Tuesday, July 29, 2008

White Out, O'Connor In...

Evidently Sunday was the last gallop for the Eventing team before shipping to China. Northern Spy, Heidi White's horse, came up with an iffy leg post-gallop causing decisions to be made that allow Karen O'Connor and Mandiba to compete in their place.

I'm so happy as a huge O'Connor Event Team fan, but I do feel bad for Heidi and her crew. I don't think people realize that the workers behind the scenes (ie, grooms, etc) put just as much into the Olympic journey as the riders. But on the flip side, Karen, Max, and the rest of the OCET team have put a ton of work into the Olympics this year. Not just with Mandiba, but lets not forget Theodore O'Connor, super pony! From Max's blog yesterday: "I think the chestnut pony was helping us out...miss him." We all do. He was an awesome little pony, a complete superstar.

Good luck Phillip/Connaught, Beck/Comet, Gina/McKinlaigh, Karen/Mandiba, and Amy/Poggio!!! Go TEAM USA!!!!

PS - the replacements are: Bruce Davidson & BallyNoe Castle RM, Phillip (again!) & Woodburn, Bonnie Mosser and Merloch

Karen O'Connor and Mandiba

R.I.P. Super Pony...

Karen O'Connor and "Theodorable" at Rolex 2008

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I got the blues...

In high school I went to shows or clinics at least every other weekend during the competition season. Since I have started college here has been my show record:

Fall 2005 - Heritage Park HT - horrible dressage warmup - my mom wanted me to scratch as coaster was being dumb and rearing up -- it really wasn't his fault though, the flies were TERRIBLE!! - okay test....kickin' cross country round - he was a machine! and for SJ....yeah...i kinda broke a fence #2...literally...with my face

Fall 2006 - Crosstar HT - KICK ASS dressage! 2nd going into XC, which was a great run - 1st going into stadium...coaster is perfect - I on the other hand let the pressure get to me and caused a 2 rails...on the last two fences

Fall 2007 - Meadowcreek HT - great dressage warmup - okay test....good XC...solid stadium

Spring 2008 - NWAHJA Jumper Show - for only jumping less than five times since the last show he was perfect!!! i went off course once - dumb mistake on my part - but won all the other classes i was in

I miss it...I don't know if I miss the showing exactly, but I definately miss riding my horse everyday and working towards something. I can't wait to get back to Fayetteville next week...I'm working the NWAHJA 9-10 show as paddock master on saturday for sure, possibly sunday. After that, here is what I want to do this fall...

September 7- Fayetteville - NWAHJA - Jumpers - goal is to be clean and straight

September 13 - Centerton - NWADC - Probably 1st Lvl. 3 & 4 - goal is to have consistant tests and "ride" in the arena

October 11 - TBA - NWAHJA - Jumpers - goal is to be clean and straight

November 1-2 - Augusta, KS - Briar Fox Farm HT - Training - goal is to have a solid dressage test focusing on (what else?) impulsion at the canter; a clean, forward XC run; and a clean stadium

Saturday, July 26, 2008


First things first: "Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday dear LauRen, Happy Birthday to me!"

Okay, now that task one is completed, onto the funny thing I got in the mail. If you subscribe to the Dover Saddlery catalogs then you have seen their new Summer Sale issue. For those of you who haven't, Dover is offering a "FREE GAS" offer: $10 gas card with a purchase of $150! I find this a.) entertaining but also b.) kind of sad.

I'm a college student so I'm always strapped for cash, and driving the truck to haul my horse around doesn't help my bank account...and I've known that gas prices have been high (trust me, I almost break down into tears every week at the pump), but I never really thought I would see the day that a tack store would offer a gas card. Halter, yes. Saddle pad, yes. But gas card?!

So this brought up a question in my own head: How many people have not gone to horse shows this year because of gas prices? The main reason I've had a non-existent season is because I've been so sick and I don't have the cash for the entry fee itself! Obviously Dover is worried about gas prices affecting their sales at some point. I guess it makes sense - they have a lot of show merchandise. If people aren't showing, they aren't buying the equipment it takes to show...yadda yadda yadda.

So I'm going to try this "poll" feature on blogger - but if y'all don't answer then I'm going to be sad and never write my opinions again...lol...doubtful, but seriously, I want to know how much gas prices have affected your horsey traveling this year.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rider Responsibility: Who is to fault?

