I announced the Blogger Contest final four on Friday; now I’m bringing you their victorious Round 2 entries in individual installments. Their Assignment: If you had the power to make three changes to the sport of eventing, what would they be? Next up: Ella Rak. Each entry will be presented unedited for fairness’ sake. Thanks as always for reading, Eventing Nation. Please leave feedback in the comments section. Click here for Sally Spickard’s Round 2 entry, here for Rick Wallace’s Round 2 entry, and here for Erin Critz’s Round 2 entry.
Bio: Ella Rak, 16, is a High School student, Aspiring Lower Level Eventer, C2 Pony Clubber and Equestrian-procrastinator extraordinare. Defining Characteristics: Strong willed, Easily distracted by horses (I should be studying for final exams right now, but instead cleaned tack and wrote this article), and slightly OCD (that record book WILL be perfect).
Entry: Disclaimer: These views are solely those of a striving Novice Level eventer, and do not reflect the views of someone with significant riding experience. I may never make it to ‘Young Riders’”, but maybe I can be an Eventing Nation ‘Young Writer’.
It’s funny that the prompt should be the three changes to the sport of eventing you would make, as that was almost exactly one of the questions I ask a number of eventers for a school project earlier this year. Though I asked about it in relation to the safety of the sport, the resounding answer I heard was how much change we had already seen within the sport in the past decade. Jimmy Wooford (another major perk of living in Area II is having one of eventing’s foremost historians within an afternoon’s drive) provided a very interesting commentary on how the sport we have today cannot be compared to the long format events of say even 20 years ago. We have made spectacular strides in safety of horse and rider that we should be proud of, but though change is necessary and very often good, sometimes the ways of the past work too.
The first major things I would bring back to the sport is the vet box at all one day events, training level and up. I can feel the glares through the computer screen — but I think it is well worth the time, money and space. Having spent the past the past weekend in the Vet Box for Virginia Region Pony Club Eventing Rally, I know what a major pain it can be, but I have also seen the great care it gives the horses. Not only does it force the riders to be more conscientious of how they cool out their horses, but it allows riders access to a vet right then and there if anything goes wrong after you get off. The horses are cooled out quickly and efficiently, and for riders new to eventing at that level, it allows them to learn the ropes of proper horse care. It is a frustrating experience seeing someone meander their way riding back to trailer after a long cross country run and though no one would intend to give anything but the best care, if we have the opportunity to encourage good horse care, we should.
We have all heard the old timers talk about the benefits of the long format event, but though that is not a realistic expectation in our sport today, I think reinstituting a modified roads and tracks section would be. Only a limited number of facilities are still capable of housing a steeplechase course as well as the rest of facilities necessary, but many have additional hacking space that could be used for roads and tracks. Though still not a true endurance test, an additional cross country phase would encourage better conditioning of both horses and riders, while allowing a more through warmup, hopefully helping to lessen the chance of injury.
The final change I would like to see, but is relatively impossible, would be if we could make eventing more financially accessible. Olympic eventing started as a competition for amateur military men and their horses funded by the cavalry, but today the upper levels are dominated by professionals. We pride ourselves on being the sport that can take the rejects and turn them into something truly extraordinary. We have story after story of horses that go from the meat truck to the podium, but the vast expenses of the sport make this really challenging. Horses will never be cheap, and the OTTB incentive programs are making huge strides, but many horses and riders can’t reach their full potential within the current system. By instituting a sliding scale for organization fees and entries, we could encourage riders who might not normally be able to afford competition to join our community. If we could make our sport more accessible to horses and riders from all walks of life, we could truly follow through on the founding of eventing of the best all around horses and riders.