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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Shortest Rolex Update Ever

I'm here, Rolex is amazing, the weather is beautiful, The Good Witch got totally screwed on her beautiful dressage test (awarded a 53.0 for a beautiful, fluid test, placed far behind 'big name' riders with multiple blaring errors in their tests), had a great and strong XC run until the Corners and then took off on a half-stride, hung a front leg, helicoptered over the fence and fell. Both she and Jennifer are OK but they loaded both onto vehicles and transported them away. Mike Winter's Olympic mount Kingpin, 5th horse on course in the AM, looked great coming to fence 9, then came to fence 10 with his head hocked, took the fence, came down with both his back legs on it, somersaulted and fell - died on the scene, possibly in midair. A full necropsy is being performed, but it is speculated that he died from a pulmonary embolism. Preliminary necropsy inspection states that there were no broken bones that had been found, but there was bleeding in the abdomen. Mike Winter went to the hospital but they think he's okay.

I hate to say it, but they really 'dumbed down' the XC course this year - much simpler than I ever remember it. Is that what we need though? Is the four-star level unobtainable to the mortal man? SHOULD it be? Have we done all we can do for safety?Everything I saw looked frangible - nothing like the killer flower basket jump last year that claimed Frodo Baggins. And what CAN you do at the very top level when temperatures are in the 80's and you're galloping and jumping for 11 minutes? Horses can and do suffer major body failure when under the influence of such stress. Horses can and do suffer major body failure standing in their pastures too.

I'll tell you something though. Eventing is under violent fire. Everyone is on about how it's a 'killer sport', slaying horses left and right. Last year, there were an alarming number of horse deaths in eventing, no one can deny it. But did anyone look at racing for instance? How come with the tragic deaths of big names like Barbaro and Eight Belles, nobody pointed fingers at the dangers of racing? Nobody flushed out the crooked likes of trainers, jockeys and owners who run their young horses too hard, too fast, too young? A recent study shows that over 5000 racehorses have died at the track since 2003, most due to catastrophic breakdown. That's over 800 a year, most at seedy backwoodsy tracks - and how many deaths DON'T get reported? Does ANYONE else thing that maybe RACING is a more dangerous sport? Are the big, twisted names there paying off people to keep their mouths shut?

Eventing is a honest sport for 99% of it, and the honest people behind it are looking for honest answers to the big safety questions nobody has asked until now. In the 1936 Olympics for eventing, for example, only fifteen of forty-eight horses competing in that event negotiated the number four water obstacle with no difficulty. Twenty-eight horses fell, and three refused to jump it at all. The obstacle injured three horses so badly they had to be destroyed on the scene while dozens of others lost confidence or at a minimum lost time on the course due to the experience. One rider had to chase his horse for several miles before mounting and continuing on. The water obstacle ended up being incredibly deep in the center, and full of soft mud on the bottom - breaking legs as horses landed.

But nobody pointed fingers back then at safety, just at Berlin and Hitler (rightfully so, of course).

Now, if a horse trips over a tiny dent in the grass, everyone is up in arms about the safety of eventing.

There has got to be a better answer than all this. We've come so far towards making everything safer. I've never seen such a massive, collective uprising of people making a move for a better tomorrow. But why do people thing it's STILL not good enough?

More, and pictures, later.


Now That's A Trot! said...

How come with the tragic deaths of big names like Barbaro and Eight Belles, nobody pointed fingers at the dangers of racing? I'm not sure where you were, but racing was catching all KINDS of hell after those incidence -- and it always has. PETA showed up at the Triple Crown races following Eight Belles's death to protest horse racing, and a Barbaro was on the mainstream news for weeks after his death. Plenty of people think racing is cruel and it should be done away with completely, but the fact is, the horse industry as a whole would suffer a lot without it. And not ALL race owners and trainers run their horses into the ground. There are plenty that make an effort to rehome their horses after racing/breeding are done, including one of the owners of Hanover Shoe (STB), who keeps a giant farm just for his old pensioned broodies. The rescue group I worked for was founded by all racing people, and is still funded mostly by them and donations from others in the industry.

