Tamie Smith takes a look at the roots of the sport, and how we can make sure not to lose sight of them. Has eventing begun to lose "that loving feeling"? Post your thoughts in the comments below! Many thanks to Tamie for taking the time to write, and thank you for reading. Have a story to share? You can send it to [email protected]
I’m vastly approaching that decade where you actually start to care about the fact you might be considered “older” by the younger generations. While I do feel lucky to be old enough to remember the sport of eventing before it went through the “change,” I have spent time lately reflecting on the modern sport of eventing as we know it today, and all that our beloved sport has become – both good and maybe not so good.
Back in the day, everyone slept in their trailers, which did not have living quarters. Campers would be mounted on the back of trucks, or we pitched tents. We had penalty zones on cross country to determine if a penalty was related to the fence. This meant that if you had any chance of falling off, you hung on with all of your might in hopes you made it out of the penalty zone and then you dropped to the ground, hung on your horse while being dragged 20 or so feet and mounted back on as fast as you could, hoping you didn’t incur too many time faults.
Dressage back then was regarded by most as just a phase we had to do before we got to do the fun stuff. “What’s a Warmblood?” would have been the normal reaction, and I think there might have been one or two at the show, if any, back then. “If it won’t be a show jumper or dressage horse, maybe it’s crazy enough to event,” was the common train of thought, which went for horse and rider alike.
Everyone had to volunteer in order to run the event…and they were serious. Competitor briefings were a way of life at all horse trials, and long format cross-country was a yearly goal at Preliminary and above (yes you only did them one time a year, normally at the very end of the season). The west coast did not have an Advanced horse trails, Rolex Kentucky was a three-star, and I’m sure I’m missing a few other details, but you get my drift.
Those were the days I knew I loved fell in love with eventing because of it all. Back then, there was a down home, warm feeling about being an eventer. Eventers were largely regarded as the blue-collar group of the equestrian world.
I’m not saying that our sport didn’t need some sophistication even back then, because I believe it definitely did, but eventing is starting to lose “that loving feeling,” if you know what I mean. At least the Righteous Brothers know what I’m after when they wrote that song.
Too many times over the last few years I’ve heard of incidents that are so cold in nature, and it is honestly disheartening. Wallets being stolen out of vehicles, tack being stolen, horses stall doors being purposely left open, water buckets being taken out of stalls or buckets purposely being dumped are just some examples of what our sport has experienced in recent months and over the last few years.
My experience with most of these things is that our sport is growing, and with growth you have growing pains, which are largely for the good of the sport in the future. However, we as a community have the ability to keep our sport clean, honorable, and trustworthy and we owe it to future generations to do so.
Hunter/jumper and dressage shows have stable security paid for by the owners and riders, and this has contributed to rising costs of these sports. I guess it is possible that is what our sport has started to lean towards, however I really hope, for the sake of eventing, it hasn’t.
I urge each of you, regardless of if you are a professional or an amateur, to help keep eventing wholesome and true. This sport raised me and helped me through some of my most difficult times in life, and I hope it can continue to be the saving grace to many more.
Take the extra hour or two and volunteer, even if you have to plan ahead to do so. Provide a helping hand to someone who needs your help but won’t ever ask for it. Try and search within yourself and see where you can give back to keep helping eventing be that sport everyone loves. Thank a volunteer when you go out of the start box, or into the ring.
There are so many ways that eventing has grown into a brilliant sport. Nowadays if your horse won’t event, maybe it will be a dressage horse or hunter/jumper. We now have frangible pins, prize money in all levels at some events, sponsors, syndicated horses, plastic flags and nobody knows what the heck a penalty zone is.
I guess my point is that although eventing has transformed a great deal from what it used to be, it still has a wonderful camaraderie that can be harder to find in other equestrian disciplines, and that it is something we need to hold on to. We root for one another, and we feel and help out when one of our own is in need.
It might seem silly to talk about the direction our sport is headed, however while we forge ahead with technology to make cross country safer, and we create a means to have professionals make a living, let’s not forget what eventing has been in the United States. It isn’t for the entitled or over privileged; it is for the hard working and humble. It isn’t a sport were money buys you success. We’ve seen over and over that it takes a lot more than a big pocket book to make it in this sport. Let’s not let the corrupt take over or even put their mark on our sport.
Do your part and report it if you see or hear of something going on, such as what I mentioned earlier. We are the eyes and ears to keeping our sport what it always has been: honorable and full of heart.