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Current Events

Coming back into eventing has been a strange phenomenon for me. The sport I knew so well as a kid and teenager is completely different a mere 12 years later. A huge part of this is due to social media- no mistake will ever go unseen…ever. Towards the end of the time I competed, before my injury, Myspace was becoming popular and Facebook was still for students. I still had an AOL email address and talked to friends via IM. My cell phone was one of those rock hard Nokias and it definitely did not take pictures. Oh, and we were still drinking the bottled water bought in anticipation of y2k. Man, I feel old.

Eventing was worlds away from where it is now as well. We had the long format, paper entries and you had to mail in a request for a horse or rider’s show record. We knew the people we knew, and didn’t know much about the people who didn’t routinely compete at the same events. Unless you subscribed to the paper version of equine magazines, which made for a super exciting day after opening up the mailbox. Gossip and rumors certainly existed, but that’s all they were.

Enter now.

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I’ve seen the pictures and read the message board/Facebook posts on Marilyn Little. I don’t know her, I’ve never met her, and I won’t even muster a guess at how she treats her horses at home, or if she really strategizes with her grooms to run over volunteers so she can have a black towel at the finish line, etc, etc, etc. That’s my disclaimer before I get flamed for what I’m about to say.

In the past I’ve been appalled at some of her bitting choices. I’ve always been of the belief that you “train in a snaffle at home, compete in whatever keeps you safe,” BUT she seemed to take that sentiment a bit too far. Like, what even are some of those contraptions? That’s what’s legal in the sport, but bridleless isn’t? That’s where I believe some of the rules are just absurd and obviously not written by someone who’s come within 50 feet of a horse- ever. I had a very high strung, very strong 17.3 Irish Sport Horse as a teenager. He was my T/P/I horse and dude got wild on XC. So for competing, we “bitted him up,” which back then meant we rode XC in a 3 ring. At the time, I got some criticism for that from fellow competitors- yet that’s now what some people START their young horses in. Bits have become much more sophisticated and putting in stronger and stronger bits seems to be one of the first things people reach toward when they have issues.

Back to the point- I don’t know why her horse was bleeding. I’m not a vet and I wasn’t there to personally look in the horse’s mouth. A previous sore that got rubbed? A cut? Bitten tongue? If all that stuff coming out of the mouth was just blood, it surprises me that the vets couldn’t find the source. Of course, with as much saliva as the horse was most likely producing by galloping over a 10 minute course, the appearance of blood was likely exacerbated.

Here’s what I do know.

I watched the helmet cam video that was on her FB page and I saw the ears of a horse that was not being beaten to do her job. There were some pictures of the horse landing from a jump that some people were saying were also abusive because the horse looked tired, horse much have been exhausted, etc. Newsflash- a picture captures an itsy bitsy sliver of time. I just recently competed in a local crossfit competition and there are some pictures of me that I made sure were permanently deleted because I looked like hell. But was I overly tired and was it abusive of my coach to be yelling, “faster!” or “don’t put the bar down!”? No, because there’s a difference between being tired and being depleted of all energy sources to where continuing on becomes dangerous. Just because I didn’t have a perky expression on my face did not mean that I wasn’t capable of completing the competition. The horse in the helmet cam video did not seem overly tired or exhausted, and jumped each effort with what seemed like ease, and with happy, pricked ears.

Now here’s my OPINION on the bleeding.

Last year I bought the Premier Equine Eventing  XC boots for Pilgrim. I went XC schooling and when I got him back to the trailer and took the boots off, there was some blood from a small rub on one of his front legs. I treated the rub, assuming that boot had slipped a bit and I must have not tightened it enough. The next time he wore the boots was at our event at Full Gallop in October 2015. Since we went from stadium right to XC, P wore the XC boots for both phases. We came off of XC, went back to the trailer and when I unwrapped him, there was a bit of blood on BOTH of his front legs under the boots- identical rubs on both front legs.

