Did you hear that rustling sound?
That’s BadEventer putting on her flame retardant suit
because I’m about to get roasted alive.
And no water source in sight.
First a disclaimer and public service announcement.
This isn’t going to be funny.
I’m taking a step back from my usual self deprecating & hilarious blogging to talk about the internet furor since Kentucky.
And since this won’t be a BadEventer funny Tale I’m going to exempt the “no real names” rule.
I’m going to use real names, lots of them. And I’m going to throw some people under the bus, by name.
So I’ll start with myself. BadEventer’s real identity certainly isn’t a secret but here it goes.
My real-life name is Laura Szeremi and I’m a small animal emergency veterinarian.
My approach to the shark infested waters I’m about to wade into, and trust me I’m wading in all the way to my neck is from a medical perspective.
I think that part gets missed a lot so I’m going to spell it out.
So let’s just get right to it.
Marilyn Little’s horse had a cut on its lip at Kentucky (the event formerly known as Rolex) in the cross country warm up. The veterinarian looked at it, determined the horse had bitten its lip and was OK to compete.
The horse bit itself. No one cut it with a razor blade. No one punched it in the face. It bit its lip. This happens. It happens more than you think. (Back to that in a minute.)
The horse jumped around a 4 star cross country and the cut bled on course. When the horse got off course, in the vet box the lip was no longer bleeding. Sure the groom wiped its mouth off. Of course she did, I’m not sure why anyone wouldn’t. Apparently that was enough that it stopped bleeding. MEDICALLY, that’s a minor, VERY MINOR injury.
Tiny cuts in mouths bleed, they bleed a lot. If a mouth wound stops bleeding on its own, that’s a pretty minute injury, from a medical perspective.
Now let me tell you a story.
More than a few dozen times in my career I’ve had a dog come in to see me with a teensy tiny cut on its ear, lip or tongue. These particular cuts are some of the smallest cuts I’ve ever seen. At the absolute most they tend to be 3mm long. However, because these dogs are hyper maniacs, they come in slinging blood everywhere. Even though a team of highly trained emergency personel rush out when they arrive with bandages they usually COVER the front entrance, the lobby and the exam room with blood before we can get them bandaged.
It turns the hospital into a Dexter murder scene in seconds.
Bleeding has more to do with blood pressure than the size of the wound. These dogs had tiny nicks. They bled everywhere. They all healed in a handful of days. NONE of them needed blood transfusions. You can take a tiny amount of blood and sling it around & it looks horrific, when MEDICALLY it’s a non-issue.
Marilyn’s horse had a small cut. It was cleared by the vet. It bled some on course, likely due to the blood pressure involved in running a 4 star cross country. It stopped bleeding when she got off course.
And here’s the rub?
Is this abuse?
It seems most of the webisphere is calling it abuse, and is calling for her to be banned from the sport.
I’ve seen suggestions ranging from an automatic elimination for blood rule in eventing, to grooms have to use white towels and they will all be inspected, etc.
But here’s the thing.
It was a small wound that required no medical intervention. No one cut the horse on purpose. Is it bad PR? Sure. I get that part.
But is this about optics or welfare?
When a horse bows a tendon on course, no one calls for that rider to be banned from the sport.
Can we all agree for one moment that a bowed tendon is an exponentially more serious injury than a small bite on the lip?
A tendon can be career ending.
A tendon can take years to rehab.
A lip cut can heal in a day or two.
Neither was done on purpose.
Why is no one frothing at the mouth and calling for riders whose mounts bow tendons (even repeatedly) to be banned from the sport?
As a medical professional I don’t understand the incredible mob & pitchfork reaction to what is a minor self inflicted injury to a horse.
Now, before you all say, “but it’s not the FIRST time this happened to Marilyn’s horses!”
OK. I get that. I don’t live under a rock, though I 100% am sure I will want to after posting this.
And I’ll be the first to say, “Marilyn, DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT! Loosen your freaking noseband, try a hackamore, grease your horses mouth, I don’t know what but figure out how to make this stop.
Seriously Marilyn, cut it the F out!”
Now with that said, horses that bite themselves tend to do it more than once. Horses that split their lips tend to do it more than once. What should be done with those horses?
And before you say, this ONLY happens to Marilyn, here’s another bloody mouth, and that’s not Marilyn.
And who can possibly forget when this happened at the Olympics? Again, not Marilyn.
Recently I came in from a trail ride on a loose rein. I was riding in a rubber nathe.
This is probably the softest bit ever. It’s rubber, it’s soft. My little trail pony was bleeding from his mouth when I got off. He had split his lip on one side.
Was I “abusing” him on that trail ride on a loose rein?
I went to Burghley last year
and after cross country Boyd’s horse needed stitches. TEN OF THEM.
For the record, Steady Eddie wasn’t the only one to get sutures.
From Boyd’s page,
STEADY EDDIE BURGHLEY 2017
After a disappointing mishap at Kentucky earlier in the year, I was eager to get a good result at the 4 star level on Eddie. We jetted him over to England to tackle a very big Burghely. I had not been there for 6 years and I had almost forgot how tough of a course it was. Eddie did not disappoint. We lost both front shoes and cut a hind leg that required 10 stitches. The toughness and bravery of Eddie was evident with a top 10 finish.”
Any kind of wound requiring 10 stitches is significantly worse than a small lip cut that didn’t need any stitches.
No one was calling for Boyd to be banned from the sport, or calling it abuse that he show jumped the horse with a laceration bad enough to need 10 stitches.
But maybe this isn’t about horse welfare?
It’s ok if your horse has a BIG cut that needs stitching up as long as you’re cute and everyone likes you.
But it’s not ok if your horse has a little cut, if people don’t like you……
I have a grey horse.
I didn’t WANT a grey horse.
I was adamantly opposed to a grey and had to be talked into it. You know why? Because Becky Holder got pulled up at Kentucky in 2012 for what according to many reports “could best be described as a tiny scratch.” But he was a grey horse. She got pulled up.
Boyd’s horse needed 10 stitches, bay horse keeps going, gets 10 stitches, finishes Burghley.
Here’s what happened to Becky if you missed it, from horsetalk.co.nz
“At the Rolex International Three Day Event in Lexington this year <2012>, Becky Holder was stopped two fences from home on her (white) grey horse , Can’t Fire Me, when a small amount of blood was spotted on the horse’s knee from what can only be described as a tiny scratch.
They were clear at the time but not allowed to continue. As the pair were on the USEF Olympic short list for London, it could be that this failure to complete was responsible for their relegation to a reserve slot on the team announced earlier this week.
The blood stain was so minute that television and internet viewers could scarely see it, and on inspection of photographs (the one above was taken two fences before the stoppage) it is hard to discern, even against the white coat.”
I’m completely sure, with my luck, that I would FINALLY get to that 4* and a big horse fly will bite my grey horse and I’ll get stopped.
I’m from Alabama. The horse flies there OFTEN leave blood dripping down your horse’s side. Do we want a rule where a fly bite could get you eliminated from a competition?
Horses get hurt at home in their paddocks, in horse trailers going places and at competitions. Did you know there are actually scientific studies they did on horse injuries to determine where they happen the most? It is, of course, at home in their turnouts.
So turnout should be banned! Well, maybe if you’re trying to get ready for your first 4 star. Get ready for the handwalking BadEventGroom!
Horses do get hurt in competition. But if we’re going to eliminate or ban riders for a little blood on a horse and not for ripping off part of their hoof, bowing a tendon or getting a big laceration?
Then it’s not really about horse welfare is it.