ABC News Investigations of the Year: Fighting Cruelty to Horses - ABC News
If sanity is ever to impact the horse world, this has to be the starting point. Kudos to ABC News for their investigation into the cruelty involved in horse training. And if ever there was a statement that sums up what's wrong with the horse world, it's this one:
"All too often, you have to cheat to win in this sport,' said Keith Dane of the Humane Society of the United States.
That comment, from the article linked above, says it all. The things we do to horses in the name of competition are simply atrocious. Yes, there's a case to be made for the role of competitiveness in the industry as it stands today. After all, were it not for the gold flashing in their eyes, elite horsemen would be hard-pressed to justify spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on their sport. Horse breeders would lose the incentive to breed the animals that can perform at those levels. Horse kids would have limited role models after whom to pattern their horse lives.
In my opinion, all of that is like saying that we need to keep building overly-large, energy-inefficient homes because people want them, and people want them because we build them. If we stop building, buyers can't buy and builders will starve. It's a case of who will have the nerve to let go the tiger's tail and risk being eaten. If we don't grab the tail in the first place, then there's no danger.
I'm not completely anti-competition. I spent my share of time in the show ring, and my daughter still enjoys the thrill of seeing what her horse can do in comparison to other, equally talented animals. I'm anti the number of people who want to make a high-dollar living at it and what that has created in the areas of evil-doing and chicanery. I feel the same way about all pro sports, so don't bother lambasting me with "how could you?" comments. I'm immune.
All too often you have to cheat to win in this sport.
I learned years ago that even at the lowest levels, cheating is endemic to horse sports. Drugs, of course, are the biggest players in that game, but stacking the deck with judges who always pin certain types of horses, with training methods that are good for a quick rise to the top without concern for the long term, and with rule changes that make it impossible for honesty to reign are all equally insidious. We contribute to the demise of honest horsemanship even as we cry about its death. It starts with the trainer (mine at a very young age) who explains how to get a quick smack with the crop in without the judge seeing it. It ends with a pipeline of used-up horses looking for a place to end their days.
More investigative reporting into our sport will surely follow this "best of 2012", and rightly so. It may take many such videos and more guts when it comes to penalizing the perpetrators of unconscionable fraud, but it's coming. One can only hope that bringing this to light will work in the intended way, to cause those on the fringe who are currently testing the waters of that slippery slope to destruction to think twice. Paranoia isn't always a bad thing. If we can clean this business up at the lowest levels, the highest will eventually follow. It's today's child horsemen who will be tomorrow's Olympians, and they will set the standard for the New Normal in their lifetimes.