Pilgrim never gave me any indication, either in schooling, or during SJ or XC in the HT, that he was uncomfortable. Since I don’t stare at his legs when I’m riding (unless I’m about to come off), I had no way of knowing. But either way, blood was on my horse after I rode him twice in one month. Was I abusive? I’d like to think no, though I felt awful because I’m sure it didn’t feel good running through water and sand, and jumping repeatedly with boots rubbing against open sores. That’s the problem with having a teammate that can’t talk.

Another example is our XC schooling last month at Paradise. I asked P to jump a substantial log table and then my body defied me and pulled because holy hell, that was wide. It was completely my mistake and I still cringe when I think about it. P practically crawled over the table and then we jumped it and some other things a few more times before calling it a day. On the way back to the barn, one of the other students noticed P had some blood on his left hind by the ankle. When I jumped off, it was a slight cut that I will guarantee came from him sliding over the table sideways thanks to my jackass riding. So I caused him pain. Again. Now, would anyone know anything about those instances if I hadn’t just put it out on the Internet? No, because it wasn’t at a high level, highly publicized event. Now that it IS out there, should I be crucified for it? No. I would never intentionally hurt my horse, but I do make mistakes and horses are creatures with thin skin and blood pumping through them.

I’m not necessarily defending ML because, like I said, I don’t know her or her training methods. Is it strange that this is the 4th time in a year that there’s photographic evidence of blood during an event? Yes, but I’ve also now had 3 instances in a year where I’ve somehow been the root cause of blood on my horse and I like to think that I’m not abusive. ML could be totally shady and actually have strategy sessions to get black towels to the finish flags, even if it means mowing down a volunteer or two. I wouldn’t know. But neither does anyone else outside of those people who are supposedly covering up her abusive ways. I’d also like to point out that I have a few black and navy towels in my trunk/grooming tote. Black just doesn’t look as gross as lighter towels, and they don’t stain like white towels do. Not everything is a conspiracy. My point is that none of us are perfect. If you are, good for you, but please cut the rest of us some slack. Please don’t petition for rules that are overbearing. I will be really disappointed if I get pulled off XC because my horse got a small cut that, heaven forbid, bled a little. I’ve watched Pilgrim fly around the pasture, knock into a horse (he’s super graceful), pick himself up and shake, then continue flying around. Guess what? He had a small cut from the fall on his knee (if he could talk, he’d probably blame me somehow), that I had to put the Swat stuff on for the next couple of days. Note that didn’t stop him from chasing horses around the pasture. On the human side, my kids routinely fall and scrape their knees, or, in the case of Baby Noah, fall and bust open their head and require stitches…neither of them expect to be sidelined. I would be really upset if I received a note from daycare or school saying that because of the presence of blood, they were not allowed to play outside.

I’m going to step off my soapbox now, and while I’m sure some will say that I must not care about horse welfare, all I’m saying is that unless you have irreversible proof that ML planned all this out, maybe have a more open mind and think about a time you may have inadvertently caused your horse pain. Not even necessarily in the form of blood. Maybe you rode in a badly fitting saddle (guilty), didn’t shim a pad correctly (guilty), had a blanket that caused rubs (guilty), rode lopsided because you’re not completely balanced (guilty), or yanked on the reins, which I can guarantee caused pain, even if no blood was present (guilty). And then be grateful that there were no news cameras around to post it all over social media and message boards. Some people obviously aren’t so lucky.

Ok, for real this time.

soapbox

 

 

14 thoughts on “Current Events”

  1. I will repeat what I have said all along and why I started the petition I did. SOMEONE needs to acknowledge that it is not okay that ML repeatedly bloodies her horses mouths on course. I don’t care what towel you use, she has a problem and the officials of our sport need to take action. Maybe she is a good person but I don’t respect people that ride at her level, repeatedly bloody their horses, and don’t give AF.

