Who are we to judge? Really? When a subjective video spins some not so pretty riding behavior one way, and thousands of viewers create an angry uproar, does it make the rider any more guilty, or just plain unlucky? The FEI has got to be pondering this and other questions after once again finding themselves in the hotseat for allowing questionable riding to occur right under their nose.
This time, it’s one of the United States’ most well known reiners that has come under major fire, due to a video by Epona tv (they’re the same guys who kicked off the rollkur blue tongue debacle last year) that has steadily gained a landslide of angry comments since it was posted on YouTube last Thursday.
The video in question is of Craig Schmersal, schooling in the warm up at the FEI World Reining Final in Malmo, Sweden on May 21:
He went on to win second place with Lil Miss Addy Tude, and like him or not, he is unquestionably one of the most successful reiners in the world.
It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see that sharply jerking a seemingly obedient horse in the mouth with a shanked bit is not so nice. Most horsemen human beings believe that’s no way to treat a horse.
But if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that while On the Line appreciates disciplines like reining, I don’t for one second pretend that my knowledge of reining takes up more space than a flea on an elephant’s back. So who am I to judge the training techniques of a reiner? Who is anyone else, really, except those who are justifiable experts within that discipline?
One would think that the FEI would share the same sentiment. They are, after all, the experts. The practice session shown above was monitored and timed by FEI stewards. . . . .who seemed to be either napping or reading their phones when the camera panned to them.
Therein lies the crux of the situation. The riding seen in the video is accepted in reining. I know this not because I know reining, but because no steward at this international Final stepped in to give Mr. Schmersal a visible warning or to eliminate him for abusive riding. With their non-action, the FEI condoned the warmup methods shown.
The FEI was created to enforce the rules and maintain ethical standards in the disciplines it governs. But with the blue tongue mess, the whipping mess at the WEG trials last year, and if you want to count it, Sapphire’s World Cup elimination mess last April, they continue to miss the mark.
I’m not one to support angry mobs, especially because I don’t believe that it should take one to get a governing body to react. But viral videos and furious, inflammatory comments are becoming today’s version of an angry mob and the rote catalyst to kick off an official investigation. And that’s just not right. So instead of supporting the tar and feathering of Mr. Schmersal, On the Line supports a review of stewardship by the FEI (By the way, FEI reaction to this incident so far has been. . . wait for it. . .rather rote).
Call me an optimist, but here’s hoping that the FEI stewards become more proactive in the best interests of the horse. Because if one thing is certain, it’s that there will always be a need for the FEI. But it’s up to them to create a world with no need for a thing like Epona tv.