Since bumping my comments on the FEI’s new website last week in order to air my thoughts on helmets, I learned something even more heinous that doesn’t paint a very pretty picture of certain people who represent Mission Control in the field. It was brought to my attention that the $75,000 CSI2* Grand Prix down in Welly World on the evening of Saturday February 27th was the scene of some highly public brutality which has apparently gone unpunished. A young fellow named Michael Morrissey was part way through his round on Crelido when the horse decided he was a wee bit frightened of the water jump. The rider did what one would expect, cracking the horse a good one while circling to take another run. But what he did next was not really what families with horse loving children, or even horse loving adults, or even adults who don’t like horses, would enjoy. He hit the horse as hard as he could a dozen times as he galloped down to the water a second time. And I mean AS HARD AS HE COULD: arm outstretched above head on each swing (more of a golf swing, really) and the whip held upside down in hand to give the blows more force. The horse jumped the water. I can’t imagine it having done otherwise, considering the incentive it received en route. I’m not exaggerating. I saw the video.
Did Michael receive a yellow card? Elimination? Not at all. His name is on the ’35th place’ line for the class, which was also a US team selection trial. Move over roll kur. We’ve got some real abuse to complain about today. A witness who was in the stands that night said that when the round was over, there was near silence in the audience of thousands, apart from a few boos. Yo, FEI stewards. If you didn’t see the travesty, surely you heard the whacks, even if you were on the far side of the warm up watching for rappers. To use an internet profanity that doesn’t require me to type the actual ‘f’ word, WTF? I have made my laborious way through the FEI show jumping rules, and can’t find an actual number of times you are allowed to whip a horse after a refusal (maybe it’s in eventing but I was sure I read the number three once somewhere). However, in the section on fines and yellow carding it says that abuse of horses in any form, including “excessive use of whip” is cause for punishment. There’s that nasty unquantifiable word that they have tried to get rid of in the roll kur debate: excessive. How many and how hard is excessive? I’d say it’s pretty clear that Michael Morriseey was well in excess of the threshold that even people who know nothing about horses would define as excessive. The only thing that should ever be hit that hard is a nail. You know how people hit when they are enraged? As if with both super-human power and a complete lack of self-control? That’s what I saw on the video. I’ve heard it looked much worse when viewed live in the stands.
I have no idea who Michael Morrissey is – whether he is a golden boy on the US circuit and prone to special treatment from officials at FEI competitions, or just another schmuck who did something awful to his horse in public. I put him in the same league I placed Denis Lynch when I saw the youtube video of him beating and screaming expletives at his horse at a show in Ireland a couple of years ago. Where are you FEI? Your absence is keenly felt.
And on that note, let’s talk about another disappearing act the FEI has recently performed with the launching of their ‘new and improved’ website. Here is problem number one: thanks to the changes to the site, the links that people like myself, national federations and various discipline-related websites have saved to shorten the (lengthy) search it often requires to find things on the FEI website, none of those links works any more. Not one. I couldn’t for the life of me find two of the things I go to most often on the still-purple site: the case status table of positive drug tests and dressage tests. I actually had to email the folks at Mission Control to ask where they had gone. The dressage tests are buried about ten pages into the section for show organizers, which suggests that no one at the FEI thinks riders need to see the tests before they go to shows. The Case Status Table and decisions are easier to find – once you know where to look, under the new section called ‘legal activities’. And maybe it’s just my crass North American upbringing, but I find the new site even less user-friendly than the old one – I didn’t think that was even possible. I have spent a significant portion of my adult life in the Old Country, and even got married in France (which means I know how bureacracy is cherished like a first-born son in Europe), but I guess I just don’t think like a European. I don’t put a little slash on my number one’s, I don’t eat a full meal at lunch, and I don’t understand the logic that went into the design of the FEI’s new site.
Not to be outdone by the FEI with all the splashy press releases heralding the dawning of a new cyber-age, DC issued a press release of its own just last week to announce that their website is no longer the place to go. “Dressage Canada has shut down the website, www.dressagecanada.org, redirecting visitors to the official site, www.equinecanada.ca/dressage. While the official website was launched in late 2008, many members were still using the .org website, causing some confusion.” Wha? I wasn’t confused before but now I am. Why bother with a press release about this anyway? First of all, the .org site has not been shut down. I’m staring at it right now. And second of all, if a link has been created to redirect people to the right site (and it hasn’t – I’m staring at it right now) there is no need to tell anyone about it. For a long time it’s been the case that as soon as you click on a link on the DC site it goes to an EC page anyway, and they didn’t issue any press releases to ease the anxiety that DC members must surely have felt when they found themselves swept away from dressagecanada.org. What the DC web whizes (whoever and wherever they are) do need to get going on, however, is to change the links to the FEI dressage tests. I tried to be helpful last week and emailed the new chair of DCB the prized links to FEI and para-dressage tests that I’d been sent, but I see they didn’t yet get around to replacing the old ones that don’t work. It can’t be that hard to do. If I can figure out how to post this blog, surely a career webmaster just has to do a little cut and paste.
I know today was a rant. My Olympic hang over is lingering – I want Vancouver 2010 back! The sun shone brighter then.