I did something a bit naughty yesterday. Actually, there are at least two people sharing the Earth’s air with me who think what I did was more than naughty. They might even think it was reprehensible. I feel kind of badly about it, but I don’t feel really badly. Just kind of.
Here is what happened:
Some of you may have heard of the divorce that took place in the several-year-old marriage between the Syracuse Invitational and the National Horse Show (of which the Maclay Final is an important part). I took an interest in the story for the same reason I am interested in silly dressage judges at the WEG and separatist provincial equestrian federations. It’s a challenge to thread my way through the details and to measure the gap between one side’s story and the other’s. Of course, I wasn’t the only person wanting to know the truth about what happened between Syracuse and NHS, and I was asked to write an honest and balanced article for a certain Hunter-Jumper focused website. They wanted me of all writers for several reasons: I am very much an outsider in the US hunter-jumper community, I have no vested interest in anything to do with jumping horses, and I know almost none of the players in this particular off-off-off Broadway drama. The publisher of the website is not in such an objective position and made a point of keeping arm’s length distance from reporting on it from within. In short, the website wanted me to write what I learned, knowing that I would not sympathize with one side or the other unless the evidence led me there.
When I started interviewing a largish handful of folks for the article and for this blog, I felt some trepidation – even a bit of fear and loathing. I suspected some of the people I interviewed would refuse to speak to me if they knew who I was writing for. I didn’t actually lie, but I didn’t go out of my way to tell them absolutely EVERY publication I was writing for. I did believe the articles which would emerge would tell a fair story based on the research I did. And I do believe I stayed true to that. But two of the people I interviewed don’t agree. They both emailed me yesterday, one of them within an hour or two of the article appearing online. He thinks I misrepresented what he said AND he thinks I am a bad, bad girl for not naming all the publications where my articles would appear. He told me that if I had disclosed that I was writing for the website in question, he and his colleague would “likely still have spoken” to me. As for the other person who emailed me, well I’m not sure exactly what he’s mad about, because all he wrote in his email was: Dear Ms. Robinson. Shame on you! God bless you.
Irony seems to dog me and everything I write. During my interview with the God blessing person, he made some quite unsavoury remarks about the website where my article was later to appear, including the criticism that it must surely be a very poor quality news site – since it hadn’t published a single word about the Syracuse vs. NHS story. (Which was in fact because they were waiting for me to get my article written.) His colourful comments about that website and its publisher were plentiful and pointed enough that I think I am not completely out of my mind to suspect that, despite the claim to the contrary, I would not have got far in my interviews had I disclosed the destination of one of my articles.
Having received the admonitory emails, I might have been tempted to find a dark corner and go into the fetal position, if it weren’t for the bunch of people who commended me for writing a balanced story. So to the two people who feel I committed a heinous act – one which may even send me to Hell – I say that I am genuinely sorry. But if I had to do it again, I probably would.
So what is the story with Syracuse and NHS, anyway? I did promise I’d be writing about it here, so the least I can do is come clean on that one. Let’s see if I can sum it up in 100 words or less. Here goes:
The NHS lost its long, long, long time home ten years ago, when it could no longer reside at Madison Square Gardens. The Syracuse Invitational, which was created around the same time that the NHS became a homeless person, helped the Maclay Final through a rough patch while the NHS tried to survive in warmer climes. Finally, the two shows converged in 2008. Whether it was geography, a “not sexy enough” community, or as one stakeholder suggested, the high expense of hosting a horse show at a non-horse facility, the thing lacked a bit of helium and never flew very high. While all that was happening, some very bright people with very strong characters – who volunteered a lot of their time and energy to one half of the show or the other – started not to see eye to eye. The situation reached critical mass around November 2010, at which point it is clear from the correspondence (I really have seen a lot about this one) that both sides had decided they just didn’t want to try and understand one another’s point of view any more. And like in any divorce, either someone had to be sent packing or someone had to decide they were leaving. The latter is what happened in this case, and the NHS is heading south to bluer pastures in Lexington. The Syracuse show has drawn the curtain for the last time – despite the best efforts of its dedicated and hard working organizers. As the French say, tant pis. It’s too bad. And as one person I interviewed said, it’s a shame it had to become as acrimonious as it has. But it’s over now.
And I thought DQs were the sole domain of dressage.
PS: The website on which my article appeared is a paid subscription site. If you would like to read the collection of words which earned me both praise and scorn but are not a subscriber, leave a comment at the bottom of this post, and I will email it to you.