My last post brought up some interesting comments about rider responsibility, including one about Darren's accident.

Let me start out by stating (once again), that I have always been a huge fan of Darren. I have seen him ride many horses, and have always been impressed by his professionalism and ability on course. Now that said, Baron Verdi - the horse Darren was riding at the time of his accident - competed in a total of 8 events PRIOR to Red Hills. This includes one Preliminary run at Rocking Horse earlier in March, two trainings (both in February of '08), then two novices in January of '08 and then handful of novices back in 2005. We are talking about a horse that less than three months prior to the accident was going novice. He fell on a Preliminary course. I'm sorry, but nobody can convince me that the horse's inexperience didn't play a role in it. I don't care how good of a rider Darren is, the horse was inexperienced. However, Darren is a big boy. He definitely has more experience riding than I do, so I am not going to point fingers and say that it is Darren's own fault. He (along with the owners) made the decision, for whatever reason, to push the horse along fairly quickly and got hurt. Shit happens, but he made the call to ride out of that start box onto the Preliminary course.

As far as other injuries and deaths in the sport, I believe that trainers play a huge role as well. Many people don't question their trainers. Perfect example: my first trainer/barn manager/horse role model didn't deworm or vaccinate their horses. My parents and I knew nothing of horses prior to what these people taught us, so we never knew enough to protest. It wasn't until I joined Pony Club that I was educated on other ways of doing things. My first horse died of colic with the most probable cause being worm infestation. That is on my parents and myself as the horse's owner. No, my trainers never told me to deworm the horse, but ignorance is no excuse. That is basically how I feel about people taking their trainers word for everything. These people are in it to make money. Yes, I know there are some honest, well doing horse trainers out there, but lets face it the horse industry is notorious for shadiness.

Say you have five trainers in one area. Four of the trainers have a moderate number of students who move up slowly, but are consistently safe. The fifth trainer has a large number of students that go from Beg. Novice to Training in one year and are competing Preliminary within two or three years of starting to compete. How is it not human nature to gravitate towards that fifth trainer, "because nothing bad has happened"...yet. The problem is, people use the excuse "well my trainer told me it was okay." So? The trainer wants to make money. Period. If that trainer doesn't have students moving up at a steady rate then people don't want to send their children to ride with them. So they are going to move people up, sometimes before they are ready. It is just by shear grace on God's part that most of the people out running around the Preliminary and above courses aren't dead.

Comment from yesterday's post: "I'm not saying rider responsibility isn't a good idea (everyone needs to put their ego on hold when dealing with horses), but by focusing on that to the point of ignoring other solutions is very counterproductive. Drivers have to be responsible on the road, but we also have speed limits, airbags and seatbelts."

What is that entire rulebook if not a metaphorical speed limit, airbag and seatbelt? Optimum times are pretty self explanatory to me, though most people ignore them now. What about the qualifications prior to moving up a level? My opinion is that people like this expect the organization to babysit them. They want to be able to blame someone else when something goes bad. In today's sue-happy society we think it always has to be SOMEONE's fault, though never our own. You have plenty of time to walk the course. You have infinite amount of time prior to the event to train and school at home and other venues. We already have all the tools for success that we need. However there is always somebody that is going to run 75mph down a mountainous road where the speed limit is posted 55...whose fault is that? Should the state have put in road blocks to prevent people from being stupid? No. The problem in today's society as a whole, and now it is leaking into the eventing industry, is accountability. Nobody wants to be held accountable for their actions. Grow up. I have no tolerance for this.

My final note:
People die. People get hurt. Shit happens. It is life. Whether you are driving a car, riding in a boat or walking across the street the risk is there to get hurt. We can make things as safe as possible: wear our seat belts, wear a life jacket, and look both ways before we cross, but nothing in life is for certain. Nothing in life is safe. This is life. If you don't like it, go check yourself into a padded room somewhere to rot to death. If you want to live and ride. Do it. Be safe and take the necessary precautions, but do it. If this is what you love, help it. Make suggestions. Don't proclaim that people should be doing something to stop it all and keep everyone safe when you are sitting on your ass not doing a thing.
My perfect solution to the turmoil in eventing: don't change a thing as far as the rules and such goes. Continue forward with the normal research in safety, but don't cater to these dumbasses who let their ego ride for them. Natural selection will take care of them. :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

HBO: Real Sports

I just got finished watching the HBO Real Sports that featured Eventing. Wow. That is all I really have to say. The picture they painted, thank God, wasn't as dark as they could have made it, but they certainly didn't keep it very pretty. They were quick to shoot off numbers of horses and riders that have been injured in the past couple of years, but they don't mention that a fair percentage of the equine deaths were not jump related, but rather freak episodes like heart attacks. I think the knowledge of the causes of death changes the connotation a bit, don't you?

