Friday, October 23, 2009
And the small shall inherit the earth
So when USEF announced its pilot Youth Pony Program headed by grand pony-queen, Lendon Gray, I couldn't be more estatic and a tad envious as well.
If you haven't been on the scene in the last ten years, there is a definite cry for competitive pony schoolmasters for youth to learn effectively and safely on. Concurrently running on the heels of USEF's announcement the most recent issue of Dressage Today (November 09), there is an extensive blurb on how we need these mounts.
Venues such as Dressage at Devon, and upcoming ones like the National Dressage Pony Cup, have started taking up the cause. Even the CDIs and GMOs are starting to award high points for the 148cm and under variety.
Yes, we need venues, and competitive mounts. We need riders, trainers who are willing, financiers who are wanting and organizations to track bloodlines, results and reward those who have participated (my vote goes toward a Pony of the Year award with USDF). It's a huge, Atlas-like undertaking.
But there are a few problems.
First, comparatively, it's not financially lucrative to breed and raise dressage ponies versus the hunter variety. The pony who can crack it's back over fences on the AA while packing the wee child around and the pony who can do tempi changes, piaffe and still pack the wee child around will command about 30k less than it's hunter counterpart. If it's an eventing pony, well... good luck. If you think I'm not serious even in this economy, go look.
Adding to the conundrum, the same pony will most likely not be bought by parents for a child, but rather, by an Adult Amateur who is downsizing, wants manageable, has zero international ambition (because FEI rules state they cannot compete in open CDI classes) and has the cash to pay for the pony too.
So stating the obvious, hunters have perfectly created and dominated the pony market. It's made pony ownership not only attractive through specific kid-pony classes, but incredibly lucrative. It's allowed efficent, euro-styled development of a variety of pony jockeys, auction places and bloodline tracking. The sheer scope and industry impact is amazing.
Also another thought is the venue aspect, every year there is the Pony Finals in Kentucky. This USEF-backed and directly hosted event annually happens with great amounts of patronage and time spent by all getting to it.
Even as a dressage person, I love this event. Aside from getting stuff that actually fits and is well made for the pony, it's well run and executed. It attracts the numbers year after year too. There are some top notch ponies and pony jocks. Dressage ponies don't have a governing body backed event, at least to the scope of Pony Finals, those that are in existence are privately funded and sponsored.
Secondly, by the time a person has invested not only the cash, but the time creating an FEI-capable pony, usually wants to keep it for herself. This is even after the pony has been on the market for months at a time.
Personally, I know this, not because Sinari is for sale, but because I'm going in to that situation.
Have I been made offers on Sinari? Yep. By a variety of people.
Have I considered them? Yep, I'd be very ignorant not to. But in the end, this is my pony, and of all the horses I've ridden so far, she's the one I look forward to everyday. There's not really ever going to be a price on her. Plus we're only now getting to the fun stuff.
So to say the very least, I want this program to succeed. Future plan-wise, it would mean a ton more support and business for those out there who deal in this kind of market. It would develop the dressage bloodline so it's comparative to the hunter world. It could create the venues, the riders, allow patronage and develop the community far beyond what any individual can do by themselves.
However, this is a step in the right direction and I applaud it. But, there needs to be some fundemental changes in addition to hosting clinics.
Personally, I would like to see a development of pony-only awards, young pony venues (BuCha would be awesome), development and support of pony-only riders and jocks (not just the youth variety). I would also like to see a cross-cooperation of breeds. All too often, I see the natterings and politics working against the overall goal so that one book can one-up the other or self-stabotage itself. If these can be fudementally met and supported beyond the initial honeymoon stage, then we, as a nation, will be all that much more compeitive in the long run.