Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Daffodil................Morning Schooling

Part 1

I drug myself out of bed at 5 AM so I could be at the fairgrounds by 5:45. That would give me 15 minutes to get my horse tacked up and get our b*tts down to the ring by 6. I figured that would give me an hour and a half before I could expect the ring to be closed for preparation for the morning session. What I didn't plan on was to find grooms lunging horses in the arena.

The main show arena is supposed to be off limits to horses lunging at any time. Particularly at this show where the club had spent their own money to fix the arena footing because it has been a major complaint at this facility of exhibitors at past shows. The club guaranteed on their website that the footing would be good. However, I knew that whether it stayed good would depend on whether show management enforced the no lunging rule.

Even with the additives to the dirt to put the spring back into the footing, it wouldn't stay that way with horses lunging on it. Lunging makes the footing irregular between the horses tearing it up on the circle and the human packing it down in the center. In addition to making the irregularities, the stress of that pressure on the "dirt" actually kills the spring making for hard dirt that won't stay "fluffed."

In the many years I have shown I've rarely encountered grooms lunging horses in areas they've been told not to use, particularly on a Sunday morning. By that time usually all those who "might" think the rules do not apply to them have been reminded otherwise and the arena is open to schooling horses.

However, on that Sunday morning this was clearly not the case. There was one person lunging at the far end of the arena, right where I needed to work schooling my horse. There was no way I was going to be able to use the lateral work I needed to keep my horse's mind on me instead of troll searching with a lunging horse filling up that area in the middle. The only kind of work I could do was ordinary rail work and I couldn't work on different lines to find the horse's comfort zone either.

There was a woman trying to work her reining horse around the groom and her lunging horse. This woman was having troubles with her attempts too. She needed to have the length of the arena to work on her sliding stops. There was no place for her to go to get those done around a lunging horse.

As I was just getting started trying to work around that groom with her horse, another groom arrived with a second horse. I reminded both women the arena was not supposed to be open to lunging. The incoming groom remarked, "I know." as she proceeded to take up a position at the ingate end of the arena and the other just ignored me.

Since I was wearing my Daffodil jacket I thought their behavior was a bit presumptuous. They had no way of knowing if I was on the show committee or not but they sure didn't seem to care. This was one time I was wishing I had stepped up and volunteered to work on this show because then I could have fixed this situation.

The woman on the reining horse gave up and exited the arena. I felt sorry for her. She'd made the extra effort to come early to avoid a lot of schooling pleasure horses in the arena, something that makes things tough for both the reiners and the pleasure horses.
Yet, even at this early hour she was finding herself in the situation she could not school her horse for her discipline in the arena in which she would show. That's not how it's supposed to work.
That's another of those reasons that the show arenas are off limits to lunging. It's important that horses get time to be schooled where they are to be shown. Lunging horses shouldn't be making it impossible to get that done for any exhibitor.

When the third groom arrived and began lunging her horse next to the second, I told the grooms I thought adding a third horse in was a bit much. Now there wasn't even room for me to work at one end of the arena at all and at the other I was restricted to the rail.

By the time I left, the fourth groom had arrived and there really was no place to school a horse in that arena at all. The horses lunging were two abreast at each end of the arena, something I've never even seen before at any horse show in the show ring.

At least my horse had the opportunity to see the arena before we had to ride his class but we didn't have room for any kind of proper schooling. We sure didn't get any kind of chance to work on solving his problem in the arena. Having gotten up so early to get this done, I was really NOT a happy camper as I made my way back to the stalls.

Never in my show career have I seen such rudeness from grooms at horse shows. It's not like there weren't other places to lunge. At that hour of the morning there were lots of options available. All of those other options were approved locations for lunging horses. There was really no reason for the main arena to be clogged up with lunging horses other than a total disrespect for the rules that are set up to protect the interests of all exhibitors.

Not that I don't understand the problems that the grooms in those big barns face. They are pretty much slave labor at horse shows working longer hours than anyone else at those big barns but that doesn't change the fact they could have been lunging their horses in the appropriate places and gotten their work done without preventing others from doing what they needed to do. I couldn't help but wonder had one of the trainers been in there needing the space if the grooms would have acted differently.

It was definitely a frustrating situation and I wasn't happy about it on many levels. To be honest I don't know what surprised me more, the blatant ignoring of the rules or the number of horses that were out there being lunged in that arena. As I saw it both of them were problems. My years of working on show committees in one capacity or another makes me "see" such things through the eyes of one looking for ways to make a competition exhibitor friendly for all. Keeping the playing field level is an important part of that and has to do with enforcing the rules for everyone.

