Friday, April 21, 2017

Seeing the World Cup as a Breeder of Sport Horses - Intro

Big, international events - like the World Cup, held this year in Omaha - are more than a wonderful opportunity to watch top competition in dressage and show jumping. They're also a meeting-place for groups of like-minded horse people. Thousands of people attend for the event itself, which makes it an unparalleled networking opportunity as well. Our governing bodies of equestrian sport often schedule board meetings, or sub-committee meetings, at big events. Social groups on Facebook or online forums will organize meet-and-greet parties where online friends can enjoy chatting in person.

This year the US Sport Horse Breeders Association sponsored a networking breakfast that was attended by about twenty-five breeders from around the country. My mission at the World Cup was to see it from the perspective of a breeder of horses for these disciplines, and at the USSHBA breakfast - and throughout the World Cup competition - I was able to interview breeders who came for the event. Some members of the USSHBA attended primarily to represent breeders and staff their booth, some breeders were also experienced scribes who came to scribe for the dressage, some just came as spectators - but all were watching with the knowledge of what it takes to produce horses for sport. A breeder never stops seeing with the eyes of a breeder.

In the next couple of weeks I'll be posting a series articles that are the result of these interviews. Please stop back as we look at what it means to watch the World Cup as a breeder!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Thoughts on the World Cup in Omaha

Steffen Peters on the Jumbotron at the World Cup in Omaha.

I've heard the phrase, "Omaha, of all places," more than once. At this afternoon's press conference following the dressage final, Anne Gribbons, one of the USA's top dressage judges, who sat at C this afternoon, used the phrase. Has Omaha been a good venue for this international event? It certainly is a different venue from Las Vegas. Where Vegas might provide a faux Elvis to entertain you before the competition, or performers from Cirque du Soleil - Omaha has presented the Heartland of America Band, and Frontier Strings, young musicians from the Omaha Conservatory, among others who have entertained before the horses have appeared. If you want sex and glitter in your opening acts, you might miss Vegas; personally, I will take talented and passionate young people doing what they love, over an Elvis impersonator any day.

The Heartland of America Band performing at the World Cup in Omaha.
It's not the faux Elvis of Las Vegas, but that may not be a bad thing.

I believe that one of the reasons for bringing the World Cup to Omaha was to bring a top-level equestrian event to the heartland, to bring it closer to horse people in the middle of the country - but also to bring horses to a new group of non-riders who have never known what top horse competition looks like. I met several folks who had never been close to a horse - adults and many kids. They came to explore the horsey exhibits, to shop, and to watch a sport that was newly exciting to them. Some of these kids could be future Team riders, who would never have taken that path if they hadn't discovered horses at this event. Without a doubt the industry needs to kindle that flame in more potential riders.

For horse people, in the end, it's the event itself that is the most important thing. Can the management provide top-notch facilities for the horses and riders? Is the event well-organized and does it smoothly. They can and it did. Anne Gribbons reported good feedback about the stabling, the footing, and the organization and massive team of volunteers. The media facilities have been good, and the shopping seems extensive, with a good variety. If credit for high scores can go in part to management, for providing the background that makes them possible, the management in Omaha contributed to some record scores and personal bests.

If Omaha wins the bid for the World Cup again - or other international equestrian events - do sign up and come to the heartland. You'll be as enthralled with the incredible dressage, or holding your breath watching the jumping, as you would be in Vegas or anywhere else - I'm pretty sure you'll never miss the faux Elvis.

Breeder Group Meeting at the World Cup

Yesterday at this time I was in a breakfast meeting with sport horse breeders at the World Cup, organized by the US Sport Horse Breeders Association. It was delightful to meet with breeders, talk horses, and discuss the issues facing the industry. It was even better to feel a bit of optimism in the air, even enthusiasm.

A group of about 25 breeders got together, talked horses, and were treated to breakfast by the USSHBA Board. Mornings at the World Cup are quiet, and it was a perfect time to meet up. The breeders present had different levels of experience, and different sizes of breeding operations, but a common interest in connecting with others. They immediately jumped in to discuss their experiences. Individuals compared notes on various topics from bloodlines to leg wraps. One was overheard to say, "I've learned two things from this group already, and breakfast hasn't even started."

Thanks to the USSHBA, and especially Natalie DiBerardinis of Hilltop Farm, for breakfast, and - even more - for organizing this wonderful opportunity for breeders to network.

Left to right, back row: Natalie DiBerardinis (Hilltop Farm),  Lynn Mason, Kathy Childs (Crooked Post Farm), Karen Schumaker, Joanna Gray-Randle (Gray Horse Dressage),  Kelly Irving-Burris, Dawn Spencer (Spencer Sporthorses, LLS), Randy Joslyn and her husband Rick ("I drive the truck").
Left to right, front row: Michele Sakurai, Shirley, Debbie D, Karen Bixler-Ramsing, Victoria Teeple-Clark, Anna Goebel, Deborah Davenport (Fox Run Farm), Mary O'Connor.