Racing is undergoing just as tough a time as eventing, and they, too, are looking into included safety measures -- artificial footing at some tracks, increased drug screening, and sometimes, even banning trainers found to be selling horses off by the pound. Personally I think a lot would be improved by moderating inbreeding (including opening up AI options), taking 2y/o races out of the first half of the year, and stopping stupid things like pushing babies for 10-second furlongs just so they bring a higher auction price. But then, I also don't agree with the Young Horse events they have in the disciplines I ride, or the practice of jumping three-year-olds so that THEY bring a higher price.

There's no big conspiracy theory. There's plenty of corruption in any sport -- if you think 99% of eventers are honest, you've never seen someone sold a lame, crazy mare as a YR packer, or had a trainer ask her vet husband if she was sure so-and-so wouldn't test -- and even though some of them come with the "understood" risk there are a lot of things that could be changed and improved. There aren't any easy answers, and just like the switching to the modern format, and the allowance of steroids at the track, there are always going to be unseen side effects. Unfortunately, the horses are the ones who suffer the most in the end.

Kelly said...

Heck, Barabaro is still IN the news.

But I agree with the above for the most part.

Yep, I was going for a qualifying score for bronze, and I just wanted to be done with second level.

Andrea said...

Maybe I just wasn't as directly involved with the racing industry, so I didn't catch all that mess. All I heard nonstop was "Oh poor ponies, we love the poor dead ponies!" but never heard "EVIL, EVIL RACING!" I don't listen to PETA ever as a rule, because they'll probably make a fuss over the fact that I ride my horse at all, period. But I don't doubt that racing was taking its hard knocks... I was just in Ohio where pretty much every race fool I ever met was twisted and cruel. Seriously. At bigger tracks, I KNOW things are run better. I've just been exposed to the not-so-pretty side of seedy racing.

I don't agree with the Young Event Horse tests either. It's insane what they make those babies do. I also also don't agree with the 5 and 6 Year-Old dressage tests. I can't ever imagine seeing the need to ask that much collection from a young horse.. their bodies just can't develop properly fast enough to do it.

I guess 99% of eventers being honest is totally wrong. But I would give it 70%... or at least, 70% of them actually really do care about their horses and are really trying to do right by them.

Daun said...

You never did do your post on what's wrong with modern eventing. Is this meant to be the one?

Eventing has a real problem. It's in an identity crisis over still unresolved, unforeseen issues of switching to the short format. Kingpin had some sort of failure on course, and how many others over the last few years? Is the rigor (or lack thereof) of the short format letting weakness enter top athletes?

Part of me wants to say that eventing is an "extreme" sport and there will be casualties, say 2-4%. But it's not always people who are paying the price for the casualties, so I have a real problem with modern eventing.

I looked at the list of entries this year and thought to myself, which one is not going to make it? Turns out it was Kingpin.

Who is it going to be next time?

DressageInJeans said...

There's been a lot of outcry for the 'natural death' causes on the X-C courses. And whilst I agree, horses have freak accidents and die in the pasture, why is this happening in the X-C phases? To my knowledge, horses aren't dropping dead in the dressage phase. There is something that is stressing in the X-C... and perhaps fatally so. Have we created a sport for people--not a realistic test for the horse?

I curiously wonder if, because of the short format, some horses aren't putting on the necessary 'mileage'. Some Olympic 800 meter runners run around 50-70 miles a week... just to run a half mile. They call it a 'base'. Maybe these horses aren't getting it? I wouldn't know.

Comparing eventing to racing doesn't quite work, either. The amount of horses that go through race training far, far outweigh the horses that go through eventing training. More horses, more deaths. Besides, saying, 'yeah we have deaths, but Theirs are worse!' doesn't alleviate anyone from guilt or responsibility.

