Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Great Meadow 2020

Great Meadow's CCI4* was held this past weekend -- one of the very very few 4*s around this year. Meaning it was an absolutely packed division chock-full of world-class riders and horses. The event promised to be very exciting with a lot of action in what has otherwise been a fairly bleak FEI competition landscape.

And obviously I was excited to get down there to see it all unfold -- dutifully signing up for a volunteer role for the privilege.

so excited to watch horses jump through the blue numbers again!!
Because... We all know the USEF Action Plan, right?

In essence: 
- Everyone wear a mask, no exceptions
- No spectators
- Only participants directly involved in the care of the horse / competitor, or sponsors providing direct services to the competition organization are allowed

 link
So..... I was surprised to see tailgates (and LOTS of them, wow) set up all over the GMI grounds. Standard tailgates -- just like I've done in years past at Fair Hill and Kentucky -- long lines of tents right next to each other, each filled with party groups.

And people out there with the whole kit 'n kaboodle: champagne and picnics and sunhats (must protect from the sun!! tho, notably, very few masks haha. very very few).... Ya know. The usual. It's a great way to spend a summer day outside, enjoying the company of your friends, and spectating as incredible horses and riders conquer unimaginable obstacles....

one area of tailgates -- you'll see they're fairly prevalent throughout the video across all main features and combinations on course
Except, wait a second -- isn't spectate the actionable word there? Isn't that.... exactly what the USEF prohibited above?

Turns out, nope. I guess those tailgate fees (ranging from $125 to $5K+ at this particular event...) are all that's needed to be considered the "sponsors providing direct services."

GMI's website explains in more detail below: 


colorful emphasis mine. orange = GMI rationalizing why tailgates packed in like sardines are ok, while green = GMI very sadly saying that the poor humble general public can't be allowed.

And ya know... I guess this makes sense on paper. I totally 100% understand that every single aspect of the horse sports community is under extreme pressure and duress because of Covid.

These are massively expensive events to pull off, and general admission and/or parking fees don't come even close to footing the bill. A $5K VIP sponsorship tent tho? Yea, that helps. So... Ya know... Financially, I get it.

But it bugs me. It doesn't feel in keeping with the whole global pandemic environment. Because again, and I can't stress this enough, the tents were all lined up in a row, each filled with unmasked party-goers. But maybe the sponsorship fee also inoculates against the virus?

I was kinda further bugged at how, presumably in further efforts to subsidize the event, access to all the content and live stream coming out of it (for all you rubes who couldn't cough up the tailgate fee) were likewise kept behind a paywall.

gosh but i love watching them go, live and in socially-distant-person! this particular combination is always crazy to watch -- esp bc the horses always seem to handle it so well
Sure, the $9.99 for a one-month subscription to Horse&Country probably isn't much in the grand scheme of things... Esp for hardcore eventing fans starved for action.

But idk. It kinda leaves a bad taste in my mouth, combined with the high cost of entry to the event itself. Which, in case you weren't aware, also offered national divisions -- not just FEI classes.

My impression is that.... It feels like the little guys in equestrian sport are getting the squeeze, while the big fish get to carry on as usual.

Small local horse trials must operate under the same USEF rules, tho they don't have the draw of ritzy tailgaters to help subsidize costs. And, obvi, nor do they get the live stream coverage for the various family, friends and supporting cast members who weren't allowed in under the 'no spectators' policy.

i match the jump!!
And, to be perfectly honest, it's been my experience at HTs since competitions started running that compliance with the USEF rules is much much more strictly enforced at HTs than it was at this major FEI event.

Idk, I'm not trying to make any grand statements on the rules themselves here. Because basically I'm just a rules follower -- I'll do what the folks around me are doing, ya know? I comply with the rules that are necessary to keep these events running, because I love horse shows -- going to them, riding in them, volunteering at them...

What bugs me tho is that the rules are unevenly applied. Especially when the implication is that the rules bend completely with the application of a little cold hard cash. Because.... I really don't think pandemics work that way haha.


So idk. I'm glad I went to Great Meadow bc the show itself was amazing -- the grounds are so beautiful and there were so many incredible horses and riders to watch. And, perhaps more importantly, I'm pleased to be able to offer you a highlight video that won't cost $9.99 to watch with purchase of a H&C subscription haha.

So ya know, enjoy that lol. And maybe share it with your friends too. Bc fuck it, we should all be able to enjoy this sport we buy into with our own memberships and entry fees, right?

And in the meantime, I'm honestly a little skeptical about implications this might have for future access to upper level events and related coverage in the future. Once venues get a taste for raising the cost of access, will they really want to let that go? Or maybe you think I'm overreacting to organizations doing what they gotta do to exist in these "unprecedented times"?


27 comments:

  1. My biggest issue is the blatant disregard for safety. Bc if we can't require a mask for safety, how plausible is it we get any other safety taken seriously. Like safely designed courses?? Blows my mind. Wear a mask people. It's the smallest price you'll pay to take part in the horse world. Srsly. Just do it.

