Sunday, June 5, 2011

Are you a participant or in the paying audience?

FEIreinergate has been hot on the interwebs these last days, and a blog post has been brewing in my head as a consequence. Lots of lights going off in my head, on so many issues, but the big one that is biting me hard is that of participation and advocacy.

Some pre-reading for you. When you've had a look, come back and read the rest of the blog. Or for those of you who are up to date, or can't be bothered, head directly to GO.

For those not familiar with FEIreinergate, Epona TV filmed a high profile reiner warming his horse up before an event. Warming his horse up in a way that could easily be read as contravening FEI General Rule 142. No action was taken against this person at the time, and they went on to win silver that day. I won't name the person, because for me, it's not about the individual, but about the structure and governance of the sport at a number of levels, and about what is accepted (note: not acceptable) and what is not.

It's been interesting reading articles, responses, commentary on this event, both in terms of the event itself, and of Epona's decision to film and broadcast the action. People have responded by attacking Epona, attacking the individual filmed, attacking each other, criticising the stewards there on the day, and the odd comment on the FEI, the Chief Steward, and The Rules (mainly @carrotsandbute). Mostly it has been individualised, personalised comment. And the main conclusion has been “boohoo; yeah real bad, but nothing I can do about it”.

To that sweet little copout, wash-my-hands-of-responsibility-whilst-maintaining-the-feel-goods, I say bullshit.

As a horse owner, rider, educator, judge, trainer, health care provider person, I have a responsibility for the horses in my immediate care, but I also have a responsibility to take ownership of the sport in which I am involved. I don’t just pay my membership and entry fees, rock up , compete and go home. As a paid up member of my chosen sport, I have a duty and a right to say what is good, what is acceptable and what is not. I am entitled to have a say about how my sport is run, and a say on the welfare of those who participate, particularly those who do not chose but are chosen to participate. I am entitled to have input, to be heard. And in fact, when no one else will, I have an absolute duty to be vocal about the unacceptable, especially when those who are on the receiving end, such as the horse, cannot.

To those who say "yeah that's bad, but pity. What can be done about it? (code for I don't want to do anything about it)" here is a solution. It's quick, dirty, cheap and effective. Trust me, just go ask Cycling Victoria. I am on their hot list of annoying vocal members who effect outcomes.

Get your voice out there: Get pixel to pixel happening and communicate,  via any means you feel comfortable with, and by as many modes as possible. Email your local governing body, and their governing body, and THEIR governing body. Tweet and Facebook and blog so people do find out about the issues, can do their own research and make informed decisions, and spread the word if they feel it needs to be spread.And do it repeatedly. Don't get personal about it, it's not about the person, it's about the horse. We are the only ones who can advocate for the horse. Are you prepared to stand up for your horse, and my horse, and his/her horse?

One mosquito can make a lot of buzzing, and through social networking, can have a much larger impact than the individual realises. I am reading an editorial from an European website via Twitter, here in Melbourne Australia, and am now blogging about it.

It’s not hard. It’s simply having the conviction to do it. 

And a reminder as to what exactly Article 142 is:

It doesn't just apply to dressage!

Article 142 - Abuse of Horses
1. No person may abuse a Horse during an Event or at any other time. “Abuse” means an action or omission which causes or is likely to cause pain or unnecessary discomfort to a Horse, including, but not limited to:
- To whip or beat a Horse excessively;
- To subject a Horse to any kind of electric shock device;
- To use spurs excessively or persistently;
- To jab the Horse in the mouth with the bit or any other device;
- To compete using an exhausted, lame or injured Horse;
- To "rap" a Horse.
- To abnormally sensitise or desensitise any part of a Horse;
- To leave a Horse without adequate food, drink or exercise;
- To use any device or equipment which causes excessive pain to the Horse upon knocking down an obstacle.
2. Any person witnessing an Abuse must report it in the form of a protest (Article 163) without delay. If an Abuse is witnessed during or in direct connection with an Event, it should be reported as a protest (Article 163) to an Official. If the Abuse is witnessed at any other time it should be reported as a protest (Article 163) to the Secretary General for referral to the FEI Tribunal.

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