How Are Your Ground Manners? April 07 2010, 0 Comments

I’ve been reading several excellent archived columns by Susie Schoellkopf and Linda Allen on the Chronicle website. I’ve found two kindred spirits—horsewomen who demand we look at the hallmarks of sportsmanship and good manners then urge us to lead by example.

If you only have time to read only one or two, start with “Think ‘We’ Not ‘I’ To Succeed In This World.” Written one year ago, Susie asks today’s professionals and junior riders to compare their horsemanship skills and decorum to the horsemen and women of 20 and 30 years ago. Would we ever have seen Rodney Jenkins or Michael Matz warming up while wearing an iPod? Would a competitor of 10 years ago jog a hunter in a tank top and shorts? Can today’s junior riders braid, ship and wrap their own horses? Do they understand the basic health needs of their animals?

I confess, it’s troublesome to ponder. As a mother who does know how to do these things, I look inward and ask myself if I am doing everything I can to teach my daughter how to be a polite, knowledgeable and self-sufficient horsewoman. I will often do things myself rather than take the time to explain to her what I am doing and why. Rationalizations include: “She’s only 12! It’s faster this way! I want her to get as much sleep as possible! We’ll never get home in time for dinner. I’ll have her do it the next time!”

It’s time for me to reassess my thinking. Riding is one small part of what we do in this sport. Learning to care for the animal, doing the work to prepare for horse shows, sowing respect for others and teamwork is equally important. Manners are based on the principles of honesty, respect and consideration. Good horsemanship requires these qualities plus a strong work ethic and a sense of fair play.

Another great Susie Schoellkopf piece is called “What Happened To Manners And Sportsmanship?” I’d like to see this piece hung in every tack room.

Read international course designer Linda Allen’s piece, “Does Our Sport Have To Be So Exclusive?” It’s a somewhat painful read, showing some areas where our sport is truly lacking in courtesy and good sportsmanship. Continued….