Sunday, August 15, 2010

APHA Show Visit....

I'd love to be telling you that I had so much fun watching the Paint show and that I am all excited to show there next summer. But alas, I am not going to tell you that because lying is bad.

I missed the showmanship classes (the 33 halter classes took less time than I expected) and got there right when yearling lunge line was starting, then saw pleasure driving. I picked the winners in all three classes so I felt smart. Then they opened up the ring for riding warm up. It made me sick. Of course there were some very nice horses with nice movement, but the volume of crank-n-yankers, gadgets, backing as punishment, and diagonal cantering were making me sick. I'm sorry, but if the OUTSIDE rear hoof is striking the ground further inside the arena than BOTH of your front hooves you're doin' it WRONG. I don't care WHO you are. That is NOT a natural way of going, especially while you have the poor thing's chin touching it's chest and it's mouth is gaping open with a twisted wire snaffle in it. There is nothing pretty or "pleasure"able about that. Nothing. And I'm not talking about a hip-in exercise I'm talkin' the whole way around the arena spurs jabbing the whole way. And if I heard one more "trainer" tell a rider their drugged looking horse needed to "walk slower" I was going to scream.

I'm NOT saying that all breed show people are like that. I'm NOT saying that shit doesn't also happen at the open shows I go to, too, because I have seen it there, just not as much. I'm just reporting what I saw and what I do NOT want to be a part of.

I decided to stay for the first few riding classes up until Novice Amateur Hunter Under Saddle since that's probably what I would show in if I were to go to this show next year. The one horse in 2yo HUS was okay and the two kids in the walk trot and novice youth HUS (respectively) were okay. Nov. Am. HUS had 7 nice looking, consistent and forward moving well framed-up horses. If I had been in the ring I would have been very last place even on our best day. This fact does not upset me. I love my pony. He is what he is and I love him more than I love blue ribbons. I love him more than showing at all. I never had ambitions to show breed and I'm glad that I still don't! I think we could do breed shows if we were in training with someone (like KAT) getting consistent lessons AND trainer rides, but I'm not all that interested in that.

So I left and went to Home Depot and bought stain and poly so I can finish my pretty tack box for my wonderful pony. I would have stayed longer if I had a friend to make quiet snarky comments with, but I'd rather go play with my own pony anyhow.

We can stick to open shows. They're WAY better on the pocketbook anyway. I did the math. YIKES. They sure tack on the fees! APHA membership, Nov. Am. card, judges fees, class fees, AND APHA show fees.

I'm glad I went to investigate. I'd be pissed OFF if I'd decided to show there without doing a little re-con first.

So back to our normal lives.

I love how he's looking me in the face in this picture:
Junior: "Really? No, seriously, WTF are you doing to me?"


  1. I saw exactly what you saw when I went to my first APHA show last year. I had Lilly in the warm up ring and I watched rider after rider after rider yank, jerk, spur, and canter sideways around and around and around. It was very upsetting and I remember telling Lilly how thankful she should be that she belongs to me, and not to any of those people.

    It's disgusting, it's cruel, and I have no idea when it's going to stop, if ever. The stock breed associations seem to be addressing the 4 beat lope and forward motion in the show ring, but there's not much they can do about how the horses are trained and treated outside of the show ring.

    That's where you and I come in.

    These young kids see these "trainers" and riders riding these horses like that, then see that horse win in the show ring. They go home to imitate what they saw thinking that's how they can win too. Heck, even adult riders imitate the things they see at the show if what they're seeing gets someone a blue ribbon. I've done it myself... not to the extent these people are, but I've tried things I saw someone else doing with a successful horse.

    These abusive training practices won't change unless people like you and I go to these shows with our properly and humanely trained horses. I want people to see me riding Lilly with compassion. I want them to see me PAT her when she's done well in the warm up ring, and then I want them to see me go in the next class and win. I want to be part of the change that is so desperately needed at these shows.

    Breed shows are definitely more expensive and much more challenging than open shows, and it sounds like you have your mind made up, but I would love for you to reconsider and think about the good you can do for the organization and the horses by taking Junior next year.

    If people like you and I stay home, this type of thing will just continue.