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    1. it sure does seem simple when you put it like that, doesn't it??

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  2. I'm not surprised that cash still buys privilege in things where the rest of us just get turned away. I don't like it, but it's not surprising at all.

    I do wish the mask mandate was broadly enforced. The shows I've been to has had very strict enforcement and it made me feel better being there and knowing that everyone was complying.

    Show organizers have even said explicitly, even if you are from groups that have been in quarantine together, you still need to mask up because of the social media and publicity implications. We do not want to lose these events due to perceived noncompliance.

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    1. definitely agreed -- like, there are fair arguments about the necessity of requiring a single person wear a mask while walking their xc course in the middle of a field by themselves. but... when enforcement and compliance are universal, when everybody is on the same page and following the same rules, it's really not a big deal. wear a mask, end of story. but once you start seeing groups at a horse show *not* complying, it snowballs really really fast...

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  3. Not surprising that a) money beats out common sense and b) people are still being stupid and refusing to wear a mask or not gather in large groups.

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    1. ugh money beating out common sense... it honestly really never ceases to amaze me what people will do for short term personal gain at the expense of long term social disaster...

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  4. I hauled a horse for a weekend HT last weekend and the COVID restrictions were a complete fucking joke. The amount of disorganization, shifting rules, and complete cluelessness were unreal. This was the second show this group had put on this season, and no one had any idea of what they were supposed to be enforcing either day. I'm not surprised by the tailgates as it definitely seems like everyone is willing to just smile and nod along with the rules and then immediately turn their backs on them and do whatever they want.

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    1. ugh... yea... ugh. the tail gates were really disappointing to me, personally. and in terms of enforcement, i've sorta seen it go both ways at shows. most of the local HTs i've been to (recognized and unrec) have skewed toward total compliance. some other events, like very small schooling dressage shows etc, or this giant fucking fei show, have skewed toward minimal compliance. it really doesn't seem like there's a middle ground in there, either.

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  5. Welp. This got me really super angry. Ugh.

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  6. It is just so stupid. I have no words. We can't even have a sanctioned dressage show here because our judges come from out of our 'atlantic bubble' so would have to isolate for 14 days before they could judge. Which is fine, because I've written this year off and am prepared to do what I need to keep people safe. But watching others act as though the rules don't apply to them is irritating.

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    1. agreed -- that's what bugs me so much too. like, some people have had to sacrifice so much, and other folks are unwilling to to give an inch -- or even give the appearance of giving an inch.

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  7. i cannot believe they had tailgate spots available and people didn't have masks on

    the last thing they need is for this to become like a superspreader event...

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    1. i gotta admit, i was pretty surprised at the tailgates.... ahem, excuse me, *sponsors*

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  8. Solidly in your camp on this issue. The disparity of how the pandemic is being handled by the wealthy vs the poor is ridiculous. And the sad thing is, all it takes is some rich person spreading the disease at one of these rich people parties, and the rest of us can't event for the rest of the season. Grr

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    1. tbh.... my inner cynic thinks that the Powers That Be believe what you're describing is already inevitable, that everything WILL get shut down again, and they're just trying to get their top horses and riders qualified now at any cost before that happens....

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  9. I feel like I'm not surprised because horse sports necver seem to follow the spirit or the letter of our 'by laws' - look at drugging compliance etc.

    Ugh people

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    1. Yea..... the letter vs the spirit of the law is definitely what’s up here, and definitely being undermined when just putting up more cash is enough to be considered compliant ....

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  10. I'm with you on this. Especially with the tailgating. That's just frustrating. On a better note, thank you for the free highlights LOL

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    1. Ha - glad you enjoyed it!! I have so much fun making these videos but it’s kinda sad bc my own reach is so small that it’s hard to get the videos in front of the audience that would watch them.... I try tho!!

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  11. This is why the pandemic will linger on. If everyone could just follow the rules for a little while, maybe we could get past this.

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    1. Yep. Exactly this. It’s gonna linger and linger and linger and I don’t even know what this coming holiday season is going to be like when it’s cold and people are sad and alone ...

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  12. Disheartened to read about the tailgates. So many people seem to have decided the problem is over. Or not going to affect them. Or ... who knows.

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    1. Tbh I don’t even blame the tailgaters themselves. As far as they’re concerned, they’re complying with the rules that the USEF has determined necessary to ensure safety. Frankly I blame the governing agencies for creating / enabling / allowing this environment. All for the sake of cash and qualifications now, and to hell with whatever happens later.

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  13. As the 'Rona drags on, the rules are unevenly applied everywhere, it seems. Travel to NY and don't self quarantine for 14 days? $10,000 fine. Oh wait..are you a celebrity attending an awards show? Pass, obvi you're immune. It boggles the mind.

    I agree with your last point 100%- once fees are raised, will organizers back down on the costs? Likely not.

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