Thursday, January 15, 2009

Safety in Eventing part 1

With all the recent goin's ons in Eventing, there is much talk about how to make the sport safer, how to get people to act smarter or more educated, and what it is that makes the 'new' eventer as opposed to the long format competitors.  There are many people who are much more intelligent then I stating some very wise and not-so-wise opinions on the subject (one of my favorite being William Micklem's on the Barn Mice site - you should read it!), so I don't feel it's my place to spout to much off about it.

I will however, spout off about my own experience and how it relates to safety in eventing...
Rocky and I at Queeny Park - 2002

My first preliminary horse, Rocky was my hero.  I wanted to to everything with him, and he would have tried to do it for me.  He was built exactly opposite of ideal, but had a dream gallop and jump, but we were no where near successful at the preliminary level.


First off, the horse would be brilliant - when he was on.  Scope to die for, and brave as a soldier.  But what he did not have was that 'oh, sh*t, get your legs out of the way before you land in the middle of the oxer' kind of fifth leg.  In his case, his conformation wouldn't allow it even though he had heart the size of Texas.  

Secondly, he KNEW he didn't have that ability, and was smart enough to put on the brakes when one of those ugly things was about to happen.  SELF PRESERVATION.  He didn't want to die, neither did I.  We made a good pair.  We were also undereducated at the time, but because he would stop, we were safe.  No tearing around in fear - no last minute ducks out to the side - no making the spectators gasp for air.  If everything failed for us - we still could walk back to the barn and try it again the next day. 

We skipped around a couple of preliminary courses that he made feel like cake - other's I knew we wouldn't make it around as soon as we left the start box.  He knew it too and we were ok with that. 

My opinion is people get themselves into trouble when horses are lacking BOTH a 'fifth leg' and the smarts to know when they're not going to be on all fours on the other side.  Ted, who had run around 5 years worth of advanced, including the 2005 Rolex ****, had enough smarts to stop with I got him in wrong, even if the jump was BN height.  After he got over the initial freak out of him refusing, he would literally take over, as if he was saying "you f-ed that one up the first time, now let me handle it."  

Are mistakes going to happen - of course.  Everyone falls in the water jump, everyone has that stupid slip that happens, and some of them are going to be bad.  BUT hopefully if riders and horses are both smart enough to take up the slack for each other, then 2009 will be a successful eventing year.

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