Fear of Change

Wed, 04/17/2024 - 11:35
The "P" for Progress in our sport? :: Photo © Astrid Appels

-- this blog was first posted in the Eurodressage Newsletter on 14 April 2024. Sign up for free on the frontpage

The spring show season is in full swing with one competition after the other. This weekend no less than 6 CDI's are taking place across the world. In America the battle for a spot in the final 8 to go to Europe where the U.S. Olympic team selection will take place has heated up. The best group of riders went head to head at the CDI Ocala and shows that their scoring average is now round 71-72%. At the CDI Tolbert the Dutch made their first push this season with the return of Toto Jr under Hans Peter Minderhoud. Trainer Nicole Werner has also hinted at Edward Gal's come back on Total U.S. We expect him to re-surface at the CDI Exloo at the start of May.

It's a bold move for Gal to make a come back right now in a climate where the activists are louder than ever before, demanding drastic change in horse sport. Gal took an almost three-year sabbatical from competition sport, openly stating his aversion to social media, on which he is one of the biggest targets due to his rather controversial riding grafted on Anky van Grunsven's school.

Then again why worry that things are worse right now? In the 20 x 60m arena the judging continues in the same tune where quality of movement outweighs quality of training. None of the judges are risking their reputation and bold enough to rock the boat within the corps, demanding change in their system. Open mouths, visible tongues and tension are not down-scored when the horse has flashy gaits or ridden by a rider who has cemented a place amongst the world elite. Fear of change and fear of disrupting the system are greater than working towards sustainable modifications that ensure the future of horse sport.

This week Eurodressage touched upon another sore spot and checked the moral barometer in the industry concerning the 2024 World Cup Finals being hosted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a country with a questionable reputation when it comes to human rights and a questionable approach towards animal welfare and sport ethics. Hans-Christian Matthiesen, president of the IDOC and the ground jury in Riyadh, weighed his words carefully and has been quite outspoken on looking for change and improvements in the sport.

It's a pity not more judges like Matthiesen coming up with solutions and calling for a discussion and/or public debate, instead of colluding in a closed committee. So far the proposed "harmony collective score" sounds more like a band aid on a gushing wound and it is totally useless if the corps believes that will improve judging. We need tourniquets.

-- Astrid Appels