13 March 2015
Racing has long been controversial and racing over fences even more so. Of late, dressage riders have turned gorgeous horses into pretzels. Then some FEI level endurance riders began running horses to death and indulging in various less lethal but still disgusting behaviors.
Now, with the deaths of some top level horses, evening has entered the spotlight.
Jimmy Wofford, an elite horseman, offers his excellent insight into the troubles with eventing:
"Jim Wofford: Eventing Lives in the Balance"
I fear that all elite equine competitions are endangered because of the unfortunate tendency of humans to put themselves first. I read or hear about so many incidents where the rider's only concern is being able to finish. I hear so few stories such as that of Ingrid Klimke in the 2004 Athens Olymics. Her wonderful TB Sleep Late slipped on a turn in the cross-country, dislodged Klimke, and nearly fell. She sprung back on her obediently immobile horse and continued, finishing under time, Sleep Late passed the vet inspection for the stadium jumping but once Klimke mounted him she decided he wasn't right and refused to jump him, something I rate higher than all her medals and wins. That refusal was absolute proof she cared for the horse, not the win. The world needs more Ingrid Klimkes and fewer of those who don't put their horses first.
Accidents will still happen. Horses are fragile creatures, but competitions and riders that put the horse first would lessen the number of those accidents.