It's a dangerous sport, we all know that. And if people are trying their damnest to make it safer... well, then good for them! The faster they do it, the better.

Patricia said...

I have often wondered if we can't apply technology to the XC courses to keep them demanding, but safe. I am sure the world's top course and jump designers would be able to design provocative obstacles that provide some kind of collapse or leeway when struck, reducing rotational falls (the number one killer in XC). Although I would probably crap my breeches if ever jumping XC, I understand that the need for challenge is a must, but surely the must be SOME way to improve the safety records, as well.

This of course, is coming from a complete outsider to the discipline of eventing. Every discipline has its dark moments and pitfalls, from western pleasure to hunters, but improvements are being made all the time. Registries are kicking out unethical members and 4H has a whole program designed to teach kids the value of horsemanship. Ten years ago, hardly any barrel racers used splint boots. Today, they're standard issue, preventing premature breakdown of rodeo horses. But we still have a long way to go.

Suzie said...

I agree with you 100% on that we are almost unrealistic in wanting a sport where death is a nulled possibility while still jumping over solid fences at 550mpm+. It's simply unattainable.

Coming from the H-J world, I have to say that accidents seemed to happen there just as often as they seem to happen at events, which is about 2-3 "carry-offs" per show. That is how it is with any equestrian sport.

I, myself, have gone to the hospital twice now in my 16 short years of riding (with the first 5 being on super broke ponies), I have gone off to the hospital twice for riding accidents: the first was warming up for a large pony hunter class (misjudged the distance and was landed on before ATSM helmets were required) and the second was hacking on the beach when my TB mare lost her footing. Both were flukes in my opinion.

Soon enough, everything will be perfectly groomed and measured tracks with hunter fences in between. (Mostly) safe, I suppose, but that's just not XC anymore, is it?

Daun said...

Hey Andrea, your blog came up flagged as malware because you have some connection to Beckz's blog. I would look into it.

And please post more about Rolex! Pictures!!

purpleshamp2 said...

I definitely agree with the first post. Having been involved in the racing industry long before hunter/jumpers and still actively participate in it the deaths last year caused A LOT of issues. Especially when people started bringing up the whole Charismatic Belmont and the fact that quarter cracks are going up. NTRA is doing a lot to try and stop these issues. Synthetic surfaces are one... but now they actually have started a safety board and Churchill was one of the first to get certified. Its on the NTRA website. I can't grab the link without looking and I have to run to work but I can find it later.
Also the NTRA is doing a lot about finding ex-racers homes, Old Friends is a wonderful example they work very closely with NTRA and the Jockey Club. They're based in KY and also do a lot to bring racers from Japan over here before they get fed to the natives. They're also getting Lava Man. They do a lot with the big and small time owners. The Jockey Club also just released a press statement about a new thing they have were they will identify and give you info on any TB with a tattoo that doesn't have papers.
Also a very prominent trainer in NY just got into HUGE trouble for starving and neglecting over 100 horses. It was on Fugly Horse of the Day and the news a few weeks back.
And personally I think eventing is the least of our problems. As much as I enjoy the sport I'm pretty sure steeple chasing has more deaths. Perhaps they should look into putting a more stable and forgiving synthetic surface at the bases of the jumps. If grand prix jumpers can jump 6ft fences with ridiculous spreads with a relatively low mortality rate perhaps there is something there? Sometimes in dry conditions turf can be as unforgiving as cement.
Also I think that you do an amazing job conditioning your horse and so does Jennie, but really how many professionals spend the amount of time you guys do to ensure that your horses are not only conditioning their muscles, but also their wind and tendons and ligaments. I just had a long talk with Dr. Van Wessum at State about the importance of conditioning and strengthening tendons and ligaments on hard level surfaces.

Andrea said...

Van Wessum WOULD say that! XD That was the therapy he prescribed for Metro - handwalks 3x daily for 20 minutes each on flat pavement, only in a straight line. And it had been working. I condition Gogo now on pavement, walking and trotting. I think it really helps if you're careful.