Dangerous Riding

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sparked by a post on the Chronicle of the Horse forums regarding dangerous riding. IN that particular thread a video was linked and the question put forth was if that particular ride would be considered dangerous riding. Here's the video in question: Annette Lewis at the 1986 Hickstead Derby

Many people on the forum picked on her bad leg position, the extreme swinging back over every fence. I certainly don't like her leg and body position, but more worrisome to me is the way she cranks his head back. And her lack of control. I'd like present a second video for consideration, the same event, with the same horse two years later: Hickstead Derby 1988 Watch carefully and notice the bit she has in that horses mouth: double twisted wire. A very harsh bit, and the whole course she is fighting with him and sawing on his mouth. She keeps such a strangle hold on him that he has no chance to use his head and neck properly over a fence. And then right about 3:15 she yanks and yanks on him so much that her rein breaks. And she has no control over the horse. Someone tries to stop the horse and he runs the guy over. And yet people don't think this is dangerous. He just has an unconventional jumping style. He was excited and that's why he wouldn't stop. It's called training. Annette has done nothing but hang on that horse's mouth, all he wants to do is get away from her hands.

So let's throw up some other examples. How about this photo of the winner of Poplar Place CCI**. Dangerous riding? Look at the rider's position, straight up and down, and sitting on the horse's back over a solid cross country obstacle. Look at the horse's jumping style, head up in the air, hollow back. To me that's a pair waiting for an accident. Yet she won the event. Now how about this photo. That's Hilda Hick Donahue who was just eliminated at Pau, three fences from the end of cross country for dangerous riding, because of the way her horse jumps. Jumping style looks pretty much the same to me. So how is one dangerous riding, but the other wins an event?

Consistency in judging is obviously not there. Unfortunately dangerous riding is subjective as many things in our sport are. And it's something that can be misused. How about this video? Watch closely at :58. Someone tried to call dangerous riding. That the horse had been chested into the jump. However the horse had pulled both front shoes earlier in the course and he slid downhill. I'd like to know how he could have been chested into the jump when the rider was sitting back and slowing him down.

How about this? Right on the horse' s back over the middle of the jump, hands in her lap and the horse's chin tucked to his chest. If I felt like searching I could find more at other events to prove it's not a one time bad photo.

I'm sure I could find many more examples of dangerous riding. I just found it very interesting how people refused to see the obviously dangerous riding of the video. However I know that some of the people involved are of the run and jump mentality in eventing. The people that think dressage is just that thing you have to suffer through. I'm sure they will change their tune when they hurt themselves or their horse in the future.