FYI I’m linking to places with pictures of Little riding with blood in the horses mouth but as I don’t have permission to use those pictures I’m trying to respect photographers by not re-posting. Instead there are definite little sprinkles of other articles (sources) here and there that you can click on.
So if you follow the sport of eventing religiously, or you were even just following for the weekend, you’ve probably heard that RF Scandalous ridden by Marilyn Little displayed blood on her mouth during her cross-country warm-up. Official statement on the issue was that the horse bit her lip and caused the blood. Little followed all the proper procedures to have her checked out and cleared by the stewards and the vet before they went into the start box. The blood appeared to be stopping on it’s own. However, pictures from their time on course prove that the blood had re-started and honestly it looked pretty awful.
My issue isn’t that the mare “bit herself” and caused the blood. My issue is with the sheer number of times this has happened to Little, and the fact this is the third time this had happened with RF Scandalous.
Little is now the top USEF rider after her third place finish at LRK3DE but I, for one, am finding it difficult to be excited about having a woman at the top of the US riders considering the questions currently circling around her.
Here is the original post I read from COTH on Saturday night. Here is Little’s response to the backlash from Social Media. Just to give you guys a taste for the absolute anger and disgust, here’s a few screenshots…
And then just for fun let’s view this screenshot of someone defending Little despite the fact that they clearly didn’t do any research on the rider (this was definitely NOT Little’s first time at this event).
Or you can simply go read this thread on the COTH forums.
Now, I’m probably coming off as taking the full on pack’s side in this situation, when in reality I actually understand that necessity of having a bit that you can manage your horse in when they get a bit hot. Let’s remember that these horses are literally at the top of their game, they’re strong, they’re fit, and they love their work. You cannot, I repeat cannot, force horses to perform at this level if they do not want to. There absolutely has to be a bond and there has to be desire. If a horse doesn’t want to perform in the dressage they’ll refuse to perform correctly, if they don’t want to jump things the size of small houses, well no amount of beating on your end is going to get them over it. You can fudge your way around the lower levels but there is no margin for error at the advance levels of… any equestrian sport. So, absolutely the top riders use the tack that makes things safer (and please do not come at me with “they should just train better” because quite frankly not all training sticks when horses are excited or nervous, deal with it).
However, that does not mean that I accept blood in the horses mouth on this consistent of a basis. Marilyn Little made her debut to eventing in 2010 (I think???) and since then has had 6 documented instances of blood in horses mouths? Three instances on RF Scandalous? HOW. WHY. How can this keep happening?
Ruthie Meyer (4* eventer Joe Meyer’s wife) wrote this in 2016,
“However, we are scratching our heads over the fact that this is the fourth time in the last 18 months or so that this has happened to Marilyn Little with different horses at different shows with different bits.”
You can read the article this was pulled from here on the Eventing Connect website.
For me, that’s pretty damning. 4th time in that short of a time frame? Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. This should absolutely NOT be continuing! First “accidental” bitten lip, okay fine $#!* happens, right? Okay, second? Dude… bitten lips by horses are just not super common but fine let it roll with some concerns. Third time? In 18 or fewer months? Eliminate! Three times is all that it should haven taken to set a trend and begin to punish her for it! I’m sorry Marilyn Little, USEF, and FEI but this is absolutely unacceptable for ANY sport. Not just Eventing. Why is it that you’ve so quickly eliminated competitors in show-jumping for issues, or (yeah I’m going to reference it) Steffan Peters for spur marks when they were obviously not intentionally created (and some horses truly are just thin skinned), but absolutely REFUSE to do anything about Little? Is it because she’s now the leading US Eventing rider after Kentucky? Is it because you know if you let her pass she’s likely to come out as the winner? Is winning REALLY worth it?
Think my concerns about blue ribbons and country bragging are unfounded? Well she was the US rider leading the way toward a possible Kentucky win, and I think her FEI record says that she’s pretty damn good at winning on this horse (when she’s not eliminated). RF Scandalous’ FEI performance record. If she’s being allowed to continue for a blue ribbon, shame on everyone involved! Seriously! This is not acceptable. Horses cannot speak and we have rules in place so that we can ensure their welfare against accidental or purposeful mistreatment.
To wrap this up and allow you guys to do some extra research on your own, should you wish, here are some extra links (some of them have pictures displaying the issues).
- Fair Hill Bloody Mouth 2015
- Fair Hill Bloody Mouth 2016
- Marilyn Little – Legitimate Questions or Witch Hunt?
- Eventers who live in glass barns shouldn’t throw stones at Marilyn Little
- Blood Rules by Equestrian At Hart
- When does control become abuse? By $900 Facebook Pony
I don’t want to see all instances of blood eliminated on xc or any other area of the sport. Accidents DO happen and we all should understand that. But when there’s a pattern such as this, something needs to be done to force the rider to end the issue causing behavior. Because having a rider who’s had 6 documented instances of blood on the mouth and not eliminated or disciplined at all for it is a huge issue and it’s bad for the entire sport.
UPDATE: Just to ensure that the comment from Amanda C. from $900 Facebook Pony doesn’t go missed!
For those who would like to speak out, you can email complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org, plus a full list of her sponsors can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/bobby.covington.7/posts/10214224849248391