And then of course, there was this:
I was standing by fence 21 on XC day with some friends when ML went by with RF Scandalous. Even though I was several strides back on the landing side of the fence, I could see the red-tinged mouth from at least a few strides before take-off. My first thought was “What brand sells red-mouthed bits?”. For real, that was my first, utterly ridiculous thought, because I just couldn’t believe it would actually happen again, especially in front of my own eyes. Then as she got closer my mouth just gaped open and I said “Holy shit. Oh my god.”. As she galloped away I turned and looked at my friend and asked her if she saw it too. There was a lot of red, and it was very obvious even at speed and even from many strides away.
My friend Michelle had her camera so we immediately pulled up the pictures she had taken so we could verify what we’d seen. There was no doubt about the presence of blood, and a lot of it.
Here is where I should back up a bit and explain why Michelle was even there with me at Fair Hill in the first place. She’s a lifelong h/j rider, and her breeding program is jumper-oriented. But she’s seen how much fun I’ve had with eventing, and she’s excited about my upcoming eventer baby. She has been considering possibly refocusing part of her breeding program to eventers, and even considering investing in a syndicate on an upper level horse. I have, of course, encouraged these things, because I love this sport and think she would love it too. Fair Hill was supposed to be a “come see how awesome this is and leave feeling inspired” kind of thing. A bloody horse galloping by us on XC, not getting pulled up at any point over the 10 minute course to be checked, and the horse in question ending up winning the event… let’s just say inspired was not one of the feelings she had when she left. Eventing needs people like her, and incidents like this only serve to drive them away.
Aside from the majority of the general public and a very select few upper level pros (much respect to Sara for having the integrity to speak up), this has been handled with mostly silence and avoidance. At what point will we stop defending this? The saying goes: once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern. But apparently four different times (Boekelo 2015, Fair Hill 2015, Galway 2015, and now Fair Hill 2016) on three different horses within a one year time period is not enough. How many times is too many? By the time you’re done piling on all the different eyewitness accounts of the series of events that allegedly happened that day, it raises a whole lot of eyebrows. I said it last year and I’ll say it again – we’ve really got to revisit the wording of the FEI eventing blood rules so that this can’t happen, much less repeatedly. I don’t really think that zero tolerance is the best answer, but surely we can do better than a rule that allows four incidences in one year with no consequence. Something isn’t working.
I used up most of my rage last year at the first two instances and all of the fallout that came after I posted about it. Now I’m just left feeling demoralized, defeated, and disappointed. Disappointed that it happened again, disappointed that this rider and her team not only seem to expect it but have figured out how to get away with it, disappointed in the fact that how it was handled is technically within the FEI rules as they’re written, disappointed in the governing bodies that seem more interested in defending it than stopping it, and disappointed in the image that this gives to the sport that I love.
I’m also embarrassed… truly and deeply embarrassed for my sport, and the fact that this performance garnered someone a National 3* Championship title. The media can’t even post any pics or videos of the winning horse from XC day because it’s mouth and chin are covered in blood. As an American eventer, I am absolutely mortified by that. It’s shameful, and it’s disgraceful. It’s an image I don’t think we can afford to project. Let’s be clear: no one has won here, especially not the sport of eventing.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow (with the actual fun stuff from Fair Hill) because that’s all I’ve got to say about that.