[RC] The Way We Win - Roberta Jo Lieberman
If we had hewed to the original purpose of the sport of endurance, we wouldn't
be having this conversation. The "father" of endurance riding, Wendell Robie,
never intended endurance to be a "race" -- he wanted to prove the *quality* of
horses over time, not the one-day flash in the pan.
But the passage of time and more recently, the advent of international
competition, is rapidly changing our sport.....in fact, many contend that
"desert racing" is a completely *different* sport than endurance riding. The
genie is out of the bottle, and many people are horrified by what they see.
Bob asked: > How many horses have been impaired by
endurance competition and how many horses have met an
untimely death caused by endurance competition? <
It's the *trend* toward more wrecks and deaths seen as avoidable, most recently
directly attributable to overriding as Dane Frazier pointed out on the recent
WEG, that is troubling people and engendering the search for solutions. And you
don't have to be a front-runner to kill your horse. Perhaps more than speed,
"Ambition kills". Or more precisely, "Ambition on the day kills."
Agreed, life is filled with risks (and chess surely must raise cortisol levels).
It is impractical and impossible to eliminate all risk. But as we wrote in the
introduction to the Way We Win in the June 2001 issue of Endurance News,
"Increasingly, Americans are unwilling to accept what is seen as *pointless*
risk to animals that have no choice in the matter." Call it larger cultural
influences at work that are shifting what's acceptable.
Heidi wrote: >And what about the benefits of fitness that have extended the
lives of many
horses, who would NOT had been made fit, or received the care they have
received, were it not for a sport that appeals to a great many people who
genuinely CARE about their horses?>
Indeed, we have a fabulous sport that encourages and showcases truly fit horses
who enjoy their work, and human partners who are in touch with every aspect of
their physiology like no other. Endurance riders are constantly learning; our
sport is a living laboratory and we love nothing more than discovering a new way
to rig a saddle, mix an electrolyte, or even measure the elevation of the trail
more precisely, all for the benefit of our horses.
The admirable state of affairs that Heidi is describing wouldn't change for the
majority of participants (why would people leave when they are being rewarded
for what they are already doing?) And more folks will be attracted to endurance
from OTHER horse sports when they see the water's fine, extending the very
benefits she extols. The only people who will go and buy motorcycles are those
who are in it to win at all costs. And they'll leave on their own power, since
they will soon tire of receiving absolutely no validation for their efforts.
It's also quite possible that a categorical approach rather than head-to-head
competition would foster more Steve Rojeks, Cia Reis's and Bev Grays. They gave
us a sterling, if not silver, demonstration of the benefits of riding to
conserve the "whole"....they finished our USA team and while they didn't medal,
their mounts will live and thrive to ride another day. It's a model worthy of
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