Friday, February 19, 2010

and the FEI responds, personally

This morning I woke up and found this in my inbox:

Hi Billie,

Malina here, from FEI Communications.

Thank you for your positive feedback.

I was very humbled by the fact that you posted my previous comment in such a prominent way.

I would like to say we not only welcome but need the dialogue with all those involved in the sport, be they top riders and trainers or the millions of horse lovers who care about their horses and without whom the sport wouldn't exist.

Now thanks to social media this is possible.

Congratulations on the quality of your blog which is always interesting to read.

All the best,

Malina, thank you for continuing to read and respond.

Given that I am not an upper level rider or trainer, but someone who has come back to riding at middle life and chosen dressage as a discipline to study, along with my horses, I appreciate very much that anyone in the FEI cares what I think. I do feel my opinions and those of my readers are informed and many of my readers have far more experience riding and training than do I, so I learn here every day.

If I can offer anything in this ongoing debate, it's my experience as a psychotherapist trained early on from the perspective of social work, which prides itself on the philosophy that all work begins where the client IS. Not where we want him/her to be.

We are where we are, wrt the current situation in competitive dressage, and I know from long years working on child welfare issues that polarizing and refusing to talk to one another will gain us exactly nothing.

Change begins when there is genuine communication, and I personally feel that has happened since the blue tongue video hit the internet.

Plenty of people will work hard and then quit because the FEI didn't give them exactly what they wanted.

But there are many dedicated and knowledgeable horse people who will continue advocating for the horse, while at the same time realizing that it is a longer-term endeavor, and that finding common ground and developing respectful communication is the way to move forward.

While I will never compete at the FEI level, I want to watch dressage in the Olympics and feel both pride and inspiration in what I see there. And I want to see happy, healthy horses who have freedom to move and breathe and show off their unique skills.

I don't doubt this is what the FEI wants as well. The work is how to get there in a way that honors the horse and sets clear standards for the rider.

Thank you for your part in this journey!

I'm planning a special blog post that will go up on Monday, Feb. 22nd. I hope everyone will participate and tell anyone you know who might be interested to come by and join in.

For one week, I'm going to transform camera-obscura into an open forum for communicating with the FEI, trusting that while Malina may not be able to respond to every comment, she will be reading and absorbing what we have to say.

I'll explain more on Monday, but be thinking about what you'd like to say, and remember my guidelines: genuine and respectful communication. No one will come back to a table to talk or listen if they are treated rudely.

It's possible to channel passion and strong belief in ideals into engaging discussion that has the potential to create change. And remember, change is a spectrum. It's a path made of small stepping stones. If every time you speak, you put one stone into a solid place on the path, you've succeeded.


Anonymous said...

Billie, this is amazing, thank you.

May I ask you to make a little change in my comment. It should read "horse lovers who care about their horses" because it's obvious that the horse lovers love the horses! I made a change while I was writing which resulted in a little booboo. Thank you in advance.

billie said...

Done, Malina. I didn't want to mess with your words w/o your permission, and knew you'd done what we all do when typing in these little boxes which can't quite contain our thinking minds!

Nachodonkey said...

Billie, I think your Blog is very well written and you are able to ferret out the positive and put it in perspective. We need to focus on any positive change we can make and not dwell on the negative issues we can't change right away. The negative needs to be chipped away a bit at a time by people who care for their horses in whatever discipline they follow until we can find an acceptable way of communicating and asking for what we want from our partners who are unable to speak for themselves.

Lee said...

I breathe a sigh of is great to know that FEI does want to hear the thoughts and feelings of all horselovers, regardless of the levels at which, or even if, they compete!

jme said...

the FEI could not have chosen a better blog through which to better understand and communicate all of our concerns on this issue. thanks for keeping us all up to date, and for providing the necessary perspective! i am certainly one of those who can easily be bogged down by negativity :-\ you've helped me stay on track and focus on the positive. thanks also to malina for taking the time to listen :-) i am looking forward to monday!

Claire said...

brave of you billie, looking forward to next week!

ponymaid said...

Billie, on behalf of all donkeys, we are humbled by your dedication to equine welfare. You are the voice of reason in this heated debate and we appreciate the time and thought you put into your writing.

billie said...

Thanks to all - for the good words and for sharing them with me/us here.

I was thinking today while doing chores how this issue has completely grabbed hold of me, and I'm not sure why, except that when I came back to riding I knew I would no longer be jumping, and when a very good friend suggested classical dressage, I felt I had found the perfect lifelong niche for myself. All the reading I did emphasized kindness to the horses and creating a partnership and harmony. And then I went to some actual dressage shows and was mortified. How could what I was seeing be the same thing I had been reading about and hoping to learn?

Seeing many of the top competitors using the same techniques (which all looked like terrible riding to me) was shocking. I had to walk out of the last show I went to. It was a young rider class and the young rider was emulating the nose behind the vertical, constant spurring, and leaning back like a water skier style that we see all too frequently these days. Her horse was trying every way he knew short of bucking her off to get out of the tight frame she was holding him in. You could see the frustration building on the rider's face as she spurred that poor horse through the test and several ringings of the bell. And this was supposedly one of the top young riders. The idea that young people are being taught to ride this way is appalling.

I think in some ways I was so naive I had farther to fall. And that blue tongue pushed me over the edge totally.

So here I am. Thanks for being here with me.