Patrik Kittel: The Difference That Makes All the Difference

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 12:20

Guest columnist of this week is Patrik Kittel, who is a permanent member of the Swedish national team and has represented Sweden in championships for more than a decade. He took a bronze medal with Scandic at the 2011 European Championships in Rotterdam and is currently preparing his up and coming star Deja for a new season

with the 2015 European Championships in Aachen on the horizon. The column "The Difference That Makes all the Difference" was written as an editorial for and published in the Swedish magazine Tidningen Ridsport no 7 2015.

The Difference That Makes All the Difference

There is a difference between people and people. In March I was the most successful dressage rider, measured by prize money, it was a good month. Scott Brash was the most successful show jumper, with a slight difference in the amounts we each landed. A little bit like in Doha where I won 33,000 € during the whole meeting and Edwina Tops-Alexander took home 165,000 € from winning just one class.

This is not a complaint, I have done well, I merely underline a huge difference between the disciplines. Jumping distributes a lot more prize money to riders, which makes people more willing to invest in horses and the sport in general. The show jumpers can keep their best horses, they do not have to sell with such prize money on the line in many competitions. Why does dressage have a less fortunate position with sponsors, airtime and prize money?
Could it be that investors back away from the constant ongoing dressage DRAMA-tics? Whatever happens in our discipline is regularly turned into a drama, long-lasting and out of proportions, a never-ending story on social media. If something occurs in the other world, where the show jumpers reside, that irritates them or cause a bit of a stir, it’s discussed and debated for a week. Then they move on, keep at it and do not make a fuzz. That is not the situation in our world, right?

I am a bit bothered that we have such a hard time to regard a horse as a horse – whatever the discipline it’s used for. Imagine the warm-up at a joint event with both dumping and dressage classes. A dressage rider enters with draw reins – immediately the buzz is on and a disaster is near. On the course next to them the show jumpers ride with more reins and bits than you can count: double bridle, draw reins, martingale and inventions I do not even know the name off. No one even lifts an eye brow. No, I am not defending either choice. I merely point out that we should have similar rules within equestrian sport. A horse is a horse.
Why are we within the dressage community so quick to criticise different things within our discipline? The show jumpers go with the attitude “okey then, alright”. We could use a bit of that attitude ourselves. Dressage – to me – is a pretty safe discipline. No horse has died on the course and no one has broken its legs, as far as I know. Yet, the debate lingers on about the nose being a few centimetres in either direction.

I would like to see less drama and more common ground between the disciplines, something the horses would benefit from. Drama is in reality a level of lesser sportsmanship, we are anxious instead of happy and positively geared up.

To conclude I have a message to all my fellow riders. Dressage is done with judges, now and forever. Deal with it and take a positive stand! That means it is time to drop the lynch mood on the net towards the judges. A little more internal analysis – a little less external. Do we have a deal?

- by Patrik Kittel