I do believe in unicorns. I’ve been chasing them all my life. Every once and a while, I catch one—and get the chance to ride.
I recently read Hannah Giorgis’ article (https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/08/lovecraft-country/615259/) on What Lovecraft Country Gets Wrong About Racial Horror. The sub-title goes along the lines that the show “...fails to make its Black heroes compelling”. Ms. Giorgis is quite mistaken.
While her article was extremely well written and entertaining, she clearly missed something in her search for lofty ideals of what it means to be a hero. It’s like saying that Alighieri failed to make the character of Dante (himself) compelling because of his flaws. In this instance, she failed to see the forest for the trees, literally.
We have come to a place in time where the ideal hero, to be properly identified, must have an enormous ‘S’ printed across their chest, wield a magical hammer that only the worthy can pick up, or display superhuman powers. What a sad time! Real heroes do not need these things because they exemplify qualities that seem to be in low demand: integrity, natural intelligence, authenticity.
Lovecraft Country’s magic is subtle, subtle enough that Ms. Giorgis missed it in the depiction of Black heroes owning respectable businesses. Black heroes keeping their chins up in the face of systemically sanctioned cruelty. Black heroes even caring about (Heaven forbid!) literature and the distinctions between what is pulp and what is respectable reading, and making a subtle, but poignant distinction between the white racist H.P. Lovecraft’s poem: On The Creation of Niggers and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, a timeless classic written by a Black man.
There were heroes of all sizes, not just a size 0. Heroes with natural, lovely nappy hair. Perhaps, Ms. Giorgis should go back to the beginning of the first episode and listen with the intent to hear the message imparted to young Atticus when he excused the flaws of a protagonist, who was an ex-Confederate soldier. He is reprimanded and reminded that this officer “...fought for slavery. You don’t get to put an ex in front of that.” Yes, Ms. Giorgis would benefit from a redefinition of what it means to be a hero, a definition that should not come from a Marvel lunchbox.
Again, splendid article, but misses the mark. B-
In the current charged atmosphere, I feel it is important that we all get LAED! LAED is an acronym for Listen—Acknowledge—Empathize—Determine. Whether our engagement level is in real social time or through social media, how we interact with each other has become more important than ever. The pendulum of political correctness is just as damaging too far left as it is to the extreme right. While we search for the balance, these four specific aspects can help us maintain a healthy respect for the perspective of other people and their experiences.
Recently, a black man posted a video of another black man being pulled over by the police for driving 65mph in a 70mph zone. While I acknowledge that this has happened to white people, it is a story all too common in the experience of people of color. Rather than acknowledging the man’s experience, a white woman posted her story of how her husband was pulled over by the police for crossing the traffic lines. Turns out he needed cataract surgery.
What the fuck?
How does crossing traffic lines, a clear violation of the law, equate with being pulled over for doing five miles under the speed limit? The poster clearly failed to listen to the message. She then failed to acknowledge the experience, which led to her inability to empathize with the situation, and caused her to poorly determine that her story was appropriate to share. She needs LAED.
A successful equestrian is being investigated for potential animal cruelty. He is suspected of using electrified spurs on his horses. The conversation on the post led to other acts of cruelty in the world of horse shows, such as tying horses heads up high over night, refusing to give water before classes, using electrical currents to punish bad behavior. A female poster declared that she had never seen these methods used; therefore, such methods could not exist.
By not listening, she clearly missed the message. You cannot determine what does or does not exist for another human being based on the very limited, very narrow scope of your own experiences. And worse, you have no right to deny that such an experience even exists just because you have not experienced it. This is how a culture of blame-the-victim has come into vogue.
In writing, a reader brings a suspension of belief to the story in order to be entertained by cyborg terminators, chivalrous dragons, and lovesick zombies. People need to bring a suspension of cultural perspective when encountering the experiences of people whose perspective might be very different from their own. This is not to say subvert or convert any belief systems, but simply to be open to the fact that your experiences are not the same. The theory of apples and oranges.
An excellent analogy is that history is a car accident. Where you were standing will effect your perspective on the incident. Input any historical event into that crash simulation and then try to see it from the perspective of ALL the people involved. If they all saw it the same way—your perspective may well be lacking.
Recently, a writer and friend lamented that they struggle with sharing their work with their parents who will not accept their preferred pronouns. I had a similar tale to tell to comfort them. Thankfully, my brain stomped the brakes! This was not the time for inadvertent one-up-man-ship. This was not the time to diminish their experience with one of my own ... so I got LAED.
I listened, understanding the experience from my limited purview as a straight, CIS woman. I acknowledged my friend’s plight with a bit of truthful humor about the short circuits that develop between members of a family unit. I empathized by offering comfort to my friend to support them in a moment of pain. And then, I determined, that my own tale of my mother’s acerbic criticism of my work was not appropriate. The tale could be told another time.
