The Blues

I got the Monday blues after my run of back-to-back shows came to an end.  I did the CSI-W World Cup II at Thai Polo and finished with the National Horse Show at the Selangor Turf Club last week.  The juxtaposition made me compare the standards in the two countries.  And I got the blues.

I got the blues because it is apparent to me which country is starting to take flight, while the other has languished in what seems like a new low.

When we started the South East Asian World Cup League in 1997, we were given special dispensation from the FEI to run it at 1.30 m in the first year.  1.30 m is as high as we were supposed to jump at the National Horse Show this year.  (Not even, actually, as I built it at 1.25 m.)  We had eight starters in the NHS 1.25 m, compared to 30+ starters in the first World Cup classes in 1997.

There were lots of uniform unit riders in those days that could actually jump to a good standard.  I remember Ruzailina, Shaiful Anuar, Ram Talib, and Omar Ghani in the top tier.   Unlike today, the mounted units never had warmbloods.  Back then, they rode Australian Thoroughbreds.

Based on the past weekend, you couldn’t pick one mounted unit rider capable of riding round a 1997 1.30 m World Cup track.

In thirty years of the government funding all these mounted units, have they actually produced a world cup jumper since the first batch that got proper coaching?  The mounted units have failed in that respect.

Not one of them could even ride a decent 1.10 m course.  Not only were they pathetic to a man, some of them were even cruel with their hands.

I have to conclude that funding the mounted units has been a waste of money.

Yes, we were missing all the SEA Games riders.  All of them are based overseas.  And Nabil had just sold his SEA Games reserve horse, a horse he was denied funding for.  Might he have kept the horse if the funding had been given?

In the lower echelons, we saw lots of nice warmbloods.  What was apparent was that there are a lot of east coast riders with nice horses that are incapable of riding them.  Where was the coaching, I asked myself.

Then I saw the coaches.

Let me just say that if you pick a coach that has never achieved anything himself, rode with no discernible style over small fences only, became a coach because he couldn’t make it as a rider, and became “qualified” by a self-sustaining system that has in-bred mediocrity, then it is about time you opened your eyes.

Failure begets failure.  MEM, you have to take a good look at yourselves for the state of the sport.  You have churned out mind-numbing mediocrity in instructor standards for years.  This has impacted the state of the sport today.

There, I’ve said it.

I don’t blame only the coaches.  Riders, take a good look at yourselves.

You don’t have to be a billionaire to succeed in this sport.  I took my cheapo horses to the SEA Games and Asian Games and held my own.  Don’t tell me you have to have a million dollar warmblood because I know too many people who have made the best of what they had.

If you need a push-button horse, you still need to know which buttons to push, and when.  What I saw was a lot of fumbling, a lot of excuses, a lot of sit-there-and-do-nothing.  The same riders who did well 15 years ago are not being challenged by the younger ones.

And for heaven’s sake, get a grip and stop trying to blame courses.   There is only so much dumbing down any self-respecting course designer can do.

Get used to the fact that:

  • If it is 90 cm height class, there are going to be 90 cm fences in it.  Duh.
  • If, in a 90 cm class you had a fence that was taller than 90 cm in height, that’s because it was called a JOKER.  No one forces you to jump the joker – there is always an alternative that was within the height of the class.
  • Oxers are going to be square oxers some of the time.  If an oxer is 90 cm tall, you should expect that there will be some them that will be 90 cm wide too.  It becomes a “wide oxer” when it is wider than 90 cm.  Otherwise it is square oxer or a small oxer.  You didn’t get a single wide oxer all weekend.
  • A related line is not “technical.”  Technical is a term we use when a related line is short or long and takes some riding.  Otherwise, it is just a normal related line.  And yes, you should expect related lines in courses, just as you expect combinations.  And no, there were no “technical” lines all weekend.
  • Don’t always expect the easiest of combinations.  We can’t build low vertical to small oxer all show long.  That is just too boring.
  • If you can’t land and start your turn within four strides, you have a problem with your riding.  Fix it or stay on the flat.
  • If you fall off, you are supposed to get up, not lay there like roadkill and have the medics carry you out.  What, did they teach you how to just lie there, immobile, in some mounted unit course?  There isn’t a free lift service to the gate just because you couldn’t stay on your horse.
  • And just because you can fly a plane, it doesn’t mean you are qualified to jump a horse.  Get lessons from an instructor who can teach.  Properly.  Or has the balls to stop you when you are a danger to yourself and a total inconvenience to your lovely horse.

General observation I made is that there are plenty of decent horses around, way more than in my time when I was riding World Cups.  But by the end of the show, it was clear that the horses today are way better than the riders.

Will the riders “grow” into these lovely horses?  Not unless the standard of coaching improves.

You only have to go north or south to look at how far behind we are in the general standard.  You can look east and west too.



About Peter Abisheganaden

Polo Player, Tournament Director and Executive Secretary of the Royal Malaysian Polo Association. FIP Ambassador and FIP Tournament Director of FIP Snow Polo World Cup and Super Nations Cup. World Cup and Asian Games Showjumper. Champion SEA Games Showjumper and Eventer. FEI L3 Show Jumping Course Designer and L1 Course Presenter. Champion amateur jockey. Retailer and wholesaler of saddlery and polo equipment and Managing Director of Zack's Tack.
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