Before I go blabbing about my predictions for the next year, I want to make it clear that by no means am I a reliable fortune teller. I am also no gambler (been to Vegas five times and never once even put a coin in a slot machine), so these anticipations of things that may come to pass are not attached to any wagering or even a strong sense that I’m right in my speculations. Just ask any other equestrian journalists. I always lose bets. Which reminds me, I owe a bottle of tequila shaped like a part of the male anatomy to one of them, but that was more of a dare I lost, not a bet. I’m also fairly easy to persuade that I’m wrong – as long as the person trying to persuade me isn’t an anonymous ‘grand prix’ status dribbler on CoTH.

In order to look at the future, it is of course necessary to also cast a gaze back into the past. Short of being struck by lightning or run over by a bus, nothing happens to us that isn’t attached to what took place beforehand. For example, any discussion about what we can expect from Totilas this year must take into account what he has already done, which is to achieve scores that far exceed anything ever before in the sport.

Will Totilas score 100%? It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? I don’t believe he, or anyone will achieve 100%, ever. If that happened the entire scale of marks would have to be revised, because if you can get 100%, it would stand to reason that with a little more practice and preparation you could get 101%, and the current scale of marks doesn’t allow for that. If the judges have any sense of keeping their lives from getting more complicated than they already are, they will not dare to hand out that perfect score. Which brings me something thought provoking Kyra K said on Eurodressage’s end of the year interviews:

Kyra said that in her opinion the most important thing to happen in 2009 was that “the dressage judges have realised that a 10 is not PERFECT, ‘just’ excellent.” I used to agree with that idea, but if achieving a test score of 100% isn’t perfection then what is? I’ve always hated it when people say things like ‘my horse always give 150%’, or ‘I am 1000% behind that’, because it’s just not possible. You can’t fill a glass more than 100%; you can’t live more than 100% of your life span. It’s the most there is, unless you are a stock broker. So if 10 isn’t perfect, then neither is 100%, and that doesn’t make sense. If you disagree with my little venture into the world of logic, your philosophical arguments are welcome in the comments at the bottom of this post.

You know the other interesting thing Kyra said in that interview? That she had received the second 10 of her life in Windsor. What? Kyra K has received only two 10’s in her entire career? I must admit I am gobsmacked.

Back to Totilas – which, by the way, everyone seems to have settled on pronouncing TOE-t-lus. And for that matter, how about all the other kick-ass horses out there, and those which will make their debuts in the near future? I do think we will see a continued upward trend in scores this year, but I don’t believe the bell at the top of the percentage tower will be struck

Will the Canadian show jumpers do even better in Kentucky than they did in Hong Kong? Being a Canadian I am not touching that one with a ten foot pole. The outcomes in show jumping have more than a small dose of chance involved. Betting on dressage is like playing poker with your friends. You might not be the best bluffer at the table, but you stand a chance to at least break even in an evening. Betting on show jumping is more like playing Roulette. Show jumping is a sport where the winner’s circle is not a foregone conclusion even for the best in the world. What I will say is that I predict Mr. Lamaze and his Lamazing Hickstead will continue to be the best in the world, whether or not they win that gold medal at WEG.

One prediction I am willing to make is that Canada’s eventing and dressage teams will improve on their results from Hong Kong. That’s a pretty safe bet, since both disciplines have almost unlimited potential for improvement from their near-bottom team finishes at the Olympics. And much as it would be cool to have Canadians as their team coaches for patriotic reasons, there is no disputing the positive effects DOC has had on the eventers, and if I’m seeing things clearly I believe RD has already begun to make positive waves for dressage. Someone told me there are 28 declared Canadians for the WEG dressage team. That must surely be a record.

Here is another prediction I’ll make with a bit of confidence: that HRH will continue her presidency of HQ for another four year term. I lived in Ecuador for a year when I was 17 (I was not so popular with the mothers of my female friends, whose careful conditioning of their daughters not to kiss or touch boys until they had rings on their Catholic fingers was in constant peril due to my bad role modeling – I was rather more popular with the boys). Ecuador was one of those countries that allowed an individual to be president for only one term. Just when the wheels of change started to turn, out went one president, and in came another – who was usually ideologically opposed to everything the previous president had tried to achieve. Four years is not a long time, especially if you are trying to bring about significant change. If HRH left this year, I think quite a few initiatives would fall by the wayside. She may be guilty of overstepping her mark now and again, but what effective leader doesn’t occasionally commit that small sin?