It was a powerful lesson for a prolific storyteller (translation: I talk too much) who has an eclectic library of anecdotes and no reservations about sharing.
Listening is a muscle, and like any other muscle it needs to be worked to enhance its strength. Acknowledgement comes with courage because often we are faced with looking at ourselves in someone else’s mirror and seeing our flaws.
Empathy comes with trust, trusting ourselves to be open enough, strong enough to carry the burden of another soul, if only for a moment, and determining what we will say because those words could mean the difference between salvation or damnation. Think of your favorite teacher. Now think of the one who left just as indelible a mark on your soul for the wrong reasons.
Determination is just another term for deduction. By taking away the tales we want to tell, we recognize that such stories may laminate over someone else’s experience, diminishing them. There is a proper time to share, but not necessarily in that moment. With proper determination, we will take away far more and be better for it by rising up to support a fellow human being in a time of distress.
Here endeth the lesson, my friends. Go get LAED.
Please read the original rubbish article at http://deadspin.com/the-olympics-are-for-humans-not-horses-1784662204 and encourage Mr. Bedford to accept this once-in-a-lifetime invitation.
Dear Mr. Bedford:
I scanned your blog, which I guess appeared, in Deadspin, an online news outlet. I scanned it because well, it's written with the same gusto of a high school junior who forgot about the assignment and wrote it in math class a period before it was due. I'd go so far as to say a jock, who doesn't know when profanity is for effect or simply shock value. The f-word is so cool! The blog also demonstrated that same lack of research that naive kids have, prompting them to speak before they have the facts; thus, when presented with the facts, they look...well...stupid.
Equestrian sport is as old as the Olympic Games themselves. Those first games in Athens were held to honor the gods of Mount Olympus, thus 'Olympic' games. I'm sure you thought Olympic meant more like epic, but it just isn't so. If you are such a purist, would you have us dispense with national teams and go to religious qualifications? There are a few people who still worship the Greek gods. We'll kick out the rest, unless they convert, but then I'm afraid, there would be far fewer athletes and well, the Winter Games would be scratched straight out. Besides, the humble bobsled does all the work, sliding, twisting, and braking, right?
But I digress...
As most youngsters who fail to do their research and allow the text of the Internet to make their writing look good, I simply offer you an invitation to experience what has been since Zeus was tossing lightning bolts. For you and a friend (if you have any), I offer an abbreviated version of the equestrian sports as they are programmed into the modern Olympic Games of today.
I have two beautiful horses, experienced show animals, that are rather accomplished in their fields. To honor the Greek Gods and the History of the Games, we will begin as those early Olympians did some 2000 years ago. If you make it through these Games, I will publicly admit that you are right and deserving of a Pulitzer.
(Because everyone needs to qualify these days to prove proficiency.
Because the horse does all the work, this should be easy peasy for you.)
Team Round: Trot one loop of a large dressage arena without a saddle, bridle optional, in honor of the ancient Greeks. (Using a cup is up to you, though I doubt you'd need it.) Reverse (that means turn the horse around) and repeat.
Individual Round: Canter the above exercise. Change rein across the diagonal through a simple change at X (by then, a cup won't be necessary.)
Mount: I'll let you use my Hanoverian mare because she's rather rotund and will potentially keep you from being involuntarily ejected.)
(We're going out of order here, but we initially want to keep all four feet on the ground.
So simple, even YOU could do it.)
Team Round: Training Level Test 1. Please report to your test on time or face elimination.
Individual Round: Prepare a Musical Freestyle with movements permissible in Training Level.
Team Round: As fast as you can without knocking any poles down, while staying with the horse and not lying on the ground. Fences will be no smaller than 3'3" and not larger than 3'6".
Individual Round: Having shown your true grit, we'll go with the Olympic measure for fences, which is an average of 1.3m or approximately 4'2". You got this! The horse does all the work, remember?
Mount: I recommend my off-the-track Thoroughbred for this phase, but I'd seriously consider carrying a whip, wearing spurs, and downing half a bottle of Tequila.
(This is the triathlon of the horse world and takes place over three-four days. You and your friend will compete as a team and against each other. Life insurance is optional.)
Day 1: Dressage—With the horse doing all the work, this should be cake, so we'll use the Training Level test. (With my gelding, you might want to glue on some Velcro.)
Day 2: Cross-Country—No need to unduly tax the horse, because they do all the work, so we'll go with the standard Training Level fence height 3'3". After the Show Jumping, this should be easy, right? (Again, please carry a whip, wear spurs, down the last half of the tequila and pay any and all life insurance premiums. And for goodness sake, wear clean underwear.)