    If my stuff makes my horse bleed more than 1 time I sure as hell am not going to use it again.

    You don’t have to ride at her level to feel like there’s an issue. And riding lopsided because I am an amateur is not the same thing. You can have your opinion and I can have mine but I am not alone in saying that there needs to be a system to penalize riders for this occurrence. Maybe zero tolerance isn’t the answer – hence why I removed it from my petition – but you shouldn’t be allowed to do this multiple times on different horses in a year without at least a yellow card or some kind of penalty.

    It has been my experience that people don’t listen to silence… if you want change you have to make it happen or raise awareness. Maybe you don’t like the method but that’s okay. No one that is taking a stand on this cares if they are being liked – and I respect them for that. My opinion isn’t making me popular and that’s fine but I find the people that are trying to compare basic amateur mistakes to an UL rider bloodying her horse pretty ridiculous. I’m not going to be threatened into silence.

    A horse scratching itself on a jump is different than blood coming from their mouth.

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  2. I don’t think a lot of what you’re saying applies in this case, or pertains to what most people are saying they want to see, change wise. A few thoughts, if I may…

    #1 – I don’t think blood automatically means you’re being abusive, and I don’t know very many people that do, so to me that’s kind of silly. Shit happens, just ask Becky Holder. But IMO, having officials pull up a bloody horse immediately is important because a) we need to verify right away that the horse is ok. What if the blood was actually coming from the nose and indicative of an impending acute lung or heart problem? Do we really want to let that horse keep jumping around? The riders can’t see these things, so they need the officials to help keep them and their horses safe, and that means immediate inspection. b) we need to send the image to the public that we don’t think blood is normal or fine. Right now the public has seen 4 different instances in the past year of a bloody mouthed horse running around XC and absolutely nothing being done to intervene. Huge huge PR problem in a sport that already has a huge huge PR problem.

    #2 – There’s a middle ground between your extremes of the status quo and a zero tolerance blood rule. I personally am not really in support of zero tolerance either, but I do think that any horse that appears to be bleeding while on course (if you can see the blood while a horse is galloping past at speed, it likely isn’t a teeny tiny rub or scrape as you’ve referenced in your instances) should be pulled up immediately and examined by a vet ON THE SPOT. Not watched from afar, not allowed to gallop around for 6 more minutes, not allowed to finish and be tended to by the grooms before anyone gets eyes on it. I don’t have any problem with the rider continuing on course after being cleared if it’s found to be a minor issue, but IMO we MUST pull them up immediately to check. Both for safety’s sake and for the sake of horse welfare. We owe that to our horses, and we owe that to our sport’s reputation.

    #3 – I’m in full support of a yellow card system for dealing with blood in the mouth/on the sides. Either automatic yellow card for blood in the mouth or spur area, or yellow card for more than one violation within a 6 month to 1 year time frame… I’ve heard people propose both, and I can support either. Maybe it will make people more aware, and at least it won’t continue to go unpunished time after time, as if we’re totally ok with it. People wouldn’t still be talking about this if some kind of action was being taken.

    #4 It’s important, IMO, that any punishment/yellow card system pertain specifically to blood from the mouth or spur area. In that instance, again, the examples you cite would not apply. The horse would still be pulled up to be inspected if it was bleeding elsewhere, but it would be allowed to continue if it was just a minor issue, and no punishment would be inflicted on the rider. I know that if my horse was visibly bleeding, I sure as hell would want to be pulled up so he could be checked. His health is not more important than one competition.

    There is a middle ground here. IMO this kind of thing simply cannot continue to happen without a) proper and immediate inspection of the horse b) proper consequences to the rider. Period. I don’t care who the rider is and I don’t care if they did it on purpose or not. There’s a lot more at stake here than one competition or one rider, and a much bigger picture to consider – like the reputation and future of our sport.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sigh. I did specifically state that I was not necessarily defending ML. From what I’VE read, some of the rules that people want to implement are going too far. Like how if a horse LOOKS tired, they should be pulled up or eliminated. Or if there’s a drop of blood ANYWHERE. That’s what I was mostly referencing.

