Over the weekend, two horses died while competing at The Fork horse trials. On Monday, I came across a good article on the subject from Chronicle of the Horse and posted it to my facebook page. If you haven’t read Molly Sorge’s “We Need to Ask Why” I suggest you do before continuing this post.
Now I’m not an event rider, and I definitely don’t claim to be. I know I joke about my weeniness here, but cowardice is not the reason I choose not to event. I’ve done cross country schooling and judged cross country courses in the past, and I’ve had plenty of dressage lessons. I don’t event because I don’t like it. I respect that others do, but it’s not for me.
I imagine that some of you are checking out of this post already because I am not an eventer, I do not enjoy eventing in its whole and I’m perhaps about to critique it. That’s fair, you can check out… but I really don’t understand.
I don’t understand why the major accidents keep happening. I don’t understand why both horses and riders are dying on course or after. Sure, I get that it’s a thrill and it’s technically challenging and there’s no sport like it… but why do the jumps have to be so solid? Would it honestly be any less thrilling if you galloped up to a puissance type wall in field instead of a mass of giant tree trunks and tires?
This is not to say that my sport does not have it’s own faults. A pony died at Devon last year due to an injection. That is shameful. That should not happen.
Also, accidents happen everywhere. You can do everything 100% right for a horse and it can collapse from a heart attack trotting during a lesson at home or after an international grand prix like Hickstead. It’s tragic, and it happens. There isn’t any discipline we do with horses that is 100% safe for them or ourselves, at least not in my opinion.
I love my eventing rider friends and wish them the best, I really do. I don’t think they are cruel and I don’t think the sport is cruel… but I don’t understand it. Eventers tend to have the stereotype that they think they are better than us ring folk because they gallop their horse through open fields and jump solid obstacles. Not all of them wave that experience like a flag of superiority, but I’m sure we all know at least one person out there who has. On the flip side, I truly think my chosen discipline is safer… and I guess I wave that around too.
I hope you don’t read this post as pointing fingers. It’s a tragedy to lose any horse in any discipline. As a rider, I can’t imagine anything more traumatic than suddenly feeling your horse grow weaker underneath you. My heart hurts for those who have had this happen, but with two such traumatic events in the same weekend at the same event – I do wonder what’s going on.
There are lots of questions, but not as many answers and I won’t pretend my “Why” post was nearly as well written as Molly Sorge’s… but here it is. This is my emotional scientific research be damned reaction to reading multiple headlines (recently and not so recently) about horses dying during events. I’d be curious about your reaction in the comments, even if it’s telling me to shut my purdy little southern mouth.