Well that escalated quickly

On Friday when I posted what can only be called my opinion piece on the bloody mouthed horse situation, I thought it might get a little bit of attention. What I didn’t count on was it getting over 40k hits (and counting), lighting the Internet on fire, and causing me to spend most of my weekend trying to respond to it all. Those 10″ of rain we got here in Texas at least came in handy for something, since it was far too wet for me to ride anyway.

There are a few more things I’d like to say on the matter before I return to my regularly scheduled blog content, mostly in general response to a lot of the conversations I’ve seen on the blog comments, Facebook, and message boards.

we do this because it’s FUN, remember?

Somehow a lot of people got stuck on my post being a snaffle vs non-snaffle discussion. If you’re getting hung up on that, you’re missing the much more important big picture.

Some defended the blood, saying it happens to everyone and isn’t uncommon or a big deal. I’ve been to a lot of competitions in my 32 years and never seen it before in my life. It’s never happened to me before either. Not to mention: if you think it’s ok for horses to be bleeding from the mouth in the middle of a competition, you must not like horse sports very much. Eventing already has a bad enough reputation for safety and horse welfare. What kind of repercussions do you think we will face in the future if we let bloody horses continue around course and do nothing to stop it? We have to police ourselves or someone else will.

In case you missed it, someone named Emily jumped to ML’s defense with her comment on the blog post, which was probably the saddest of all the comments I read:

You have no place to comment on another rider’s system. Especially not one who is as successful as Marilyn. As a groom at the FEI level I’ve seen the behind the scenes and Marilyn’s horses are not being abused in the least. They are strong horses and she needs control.
So you can comment after you’ve won a gold at the Pan Am Games, won a few Grand Prixs and gotten multiple horses to Rolex

I wasn’t aware that bringing home medals and ribbons was justification for leaving a literal trail of blood in your wake. I think Aimee of Sprinkler Bandit fame said it best


Our sport cannot survive mindsets like Emily’s. Any horse showing visible blood while on course should be pulled up IMMEDIATELY, no matter who you are or where you are. This isn’t just about ML… anyone should be pulled up. But a rider who has two bloody mouthed horses two weekends in a row should get extra close scrutiny. That’s not normal, especially not in conjunction with some pretty wild equipment setups.

We want happy horses, even if they’re kinda silly and spooky

I received story after story in my email and fb inbox from people who were at Fair Hill, all saying that many spectators clearly saw the blood and wondered aloud to each other why the horse was being allowed to continue. Is that what we want people to see and think when they come watch our competitions? A couple even went so far as to question officials, who assured them the horse was “fine” and had just bitten it’s tongue. That looks bad for our sport. Incredibly bad.

How it happened, while important to understand for the sake of prevention, should not factor into a decision to stop the horse/rider pair because it can’t be determined until after the fact. Visible blood should equal immediate mandatory retirement. Period. And I personally, as an eventer, would be 100% ok with that if it happened to me. I would WANT to be pulled up on course if my horse was bleeding so much that people could see it even as I was galloping past. No competition is worth risking his well-being or causing him discomfort. I would hope that the vast majority of my peers would feel the same. Not to mention that IMO a tongue bite serious enough to cause that much visible blood is not a minor injury at all. Mouth injuries hurt like a mofo, I think any of us can attest to that.

the happiest place

If we want to stop things like this from happening, IMO we have to target the specific wording of the rules regarding blood and we have to make sure they’re fully enforced. Having arguments on the internet about snaffles is a waste of time and energy. There will never (and should never IMO) be a rule saying we can only use a snaffle while jumping. So instead of arguing about bits on Facebook groups and forums until we’re blue in the face, why not channel our efforts into something that will actually matter? Email, call, and make yourselves heard to our governing bodies. Sign the petition. Submit rule change proposals. Help protect our sport.

And to those trying to threaten me, bury the photos, or have them removed – shame on all of you.

34 thoughts on “Well that escalated quickly

  1. Yep. I saw your post all over FB, and not just from bloggers. It was awesome. I don’t like that it devolves into “snaffle v snaffle”, because there are so many reasons behind bitting choices and a snaffle alone isn’t always a good choice. It is absolutely possible to use a more powerful bit without blood and without damaging your horse’s enjoyment of his sport. You can use big scary looking spurs without destroying your horse’s sides.

    It’s all in how you use the equipment. And I agree, blood is not okay. If the horse is biting its tongue that often, figure out a different method.


