Lately, I have noticed a big gap in our sport. It’s a gap that has always been there, and I am sure that it always will be. However, I feel like there needs to be a strong bridge built to connect both sides. Being someone who is an upper-level rider and professional, yet who lives in the boonies and really has to work and fund everything myself, gives me a lot more insight into the gap between the professional world and the amateur world.
Though I get paid to teach and train, I do almost all of the work of the horse care myself. The number of horses on my farm varies, but I have had up to 17 or 18 and managed all of their daily care myself. Because of this, I am quite close to each horse and know them all quite well. I have a relationship with them all and have been accused of treating them more like children than horses and thus being more “amateur” minded. I believe this is what makes my program strong.
The professional world is a tough one. It’s eat or be eaten in a lot of cases. This carries over to the horse world. There are many trainers and riders out there and a limited amount of paying customers. We all have to work our hardest to prove that our program is good, and we must learn to market ourselves effectively. As in any professional job, it can be tough not to get carried away in the fight.
Unfortunately, in our sport, there are also horses involved, and we must also keep their best interests at heart. There are so few upper-level riders that each one is under constant public scrutiny. Case in point, Buck Davidson and Boyd Martin were both questioned for their choice to run their WEG horses at Plantation this past weekend. As a society, we are constantly being reminded of our right to having an opinion, and we do have that right. However, I feel that it is easy to throw stones without being involved in the situation.
On one hand, we brag to other equestrians about the high level of horse care needed to compete in our sport. On the other hand, we turn around and accuse our upper-level riders of not putting their horses’ best interests at heart. I am not defending or attacking any riders or their choices. I am merely stating that I see a huge problem.
We are under A LOT of public scrutiny as a sport. Horses and riders are having accidents, and we need to stand together to fix this sport. How can we expect a public ignorant of what we truly do to believe us if we are not providing a united front?
As professionals, I think we could do more to support the majority of our sport — the amateurs. Without the 98 percent majority of our sport, we would not have a job! It is quite easy to get sucked into our own mental vortex. This is a tough sport, and you have to be focused to get anywhere at the upper levels. However, there are a lot of people out there with great ideas. We just need to listen.
Heaven knows I don’t know the exact answer to the issue. I also know that it’s hard to listen to everyone who wants to be heard. However, I believe that the gap is getting bigger instead of smaller, and this worries me for the future of our sport. Entries are down and fees just keep rising. We need to get everyone on the same page and start supporting each other rather than point fingers.