I don’t think owners get enough recognition. After all, they pay an inordinate amount of bills, and there’s no prize money or even much glory in dressage. On behalf of all riders, I say, “Thank you!” One of my owners is very much in the sport just to see her horse excel, and she is far from a person who seeks the limelight. But one year at the national championships, she said to me, “Even if the show could just thank the owners over the loudspeaker, that would be something.” Hmm, good point. Some owners want limelight, others don’t care, but either way, a thank you never hurts.
Riders could show their appreciation in simple ways, such as sending a card or just saying something simple. Find out what your owners like. If they like to feel involved, describe your training sessions to them. Once a week, I simply e-mail each of my owners to fill them in on what we worked on and detail how it’s going. If your owners like to be mentioned in magazines, make sure you acknowledge them when you are interviewed. Show organizers could make a point of thanking the owners over the loudspeaker. Journalists should mention the owners of horses in articles they write about horses and riders and their accomplishments.
Most professionals get their start showing someone else’s horse. I know I did, and I didn’t always do well. I did my first schooling show on a circus-trained Lipizzan. We entered doing Spanish walk. We halted, and when I saluted, my horse bowed to the judge! The first horse I showed in a real show was named Paiute, an Arabian endurance horse. Now his owner owns one of my rising star young horses. Needless to say, I didn’t get good scores on these horses, but they were the start of my career. I’m thankful for them and I told the owners that at the time. Too often, riders feel they can’t show a horse that is “below” them—big mistake. We learn from every horse.
Adult Amateurs are another group of people who don’t get enough thanks, and they are the lifeblood of our sport. Without them, we wouldn’t have shows. The thing is, some people are not trying to get to the Olympics. They’re in it for the enjoyment. Some like the competitive aspect and trying to improve and learn. Some enjoy the community we all share. Some simply enjoy being around horses. And no one enjoys being treated like a second-class citizen. Often, I’ll see top riders go straight to (or be ushered to) the front at the secretary’s stand as if they’re more important because they’re well known. I have people say to me almost apologetically, “I’m just an adult amateur.” Well, we should all be grateful to amateurs. Because of them, we can be professionals in what we love. So be proud, amateurs. It’s you who make this wonderful sport possible.
Everyone, let’s show our appreciation for both the amateur riders and for the owners of our wonderful horses. When you feel thankful, show it. Let’s treat them with the respect they deserve and make a point to show our gratitude when appropriate. Let’s publicly acknowledge them and make them feel a part of this sport they make possible.
This article first appeared in the January 2012 issue of Dressage Today magazine.
Courtney King-Dye represented the United States in the 2008 Olympic Games riding Harmony’s Mythilus and at the 2007 and 2008 World Cups aboard Idocus. She is a U.S. Dressage Federation (USDF) Certified Instructor through Fourth Level and USDF gold medalist. For six years, she was assistant trainer to Olympian Lendon Gray. Her new website is ckddressage.com.