  2. Well said. A group of us had this discussion this weekend (spurred by your post which popped up all over my FB feed). I too was shocked at how people turned it into a discussion on bitting, when at it’s core it is an issue about horse welfare, bleeding and murky rules.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sadly, as I was reading this, I was thinking “ah, let’s see when the threats begin” …. I’ve also had a controversial story go completely viral and it’s very interesting to me how many people wanted to tell me what an asshole I was! And then the threats to sue, etc etc. I assure you, nothing ever came of any of the threats


      1. well of course! you just broke their glass pedestal they had their idol on… so instead of being rational its out with the pitchforks….. shame because you’re right.


  4. You’re absolutely righ that blood should mean immediate retirement. Being allowed to go on because of the mindset that the reason for the blood MIGHT be nothing isn’t acceptable.

    Also, thank you for backing up your reasoning with facts and trying to actually make a difference instead of just ignorantly bitching about it online like so many people do.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Very well written, I could not agree more. One of the reasons I no longer compete is seeing the abuse of horses (and that picks on no disciplines- I have competed in HJ, eventing, team roping and was on a horse judging team traveling to many breed shows involving disciplines across the board). I will be signing the petition. Thank you Amanda for your COURAGE and love of the horse. They need strong people like you to speak for them!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Loved both of these articles! I am personally one of those people who always uses a snaffle. But then I totally understand that a snaffle isn’t enough for some horses. But I hate seeing horses in strong bits because the rider isn’t confident enough to ride it in a snaffle… But like you said, this isn’t about snaffles. It’s about sportsmanship.

    Rules do need to change to make rules clearer for everyone an safer for the horses.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow – that’s crazy people are trying to justify it! I understand she is a “higher level” rider, but that doesn’t give her any reason to have blood all over his horse’s mouth… Good for you for sticking up for what is right. I’m right there with you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I thought your original article was great and I thoroughly agree with your follow-up. I signed the petition and will share this post as well. I, too, found Emily’s comment to be the most disturbing comment. As I said in my comment to her on your original post, I work on the racetrack. I pony horses, so I have seen thousand of racehorses up close and personal. Because racehorses tongues are sometimes tied for breathing problems, they occasionally bite their tongues. I have only seen one horse in the 40 years I’ve worked on the track who showed more than just a drop of blood from biting his tongue. The horse did not display any more blood than shown in your picture, but the rider and I immediately took him to the vet and he was scratched. Plus, every horse I’ve ever seen bite their tongue had blood on their lips- not high in their mouth where the bit goes. I do not believe for a minute that the blood in the picture came from a tongue bite. I find the officials response to the spectators particularly disturbing. We need more common-sense posts like yours. Thanks for writing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My belief is I don’t care how many medals you have, if you have to ride so aggressively you draw blood, get the f*ck off your horse, and relearn how to use your aids and actually ride. To see an FEI groom defending this behavior is absolutely disgusting.

    Not every horse can go softly in a snaffle, but every horse should be able to go softly in a humane bit.

    Signing the petition!


  10. Threats!!! Omg are these people for real!? Let me guess, they are using fake names or anonymous in this…

    In commend you for speaking about the subject! Shame on the people trying to hide or belittle this! And the ones turning this into a bit battle…

    My Henry is strong, very strong but that doesn’t mean I strap barbed wire and chains on him… I shutter at the sigh of blood on my horse and would be the first to stop and address it!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Considering all the horse abuse that is viewed as “normal” by the parties who engage in it–soring, tack nosebands, bearing reins in “the old days”, to name a few–it’s hardly surprising that some folks would come out of the woodwork to defend themselves and/or threaten anyone who thinks the rule system is faulty. It’s discouraging that one of the major human deficiencies is our apparent inability to read a statement accurately (it’s not about bitting!). So we acknowledge these difficulties and carry on with our efforts for change.


  12. My trainer always said re bitting up – a horse can run through a bit made out of barbed wire if they’re really motivated to.

    I got a lot of flack for posting about the ridiculous whining that went on at the 2010 WEGs. (Dutch horse’s dq because of his (very) bloody mouth) People really show their true colors when the horse welfare issues come out. It’s easier to get defensive than to examine the ethics of your training habits I guess.

