Show jumping today is becoming less accessible to more Americans as the costs of participating increase. This is a dangerous trend, because the wealthy rider has become the new normal. Fifty years ago, riders made their way up the ranks riding both good and bad horses owned by others; now, most grand prix riders or their families own their own horses.
The youth of today need to avoid riding on easy street. Riding only nice horses and nice courses is fun and nice to watch, but it doesn’t develop the underlying foundation a horseman needs to be a great rider. So, how can we stop the mollification of the sport?
Let kids be kids and ponies be ponies. At a young age, the least important part of riding should be showing. 4-H, U.S. Pony Clubs, riding bareback, tent pegging, jumping on and off, taking care of the ponies—these will all do more for creating a stronger generation of riders. Learning how to fall, and not fall, is so much easier when the distance to the ground is small. Learning how to get that pony over the wall or around the ring is more important than a leadline blue ribbon. Kids and ponies need to mix it up to shake out the best.