If there is one thing that annoys me, it’s the person who is forthcoming when pointing out problems but silent when it’s time to offer solutions.
As I have been rather critical and have tried to point out problems lately (particularly related to the success or shortcomings of U.S. equestrian sports), the Chronicle has been kind enough to offer me the space in order to avoid hypocrisy and to relay what I think are potential solutions. I am sure many of these ideas will be old, rough, or just plain bad, but I hope they will continue to promote an internal debate that may soon answer: Where do we go from here?
While I really prefer to keep to myself and work on my own numerous riding issues, I’ve felt compelled to be more vocal recently because I see huge opportunity for the future, and a moment in time where things can change for the better. I hope that people will understand that my opinions are just that, and that I can certainly have my mind changed by reasonable arguments. I am not the expert, but I am passionate to see the U.S. successful for both selfish and altruistic reasons.
In addition, and in general, I feel quite good about where the program is headed with David O’Connor taking over. I’m sure he has his own ideas, and these may only help to supplement those. He’s been easy to open a dialogue with, and I think he will spend the time necessary to resurrect our program.
Now, disclaimer over...
There are groups that must be coordinated in order to have any team pull the proverbial rope in the same direction. In our sport, these consist of riders, grooms, breeders, vets/farriers, officials, organizers, trainers, fans, owners and the team system. Each group has its own role to play, and each must fulfill its role well in order for the whole unit to be successful. My goal with this series is to offer my suggestions about what each group needs to do in order to help the nation as a whole succeed.
I hope you notice that I won’t state funding as one of our problems. We have very generous contributors to the USET Foundation. While more money will always be helpful, and donations will and do play a very important role to the team system, we need to recognize that we have more money already than any nation on earth. What we need is better utilization of our assets. When this is achieved, you will be surprised at how much more money finds its way to our program.
I believe there is a large portion of disgruntled fans who may be willing to contribute once we demonstrate that our efforts, integrity, and our utilization of their money is worth supporting.
I’ll start by identifying holes in our system, and then I will be slotting in where each group fits into the equation. I also hope to point out where the crossover will reoccur between groups.
How To Avoid Being Lost In The Shuffle
One of the key items we lack in our country is a clear path from beginning to excellence for both horses and riders. As riders, it’s our own responsibility to do what is necessary to achieve our personal goals and to find the right horses to fit our individual plans.
However, when taking a step further back, it’s clear that as a nation, a more robust network of assistance is necessary to make sure our talent doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. I believe we have many of the programs in place to form the majority of the framework, but there are some major holes that prevent a clear and consistent process from taking shape.
From a rider development perspective, there is much that can be done to find more talent and to help nurture it; but where I see the biggest gap and the largest opportunity is at the age of 18. This is when parents and young riders have to sit together and figure out the direction of the future.
Often, for the aspiring equestrian, there are no good choices. Either you forego higher education and become a semi professional, or you go to college, putting your riding aspirations on the back burner. In either scenario, it’s difficult to recover precious lost time.