Response from BD to Guardian op-ed piece on Dressage

Halfstep

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/27/animalwelfare

Well said Claire!
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Flicker

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A brilliantly written response to a forced, unfunny and clunky piece of journalism. Well done Claire - you could put David What's-his-name out of a job any day!!
 

KenRehill

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Actually, I found her response to be high handed and stereotypical of the activity of dressage. That is to say "snotty".

I could have told you who was going to win, and with the mafia-like brow beating of the officials by some "competitors" and team managers, and dodgy late night meetings, along with the totally subjective nature of the activity, I can't see how dressage really fits in with the Olympic ideal.

The original piece wasn't in any way clunky or unfunny, I laughed out loud. In this rediculous PC world where no one is aloud an opinion, I thought he was simply voicing what the largest part of the world community were thinking.
 

BigRed

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I am glad they published her response, but I didn't think it was well written, it was techno babble. Yes, the movements in a GP test can be seen by any horse at liberty, but to say that tension and distress are marked down is simply not true.

Many dressage horses do lead miserable lives and perform under considerable stress, showing lots of tension, but judges are often not brave enough to mark the top competitors down.
 

Hullabaloo

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[ QUOTE ]
I am glad they published her response, but I didn't think it was well written.

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I have to agree. I thought the reply was exceedingly high handed.

She seemed to be implying that he didn't appreciate it because he didn't understand it, saying "(We can) brush off his statement that he is "absolutely baffled" by dressage and finds it "unentertaining"

I seriously doubt that you can turn dressage into a spectator sport for anyone other than the enthusiast, but if British Dressage do want to try and attract more interest, this attitude will not help. David Mitchell is not alone in finding dressage baffling and unentertaining and if the sport is seeking to gain more exposure this needs to be addressed not "brushed off"
 

MotherOfChickens

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yeah, glad it was published because thats going to change people's minds about dressage being for stuffed shirts *snark over*

the original article was funny-did all you dressage divas have your sense of humour surgically removed or just have it beaten out of you with a piaffe whip?
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skewbaldpony

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yeah, glad it was published because thats going to change people's minds about dressage being for stuffed shirts *snark over*

the original article was funny-did all you dressage divas have your sense of humour surgically removed or just have it beaten out of you with a piaffe whip?
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Quite the reverse, it's refined, subtle and plays well to music.
As opposed to travelling at speed over (or into) a large chunk of wood.

Vive la difference
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Booboos

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Interesting to hear everyone's views and clearly everyone read the articles differently. For what it is worth I did think Michell's article seemed ill-informed and ignorant about what dressage even claims to be about (without even going on to ask whether it does indeed meet these claims) and therefore seemed very irresponsible on behalf of an investigative journalist. It seemed to me an attempt at a rather 'cheap shot' to elicit some laughs. I thought BD's reply was fair enough, there wasn't much else they could have said. Dressage is difficult to understand, an obscure sport for some spectators and unentertaining for others, but allegations of cruelty should be handled with greater care and with at least some attempt to present some evidence.
 

Hullabaloo

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[ QUOTE ]
Interesting to hear everyone's views and clearly everyone read the articles differently. For what it is worth I did think Michell's article seemed ill-informed and ignorant about what dressage even claims to be about (without even going on to ask whether it does indeed meet these claims) and therefore seemed very irresponsible on behalf of an investigative journalist. It seemed to me an attempt at a rather 'cheap shot' to elicit some laughs. I thought BD's reply was fair enough, there wasn't much else they could have said. Dressage is difficult to understand, an obscure sport for some spectators and unentertaining for others, but allegations of cruelty should be handled with greater care and with at least some attempt to present some evidence.

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He's not an investigative journalist - he's a columnist, paid to write a light hearted piece about his opinion on whatever is going on in the sports world at that time. He has also written similar pieces on football, formula 1 and wimbledon. As with any sort of humour it isn't going to appeal to everyone, but I think it is a shame that people are getting their knickers in such a twist about it. Can we really not take a bit of a ribbing from a newspaper columnist - whatever happened to being able to laugh at ourselves?
 

Booboos

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I think any journalist who writes in a public medium HAS to be an investigative journalist and I don't understand the distinction with calling him a 'collumnist'. If the claim of abuse is incorrect and the journalist appears not to have really considered the details of the case he is reporting on before making this claim then he is professionally irresponsible. Thousands of people will read this article and I did not see a disclaimer saying "this is a piece of fiction, all characters are fictional and all allegations are made up". Why should 'columnists' be able to get away with inaccurate serious accusations?
 

