Dear Hunters: Change Comes from Within

The story of the case between Larry Glefke, Kelley Farmer and US Equestrian (USEF) has been told over and over. We have all watched with frustration and anger as USEF has made mistake after mistake with drug rules and testing. After watching the event where their litigation team presented the story of how things happened, a one sided story at the very least, there was one question: What will change?

Here’s the wake up call to all of the hunter riders, trainers and owners: Nothing is going to change until the basis of the sport changes. I rode hunters for many years — I appreciate the beauty of a horse that jumps beautifully and produces a smooth round. But rewarding dull horses and perfection is what eventually leads to cheating.

The fact that Glefke and Farmer won their case hinges on a technicality. Clearly testing for drugs is not something that is going to come easily in the equestrian industry. And everyone screams, but we all pay drug fees!

There is no way to win this. If you want cheating to end, you have to pay drug fees, and that fee is only going to go up if you want it done right. But no one wants to pay more money, right?

I am not arguing that the USEF could not make some budget changes, but it’s not really the organization’s fault that it has to do all of this because so many of its members are cheating.

And while I won’t say drug issues don’t take place in other disciplines, it is far less common in disciplines other than hunters. Bonnie Navin tried to argue that race horses are not tested for GABA. What trainer would benefit from their race horse being quiet? None. They have no reason to use GABA. Hunters on the other hand? They have every reason. The hunters have been designed to reward cheaters.

There have been discussions to change the way it is judged, to not penalize a horse if it swishes its tail or plays at the end of the ring. But if two horses have a beautiful round and one plays at the end of the ring and the other does not, it becomes very clear which one is going to win.

So until we change the sport of hunters you will have cheaters. So do not complain about the drug fee, do not complain about how tests are handled, do not complain about cheaters, do not complain about USEF. You all want to compete in the hunter ring and this is what YOU have allowed it to become.

How do we change the sport and still find a way to enjoy the hunters? Just score each jump? I don’t have the answers for that but the people at the top need to take a very hard look at this sport and what it has become, because until drastic changes are made nothing will change for the drug rules, the cheaters or the horses.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the beliefs or opinions of Phelps Media Group, Phelps Sports, its affiliates, owners, directors, officials or staff.

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