ride, and because of that, I started working my tail off to be able to financially contribute so we could chase a dream we didn't know was possible - and even with that, there were still major financial considerations that dictated where we showed and what we did at those shows (40-50 horses in the GP? Going to do the high junior/a/os instead) and did 6 shows a year instead of a lot more.

                                      I really think that you can accomplish a lot without having a ton of money, but it means having realistic conversations early and often about what the measure of accomplishment will be. My parents had those talks with me repeatedly as a teenager and my goals were adjusted accordingly. It didn't scar me for life.
                                      As usual with a post from you, there is a lot to agree with. BUT, there are some built in assumptions here that merit unpacking.

                                      Perhaps most importantly, you assume a base of knowledge about the horse world that most/many parents and participants do not have and many trainers do not provide the information. Thus, the resource and goal setting conversations that your parents had with you are beyond the knowledge of many entering the horse show world. This means the mostly unreasonable dream is held up as possible and the fairy tale lives on. (And there are always just enough fairy tales that come true that perpetuate this myth.)

                                      While the equitation finals should not be the only OR ultimate goal, finding a way to create a pipeline for talented riders to progress and even perhaps to be noticed is and should be important to the development of the sport. It's something other sports do more successfully that equestrians.

                                      It is difficult. There are several reasons for this. One, of course, is in part because this sport requires a horse as a partner and therefore is not solely dependent on the ability and work ethic of the human athlete. And, this is not an issue that can be easily solved.

                                      Another is that there is no substitute for experience and exposure. Going to 20 or more shows a year on 5 or more different horses provides an experience and training that cannot be duplicated in 5 shows and 1 horse and training at home. And, too often, those local shows do not ask the same questions or even set the jumps at the regulation height. These riders never get the chance to develop the level of skills that those with more means see on a regular basis. So, we handicap riders with less means by not providing the challenge at the local level. And, at least some of these issues could be addressed.

                                      The discussion of fostering the growth of the sport and the development of riders should not turn into a discussion purely of "do you have the means" or "set reasonable goals and live within your means". It is possible to enjoy the sport, be satisfied with your goal setting, and ALSO to think that the sport can discuss, and consider the inherent problems and limitations and potential ways to address them.

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #79
                                        Juststartingout hit the nail on the head on why I started this conversation. Because to me, that is the problem we need to address: how to fix the barriers that prevent ambitious riders from moving up even if they do not have the "means". That is the essential lie about the "American dream", that you just aren't quite good enough or you just didn't work hard enough. By convincing people that they are the problem, we never get to the place where we can fix the problem. One writer referred to the lack of suitable shows in the PNW, another about the course design and fence height lacking challenges that other shows contain. So how do we add more opportunities for shows, better course design in ever region and increase access? Part of fixing a problem is looking without restrictions at everything until something appears that's worth trying. I am still on the fence about the "opportunity/outlook shows" simply because they are (where I am) not necessarily any cheaper than the "rated" shows. They are a start however, and that I like. The show scene in LA is another solution that other parts of the country might consider. I know there are scales of economy in LA that PNW doesn't have but the mileage rule in PNW could be relaxed for PNW only so that smaller show managers could offer alternatives to Thunderbird, for example. Just some thoughts.
                                        kenyagirl

                                        Comment


                                        • #80
                                          With the advent of video and fast communication, if we're willing to be creative, it's possible we could create competitions that don't require everyone to be in the same place.

                                          Imagine, if you will, a competition that took place at multiple venues across the country, set with the exact same course, and judged via video. Much less wear and tear and expense for the horses and competitors in exchange for added expense for the organizers. I realize it wouldn't be "the same" but "the same as grandpa's day" isn't necessarily perfect nor the only way.

                                          Conditions wouldn't be identical but then let's face it - during a regular show weather or just the time of day changes conditions too. People hauling a long way are at a disadvantage just to start.

                                          In dressage, the ability to compare percentages is a huge benefit to allowing individual pockets to survive and thrive, and to know when they are ready to make the big trip to a larger venue. Even if you're the only 3rd level rider in your area, you can ride for a score and compare it to riders nationwide (as well as to your own previous outings). You can progress without having direct competition.

                                          There are advantages to getting everyone together but I think this kind of competition could also be fun and interesting. And isn't that the point of competitions? I would see this as a supplement to existing competitions, not a replacement. And good for keeping kids in school and amateurs at work, too.
                                          If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

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