Not for the first time in my life, I have been taken advantage of by someone in the horse industry. It’s been on my mind on and off (but more on) for the last several months since this incident, so it’s probably worth writing about, at least now that it appears to be finally on its way to being resolved.
Last August I signed up for the Virginia Horse Trials, a schooling event that takes place at the Virginia Horse Center. I had only heard good things about the facilities, and looked forward to trying out a new and promising venue. Then, a week before the competition, I got sick. Sick enough that I couldn’t work even at my desk job, making the 4 hour drive and subsequent cross country riding look like a really daunting prospect. I noticed that VHT had already cashed my checks, so I gave them a ring and confirmed that if I scratched on the closing date that I would get a full refund. They assured me I would, and so the next day, still no better, I both sent an email and left a voicemail with my decision to scratch. The ride times were posted the next day, without my name on the list- good, they’d gotten my messages.
Fast forward another few weeks. I started checking the mail with an eye for a letter from Virginia, but none came. I emailed VHT once again, asking about my refund (almost $200, by the way), and no response. Called and left a voicemail, and no response. Repeating this process every 1-2 weeks became an exercise in my patience. I became incensed- if a venue promises a refund on their website by a certain date, they should honor it. Or, don’t promise refunds, in which case I would have loaded up on Red Bull and dragged my sorry behind to the event. My resentment eventually led me to social media.
None of my leads followed through. I continued calling every month or so, noting that VHT’s voicemail message had changed- how could they not have received my messages? Friends signing up for their current shows similiarly assured me that their emails were responded to in a timely manner, convincing me that I was purposely being ignored. Around December, I started to give up hope that I would ever get my money back, and vowed to never give this venue money again. I started debating if it was worth having the lawyer husband write them a strongly worded missive as a last ditch effort, and to soothe both of our frustrations on the subject.
The finally, last month, I had one more brain wave. I emailed Eventing Nation, that hub of all things eventing, thinking that if they didn’t know someone directly maybe they would write a post about it. You know, go all whistle-blower with the business. To my surprise, they forwarded my email to the new owners of VHT, and I got a response the next day.
While it seems I won’t be getting my precious dollars back, the new owner has offered me a compromise- a free entry to the Recognized horse trials this May, a $200 value. This gesture, though it requires me to spend money on gas and a renewed USEA membership, goes a long way in feeling like the right thing. Before they can back out of it, I’ve accepted. We’ll see if they follow through or not, but I’m hopeful that the event will be a happy ending to this extremely trying tale! While I didn’t plan on any recognized shows this year- maybe this (and my new USEA membership) will open up other recognized opportunities later this season!