Do you remember that youtube video from the show “Newsroom” where Jeff Daniels explodes with the copious reasons for why America is not the greatest country in the world anymore? He puts on a stellar performance to set a room full of people straight on the completely inaccurate belief that America is the greatest country in the world. If you haven't seen it; google it or youtube it or something. It's a great show of acting if nothing else.
My reason for asking is because it reminds me of the reason American riders are not the greatest riders. The only reason I can make such a bold statement is that I am an American rider. I know why my country is grossly behind on its equestrian abilities. I have grown up through the flawed system of learning to ride and I was one of the lucky ones that had the help of foreign riders and a well-educated equestrian family to guide me. However, not every horse kid is so lucky.
I see the constant battles that the eventing world fights to make its sport safer. Currently, there is some issue about forcing riders to get 10 qualifying scores at a certain level before they are allowed to move up. This, of course, raises concern with the riders who think it's too costly or just excessive or believes there is a better way to ensure people are ready to move up to the next level. I have no real answers to that. I have been out of the eventing competition scene for over a year now. I am not greatly interested in competition life. I have found a more comfortable place in training, taking lessons, and striving to be a better horseman. However, I do think there is a rather obvious step for the United States to take if it wants to improve the safety of the sport and its equestrians in general - better instruction.
I have had a strong focus on teaching horseback riding lessons for about two years now. I deal mainly with beginners. The ones that have hardly ever touched a horse let alone ridden one. I deeply enjoy bringing people into my world of horses, but I can see where this can go horribly wrong. Unlike Germany (The leading country in equestrian sport), the United States has absolutely no required certification system for horse trainers. Anyone with access to horses can “teach” people how to ride them. That means the USA is allowing vastly underqualified trainers to train horses and to train people. This means the blind are leading the blind in one of the most dangerous sports in the world and the second most dangerous in the Olympics.
As I observe other sports, I see prudent qualification systems that prove a trainer or instructor is ready to begin learning to teach others their art. However, that is not the case with horses. Anyone can own a horse, anyone can train a horse, anyone can train a human to ride a horse.
In Germany, there is an extensive certification program that horse trainers must complete before becoming professional horse trainers. Horseback riding instructors must obtain similar qualifications and there are even certifications required for owning a horse. Can you imagine the improvements in equine health care, nutrition, conditioning, and rehabilitation if more people were correctly educated on horses in general? Can you imagine the decrease in physical and mental abuse? I can dream.
I know that the solution to most issues is in education and therefore understanding. My views on how I work with horses and how I train people to work with horses have changed considerably over the years thanks to good mentors and a need to better understand the creature I admire.
If the US has any desire to actually improve the safety issue in horse sports in general (not just eventing) then it would invest in a certification program for educators. It would incentivize knowledge and it would make qualifications a standard. It would get people to slow down and really know the horse rather than just exploiting the horse's kindness, beauty, and availability.
If the American horse people really want a better country/world for horses then they would make this a priority. A certification system for the ownership, training, and riding of equines in the United States would not solve all the issues, but it would definitely help. It wouldn't be easy to implement, but it would definitely be worth it. This wouldn't make America the greatest country in the world, but it would definitely make it better...at least for horses.