And speaking of power struggles, here is one more prediction. The battle between EC and the provincial feds will not be resolved in this calendar year. It might even get uglier before it gets prettier. This is entirely personal (and feel free me to accuse me of not knowing enough to speak), but I still get the impression that Akaash makes sense while many of his enemies in the ‘hell no’ provinces don’t. I suspect some of them have not the faintest idea of the scope of intelligence they are wrangling, especially when I see some of the crazy claims they try to pass off as legitimate arguments. Akaash isn’t the only one whose face is being peppered by spittle and bile. Mike Gallagher is also getting his fair share of the unlove. And as Akaash says, Mike has spent so much time trying to make this polygamous marriage between EC and the provinces work, most people have probably forgotten he is a volunteer. On the point of volunteers, we must not forget to keep an eye on the politics at DC. The four neophytes coming onto the DC Board could be regarded either as new blood or fresh meat, depending on your point of view. To those four I wish the best of luck, and remember: no good deed goes unpunished!

Also to be resolved this year at the FEI GA in November is whether the progressive medication list will be adopted after further review, or canned altogether. I have been somewhat swayed by the arguments that the list was introduced too quickly and without enough warning to NF’s; and probably not enough research was done regarding whether or not their permissibility could be deemed either performance enhancing or detrimental to horse welfare. But I also don’t see how either of those questions can be answered to everyone’s satisfaction. Take the performance enhancing issue. Insofar as the absence of pain can improve your performance, I guess a bit of bute (a very small bit is allowable on the list, mind you) could be seen as performance enhancing. But what about Regu-Mate? That one really puzzles me. This hormone therapy for mares doesn’t just relieve discomfort – it brings about behavioural changes. It surprises me that such a drug is allowed with no grumbles from stallion or even gelding owners. And poor Michael Whitaker. He faces a possible lifetime ban from the British Olympic team because his stallion was found with traces of Regu-Mate (or another brand of the same drug) in his system. I don’t know if that’s ironic or sexist or both.

By the way, the publisher of this blog and Horse Sport magazine Jennifer Anstey decided to try and get an idea of the scope (and position on the slippery slope) of the progressive list, so she compared the FEI’s amounts to those allowed in Canada (we are one of those bad, evil countries that in SOME disciplines allow small amounts of NSAIDs to be present). She noticed that banamine was listed on the FEI list as being allowed at a level of 500 mcg/ml in serum or plasma. The Canadian rules state 1 mcg/ml. That seemed crazy to her, so she consulted with the past chair of Canada’s drug committee, who is of course a vet. Well blimey! It’s a typo. The amount should be 0.5, not 500. The vet Jennifer questioned didn’t say the amount was lethal, only that it would be physically impossible to get that high a concentration of banamine in a (living) horse’s system. The mistake has escaped the attention of all kinds folks from all over the world with D.V.M. after their name, including the FEI’s own people on the job. Jennifer wins this week’s Gold Star for uncovering such an enormous blunder.

An even bigger worm squirming around in the doping can is the horse welfare thing. I think the slippery slope falls off in both directions here. Is it animal cruelty to give a horse that’s a bit sore some bute so that he feels better, passes a vet check and goes on course? It could be, if the result is that the horse injures himself further. But then is it cruel to withhold Banamine from a horse suffering from mild colic so that he won’t test positive in competition a couple of days later? And while the warring factions pull their hair out over NSAIDs, people are meanwhile continuing to give their horses things that they shouldn’t ever give them, such as fluphenazine (two instances in November) or things that they surely must know can’t be present at competitions, such as hydrocortisone (one instance in November).

I will not dare to predict whether the progressive list is on its way to the recycling bin, but I hope it’s resolved soon because it’s deflecting everyone’s attention from the real problem.

If all this drug talk and clairvoyance is boring you, rest assured the material will be considerably fresher in the next couple of weeks when I make my annual pilgrimage to Mecca (I mean Welly World). I’ll be spending just one Sunday there, and you can bet where I’ll be spending the evening: Player’s.