The authority for sports coverage in the Fredericksburg region.
Betsy Carter’s Horse Scene: Hardly elite, certainly a sport
SINCE THE Olympics are about to begin, some people have expressed the belief that equestrian events are elitist and don’t qualify as a sport.
Many people look at the clothes and pass judgment. The clothes people show horses in are based on form following function. You would not want to ride in an English-style saddle, particularly if you are jumping, and not wear boots. The stirrup leathers would rub your legs raw if you did not protect them, so tall boots have been the obvious choice for hundreds of years.
Britches were designed hundreds of years ago, too. They allow for adequate movement in the saddle, and to provide more protection against the friction of the saddle, especially under the knee, hence the leather or suede patches at the knee.
The jacket was cut a certain way as to allow movement and, much like the britches, not be so roomy as to flap around or catch on objects. Shirts used to have cravats, so in case you were bucked off and broke your arm, you could use the cravat as a sling. Now men wear shirts and ties, and women wear a stand-up collar.
Gloves are a must if you don’t want your hands to blister. The hat seems to upset people the most during talk of elitism, because the hats used to be covered in velvet. However, the hunt hat is really a helmet for protection. The top hat worn by dressage riders is for elegance. So, most riding apparel is just traditional.
The next part of the snit over elitism goes to money.
Most of our equestrian riders at the Olympic level do not have the money to buy the kind of horses who can be trained to perform at the level needed, so wealthy sponsors buy the horses for the riders. Why is that so bothersome? It’s not so different from other sports in which people must have sponsors to pay for training, equipment and travel expenses. The big difference is that most equestrians do not wear the sponsors’ logos on their jackets or on their horses.
Riding is a sport. If you don’t think so, I will gladly let you come ride my horse over a course of jumps and see how you do.
Think about it. You are riding a galloping horse around a course of jumps set at about 5 feet high. The horse does not know where you are going next. He must trust you to guide him.
So here you come around a corner and you head toward a jump which, by the way, is colorful and solid. The horse has to quickly get over his surprise at seeing an obstacle in front of him, access the distance to the take-off spot and decide on the speed and power needed to do the job.
The rider is doing the same thing controlling and communicating with the horse to adjust that speed and power to reach the perfect take-off spot. They both must be of the same mind, listening to each other. It is a complex combination of animal and human acting together in a sport. It takes strength of mind and muscle, experience and training.
- JULY CALENDAR
21–22: USDF Morven Park; Rise Up and Ride at Green Hill
21: BBHSA; River Chase; Stillmeadows
22: Hunter Lane
24: Woodpecker Pony show; TWA Culpeper
25: Touch Point; Autumn Olive; Fox Chase; Picturesque
27: Four Oaks; Bellemount
28: Moriah Farm; Sprouses Corner Ranch Mid Summer show, Buckingham
28: CP at Deep Run; Elmington
28–29: Region I Youth Team Dressage, Morven Park
29: Moriah; Frying Pan Park; Summerduck
31: Woodpecker Horse show; Oakland Heights
31–Aug. 5: Blowing Rock
Betsy Carter can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401; or by fax at 540/373-8455.