Day 3: Stadium Jumping—The fences are a moderate 4'1" at the Olympic level, but we'll be fair and stick with Training Level at a height of 3'3". After your mount's hard work in the Show Jumping, you should crush it.
You must wear a protective helmet at all times while mounted, even though there isn't much to protect.
It is recommended that you wear a protective vest for your safety and one for your ego. You both will need them.
Three mistakes in the Dressage warrants elimination. Any speaking to the horse or profanity toward the horse will result in score deductions.
If you or your horse exit the dressage arena before the end of the test, you are eliminated. Exceptions: zombie apocalypse, nuclear proliferation, or your candy-ass can't handle the test.
A fall on the course, by you or your mount, warrants elimination. In your case, it will not be an issue of if you fall, but when. Medical personnel will be on site, but your ego may suffer lasting injury.
Mr. Bedford, the podium awaits. I await your acceptance of this invitation. My fellow equestrians also await your plunge into the research and the facts to find truth. I look forward to your first qualifying round.
Patricia A. Jackson
What is the definition of grass roots? According to Webster, it means “the ordinary people in a society or organization : the people who do not have a lot of money and power.”
I am discouraged with my USEF membership. Due to poor health and injury, I have not competed for nearly two years; yet I felt compelled to keep up my membership for the good of the order. But what has the order ever done for me? Not much. A Girl Scout and Pony Clubber, I am self-reliant and don’t look for hand outs or ask for help, even when I need it.
I’m an old foxhunter that occasionally likes to doll up and take my horse in the ring. It’s not about ribbons. I’ve got plenty of those in dusty boxes and stitched into faded quilts. It’s not about points. I left that road to a younger generation, who for the most part don’t know what it means to be up at 3am braiding your horse and the mounts of the hunt staff as well. When it comes to grass roots—I’m it! I’m no Olympian, never will be. I am not a wealthy investor with part-ownership in a superstar horse or one who can pour money into prize purses. I don’t own a prestigious breeding barn or land connected to Wellington or Ocala.
I repeat. I’m just an old foxhunter. I’m long of tooth and plagued by injuries from all the falls I’ve taken in the course called a lifetime. I’m too anxious to face a three foot fence any more. A pole on the ground is my puissance. I’ve faced my four- and five-foot questions at full gallop in my youth with no regrets. I can exchange tales with the heartiest of horsemen over a pint, but I am—by no means—ready to cover up my saddle for good. However the only competitive divisions available for me are full of ponies as old as I am and rosy-cheeked cherubs who aren’t even close to puberty. I’ve only recently seen the addition of the Long Stirrup division, which excites me! But I wonder if it’s too little, too late. The true grass roots went without watering, kept in the shade, unfertilized, and there’s little to no hope for it. So it would seem.
My injuries are catching up to me, and while I remain stoic, posting the trot is debilitating. I’ve been in rehab for a year with chronic knee issues. My doctors and my physical therapists know another fall might further damage me, but they encourage me to kick on because riding and competing are my only true motivation. I don’t walk very well or far. Can’t stand for long periods. Can’t post one time around the arena without losing my breath to pain. My knees are taped up more often than an old schoolmaster, but I persevere.
I will never return to the heartiness of my salad days, but I had hoped for a small place to continue competing. I learned about the USEF dispensations and was delighted. There was hope. The grass roots over in the corner behind the real green stuff might get a bit of sunlight after all. Fortunately, I learned that I did not need that degree of intervention. I was pleased because I would never claim the right to ride in the ring with the heroic para-equestrians, who simultaneously inspire and shame me for their fortitude.
With further research, I learned of something called a Presidential Modification. It required a letter stating my needs and documentation from my doctor. The warm reception and friendly customer reception from the CEO’s assistant was a delight to this old foxhunter. Finally, I might get something truly, personally useful for my membership; thus, I gathered the required information and passed them along to the USEF.
That caring customer service did not last long. Having dealt with dressage people since my youth, I should have expected a steely reception. My first contact with the dressage part of the Federation left me feeling like an ice cube at sea. You’d think that my request to sit the trot, rather than post, read more like asking permission to wear a double bridle in the Introductory Level, the level at which I was hoping to compete until the knees can last the Training Level movements. (Who asks to sit the trot these days? Used to be the bane of the show ring in my day.) I’m fearful of what the Hunter/Jumper side of things will say. Haven’t heard from them yet, probably a trainer holding up a ring somewhere and can’t get an answer.
I understand due process, but I wasn’t expecting the need for an act of Congress to get some consideration. It has become quite apparent to me, though I suspect the writing has been on the wall all along, that the USEF is no longer a grass roots organization, not about the grass roots of people on the fringe…just the core.