    Good for you for standing your ground. And wtf people – try reading with comprehension next time…


  13. You would think the entire horse community would be one for the well being of the horse. But sadly, that does not seem so. I am glad that you are bringing this to light and getting people talking. Hopefully it will be the push that the system needs to re-word such rules and get people paying closer attention to what is happening. Go Amanda!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. so i gotta admit – i just about died (but in a good way) when i saw Aimee’s comment. seriously tho – great topic and thanks for starting the discussion. the community as a whole needs to talk about the reality of horse welfare and spotty rule enforcement (or plain old insufficient rules) – and no, it’s not just a conversation about snaffles, and it’s not even just a conversation about eventing.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I didn’t comment on the OP, but I found it very thoughtful and a good reflection of what a lot of people are thinking without redacting it to the point of Boring in order to satiate the trolls. I think this is an even better response and appreciate the effort and thought that’s gone into it.


    Liked by 1 person

  16. Makes me sad (again) that people are missing the point of your OP re: biting issues vs. unclear rules/ following the rules/ policing ourselves.

    Major kudos you again for your courage in speaking up. You’re practicing what you preach.


    1. It’s immensely sad to me that someone speaking up is seen as courageous. It should be normal. Whatever we are doing that makes people so afraid to speak their mind, we have to change that too. And it’s also sad that when people do speak their mind, there are those out there that really really don’t like it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’d be super interested to hear how you’ve dealt with the response from this. Threats to shut you down/ take down the photos, etc…how do you even handle that? (Separate blog post about that maybe??)

        Point taken, though!


  17. I remember eventing nation covering Rolex 2013 and Becky Holder’s horse had blood on his leg that him being a grey it was very visible- she was pulled up for having blood on her horse and I think the follow up was it very minor scratch that you just wash and put stuff on it. So if she was pulled out of Rolex for a minor scratch why wouldn’t MLM be pulled for a bloody mouth? Definitely inconsistent and not right!

    Hopefully your blog post and the petition will continue to wake people up and get some changes/consistency in the rule book!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. What strikes me the most about this is how hard you actually have to yank on a horse to make him bleed. I’ve seen horses get their reins hooked up on fences and throw their heads up and give themselves a tremendous yank in the mouth, or even spook and fight against side reins so hard they broke. And when I anxiously inspected their mouths I couldn’t even find a bruise. She must have been *wrenching* on him with that monster bit to actually get him to bleed.


  19. I wish there was a love button for this. Another well written post. Welfare of the horse above all else. Regardless of whether it’s rider inflicted or self inflicted, blood equals injury which equals pain (or at least discomfort)… you’d think as people that supposedly love horses we’d realize that and do the right thing. The competition, training, riding it all means nothing if my horse isn’t 100% happy and comfortable.


  20. This is appalling. Strong bit or snaffle, no horse should have blood in its mouth from the bit. I’ve seen a similar issue with the dressage riders making the tongues purple. If such an issue happens once the maybe(with emphasis) the rider could say it was an accident(not saying they necessarily should “get away with it” though because it takes a lot of force to get a horse to bleed) but twice is quite a bit less excusable. I’m not hating against Marilyn; I’m just appalled by this issue.


  21. Did you see we’ve gotten a very carefully-worded statement from ML?? I. Am. Not. Impressed. “Didn’t see it from the saddle,” my you-know-what. I’d bet anything she had people shouting at her as she went by – “HEY! Your HORSE IS BLEEDING!” Duh-oh… Still angry, at her, at the stewards and at anybody who thought any of this was somehow okay. I signed that petition, too. This woman better be under a damn MICROSCOPE from now on!


  22. I signed your petition. This kind of stuff needs to STOP across the board in ALL competitive disciplines. I don’t compete in eventing, but my sister did on a high level back in the late 70’s and 80’s….you didn’t see this stuff. I’ve owned and shown for over 50 years, with an emphasis on AQHA for the past 2 decades and have seen the same thing; the win-at-all-costs attitude where the horse ALWAYS suffers. There is NO excuse and it needs to end. But, you know…there’s a saying….”it’s who you know and who you blow” when it comes to the big shots and how the powers that be turn a blind eye. It’s despicable.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I’m writing this months later (May ’16), and can’t add anything to the sensible, yet impassioned expressions of concern above. But let me say this: in the photo referred to in your post, of ML jumping a coop, I see a rider who has been left behind and is hanging on by the reins, ripping her horse’s mouth back to its ears. Compare that to the photos of you and Henny, in which you are completely with your horse, tight as a tick, and showing form that even George Morris couldn’t criticize. Who is the better rider – in *all* senses?


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