As a competitive rider, I have probably been lucky to have only ever once had to explore my options for contesting anything in the world of eventing.
In that particular instance, I ended up talking with a TD, and in their role was able to understand better what the circumstances are and why they are so. It may have been born out of frustration, but I was satisfied to have had the opportunity to exercise my voice.
Recently, I have been frustrated by another competitive aspect- what I perceive to be unfair judging. And yes, if you were wondering, it relates to my most recent show; so I have decided not to go into details on what happened. Instead, I think it’s much more beneficial, not to mention interesting, to talk about the avenues that amateurs have in voicing their opinions.
We live in an exciting age, where social media is a double edged sword of empowerment and destruction.
Sometimes, it’s a force of evil- such as when a video of a high schooler smiling at a Native American went viral and people assumed he was being arrogant and confrontational. Many death threats ensued, among many other things, before it came to light that the aggressor instead had a different face and the young man was cleared of his assumed charges, though I’m sure he will long be judged by those that don’t know the full story.
Other times, social media helps stand up for those that have no voices. Most recently, social backlash prompted the FEI to look into what was clearly a case of neglect on the part of stewards, owners, and others. I’m thinking of Carollo, the horse that won a 5* jumping competition one day and then blundered his way through a derby course the next, obviously exhausted and without interference from the staff/stewards/etc at large. Now the rider is being investigated, and hopefully future riders will consider their horses more lest they rick public backlash of that magnitude.
But what happens when the stage is so much smaller? What happens when discrepancies and injustices happen at the local level? What would you do? What have you done?
I admit, I’m not even close to a TD- I don’t know the rule book back to front. I doubt myself and what I am doing if I speak up, and wonder if it will even matter.
But I’ve talked to the pros about my complaints, and despite my lack of formal education in the sport I am officially an amateur in, they are encouraging me to speak up. Because the amateur perspective is special in equestrian disciplines- horse sport isn’t up there with football and soccer and baseball or any other sport that has thousands (millions) of fans willing to just spectate while they support the sport with their dollars, our sport relies on the amateur riders who put their hard earned funds towards participation as its foundation of support. Without amateurs, it’s hard to imagine where eventing might be- Fair Hill, LRKY3DE… I’m not sure that any of the big events would exist without amateurs funding the way.
So for the first time in my entire life, I am putting my mouth where my money is. I have a complaint, and as a long standing (albeit annual) member of the USEA and USEF, I have a right to exercise my voice. I feel inadequate doing it, and like I have to list every caveat in the world to explain myself… But dammit I know it’s worth doing.
Tell me, friends- when have you spoken up against (or for) leaders or practices in horse sport? How did you do it? Did you see results? Was it worth it? What were the stumbling blocks you encountered? What were the avenues you took?