Enjoy Carol’s speech below!
There is no doubt that we face ever increasing difficulties to maintain the integrity of this challenging sport while making practical changes where necessary.
I am no happier than the next person that we have more and more rules governing eventing. And to paraphrase Craig Thompson, if we pass rules to make eventing idiot-proof, someone will make a better idiot. As an eternal optimist,I firmly believe that event riders are some of the best horsemen in any equestrian discipline and that we are intelligent people.
While embracing the fact that our sport is an inherently dangerous one, we must commit to making the best choices that will keep us and our equine partners as safe as possible. I’d really like us to keep a few things in the forefront of our awareness as we start a brand new season.
Let’s all be SENSIBLE. Setting goals is an important strategy for event riders, but a healthy dose of realistic soul searching is useful. Acknowledging the weaknesses you have now and mastering your current level is not just competency, it is safe preparation for future tests. Along these lines,we need to encourage common sense in our students and have the conviction to discourage moving up the levels when we feel someone would be safer getting more miles at their current level. In the bigger picture, we need to recognize and accept that some decisions in our sport might not be popular. Everyone here, in whatever role they fill in eventing, must embrace a common-sense approach to their job, a sense of what would be in the best interests for all levels of eventers and their horses, and not allow special interests to influence the direction we take or the rules we write.
Let’s all be ACCOUNTABLE. There is not a person in this room that has not made a mistake on a horse or contributed in some way to an unfortunate incident. That is not reprehensible, that is human. Sadly, we have become very good at pointing fingers and making excuses. How refreshing it would be to have a new level of honesty in our sport, where people have the courage to say, "yup, I made a mistake" instead of blaming things on the horse, the footing, the Course Designer, the Organizer, the weather, the tooth fairy, whoever…. Honesty commands respect. No more excuses.
We must pledge to continue our quest for EDUCATION in every aspect of our sport, as riders, as instructors and coaches and as officials. Constant improvement is an investment in safety. I have a friend who told me once that she could not afford lessons but was competing at the upper levels quite regularly. Needless to say, she had some serious falls in some fairly high-profile competitions. I think good instruction could have prevented some of her problems. An expert pair of eyes and an honest critique is vital to the competency of your riding. You owe it to everyone, your horse, your loved ones and everyone else in the sport, to seek the best instruction you can find and budget for that part of your season as carefully as you do for events.
As an official, the competitors are reliant on your qualified and continued education. We need you to be as current as we are with our sport.
If you are an instructor, you owe it to your students to further your own base of knowledge as well. Any instructor who does not regularly seek to improve himself becomes stale, out of touch, and a liability to his students. The best teachers understand the need to refresh their repertoire and look deeper and harder for better answers to the same questions. If your instructor never steps out of his own ring, you are riding with the wrong person.
And how about all that RESPONSIBILITY we have as eventers? When I make a decision to enter an event, I will accept that I am ultimately responsible for the outcome. It’s not my horse’s job, or my coach’s, or my parents to determine that outcome–it is mine. We need to encourage people to make decisions that take into account the footing, the weather, the courses, or even the fact that one might not be having a very good day and we’ll promise to do what we feel is right for our horses both on the day and for the future. Believe it or not, kicking on is not always the best option. No one, not a rider in this room, has perfect success every time out and the riders that accept the responsibility of doing the right thing are the ones we want to applaud. There is a huge burden or responsibility on officials as well. The days of carrying on no matter what the conditions or giving a scary rider the benefit of the doubt are gone.
As we work toward improving safety, let’s all keep an open mind. So many of us have good ideas but there is no rubber-stamp solution that will keep every event rider safe because, as we all know, we can’t legislate stupidity. Many of the new rules we see for 2009 are in place because a few people couldn’t be trusted to use common sense or found clever ways around the rules we already have in place. Safe riding is not a bunch of rules, it is a mind set. We embrace this sport for it’s challenges. We respect that it is dangerous and we all are responsible for the future of eventing each and every time we compete. If everyone does their part, my new job will not have me hiding under my desk and screening my calls. I look forward to seeing you all out there this coming season!