They interviewed Darren, even showed his fall. Now let it be known that I have always admired Darren Chiacchia as a rider, but I am really wondering about the cuckoo factor post-accident. He started going on about how he saw his late father and how his father said it was okay to go on with him (on into an afterlife I presume...)...oh dear.

Then there was an interview of Mia Eriksson's mother. Mia died in 2006 at Galway Downs, tragically her sister died in 2003 due to a horse accident as well. Ms. Erkisson goes on national television trying to portray herself as a sound horse person by lunging a horse wearing capri pants and tennis shoes. Now I know I am old school Pony Club, but come on lady! If I knew I was going to be on television portraying horses, I would at least look a bit more professional while lunging my horse!
Now don't get me wrong, I mourn for the woman. Having watched my own parents bury my younger sister to a freak accident, a story such as this one really does tug at my heart. However, I don't think that her daughters - either one of them - would want their mother going on television calling their sport a "killer" at the upper levels. The lady is even going as far as filing charges against the USEA. Here is the rest of the story on that one...

I must say, I am very happy that HBO interviewed David O'Connor. He was very professional in his opinion (and mine at that!) that when it comes down to it, the responsibility lies with the rider. He had a great quote (this is not verbatim, but the gist is here): "When it comes down to it, it is just the horse and rider out there on the competition field and nobody else. The rider is responsible for what their horse can and can't do, and the overall horse's welfare." That is so true. I'm not saying that freak accidents don't happen, but it is obvious which rider and horse combinations get in over their head out on course. To me, a good rider can get a horse around a course, but a great rider knows when their horse has reached their limit and pulls up before a freak accident does happen...

The only real thing that got me ultra ticked off about this segment, was the lack in background information. The sport as a whole has changed greatly in the past decade. No one can tell me that these changes haven't played a part in all the recent accidents. I believe that people are getting a little too big for their britches and think that without the long format a three day event is easier. It is NOT! If anything it is harder. I just wish people would realize this before they send in the entry fee...it isn't worth a good horse and certainly not a person's life.

Monday, July 14, 2008

US Olympic Team

I'm excited about the US Olympic team being announced today...though it is a little sad that Karen O'Connor only made the alternates list when I'm fairly certain "Theodorable" would have been a shoo in for the team...and I was really hoping Kim Severson would make it on her big gray, he is gorgeous and Kim is super professional.

Becky Holder and Courageous Comet
I LOVE LOVE LOVE Becky! I've ridden with her and she is great! I also love Comet - though honestly it may just be a gray horse thing!

Heidi White and Northern Spy
A really cool horse - I've been impressed with both Heidi and the horse.

Phillip Dutton and Connaught
Phillip Dutton - need I say more?! I was so excited when he became a US citizen so he could ride for us!

Amy Tryon and Poggio II
I love these two - I've seen Amy ride several times and have been extremely impressed with her professionalism.

Gina Miles and McKinlaigh
I LOVE this horse - he is super cool and seems really scopey!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Finally Some Good Publicity

This is too crazy! Mark Todd's horse, Gandolf, who he is currently campaigning for the 2008 Olympics was in a rap video...crazy, especially when you watch the video!

On another note, I am so happy Toddy is making an appearance on the international circuit again. I have always thought that he is a bad ass eventer and a great rider. I've seen him ride in person several times and was nothing short of amazed that a man that tall and lanky could fit around a Thoroughbred that small and make it look good! I will be rooting for the US team, of course, but at the same time Mark Todd is a favorite.

Check out the New York Times article on Mark Todd that was published June 30.

On another note, check out this article about Karen O'Connor on USA Today. It talks about the tragic accident of "Theodorable" as well as her career as a whole.