  2. I pretty much came to the same conclusion you did a year and a half ago when I went to watch an AQHA/Snaffle Bit competition in Denver. What I saw the exhibitors do in the arena when the judge wasn't looking made me quite sure I didn't want to go down to the warm up pen. I was so disgusted when I left I decided that all I was going to do was trail riding and maybe the occasional local fun day.

  3. i2p, You are right, of course. That's the noble thing to do. I really have to consider finances, though.

    When will it end? Will it end? I unsuccessfully tried recently to search for video footage of old stock horse shows. My mom used to show in the 60's and said she remembers the first time she saw a peanut roller. She said it was like the horse was dying and she and her showing friends could not believe it won the class. I'd love to see footage of an old school show, to see what it was like in the beginning. I wonder what western pleasure looked like the first Quarter Horse Congress in 1967. It sure didn't look like today's Congress.

  4. It's not just the western disciplines that have these abuses - hunter/jumper and dressage have their own. Competition just seems to bring out the worst in some people - they just treat horses like disposable pieces of sports equipment without any feelings - it's very sad and distressing to watch. The only thing all of us can do is set an example with our behavior, particularly for younger riders, who can learn to imitate these bad/abusive practices and see them as normal - we have to collectively change the culture, one person at a time. It's a long road, but I think we'll get there.

  5. You know, those ribbons cost ten cents. The trophies are between $5 - $25.

    Hardly worth treating a horse like dirt.

  6. The Wisconsin Paint club must be a bit more progressive. For the most part, everyone seems to fair and just to their horses. There are a few who have their heavy hands, but they know they are getting "the eye" from those that don't approve. 4-beating, troping, & peanut rolling are not rewarded. Forward motion is encouraged. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't see any worse handling at the APHA shows than at open shows. Another way to put it is that the correcting I do see at APHA shows seems to had a valid reason and purpose, where what I see at open shows is mindless spur/jerk treatment with no reward or release. All a matter of perspective.

    Now, my neighbor has saddlebreds. THAT is cruel and unusual punishment. Chains, weights, rubber bands, soring......

  7. Gonna have to agree here... and I show APHA. I'm the only one at my shows NOT yanking.

    And unfortunately, the judges don't care because this is how the judges train. I've been 'lucky' enough to train with trainers who are also judges, and although from a conditional standpoint the spurs and yanks have a training 'purpose', that still doesn't make them okay. I do as in2paints suggest as well--they will never change if all the people who care LEAVE. They need to see someone riding a different way, and they STILL won't care unless that person wins.

    It's a long hard road, but the horses are worth it.

  8. I realized after linking over from your most recent post that I missed a whole chunk of last year (bad me, I love your blog!). So I'm just now reading this.

    I WILL NOT go watch AQHA events any more. I live right down the road from a major midwestern show venue, and love to go check out the various breeds/shows that come here, but I refuse to attend another Quarter Horse or stock breed event. I simply can't stand to watch. The 4-beating, the troping, the peanut rolling, etc. in the Western DISpleasure show ring are bad enough, but last time I went over there (at the biggest show of the year, hundreds if not 1,000 QHs) I went into the barn and found a whole bunch of badness. Horses tied high with no food or water. Hunt seat horses with their ribs, spines and hip bones protruding (I've heard they starve 'em to make them more quiet). Hunt seat horses with horribly displaced sacrums, from being forced into frame.

    The warmup pen was also a nightmare, featuring everything you saw: chins to the chest w/ twisted wire snaffes, constant booting with spurs whilst cranking in, etc. I wanted to strangle this one guy who was using his horse as a couch while he chatted with someone. Even standing still, he never stopped yanking, yanking, yanking on the horse's face. I really wanted to yell across the arena, "Will you just leave him the EFF alone for once and GIVE HIM A BREAK!!!"

    Grrrrrr. Makes my blood boil just remembering! >:-(

    Anyway, I think you and Junior are just fine skipping the breed show scene. He is a gorgeous boy, and I know you like to show him off, but IMHO you are both better off leaving that absolute crap to others with more money and less sense.

  9. P.S. Fugly (I think you read her) says the Pinto show scene is not as bad...something to think about?