My paltry membership fee means little to a multi-million dollar company. I know this, but it's downright offensive when that organization acts as if the true grass roots folk matter, when in fact, we do not.
I’m an old foxhunter. I will fight through the pain to ride and to show, maybe even jump again someday. I will do this because in my grass roots can be found field masters and hunt staff, 4H mentors, Pony Club coaches, and clinicians (a few famous ones) that taught me self-reliance in the face of enormous odds and encouraged me to kick on no matter what the obstacle…because at the end of the day, ribbons don’t matter and points don’t matter. What does matter is the process, getting there, being there…in the moment…with no one else’s expectations save my own. Ribbons can be bought. The proud smile of a trainer, a nod from a judge, a sense of accomplishment for making it through a test, the final slap on the neck for a good round at the end of the day? These things are priceless.
Dreams really do come true, even when we least expect it. As a kid, I would have fainted if
someone told me I was to ride under the watchful eye of Bruce Davidson. Fast forward thirty
years, the appointment with destiny was set.
I sent my beloved Indy to Bruce to undo some 'hunter' training. It took him a day and the rest of
the time was icing on the cake. Walking into Bruce's barn and down the aisle, it was a delight
only a mama can know recognizing my gelding by the snip on his nose. And in a moment, he
recognized me. Reunited!
To see Bruce riding Indy, no gags, tiedowns, in an open field with various cross-country
obstacles was amazing enough, but then to watch a working student take my gelding over a
massive 3'6 coop and 'the log of death' with zero hesitation was even more amazing.
But the thrills were just beginning. I got to step into the irons as Bruce gave instructions and
perform as I had when I was in Pony Club many, many years ago. Trot to canter, canter to trot,
10m circles at the canter, half circle to a trot. It might not seem like much, but it was epic for
me, punctuated with "Good, good. That a girl." It lasted 10 minutes, but it was 10 minutes in
the saddle that I didn't believe that I had anymore. And then, the jumping...
As a specter of riding past whispered, 'he can't go any slower,' Bruce called for focus and
straightness and pointed me at a log. Heart in my throat, I went, legs braced for the refusal.
There wasn't the slightest hesitation, even has I got left behind. There was no yelling, no
belittling, only a "Good girl" from an Olympian, and then "now turn him around to the right and
do it again." This time, a bit more trust, and up and over. More accolades.
Now it was time for a little scarier log (not scary to Indy, but definitely to me). Again, I got left
behind...but there was only praise and encouragement to try again. Confidence trickling in, up
and over we went. Bruce repeated the lesson that had been exorcised from me, "Slow and
straight. He can trot that slow right up to a three foot fence. No faster."
And then, a dungeon of negative comments about my gelding were swept away and replaced
"If someone cannot see what a nice horse he is, they should quit."
"If you don't want him, I do. I see my next horse and you're on him."
"He has three stunning gaits and a beautiful jump."
"He's the current favorite in the barn. Everyone loves him."
"He's so well mannered. Ask him to go in the wash stall, he goes in the wash stall. Ask him to
stand in the aisle, he just stands in the aisle. We love him."
"Can he come to Florida?"
"Most people thought he was a warmblood."
"Have you hunted him? He could go tomorrow."
"Are you going to event him? He could do Novice or Training level right now. He's ready."
"He's lovely out on a hack, alone or with other horses. He's been out and galloped. Doesn't do
anything bad or wrong."
"Bring him back in the spring and we'll do some cross-country."
While I cannot say my confidence is fully restored, my faith is. I never stopped believing in my
boy, but I needed someone to coax me out of the rabbit hole where I was hiding. I never
imagined that would be someone like Bruce Davidson. I cannot thank him enough for this very
special Christmas gift! Nor can I thank Ginger Parker enough for her friendship, patience, and
"The only thing that makes a dream impossible: fear of failure."--Paulo Coelho
This New Year...for me and my beloved Indy...it really be out with the old and in with the new!
I sent my beloved Indy to Chesterland Farms, under the legendary expertise of Olympian Bruce Davidson. I miss my buddy so terribly, but it is for the best. A former trainer disliked Indy, having little to say of him in a positive way and encouraging me to sell him, especially after he dumped her.
When I buy a horse, it is a forever contract. I have never resold a horse and have no plans to ever do so. I knew my horse had what it takes and to hear Bruce Davidson say, "He's a great horse with three lovely gaits. I love him!" makes my determination to weather the storm an affirmation. I will NEVER go to a hunter barn again. Cross-training is where it's at for me!
Indy has jumped every fence on Chesterland Farm's formidible collection of logs and cross-country jumps. Bruce complimented his flatwork. All of this with zero drugs, calmers, or supplements. This is what a true horseman can do!