Why Tradition is Bogus

BOO COLD WEATHER. As my trainer’s daughter might tell you, Anna needs to show an act of true love to break this winter curse. This morning, I had my other part time job (setting jumps for an unrated show circuit here in North Atlanta) in the 28 degree, windy day. The arena was frozen solid, complete with giant puddle of ice, and the standards were actually frozen to the sand. My wonderful mother, who was kind enough to help me earn my paycheck, learned a lot about courses today. It’s always fun when non-horse people learn what horse things are. Today’s example: jump cups ≠ cup holders. Love you, Mom, but stick to school spirit retail.

So as I set those colorful, sort of matching jumps and interesting flower combos (I work with what I’m given, and the weather didn’t give me much extra patience), I thought about how different the riders on this particular unrated circuit differ from those in GHJA, our local C circuit, or the A and AA shows in the area. Their trainers would do nothing but eat my boss out if they saw red and yellow jumps in a hunter ring. There are brown poles on white standards. There’s a triangular coop. There’s a two stride line with red and black standards and natural box fillers. I like to think the red and black standards represent the University of Georgia and the yellow and black standards represent Georgia Tech. Yay college sports! Regardless, these colors and questions rarely belong in the hunter ring, yet that is exactly their intended purpose this weekend (assuming the weather improves).

Have you ever seen pictures from WEF or HITS with hunter and equitation horses jumping brightly colored standards or coops? Of course not. So why does this fly in this particular circuit? The good people of this circuit (RHSC, for simplicity) are so much more laid back. RHSC is an open show. They have an open ring with pleasure and halter classes, a hunter ring with jumpers and hunters and equitation, a beginner English ring with lead line and crossrails, and of course they have the running ring with barrels and poles. Classes are $10 a piece. There is a champion and reserve for every division. Riders can show in polos. In the unbearable heat of summer, riders can even wear jeans and chaps. RHSC is a circuit all about having fun. That may not be the point of showing horses, but it is for damn sure a great motivator.

So why do people show on more strict circuits? Why do people wear coats and jump over eight natural colored and white jumps? Why do people go to a horse show with only horses who obediently leap over fences and perform perfect lead changes on command? It’s the biggest answer to all the whys of the English riding world: tradition. Tradition dictates we mount up on the left side on to our flat leather saddle with no pad and have a gallop across the farms, racing from church steeple to church steeple and jumping hedges and stone walls. If you are a person who utilizes a skirt, tradition also dictates you ride side saddle.


See the problems?

Now, I’m not saying anything is wrong with tradition (or fox hunting. Y’all are seriously awesome). What I’m saying is that progress is a natural part of any sport. Technology has brought us so much to make things easier. Imagine trying to cool your horse down after a ride without a hose. Fetching buckets of water from a well was the norm until technology brought us water pumps and hoses. So why are we so against changing traditions for other things for horses?

Image copyright Telor Tactical
Image copyright Telor Tactical

My best friend from school works for a company that manufactures sporting goods, mostly gun holsters, out of better materials. Like in the horse world, the norm is leather on skin. Unlike gun enthusiasts and concealed carriers, horses now have saddle pads. So the owner of this awesome company created holsters out of breathable fabric that is also anti-microbial. Lo and behold, they are so much more comfortable.

If things can be improved, why not improve them?

Let’s take show clothes. Cotton or wool breeches have little air flow and are uncomfortable for a long hunt or a long day at the show grounds. Ratcatchers are awful and choking vices. Wool show coats aren’t worth the struggle. But things have improved. Equestrians have modified their layers to make things more comfortable. Behold my favorite breeches, with self cleaning fabric and better gripping knee patches. My show shirt is made of mesh. It’s so comfortable.

Here’s the point of my rant: we still need to improve. Our horses work hard for us. Why not make their jobs easier? I’m all about the newest technology but unfortunately lack the wallet for it. Still, I’ll happily be a guinea pig for any company that happens to be reading my little blog post about technology. Please pick me!

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