by Patti Stedman
December 7 2013
[The first thing I have to do is officially divorce my personal opinions, comments and this entire rant from what is my official role on the AERC Board of Directors. I have certainly expressed my thoughts and feelings and ideas to that group of twenty-six, and am open to discussing that if anyone has questions on what is going with regard to doing BoD business, but not here, and not today.]
Here, this morning, I am going to have a temper tantrum of massive proportion to express my disgust and frustration.
I am furious that international competition, which left me cheering and proud in the late 1990s when I was just starting the sport, has become a shamefully divisive topic of discussion.
I am disgusted that a sport that I think of as “one horse, one rider and 100 miles” and “to finish is to win” with a full 24 hours to complete a challenging course has become, for some, a massive stable of disposable equines and a 100 mile flat track race complete with hazing vehicles and VIP tents and faster and faster ride times and a mentality that is not only “to win is to win” but “win at all costs” with money a massive motivating factor, up, down and across the organization. Openly as well as pervasively and deeply ingrained in every facet of its existence.
I am saddened, deeply, that riders in my country have been so tempted by life-altering money, that they have sold their partners in that “one horse, one rider” scenario to be assimilated into one of those stables of disposable equines. It reminds me, once again, that in this sport as in all horse sports, big money and big egos rarely means much of anything good for the horses involved.
I am horrified and sickened by stories of fractures and exhausted horses and injections and hazing and drugging of disposable horses and positive drug tests resulting in a slap on the wrist and no discernible change in the conduct of certain riders’ and owners’ and trainers’ behavior.
I am ashamed that the sport of endurance, as I see it, is and will continue to be tarnished by its association with what is going on, and that that ship has already sailed on a course that I am convinced is unalterable.
I am dismayed that I will be called upon to defend a sport which for me is, at its very heart, a test of horsemanship and preparation and athleticism DRIVEN by concern for the well-being of the horse.
I am angry that riders in my country and in Canada and in dozens of other countries, many duct-taping their dream together on a shoestring budget, compete against others on such a wildly un-level playing field, attempting to be honest and rule-abiding, while their competition is anything but.
I am stymied as to why they would want to continue to do so.