Sunday, October 2, 2011

Baby Love (SHN v. DAD)

It's a bonus show weekend, two championship shows going off at the same time in two different places.

The East Coast tradition, Dressage at Devon, where every breeder hopes to end up and Sport Horse Nationals, where every Sport Horse person with an Arabian wants to as well.

I unfortunately happen to on both sides of the fence.

One of my goals this year with Sincere was to make it to AHA's Sport Horse Nationals. I felt his quality at the start of the year wasn't going to be up to the Dixon Oval (boy was I wrong). Plus SHN, is, after all in our backyard. Easy decision right? Hauling distance versus not hauling, hotel versus my own bed, roses over rosette. Not.

Unfortunately, timing and cash flow didn't work out for SHN. 

On doing the entire entry for one (!) class, was over $500, including stabling, memberships I would have to have and a few other requirements. This, for a single in hand class, for a two year old.  What made the class attractive in 2010 and not 2011? Cash payout, which they abolished this year.  For two minutes in the arena, it's roughly $4.16 a minute, no payback.

Normally, I don't complain about show costs. I'm used to filling out entries for myself and several other competitors and seeing the tabs that are racked up in the name of pursuing blues.

However, I really couldn't justify this cost when I sat down and ran the numbers against Devon, who has the largest breed show in America attached to it and also no payout. Cost: $350 for three classes, which included stabling ($1.94 a minute if you really want to do the math) and the registration cost for USDF for Sincere to compete. My memberships to USEF and USDF already allow me in, and the best young horses on the East Coast are there.

So the future choice becomes: Garland of Roses or Dixon Blue?  

Don't get me wrong, I love both shows.

A placing at Devon would mean serious street credit for Sincere. It would mean a lot in other departments as well.  I've always wanted to show Devon.

A placing at SHN would mean street credit in the breed for the boy as well, but there's something that would be sour about placing there, especially after I saw the classes run and scored.

I believe AHA has taken a huge step and risk in bringing the show to Kentucky on a permanent basis. I believe that they are trying to revitalize an industry that has been a victim of their own success, in a way that allows regular people to compete their horses in a national championship venue in disciplines that naturally promote and award good, ethical training practices.

The joy of the SHN show is that the in-hand classes are huge and the quality is bell-curved.

You have everyone showing young horses all the way through mature stallions. Everyone gets a spin on the triangle. Where most breed shows are drying up, this one boasts serious numbers (43 for half arabian geldings alone). Their definition of how an amateur can handle horses is open; but unlike open shows, the classes aren't strictly run to the morays of Dressage Sport Horse Breeding or Hunter Breeding. The show is a hybrid between an open dressage, hunter, carriage show and an Arabian show.

That's where the sour feeling comes in.

While it's great that the class numbers are big, and that an amateur can handle a non-relation owned horse, there are bigger problems.

The breeding classes are mashed together, so it's a mixed bag of movers and judges (hunter judges place hunters and dressage judges place dressage), there's also a score for "arabian type" which I don't believe has any bearing on what would make a good sport horse. You're not allowed a whip handler, and you're not allowed to make a double pass either.

Most of this is tolerable, but there is one bothersome point: is that there is no end result to the process.

Where normal in hand shows are just for young horses (6 and under with the occasional appearance by a mature stallion), AHA is producing the next halter industry, and ignoring the creation of a pipeline from in hand to a performance career. They are ignoring the point of why breeding classes exist not as permanent places to show, but as a way to identify, develop and award talent and breeding programs that produce it.

So, while I'm still interested in showing at SHN in future under saddle classes, for the 99 percent of the time that Sincere will be competing, it will be in the regular world, against every other horse, where I know his placings and wins aren't tempered with the statement: 'just the best of the breed', but rather just the best.

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