This was definitely a situation that didn't do that and I knew the people on the show committee wouldn't be happy to know there were horses lunging in the main arena and even less happy to know how many of them were out there at one time. There had been so much talk about footing at the Daffodil BOD meetings that I already knew their feelings on this subject. I suspect there will be changes made at the next show to assure this doesn't happen again but that didn't help me with my horse or the reining horse at this show and who knows if others tried to work their horses out there as well. There's no way to know for sure if others were also faced with this problem.

Once my horse was untacked, I cleaned his stall and made sure he got his breakfast. Then I went looking for the exhibitor breakfast that was a fundraiser for Tom Demyon. He's a local trainer who was seriously injured in a riding accident last December. I wanted to be sure to participate even though I didn't have much to donate. I knew that Tom's medical bills were probably huge and it was expected to be a least a year before he was recovered. I wanted to do what I could.

At the breakfast I sat with one of my friends from the Daffodil Board. I told her of my trouble getting my horse worked and she shook her head commenting that the committee wasn't going to be happy to hear that. We talked briefly about the situation and other things happening at the show as well.

Horse shows wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the hard work of those volunteers and they are in short supply. Trying to put on a quality horse show is hard enough work without exhibitors and their employees doing things to make it harder. There are enough things that happen that are unexpected, and no one's fault really, to deal with as it is. It's hard to keep volunteers motivated when they see their hard work not being appreciated or taken advantage of in this way.

I know, I've been there with twenty years of service volunteering on horse shows for both my club and the region show for a while. I was totally burned out being used and abused by those who didn't appreciate all the hard work I was doing. That is why I quit despite the fact I loved working on horse shows.

It will be interesting to see how this affects this current crew. They are new and highly motivated. It has been a joy to watch their enthusiasm as well as the fruits of their labors. Seeing this and their ingenuity has almost been enough to make me think maybe I would be interested in maybe working on the shows again.

To be continued..............

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  1. Hmmm...I say kick butt and take names...fine them...and make it a big one.

  2. I can't believe that there were people lunging in the show arena. I thought I saw someone lunging in there, or maybe they were walking out with their horse on a lunge line. I always abide by the rules. It's unfortunate that so many people do not. Apparently those grooms thought that because it was early morning, that no one would notice, well, I am glad you did notice and that you said something.

    You are so right that grooms are slave labor for big barns. I work as a groom for a big barn, and I work my butt off, literally. By the end of the shows, I can barely move. It is hard, hard, hard work.

  3. I like wilsonc's idea, get the names of the barns where the horses are trained, and fine the barn, because its my guess the grooms were probably told by the trainer to lunge the horses in the show arena, so they would get used to and be more comfortable in the arena.

    It makes me so mad when people ignore the rules, and you just wish that something could be done to make them realise they can't do that, and until there is a consequence to their flouting of the rules they will keep ignoring them and doing what they want. It just stinks!

    Just my opinion :-)

    Karren from Australia

  4. Those kinds of people can be so annoying and i know how frustrating it is to have to work around such people. Ughhhhh!
    You and your pony look great!

  5. Wow. You've seldom had this problem before???

    All the time when I show. The nice thing about USEF and USDF rules for dressage is that the designated warm up area for dressage is SPECIFICALLY PROTECTED by USEF rule, and enforced by the USDF and USEF stewards. I can't tell you how many times I've had to tell grooms that - if they didnt' remove their lunging horse, I would call the steward and have them removed.

    In addition, since its a designated dressage ring, most stewards take the approach that if you're in it, you're under the dressage rules - which means you must have an show number attached to the horse or handler to be in the ring. That allows them to link grooms, handlers, trainers, to an entry number for discipline. Another good way to throw the grooms out.

    But as for the other arenas? Good luck. There's not hard fast rule, and grooms typically don't care - my favorite is youth riders being schooled by trainers while a hot and crazy horse is being lunged next to them. Accident waiting to happen, imho.

  6. The first show that I volunteered for was a disaster. I knew nothing about shows, and the lady who was training me took off, leaving me to guess at which ribbons and trophies should be handed out for which classes. I had to rely on the participants to tell me. Some were not very nice and yelled at me, because I handed them the wrong award. I felt like I was getting yelled at left and right, and never volunteered again. They actually stopped doing those horse shows, because they couldn't get enough volunteers. I wonder why.

  7. Wisonc, I do know which barns these people were from but as for fines, the only way to do that is it must be listed in the prize list that fines will be levied which was not the case......but it's a good thought.

    Paint Girl, well I know from experience one or two will try to sneak in but that's usually throughout the show not all at one time on a Sunday morning. You saw people with lunge lines walking horses in there because they were pretty much lunging whenever they thought they could get away with it.