    Hilary, I haven’t seen your petition and was not referring to it. I am not trying to threaten anyone into silence, but I’m also allowed my own view of this. Though I will disagree that a cut on the mouth is more severe than riding lopsided. I’d much rather cause a cut on my horse than create back problems which can then turn into a whole host of issues. Of course, I’d rather cause neither.

    I don’t know ML and perhaps she’s really an awful person who hates her horses. But rather than put her on the stand, I’d rather direct my frustrations towards the officials who turn a blind eye to her. Even if she was bribing them, it’s still THEIR fault, rather than hers, that no punishment has been issued for what I put in my post seemed to be pattern (meaning the 4x bloody mouth incidents).

    I also agree that yellow cards are probably the way to go, though that has to be a very careful rule, especially with spurs. There was the case of the eventer who was eliminated after XC because the officials said her spur caused the horse’s side to bleed when in fact the horse knocked a jump on XC. But because of the rule that says no appeals, the elimination stood.

    I’m all for horse welfare and trying to shed a better light on eventing. Unfortunately ALL sports, including equestrian sports, and ALL disciplines, including eventers, have shady people and will always have those people. Whether or not ML is one of them is not for me to judge, because I’ve never personally seen her DO anything to cause pain. But I think getting mad at ML is pointless- get mad at the officials who don’t do anything to prevent it from happening again…and again.

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    1. You said people shouldn’t petition rules that you perceive as over bearing. Which i don’t think that pulling a rider up for their horse bleeding in the mouth is overbearing but I guess we can agree to disagree. I’m not saying it should cause elimination but there should be inspection and penalty for multiple offenses. That isn’t currently happening and our rules and officials are letting it.

      Someone being slightly unbalanced some of the time in proper fitting tack during a ride isn’t the same as someone’s horses mouth bleeding but I take blood kinda seriously. I feel like you are saying someone learning to ride is abuse but an educated rider bloodying their horses mouth repeatedly is NBD and I guess I just don’t understand.

      ML is being flamed bc she is the face of the issue and the repeat offender… but most educated people want a change to the rules not for her but because the rule needs to change or more directions need to be provided in their application bc the fact that our governing body doesn’t do anything when a horse is bloody and running on course for 6min means something is wrong.

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      1. Yes, Hilary. My point was that no one should ever learn to ride because they might cause a horse pain. Seriously? That’s quite the interpretation. I don’t PULLING UP a bleeding horse is overbearing, I think that automatic elimination is. As I said before, I haven’t read your petition. I’m not referring to it in any way.

        I compete in crossfit. I would MUCH rather cut my hand doing pull-ups than tweak my back lifting weights. I’ve done both and the muscle pull is 100x worse. As I said before, AGAIN, neither would be ideal. Blood definitely LOOKS worse. But is it worse? Not every time.

        Where we’re going to disagree is how we perceive ML. I don’t make snap judgements about people I know nothing about except for what the media chooses to portray. Is she a good rider? Yes. Does she have terrible methods for training? Maybe. The point is that I don’t know. I am going to say again that I THINK that the officials who refuse to even admit the possibility of ML being abusive are the ones at fault. I am not going to be the one to say she’s abusive just because pictures are posted of her. I have not examined her horses, nor been privy to her training. That’s my opinion and it’s a valid one to have, as is your opinion.

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      2. I think we both probably actually think the same thing in terms of this is not about ML. I don’t care if ML is a good person or a bad person. I don’t even care what she doesn’t or doesn’t do for the case of this subject. I apologize for how I took your note about petitioning rules. I have gotten a lot of flack for vocalizing an opinion that could lead to change. Scary change.

