One of the first things I noticed when I switched to eventing from h/j-land was how the sharps containers at events were a) very sparse b) never had anything in them. At the bigger events there were maybe 3 of them scattered across the stabling area and they always appeared untouched. At the smaller events you may or may not even see one at all. Yet at h/j shows it seems like there’s a sharps container on every other aisle, and they’re full pretty much from the word go. We have enough of our own problems in eventing, but sticking lots of needles into our horses isn’t one of them.
As most of you know, I grew up doing h/j and spent plenty of time in the hunter ring. For a long time I thought that the A/O hunters were my ultimate fantasy. I bred Sadie specifically hoping that she would grow up to be my fancy hunter. Yet by the time she was 4 I had already grown very weary of the hunter ring, and it didn’t take long for that weariness to turn into complete and total disillusion. I had a great trainer who was one of the “good guys”, but I noticed more and more that the good guys were awfully damn few, and often at a disadvantage. Needless to say, I was not disappointed when we re-routed Sadie to the jumper ring.
I was hopeful that when the derbies started getting super popular, good changes would come about and some of the demons of the hunter world would fall by the wayside. They didn’t. Before a derby class at one show, a horse dropped dead because of an incorrectly administered magnesium injection. It wasn’t the first, nor would it be the last. But that’s the day I wrote the sport off, for me personally anyway, as lost.
When I saw Mary Babick’s facebook post earlier this week, I thought here, finally, was someone saying exactly what I’ve been thinking. Judging by the way it went viral almost immediately, I’m obviously not the only one. There was one part in particular that really stood out to me:
“As I sat in the airport, I was joined by two fellow USEF directors. The talk turned quickly to the shocking statistic which was presented in Murray Kessler’s Strategic Plan. That statistic? That almost 60% of all doping violations are in the hunter sport. The two directors (an active athlete from dressage and another from Morgan) expressed horror at our transgressions. The dressage athlete told the two of us that people in dressage are embarrassed to be part of a doping violation. She asked why we were not.
Her question rang true with me. Why aren’t we embarrassed? Have we lost our love for horses? Do we love money more than our honor? I don’t know the answer but I do know that this lack of integrity is both a sickness of people’s souls and our sport.”
This is exactly what I’ve been wondering for a long time. So many BNT and BNR have had doping violations, some of them on a pretty damn regular basis. And these are only the ones getting caught using testable substances… what about all the others that have found their way around the tests? Yet it doesn’t seem like a big deal to anyone. These people still show, they still win, they still sell horses, they still have a barn full of clients, they still have good reputations, and they still make plenty of money. This is what has always been so shocking to me… the level of acceptance that seems to exist, and the number of people who are seemingly okay with it.
The fact that Mary, USHJA president, was willing to come forward and state her opinion in a very public way gives me some hope. Hats off to you and your lady balls, Mary. I really hope that this is the beginning of some good conversation and some positive changes within USEF and USHJA. I’d love to be a hunter fan again.