Yesterday I finally signed off on what was probably the most hideously difficult article I’ve ever written: an update on the state of affairs between Equine Canada and the provinces – namely the six provinces that have said ‘hell no’ to signing the contract EC presented them with last year. What made it so incredibly complicated was that I would start with a question to one party (let’s call them Party On). Armed with their response I then approached another party or two, let’s call them Party Hearty and Party Hat. If I was lucky, those two parties would say the same thing, but usually they came back with slightly different stories, at which point I went back to Party On for further enlightenment on the discrepancies. Now back to Party Hearty, Party Hat, and a new party, Party’s Off, who had been made privy to the article through Party Hearty (I was initially aggrieved that the article was forwarded without consultation with me, but as the joyous result was yet another version of the issues, and one I needed to include if I were to be a responsible journo, I decided I was glad it happened). At some point I had to say ‘enough’ and just write the damned article, knowing that I could not, in the space of four magazine pages in Horse Sport represent absolutely everything. I tried to stick to what I thought would matter most to Canadian horse people, so that they wouldn’t make a face and just turn the page instead of reading on.

Here is what I hope the involved parties (to whom I am grateful for their willingness to trust me and lay out the positions they represented) will think when they read the article. I hope that nearly all of them see something in the article that upsets them, but that they are upset due to the realization that they are being stubborn, irrational or putting their egos first. I also hope that every one of them sees that I made a sincere effort to honestly convey their side. And remember folks, for me the writer it was like trying to expose all six sides of a cube on one plane

This morning I received an email from a concerned individual, and as I responded to the person’s email I realized that what I was writing was pretty much what I wanted to say on this week’s blog. Here it is:

“Hi So-and-so. I can understand how exhausting this whole mess is for everyone involved. I’m only writing about it, and getting paid to boot, and I’m bloody sick of it too. I think you will find that the final Horse Sport article is far from leaning too hard in favour of EC. After getting further feedback from individuals in several provinces, as well as some responses from EC which showed that the initial answers to my questions were not quite as clear or simple as I had believed, I have significantly altered the content and tone of the article. What I do find interesting is that one provincial representative had been initially very reluctant to even agree to an interview, but he/she approved my first draft with a comment that he/she believed I had done a very good job – which to me proves that the root of the problem is not just in what all six provinces agree are the issues, since two other provinces did not feel their positions had been correctly portrayed in that same draft.

One thing I discovered in my to-and-fro research (and I did go to-and-fro several times in an effort to get to the bottom) is that when all the accusations and personal attacks were stripped away, in many cases the warring parties actually agreed on the base issue – but anyone who has been married for even a day knows that the reason for the argument is often not what causes the tears. It’s the harsh words that fall out of angry and hurt mouths that sting long after the initial problem is dissolved or resolved.

I am not ‘on EC’s side’ in this matter. In fact I have tried hard to see everything with the same coloured glasses. Being from BC, I have no personal stake in the debate, either. I have noticed that the battle has become more personal than ideological. I have heard and read a high degree of emotion from people I interviewed and whose correspondence I was shown; and much as I find myself persuaded by the eloquence of EC’s CEO (who can’t be moved by such a talented and intelligent speaker?), I don’t think he has been entirely spared when it comes to being affected at the level of ego and emotion. It’s like my argument about dressage judging. As long as human beings are involved, human nature cannot be eliminated. I actually believe that at this point no one is seeing the issues properly and I have an image in my head of a circle of villain-victims biting each other on the bum. I know, not a very elegant image but I am not such an elegant thinker.

I will be posting something on my blog today that is likely not to find friends in any quarter. I believe nothing is going to be solved until some kind of arbitration is imposed, and I have no idea if that could or would ever happen. The true shame to me is that the people who will pay the price are the members – the riders, the officials, the show organizers. And as I concluded in my Horse Sport article, none of this has anything to do with the actual horses for which these federations were created in the first place. In one of my pre-Christmas posts I criticized a rider who had written that she wanted to turn her back on these problems and just go ride her horse. I’m not so sure I disagree with her now.”

Here is a link to an article written by Claire Milton, who in addition to her various activities as a volunteer and participant in the equestrian community, still manages to find the energy to care about the mess EC and the provinces have landed in.