I am no expert on GABA, but it's a substance I associate more with the racing industry than the Hunters, but apparently it gets plenty of press in the H/J world too.
|the buffet is open...|
Of course my concern for a horse's wellbeing trumps all - but I'm legitimately intrigued by the thought that Inclusive, who is arguably a standard bearer for what it means to be a top hunter, lays down his top trips with the additional support of a calming agent.
I'm certain that even totally sober, a horse like Inclusive would still sweep most competition aside - but as an Ammy who is still a tad baffled by the Hunters, I find it disappointing and discouraging to see our celebrated leaders in the sport brought down by a positive drug test.
It's an unfortunate blemish on the (amazingly impressive) record for the horse, especially with his prodigious rider Ms. Tori Colvin - but that just frustrates me all the more.
I'd like to think that they don't rely on such substances and this positive test isn't indicative of the hard work and flawless rounds they have earned together. If that's the case, I do feel badly for Inclusive, and also Tori - who is clearly an effective and remarkable rider.
Of course, there are other explanations, and I'm not sure it's any better...
Did they always need a little extra something in order to get their top finishes?
If so, how tragic.
How upsetting that our top junior rider and a top mount still need something extra. How unbelievably crappy that our judging standard has encouraged such behavior.
Tori's mom, Brigid Colvin is one of the trainers listed for Inclusive and received a hefty fine and suspension in association with the positive test. COTH has her on the record with a very predictable comment essentially saying that she had no idea and nothing to do with it.
This is where my circle of horsey people are divided. If she *truly* didn't know (or if the owner didn't know, or the rider didn't know, or whoever...) should they still be punished?
I feel INCREDIBLY strongly that yes, yes you should. It's your team, your barn, your staff. You are responsible for making sure your horses are ready and safe for competition within the rules. Ultimately I think owners are responsible, but in a competition setting where the Trainers are captains of the proverbial ship and in charge of running the barn-away-from-home, you better believe they get held responsible even if there was some sketchy dude in the shadows who was out there injecting horses with god knows what without permission.
It reminds me a bit of high school sports practice. If you want mutual accountability you don't make the one kid who's late run extra sprints, you make the team run sprints and make sure they help each other stay on time. (or for the ultimate impact, the late kid sits out and watches their team run sprints. guilt is a fairly effective motivator...)
I don't know what the answer is for improving the culture of "prepping" horses for the show ring. But I know it requires the Top Horses who are laying down trips in the 90's (and the rare 100), being TOTALLY SOBER when they do it.
Right now we have a culture of "prepping" mediocre horses in order to get a performance out of them that resembles something closer to what a horse like Inclusive might be capable of.
But when the Inclusives of our sport are testing positive, not only are we chasing impossible standards, we are setting a dangerous bar if those perfect trips aren't possible with a clean and sober horse.
I have my moments where I doubt the current sport I've chosen, and this is certainly one of them. When I'm loving the Hunters, I see it as something more akin to Dressage with jumps thrown in. I find my riding is similar, managing balance, softness, connection, impulsion and elasticity... all the same building blocks of a good dressage test are what it takes for the 'effortless' look over fences.
However, on my bad days it feels like the sport just encourages our poor trainers to do whatever they have to so that they can strap a crappy ammy or kid to the back of the horse and they can stay on for 8 jumps in a predictable enough pattern that they need not even steer. (face palm).
In theory the standard of judging for a show Hunter is based on what would have been safe and pleasant ride for a traditional field hunter. But I can tell you right now I'd take a seasoned Event horse on a foxhunt about a million times before I grabbed a "seasoned" show Hunter for the same job.
We've dumbed down the Hunter discipline so much that not only does it fail to reflect the actual job it's supposed to aspire to - horses in their right mind won't succeed. I'd wager that wild eyed OTTB who started stamping the moment you pulled out her XC tack is a hell of a lot safer in an open field, with uneven ground and solid obstacles than the over-lunged fat, warmblood with earplugs in who can't feel it's feet and has a hard time balancing on the "downhill" side of the barely graded arena.
UGH. so disappointing all the way around.
Turns out four months of stall rest doesn't just make for a grumpy horse, it also makes a rider somewhat testy.... oops.