This morning before work I was scrolling my life away (aka, I was on Facebook) when I clicked on an article published by the Chronicle of the Horse, linked here. It’s part of an interview given by Katie Prudent, who is a “veteran U.S. show jumper.” Throwing it out there right now that I had no idea who she is, hadn’t heard of her before, as I’ve never really followed show jumping, so I there was no bias either way.
In answer to a question about what might be missing now from the sport of SJ that was there back when she was competing (70’s/80’s), she listed the example of having competition classes lower than 3’6″ to cater to the “fearful, talentless amateur.”
Sorry, America, for being a contributor. My bad.
She then goes after the coaches who work with the aforementioned dummies, saying, “And many coaches have become coaches who just bring along amateur riders and make it easy for them. ‘Oh baby, here’s a bottle of water. Are you too hot? Are you too cold? Let’s get a fan. Let’s get someone else to ride your horse because it’s too difficult.’ It ‘s just become a sport for rich, talentless people.”
Based on the rest of the interview, it seems as if she’s actually upset because in her opinion there are no riders good enough to make up a competitive U.S. team once Beezie, McClain, Kent and that era of riders have retired. And maybe she’s right, again, I don’t follow SJ enough to even pretend to argue there. But I do take offense to being called a “fearful, talentless amateur” because I compete at lower than 3’6″.
And here’s why.
I used to jump the big jumps as a junior. I never had a horse of my own so I would spend all day at the barn doing whatever needed to be done, and riding anything anyone would let me. It’s a wonderful way to learn, not to mention the fastest and most effective. There’s no denying that. I would show in whatever levels/classes I was told to, and jumped whatever I was directed to in lessons and schooling sessions without complaint.
Now is a different story. I just turned 32. I have a career, a husband, and 2 kids. If I get hurt, I may not be able to work. Sure, you can get hurt just mounting a horse, or walking, or falling off over 2’6″ like I did so spectacularly last month. But if I’m not completely stable or confident in the saddle, what business do I have jumping 3’6″?
While I would love to ride horses all day, I also enjoy paying my mortgage on time and keeping my family fed. Horses are a big part of my life, but at the end of the day, horses will never be my profession, perpetually just a hobby. That means I’m going to have to keep trucking along at my job during the daylight hours so that I can afford to continue boarding my horse, getting him the proper care, and sometimes (ok, often, sue me) splurging on tack and equipment that I want because it’s pretty. It also means I’m going to continue jumping 2’6″ until I’m comfortable and stable at that height. Then I’ll move up to 2’9″ because I believe in baby steps.
My day job may not allow me to ride more than an hour or so each day, but it DOES allow me to pay 2 incredible professionals who, yes, are MILES ahead of me in terms of talent and ability, but who also don’t baby me. I’ve never once been asked if I want a cold bottle of water, or a fan, and neither of them rides my horse for me when he’s being difficult (which is like NINETY-NINE PERCENT of the time. Well, except at Trainer J’s, because P is in love with her). The last time I fell off at Trainer B’s, he didn’t even get out of his golf cart. So no ma’am, not every trainer who works with amateurs coddles or babies them. I don’t expect it, and if they WERE like that, I probably wouldn’t ride with them.
And what’s so wrong with trainers working with amateurs anyway? It’s no secret that unless your average professional is already rich, that working in the horse industry is not the way to get there. My money is as good as anyone’s, and my spending one hour a week with them is certainly not deterring them from either becoming or bringing up the next U.S. Team member. While your typical amateur is not going to magically become an Olympic hopeful, we are no less deserving of quality instruction to make horseback riding as safe and as enjoyable as it can be.
Like I said in the beginning, if you read past the initial couple paragraphs, it seems as if she’s really unhappy with the “elite riders;” those who are, yes, good riders, but may not have had to work as hard as Kent Farrington had to work. Those whose parents bought them all the best horses, and they’ve probably never sat on a $500 OTTB, let alone brought one along themselves. So my questions to Ms. Prudent would be: How much do you charge for lessons and coaching? What do you sell your horses for? Buy your horses for? If you don’t want to work with spoiled rich kids, maybe look at making yourself more accessible to those who don’t have unlimited funds. Your website’s show schedule shows your team to routinely show at places such as Palm Beach and Tryon- a little out of most of our leagues.
At the end of the day, there’s just no need to insult those of us who make up the lower levels. Not everyone in the lower levels is talentless and fearful. I mean, I am, but don’t hold that against everyone else.