Jan 31, 2011

So It Begins...Mandating Helmet Usage

As I have predicted for a long time, we are slowly headed towards the requirement of safety helmets across all equestrian sports all the time.  So we're still pretty far away from that, but new regulations have been passed to require all riders showing at national-level dressage competitions in this country to wear a safety helmet, starting March 1.  This is kind of huge, guys.  I certainly thought it would take longer to get this type of ruling passed, and honestly the only reason I think it went through now is because Courtney King-Dye's accident is still pretty fresh in everyone's memory.

Essentially the terms of the regulation require that all riders will have to wear a helmet while mounted on any horse that is showing in any national-level classes (USEF/USDF classses).  Even in the warm-up arena.  Even a trainer who just pops on your horse for a moment to do a quick tune-up.  It will be mandatory.  And all riders 18 and under are required to always wear a helmet, even at the FEI level.  Which is not the case for senior riders (I mean over 18 riders) in the FEI division -- these riders can actually still opt out and simply wear the top hat.  So, it's clearly not perfect, but baby steps, people, baby steps. 

I, for one, am thrilled.  The more regulated helmet usage is, the more normal it will seem to people and the more people will think nothing of wearing them all the time.  I honestly believe that in the next five years we're going to see more and more movement towards a policy that will require all riders to wear safety helmets all the time, including international events, and including western divisions.  And let me tell ya -- that's gonna be a toughie.  No one has ever said a word to me about wearing a helmet in reining and I've never perceived any strange looks, but I do feel like the lone weirdo out there doing my thing.  I cringe when riding with the junior riders, their heads uncovered.  I just can't see how a look or a lifestyle should supercede my health and safety.  And here's how I look at it for me -- if just one person at the reining show looks at me and decides that wearing a helmet isn't as embarassing as they originally thought, then I've done my job.  Normalization is the first step in acceptance.

Jan 21, 2011

The Year of Zenyatta

So, the great Miss Zenyatta won the Eclipse Horse of the Year honors this year.  It was not unexpected and though I've argued that she just didn't wage the better campaign, and therefore didn't honestly deserve the HOY honors, I do truly think that if it came down to a choice between Blame and Zenyatta, I would prefer that she take the prize.  Many commentators argued that Blame beat her fair and square and deserved the title, and I get that point of view.  He beat the unbeatable horse.  That's a totally defensible position to take.  The problem is that in a few years people will remember Zenyatta and people won't remember Blame in the same way.  I wish I could say that HOY wasn't a popularity contest, but it sort of is.  Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra both revitalized a hurting industry and their fame reached far beyond the typical racing fanbase.  I feel conflicted in writing this, but I do think that between Blame and Zenyatta, Zenyatta was the right choice to make.  I still argue that her connections did her wrong by refusing to really challenge her station, but I don't deny that she was a great horse, worthy of this legacy.  As I've said before, I just don't think she got the opportunity to prove her real worth. 

In the end, I think that Goldikova should have been crowned the Queen, but she just didn't have the recognition in the States that she needed to earn her the HOY honors.  I held out a sliver of hope for her win, but it was nearly impossible.  I suppose that ultimately the Eclipse HOY award needs to go to a horse that has really touched the US hearts and captured our public's imagination.  Goldikova just never managed to reach beyond the avid racing public over here, and as such she just never had a chance.  But Zenyatta, in her own way, deserves the honors and I am proud to call her Horse of the Year.  Her name will live on forever in our racing history books and I will be able to say I saw her when....

Jan 6, 2011

Obligatory New Year's Post

I basically got a raging head cold on New Year's Day.  What a way to ring in the new year, eh?  So, while I stare bleary-eyed at the screen and dream of the day when I'll be back out at the barn, I figured what better way to recuperate than blog about last year and my goals for 2011.

First off, though I know this is more in line with Thanksgiving than New Year's, I want to just put it out there that I am so very, very thankful to have the support of my family who've helped me buy my first reiner.  This mare is a beaut and I am grateful to have her.  It was totally out of my reach to afford such a talented, competitive horse in the Hunter and Dressage worlds, but reining -- while pricy -- is not out of control by any means.  I am more than grateful to my trainers who took a soured dressage queen who adamantly announced right and left that she would NEVER show again, that she just wanted to have fun and made her realize that the two notions could actually be compatible.  Color me shocked....no, reallly.  I was that miserable with riding.  I can honestly say that I'm happier and more confident as a rider and as a person than I've been in years.  In fact, I can't remember the last time I felt this content.