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I have had a good afternoon getting excited about the Olympics, watching the first horse inspection for the Eventing which starts properly tomorrow and using the hashtags #TwoHearts and #JoinTheJourney. However, one post has completely ruined my excitement for the day.
Many of you who keep up to date on equestrian news will probably know that the Olympic Equestrian disciplines (especially Eventing) are under a lot of pressure to become more audience friendly and may potentially stop being included at the Olympics if they fail to improve public interaction. That’s why many riders, companies and organisations are encouraging you to use the hashtags #TwoHearts and #JoinTheJourney when talking about the Olympics and trying to get as many people as they can talking about the Equestrian sports at the Olympics. Which I think is a great idea and I think the Equine Community has really come together to show their support for the sport.
However, one post I saw completely ruined this for me. Especially when people were then trying to encourage people to use the above hashtags while sharing it. This is the photo on the post I found:
Now before I start, I understand that there are problems in our sport. However, I personally do not think that this effects many horses at this level. And I think that if something like this does occur at the higher levels, that it is penalised! Just look at what happened to Bertram Allen at Olympia (find out more here.) I watched his round and saw nothing wrong with it, I also saw the marks left on the horse’s side and do not believe that it warranted disqualification. However, the rules stated that any mark/blood means disqualification. So although it was disappointing, it showed that the sport cares about equine welfare.
I believe that this is the case for all Olympic disciplines. Equine sport is under so much pressure from authorities demanding high levels of welfare for animals (which is a great thing btw) that organisations have no choice but to be strict on riders. The only exception to this that comes to mind is Rollkur. I think the problem will Rolkur is that, as far as I am aware, there are no guidelines telling how stewards and ground jury’s to respond to it. Therefore even if they see a case of it, they have no training or information on how to respond to it.
I do not believe that the problems in the photo should be ignored. However, I do not feel that using the hashtags developed to save the sport is the way to go about broadcasting them. I feel that all this will do is tar the reputation of a sport which non-equestrians already do not understand and should not be in the Olympics.
I’m not sure what the best way to further decrease the number of horses we see suffering like those in the photos above. But I believe that a change in the sports rules/guidelines and making sure stewards and ground crew know what to look out for should improve the situation. It’s sad that we will never completely remove these cases, purely because we are human and will always do stupid things without considering the impact of our actions. But changing the way we deal with these problems should improve the welfare of our horses.
Do you think the Olympics is the right time to be discussing the problems with our sport? Do you think the horses suffering as pictured is the minority or majority at top level? Please share any of your thoughts on the subject!