So the first every USDF National Championships is this weekend. Sounds like the kind of event that I would love right? Something right up my ally. Big ribbons, lower levels offered, a chance for anyone to shine. Well, I have to say, I didn’t think much about it prior to the event, but watching the video of the First Level Freestyles…it is more disheartening than inspiring.
There is such inequality among the competitors. You can see people who seem to be normal competitors (who probably had to take off work and save all year to get to Kentucky) and then you see the money come rolling in. People who are bouncing around, have bad hands, and pay tons of money so that their expensive warmbloods ignore their faults. As a crappy rider myself, you would think I would have more empathy for my brethren, but because I cannot afford said fancy warmblood who will cart me around it is just frustrating to watch. During one particular ride I yelled at my computer “IF YOU ARE TERRIFIED OF YOUR HORSE MAYBE IT SHOULDN’T BE YOUR HORSE” and during another I was holding my breath, sure that the rider was going to just bounce out of the tack and off the horse at any second (why on earth would you choose to sit if you can’t sit well!).
It is disheartening to see so many horses hyper flexed (one step less cruel than Rolkur) and so many horse and riders who are clearly higher than 1st level showing at 1st level. If most of the horse and rider combos were at like 2nd level I would understand, but I have a feeling that at least half of the field is showing the maximum allowed 2 levels up (i.e. showing 3rd level at the show but has a 1st level musical freestyle). That means that in theory they are schooling 4th level at home.
While I did not make it the full 3 hours through the 1st level freestyles, I did watch a lot of it. I was looking for some acquaintances and also wanted to see at least part of every ride. It was nice to see Thoroughbreds, Appys, Arabs, and more on “tv” looking great, but it was also disheartening to see how unequal the playing field has become. I applaud those who went out and showed, but I must admit that watching the video has made me much more wary of ever doing USDF shows again…which I am pretty sure is the opposite of what they were hoping to accomplish with having a US Dressage Nationals.
Don’t believe me? You can see the footage for yourself by following the link below…and don’t just watch the first ride and say that I have no idea what I am talking about. Watch a handful of rides and then tell me with a straight face that dressage is fair.