Kristi Wysocki: "The Death of a Horse Show - Not a Sweet Dream"

Wed, 09/23/2020 - 16:32
Kristi Wysocki at the 2019 CDI Brisbane

Guest columnist of this week is Kristi Wysocki, American FEI 4* Dressage Judge, FEI 5* Para Dressage Judge, a dressage Sport Horse Judge, instructor, and consultant.

Wysocki publishing the following column on her Facebook page in response to the cancellation of the 2020 USDF Dressage Finals

The Death of a Horse Show - Not a Sweet Dream

Yes, the 2020 USDF Dressage Final is the latest victim of Covid 19. But this final is not the most important victim of this invisible enemy. Let us not forget that yes many horse shows have been lost in 2020, but how do those losses even compare or deserve recognition relative to the human lives lost in 2020.

Chapter 1: Decisions, decisions

Sadly this last week, the President of USDF announced that the 2020 US Dressage Finals to be held at the Kentucky Horse Park in November is cancelled. Disappointment is expected, but certainly surprise nor anger should be expected.

But as is the current trend of social media society, the angry, sometimes mean statements and demands being written on facebook have been rampant. The public social media “attacks” aimed at the USDF Executive Board and staff are astounding.

The 2020 Olympics were cancelled and nobody got angry, nobody demanded the IOC find another location, that they were being unrealistic. Everybody realized that it just wasn’t going to work. There are athletes, not just in dressage, but in many different sports that won’t make it to the Olympics because of the delay. On the other hand, there are rising stars that will make it to the Olympics because of the delay. These are the ups and downs of real life.

Chapter 2: Roles People Play

The USDF Executive Board and Staff along with many other individuals don’t ever just decide they don’t want to do something. They deserve more credit than that. Imagine how many hours the decision regarding the Finals was discussed; the issues, problems, risks involved in going forward with the show vs. cancelling. Imagine that after the decision was made - did any of them sleep the first night after they finally gave into a vote and made their decision; some of them still might not be sleeping. Perhaps appreciate that the decision was not last minute. It was not made after people and horses were already on the road. It could not have been easy, but that is why they make “the big bucks” to take on problems and make decisions that are not easy and sometimes not popular.

Chapter 3: Armchair Quarterbacks

Now the FB and (probably) other social media platforms full on attack has begun. Excuse me while I digress but why manners, dignity, human kindness, honor, logic are not considered requirements when speaking on FB is beyond me. Yikes people. Listen to what you are writing. Are you saying it out loud before you hit send? Would you use the tone, the words, the demands, the accusations to these people’s faces that you have in writing behind a door, in a dark room with only a computer screen or smartphome lit up for light, a 1000 miles away - on these platforms?!?

Chapter 4: Glamorous Job

Do you remember these people are volunteers that didn’t sign up for the “Board of Covid Dressage”. Do you realize that they got a 0% pay raise on the $0 dollars they are paid to probably increase the time they have spent to help our sport by 5 maybe even 10 fold in the year 2020 and there is no end in sight. Do you realize that the easy route would have been for them to say “No recognized shows 2020. It's not USDF’s problem.” But no - they didn’t give up, against all odds they have facilitated as many opportunities as they could for as many riders to have a shot at USDF recognized competition as possible in 2020. Did everybody get to play - no. But more did than anyone would have guessed 6 months ago. Look at how many wins there have been when there looked to be only losses just 6 months ago.

The glass is more than half full. Yet when seeing some of the comments on FB you’d think there was no glass, much less half empty.

Chapter 5: sympathy Card

So sorry that if you qualified for Finals that you have to wait till 2021 to go. So sorry if you chose to go to a different regional final that IS holding the show and does have significant expenses based on the entries they received that you don’t get a refund. Just eight short years ago there were no National Finals. Regionals was the goal. Why is that now considered less than awesome?

Completely Devastated and heartbroken that people (that even those complaining might know) have lost their loved ones forever and our spoiled society of Instant gratification is too caught up in themselves to care. Perhaps a fund raising campaign for the families that lost loved ones could
be started with some of the money that is saved up for the finals that couldn’t be. Would you donate your entry fee, stabling fee, saved gas expenses to help one of these families?

Chapter 6: Real Sportsmanship

Not one Olympic rider complained when Tokyo was postponed and there are one or two that may very well have ridden in 2020, but due to horse retirements, etc. will not likely ride in 2021. They didn’t complain. They celebrated their journey. They celebrated their partners.

The world around us and the information developing is changing faster than we can keep up with. The CDC, epidemiologists and more are working day and night to get a “grip”
on this disease so people can start to move toward some sort of normalcy again. But no organization, no expert, no fortune teller has said all the answers are here.

We have to wait. We have to have some patience that our lives and the world we live in as we knew them 6 months ago are going to change. We have to sacrifice. Some Big - some little. We have to be good sports.


During this time of flux - try not to be quite so “It’s all about me and I want it now.” If you get to go to a show, even if its virtual - be grateful instead of Angry that you don’t get to go to Regionals Or Finals because of this complex year. Some people don’t get to WAKE UP today because of it. Does that help put it in perspective?

And by the way - Please do send emails to the USDF Staff, Executive Board, President, the show organizers and facilities that were able to hold the shows that you did or did not compete in - And THANK them for all they’ve done for all of us so that some semblance of Dressage did stay alive during 2020.

Walk a mile in an Executive Board or USDF staff member shoes. Walk a mile in a facility or show management’s shoes that chose to take the risk to let you on their property or had to make the devastating call that it just wouldn’t work at that location, at that time to hold that particular show. Likely you’ll need a new pair of shoes if you walked in their shoes this year. Think about the details of the decisions that have been made. Drop the flippant comments such as “Why don’t you just move it”. Think about what a statement like that involves. And what they are trying to do - and be grateful you aren’t carrying the weight of responsibilities and decisions on your shoulders that they are carrying on theirs. None of them were “read in” on “oh guess what kind of year 2020 is going to be”. If they had been, we’d probably have a very limited number of volunteers to walk in those shoes.

Let this experience make us all work together to help make this organization, this sport bigger, better and stronger. If we work together we will survive. If we attack, fight, argue - the sport will be the victim - Do you want that?

Dream of being an Executive Board Member, USDF Staff, Dressage Show Manager, Facility in the year 2020 - not so sure it will be a sweet dream!

-- by Kristi Wysocki

Related Links
2020 USDF Dressage Finals Cancelled due to Covid-19
It Has Been Decided: Olympic Games in Tokyo Postponed to 2021
Isabell Werth: The Corona Crisis Provides a Moment of Reflection
Corona Cancellations: Amsterdam, Nice, Munich indoors
Mandas and Wysocki to Instruct at the 2017 USDF Sport Horse Seminar
U.S. Judge Kristi Wysocki Reports On FEI Judges’ Course at 2011 CDI-W London