        I care that our sport doesn’t have rules in place that advocate clearly for our horses well being. At all levels for all riders. Also eventing doesn’t need to be known as a sport that is cool with bloody horses galloping past for most of the course. I think it would be better to be safe than sorry in this instance when it comes to blood in the mouth A simple check doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for in addition to a system that actually discourages repeat offenses.

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      3. I’m sorry you’ve gotten heat for your petition. The fact is that some things definitely are way overdue for a change and no one should be flamed for looking out for horses that can’t advocate for themselves. When I get home later on I’ll definitely look at it. I agree with you that all blood needs to be looked at immediately. Whether or not that horse/rider should be eliminated needs to be decided on a case by case basis. But the rules DO need to change!

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    2. The instance you’re referencing was Becky Holder. If we had a yellow card rule, in this circumstance she would have just gotten a yellow card and been able to proceed instead of being eliminated. So to me, the yellow card rule would have still worked even in that scenario.

      I personally don’t really care about ML and think that the people who make it about her personally (defending her or not) are making a mistake. Of course everyone has their personal feelings about her (me included), but at the end of the day, SHE isn’t the issue. We have to figure out the right way to handle instances like this, and by making it personal, for or against, we take the spotlight off of the real problem.

      Personally I haven’t really seen anyone credible demanding that officials pull up more tired horses, although it certainly has been done and IMO I’ve actually seen it done a lot less often than is warranted – we’ve seen two in the past year that I can think of off the top of my head at the 4* level that really should have been pulled up, were not, and ended up eliminated. One of which whose horse fell, and the other of which narrowly escaped a bad accident. That’s a serious safety issue. I also understand, however, that that’s a tough call for an official to make in the moment, because it’s 100% personal opinion. Blood, however, is not. Blood is a lot easier, and blood is the issue here.

      Most of the unhappiness that I have seen from credible sources stems from the fact that the rules do not thoroughly cover a scenario like this with a repeat offender, and that they do not seem to be applied fairly to everyone. Therefore it’s only logical to make it more black and white, and I think the answer to that is to pull up anything with visible blood immediately, and then allow the vet and ground jury to assess from there, hand out a yellow card if appropriate, etc.

      I wish everyone would stop circling back around to ML so there could be some good, honest discussion that was more about the horses and less about gossip or personal feelings one way or the other.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It wasn’t Becky Holder that I was referring to, though I know the instance you’re talking about. The name starts with a “C”, though it’s escaping me at the moment.

        I also wish ML would stop being referenced. That’s my point- the blame on ML is misdirected.

        The rules definitely leave a lot of room for interpretation and need revising. But some that I’ve seen, credible sources or not, are taking it too far.

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      2. I am understanding you more here in the comment discussion than I was from your original post… have to admit I did not understand what you were trying to say there with the boot reference and pasture playing and skinned knees. I was lost. But now it seems like we’re saying the same thing.

        Personally I do think blood is a big deal, I do think that there is a way to solve this problem, and I do think that it’s very very important that we do so. Having a horse gallop around XC dripping blood is horrific… I know because I watched it! I don’t care if it’s Buck, Boyd, ML, or the dang pope. I would hope that any of us would want to be pulled up and inspected if blood is seen on our horses.

        Of course, I also think that if we want to lend any credibility to our opinions and suggestions, it can’t be personal (again, for OR against).

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      3. My point with the boot reference, etc, was that ML is not the only one who has ever, in the history of horseback riding, caused a horse to bleed, but because of social media, she’s gotten flamed and that’s what too many people are focusing on, rather than the real issues.

        I would also hope that people aren’t opposed to being pulled up if their horse is bleeding. If they are, then that’s a little suspect.

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      4. Well to be fair I think it’s the repeated incidences of blood from the mouth in such a short period of time that has everyone so up in arms in this case, not just the blood itself or this particular incidence itself. Which… I get it. Totally. Even if I think that it’s not solved by focusing on that one person.

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