    As for slave labor, I've done my time with that so that's how I know. It was worth it to me for what I learned but I don't think I could do it today. It was and is grulling and mostly thankless work.

    AAL, I suspect you are right about the trainers although I know that one of the farms represented has Daffodil officers as part of the clientele. I'm pretty sure that person would not be happy if the trainer were condoning such behavior.

    Also I agree they will continue as long as there are not consequences for their behavior. I suspect after this experience some things will change about how management deals with such issues. I know it's important to them to make the show experience a good one for all exhibitors.

  8. Haven't read latest posting but I will. Bigger fish to fry.
    I think u could end up being my go to girl for equine advice. We seem to share many of the same beliefs when it comes to horses. Mainly, it's all about the horse.
    Maggie,bald face girl has cateract on one eye. Her white face just intensifies the Texas sun glare. Have had her to specialist last year to get this diagnoses, only to learn there is nothing much to be done. Put her in dark fly mask, this was the best advice they could give.
    When the eye becomes inflamed I do have a steroid based ointment. Eye clears as long as it stays medicated. Found her this morning with head deep in corner of shelter, a sure sign the eye is becoming sensitive. We live in the middle of hay field not alot of trees.
    Keeping in her in a mask is like keeping me in a bra. She is a devil when it comes to keeping anything on her, tail wraps, boot bells,AND fly masks. My vet says use Duct tape. Really?
    I was hoping u might have a better trick or maybe one of ur readers. Any advice? Thanks RR!

  9. Mikael- I am right there with you on all of it.

    I had spent a number of years as a groom. I never thought of it as slave labor. At least not back then, but cheap labor- yeah. Under appreciated, you bet. We knew better than to break any of the rules because the barns got penalized in some way shape or form. Now there just doesn't seem to be any accountability. Why is that?

    At Westworld there is plenty of room for lunging in the Equidome, but it is clearly stated that horses being ridden take precedence over lunging. This seems to be the rule of thumb at all shows held there.

    At the Scottsdale show in '05, it rained and poured to the extend of them closing arenas. When an arena was opened for warm up, it was announced repeatedly "ARENA ___ IS NOW OPEN FOR WARM UP. NO LUNGING IN THIS ARENA."

    Just this last February as I worked the jump crew and delivered the schooling jumps to the warm up arena I was met with a crowd of people standing around in the center of the arena, buckets, stools, saddles, carts- whatever needed, was scattered from Hell to breakfast. There was no way anyone could have lunged a horse in there if they had wanted to. I have no idea when this became the latest trend, but it needs to be addressed as well. Had anyone gotten into trouble with their horse- there was nowhere to do anything about it. Riding along the rail was a game of chicken all the way around.

    And being on the jump crew- I was staff. Yet when I asked for the one end of the arena to be cleared, I was called a Bitch for my efforts. I do remember what the guy looks like and if our paths ever cross again, he is going to hear about it, if not find himself fined and reprimanded by USEF...

  10. SMR, I'm totally with you on the UGHHHH!

    NuzzMuzz, that doesn't sound like a good experience at all. I think that is one of the problems that happens with many volunteers. They aren't shown how to do the job properly, everyone just assumes they'll know and then it turns out to be a bad experience. I'm sorry that happened to you......and you're right about why those shows end up without volunteers. If you don't treat them well, they quit. Sooner or later you run out of them.

    Terri, I would probably say duct tape too. I've never used it but know others who do with horses who won't keep their fly masks on.

    CNJ, I guess you're right about cheap labor but there are those trainers who treat their grooms literally like slaves. I have seen that including last year at nationals and the young woman who bought a horse from me and took it to BNT had a similiar experience. She was treated with no regard for dignity, quite literally like a slave.

    It wasn't my experience however. I usually use "slave labor" in a tongue in check kind of way when talking about my experience. It's really hard work with little pay. That's for sure.

    Certainly this situation arose because show management dropped the ball in some manner. These grooms wouldn't have been doing this had they known there might be consequences. I have no doubt of that. There were even a couple of people doing the lunging that I recognized as being around the industry long enough to know better. That was a dead giveaway that management was not following through.

    I've not been to WestWorld yet but I've heard plenty about the facility. I think it's great you help out with shows there. I'd love to work on some of the bigger shows sometime but I think it takes connections to be asked.

    You are so right about USEF. Had I been on the show committe I would have definitely played that card. I have no problem going down that road. It just wasn't my card to play.

    I have come close as a show manager but usually all it takes is a warning. With others just letting them know I am the show manager has changed their interaction with me so no threat was needed.