Hoooo buddy this one is going to be a doozy. Heads up **blood warning** on that second photo. Today I want to talk about why I refused to watch the LRK3DE.
In years past, I have been a big fan of this event. I watched all the coverage I could live, then went back in later to catch up on what I’ve missed. It’s exciting and fun to watch some of the biggest athletes in the sport come together and compete through a challenging event.
There was just one problem: over and over I was seeing Horsemanship I didn’t agree with. I realize these horses and riders are completing an incredibly hard task, but many of the bits, flashes, movements asked, etc. were so contrary to what I believe in. Through neuroscience, we know that watching things repeatedly normalizes them for us. I don’t want to become normalized to those things.
This year, I decided I would wait to watch, if at all. I’m glad I did. The first three photos are of our third place finisher, and US National champion. I’m not going to go on and on about why these things are bad, or try to judge this person’s character. The truth is, I know absolutely nothing about them or their horse personally. I don’t think this person had any intention of hurting or abusing their horse.
The problem is that, especially in the US, we have fostered a horsemanship culture in which this is acceptable. This noseband passed a ring steward’s approval. Nobody batted an eye when her horse was met with dark red towels at the end of the cross country round. These are things we have become deconditioned to. That first photo is one proudly posted by a massive equine organization to announce the rider’s success. It didn’t even occur to them that while the rider seemed elated, the horse was surely uncomfortable at best, and likely in pain.
The fastest way to see change is to vote with your dollar. Sponsors come to events like this because of the views and attendance they receive - it’s good advertising. Withholding attendance and views takes away sponsorship opportunities for these organizations, as well as direct revenue. At some point, they will be concerned at these numbers, and start making changes. However, this takes serious commitment on behalf of the spectator, and the competitor. We have to put our foot down at some point. To me, the point where a noseband like that is allowed to be a national champion, we officially have to put our foot down. So I did my small part - I didn’t watch.
If you’re here to defend with something along the lines of “you couldn’t do it” or “these horses need that they’re super hot and crazy”, please save your breath. If the horse must be abused to compete at that level, find him a new job. For the ones who are truly made for it, you won’t need it. The last two photos are FischerRocana, ridden by Michael Jung. He rides all three phases on that horse in a snaffle. No huge gags. No overly tight flashes (although I don’t like them in general, baby steps). Just a horse who is good at their job, and a rider who lets them do it. IT CAN BE DONE. We just have to demand it.