Eventers who live in glass barns should not throw stones at Marilyn Little


Eventers who live in glass barns should not throw stones at Marilyn Little

If you have been on social media over the last three days, you couldn’t help but notice the Marilyn Little controversy at Fair Hill where RF Scandalous was spotted with blood in her mouth near the end of the course.

I was in the press tent while Christian Landolt, president of the ground jury, explained what happened and Marilyn was questioned by the press about the incident. I was there after the press conference when the press continued to question Christian, president of the ground jury as he walked the press through the process of how it was handled.

FEI rule 526.4 Blood on Horses states: “Blood on Horses may be an indication of abuse of the Horse and must be reviewed case by case by the Ground Jury. In minor cases of blood in the mouth, such as where a Horse appears to have bitten its tongue or lip, or minor bleeding on limbs, after investigation the Ground Jury may authorize the Athlete to continue.”

Members of the press zoomed in on a photo of RF Scandalous’ mouth and were claiming there was a mystery strap in her mouth. Christian looked at the photo and stated that the ‘strap’ was actually just the mare’s “lip”. The press kept insisting that it was a strap. One of the world’s most respected eventers, Lucinda Green, also happened to be in the press tent at the time. She looked at the photo and had to give a basic anatomy lesson to explain to some members of the press that the strap they were honing in on was definitely the lip.

The press also questioned whether Marilyn’s blood incident from the 2015 Fair Hill was taken into account. Christian was quick to shut them down that:

a) he was not there last year, and
b) officials absolutely do not take past years into account because that is not part of the rules and protocols.

I was stunned by the lack of knowledge displayed during this questioning by the press, and slightly alarmed as a rider.

I was more than satisfied with Marilyn and Christian’s account of what happened in this particular situation. Let me be clear, I am not a journalist; I am a blogger. In fact, I have no desire to chase and write stories that would ruin a rider’s reputation. The goal on Eventing Connect is to Grow Eventing through engagement, education and entertainment.

But from a rider’s perspective I want to point out a little reality about Eventing. There is certainly an anti-Marilyn Little sentiment with a group of press and riders. Competitively, she has gone from beginning her Eventing career in 2010 to chocking up more FEI wins than most of us will ever accomplish in a lifetime. She has won at every level up to the CCI3* on different horses. Let’s be honest, there is a group of riders annoyed that despite working hard and for a lack of talent, horses or support they will never achieve Marilyn’s success. She floated into Eventing from Show Jumping and competitively stole many ribbons and top placings from life long Eventers. Unlike many, I think it is inspiring to watch her in every phase.

Marilyn has had blood show up in a couple of different horses’ mouths with different bits over the last couple of years. But each incident has been reviewed on an INDIVDUAL basis by the FEI officials each time and not once has there been a gaping wound that warranted further action. Bad luck, heavy hands or strong bits? Regardless, I don’t believe there is an FEI conspiracy to let her away with horse abuse.

We don’t want blood on our horses, but we don’t want rules that eliminate us for minor cuts either so be careful riders, of this road you are travelling, and demanding rule changes and more monitoring from the FEI. There is more blood in horses’ mouths than what you think. I have a few years worth of photos from cross-country runs from riders of all levels at events from up and down the Eastern USA and Canada and Marilyn is not the only one guilty of this.

Blood in the mouth does not necessarily mean discomfort for the horse. If it was a quick bite to the tongue, it might have stung for a second and that was it. Have you bit your own tongue?

But beyond the blood in the mouth, ask yourself about your own riding. Have you caused your horse to fall? Have you ever stifled your horse on a jump into water? (not likely to happen unless you have ridden at the Preliminary level or above) I bet that stifling hurt your mount quite a bit. Might not have drawn blood but that bad distance caused your horse pain. Should you be pulled off course for banging your horse into a jump? Have you banged your own shin? It hurts a lot! When you miss a distance and crash your horse into a jump, is that worse than blood in the mouth?

I will hazard to guess that at some point because of some bad riding, you have caused your stoic horse some pain. Or are you a perfect rider every time and you have earned judge and jury status?… not likely!

Have you ever tried to get a lame horse through a horse inspection? Have you watched top riders do it? When a horse is taking missteps or bobbing its head, it is in pain. Is it horse abuse to try and get them through a jog? Are you on social media calling out your favourite top riders trying to get their lame horses through the jog? I guarantee you that they have done it. If you are in “the know”, there are at least three top American riders who are revered for their ability to jog up a lame horse. True fact riders!

You wonder why the world’s ‘elite riders’ are not speaking out about Marilyn…because they are realistic and these things have happened to them and will again. They don’t want more rules. They are not horse abusers; they are athletes that will make mistakes with a limited amount of shows to reach their goals. In a sport like Eventing, we have to be realistic about the toll on the horses that happens because of rider mistakes and never on purpose. Riders care about their horses but shit happens.

To all of you people beating up on Marilyn, be honest… how many times has your own riding caused your horse discomfort? You may not have caused it to bleed, but nonetheless your mistakes have caused pain. Do you really have the right to judge and question her horsemanship? Be careful, because your next competition could be that time you make a mistake and do you really want the wrath of social media?

Karma is a bitch and your glass barn may already have a few cracks in it.

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