Saturday, October 2, 2010

In The Trenches - Would a Change of Perspective Help?

American rider, Steffan Peters on his gelding, Ravel, obviously pleased after an amazing ride
My husband and I are headed home from the World Equestrian Games currently being held in Lexington Kentucky. This is a sixteen day event with 58 countries participating. It is the first time it has ever been held outside of Europe.  It involved the largest commercial airlift of horses ever. There are eight equestrian sports featured and daily attendance has been upward of 30,000 people with over a week of competition left to go.

We had tickets for dressage, an Olympic sport requiring the highest level of partnership between human and equine. Most of the horses that perform at this level are in their mid-teens. Horses competing into their late teens or even early twenties is not unheard of. (This is one of the reasons why I love dressage - a true partnership develops over the years that is amazing to watch - these horses are cherished and loved - it is not a sport for "throwaway animals.")

Last night was the musical freestyle competition - similar to watching the freestyle figure skating finals at the Olympics. Horse and rider combinations are required to perform specific high level compulsory movements but get to take some artistic license with music and choreography - making a finished performance look like a beautiful dance between two perfectly coordinated partners.

The performance was sold out. Attendance was almost 50,000; the atmosphere electric and the competition nothing short of amazing. The high score was a goose-bump inspiring 91.8% to bring home a gold medal for the Netherlands. Any of the top five riders could have been the winner - and special mention must go to the Spanish rider and his beautiful stallion who had the audience stomping their feet and clapping their hands in time to his music.

After the awards presentation, over forty five thousand people poured out of the stands towards the cars and shuttle buses in the makeshift parking lot on the fields surrounding the Kentucky Horse Park. And there we sat. And sat. And sat. Gridlock. I couldn't help but make the comparison to the perception of homeless pet problems in America: Too many cars, not enough homes. How are we ever going to get all these cars moving through the system in an orderly fashion? Tempers were flaring, horns honking, parking lot attendants were stressed, flailing their light wands around and trying to make sense of the mess.

All sorts of sinister thoughts passed through my mind. What if we run out of gas? What if the car in front of us runs out of gas? What if there is an accident? What if there is a fist fight? What if somebody needs an ambulance? We might be here in this field FOREVER.....

But I think somebody looking down from the sky could have easily observed  the problem and sorted it out. It wasn't too many cars and not enough homes - there were plenty of roads and homes for all those cars. It was just a logistical nightmare for what seemed an eternity, but in reality was just a little over an hour.

When I read Lame Excuse #285 for shelter deaths in America from the files of the animal welfare dinosaurs  - which is "We're here in the trenches. You progressive thinkers don't understand, you're not having to deal with all these animals, there are too many animals - not enough homes" - I'm going to remember that gridlocked night in the fields of the Kentucky Horse Park. What seems like an unsolvable problem when you're "in the trenches" may just need a fresh look from above - some direction, some support, some cooperation. And a healthy dose of good humor doesn't hurt either.

Special thanks to one of my former riding students, Kendall Raisbeck, for the picture.

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