PIPER KLEMM, PH.D
We all don’t spend enough time watching, paying attention, and learning. But that’s a publisher’s note for another day. I am guilty as well—we’re so busy, and all those emails need to be returned, and the texts keep pouring in, and it’s hard to watch a whole class.
One of the classes I did have the opportunity to watch in person was the FEI World Cup Qualifier at the National Horse Show (Lexington, Kentucky). I couldn’t have picked a better one. The course was huge, the riders were the best in the game, the jump-off was fast, Kent Farrington lost a stirrup and kept right on rolling around jumping 1.60m, and it was just a great class.
The horses handily sailed over the massive and technical course. And, oh yes, they all looked incredibly difficult to ride.
They should be. They’re opinioned, scopey, hot, and have an excess of personality. They know they’re good. They know they’re fast and powerful and the bright lights are on them. All those personalities, human and horse, are hard. That’s okay.
But what about the horses who aren’t quite right? The waste in this system. The horses that don’t quite jump that but have the brain of a professional’s top horse. They lack the skills. Where do they go?
As we have seen so many bifurcations in our sport, I propose another one. Either you’re breeding for top level FEI or Olympic scope, ability, etc., OR the horse can’t be hard. While everyone can breed a nice quality horse with a great brain, it might not be at the highest level. Frankly, that’s what 99% of us need, so we need 99% of breeders to cater to us.
Horses who do not have jobs do not have good lives. It is a sad reality of our country and their situation. Horses who perform any job well are not insulated, but are much more statistically likely to have a life in which their needs are met and they are cared for.
Think when you breed. Who are you breeding for? Do you know how yourself, or have the connections to produce a horse to the level you believe it is capable? Are you really watching these big classes and understanding the tests and asks of these animals? If you are breeding horses that juniors and amateurs can ride as young horses, you’re helping curate the next generation of involved horse people, the backbone, and the economic engine of our sport. Let’s all find our place in this industry of what gives every horse the best opportunity to excel in their careers.
*This story was originally published in the February 2022 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!