Earlier this week, Sissy Wickes wrote about the fall of Jimmy Williams and the #metoo movement within the equestrian world. D.D. Matz, mother of Lucy, Alex, Robert, and Arthur Matz and wife of Olympian Michael Matz, has been in the top levels equestrian world her entire life. Today, she responds to The Icons Are Falling with her insight about treating children fairly in our industry.
Love your article. It is very true. We really don’t address the abusive “training” that occurs. If a teacher in a classroom spoke to a student as some of these “professionals” do, they would be terminated immediately.
While I’m not the warmest, fuzziest out there, and expect discipline from my kids, I have to say I was shocked one day as I walked by the low junior jumper schooling area and heard (name withheld) rip a girl apart. I don’t know what provoked it, but it was really eye opening to me.
Too many trainers have parents who are ignorant about the sport and truly only want to support their children in a positive way. Many “professionals” knowingly hoodwink these unsuspecting parents, and it really is terrible to see how these parents are taken advantage of financially and often emotionally, while their children are being tortured. It is just wrong on so many levels. It also is really unfair to the many honest, kind and reputable trainers that truly want to do the best for their clients (which doesn’t always work), but that hyper aggression that lurks seems to be expected of some “top trainers” and is almost considered a badge of honor if you want to win.
I read an article that quoted a trainer describing the sleep deprivation that has come to be a part of indoors, not just for teenagers competing but little kids on ponies. She described the experience as discipline and great work ethic. I disagree wholeheartedly. Work ethic and discipline relate to training your horse consciously and consistently while truly caring for its well being, which includes a reasonable work and feed schedule. Sometimes it even means forgoing a competition to great disappointment. It does not mean exhausting a horse and child until they go around a ring like “Stepford Wives”.
If you watch the showjumping sport at the top level, even if a night class is required, the horse and rider generally have not been up for 20 hours prior to a major competition. Most top athletes actually sleep and ride their horses at reasonable hours. Even at the racetrack where the day starts very early, almost all barns are very quiet come noon, or after the races at the very latest.
Apologies for this long missive, but you clearly hit a nerve.