Hullabaloo

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Actually I think the majority of Guardian readers probably did take the article in the spirit in which it was intended. Its seems to me a bit over sensitive to view what he has written as allegations of cruelty.
 

Hullabaloo

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[ QUOTE ]
I think any journalist who writes in a public medium HAS to be an investigative journalist and I don't understand the distinction with calling him a 'collumnist'. If the claim of abuse is incorrect and the journalist appears not to have really considered the details of the case he is reporting on before making this claim then he is professionally irresponsible. Thousands of people will read this article and I did not see a disclaimer saying "this is a piece of fiction, all characters are fictional and all allegations are made up". Why should 'columnists' be able to get away with inaccurate serious accusations?

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A columnist is simply employed to give his view, and actually journalism isn't even necessarily their day job (Mitchell is actually better known as a comedian). Also, it is not a piece of fiction, it is his opinion, which he is entitled to, even if it doesn't agree with yours.
I think if you take a few throw away remarks as "serious allegations" you are reading a bit too much into it. However, if you do want to go down that road, unless you can hand on heart say that no abuse takes place of any dressage horse, ever, you can't actually say his "allegations" about the sport are inaccurate.
 

skewbaldpony

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sorry, but if I had no previous knowledge of the sport, I would have taken this

"horses that seem to have been driven mad. The horses behave like the deranged dancing bears in those charity adverts, doing weird fidgety fastidious things that clearly aren't natural to them: they hop from foot to foot, they walk on the spot, they stand still for a bit, quivering, before turning round in awkward timorous circles and walking diagonally across the arena.

Quite what treatment these creatures have been put through to get them to be this odd I dread to think, "

as an allegation of cruelty. Since HHO members are not united on whether it is funny or not, and I suspect there may be one or two more Guardian readers than HHO members, and they may have a slightly less friendly disposition toward equestrian sports in the first place, I can't see how you can suggest they would all think it a hoot, and not one of them would tut tut into their muesli and trot off in their sandals to sign a petition, or knit some yoghurt to raise funds to have it all banned.

See that last bit was meant to be funny, but I don't expect all Guardian readers would find it so.
 

skewbaldpony

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[quote unless you can hand on heart say that no abuse takes place of any dressage horse, ever, you can't actually say his "allegations" about the sport are inaccurate.

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And unless you can hand on heart say no Guardian reader will take this article as a serious critique, you can't actually say that the response is unjustified.
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Hedgewitch13

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Lol
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Actually this does show what people who don't understand dressage see and to be honest is that what the dressage world wants? There were some tense, fidgety tests that got marked well when in reality they shouldn't have. Sadly the judges didn't have the spine or balls to mark as they should have. Some horses did look damn uncomfortable and I can more than understand that some animal lovers could see dressage as downright cruelty to the horse.

Maybe the dressage world should take note of what is being said about them by those with unbiased eyes, surely it can only help the sport?!
 

Hullabaloo

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Actually I didn't say the response was unjustified. British Dressage have every right to respond - freedom of speech and all that
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I personally think their reply was a turgid, over the top response, but agree that they have every right to make it.
 

skewbaldpony

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the thing is though, being turgid is not a crime, whereas cruelty is.
cutting to the chase, these newspapers (Guardian, Independent etc) are the ones most likely to be read by animal rights, ban everything types (not suggesting for a minute that all readers are like that) and to be honest, they do turgid, don't they?
I see little point in responding light heartedly to the type of people who'd dig your granny up if they thought you'd harmed a hamster.
 

skewbaldpony

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and in fact, if it had been answered in a jokey way, I'm darned sure at least some readers would be sucking their lemons and pointing out how wicked these equestrian types are, who can laugh in the face of their own cruelty.
 

Hullabaloo

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[ QUOTE ]
and in fact, if it had been answered in a jokey way, I'm darned sure at least some readers would be sucking their lemons and pointing out how wicked these equestrian types are, who can laugh in the face of their own cruelty.

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So the article shouldn't have been published because it might encourage animal rights activists? Even if they do read the Guardian so do lots of other people, a number of whom presumably enjoy David Mitchell's humour as the newspaper continues to employ him. Surely we should be catering for the majority of reasonable people in the population, not the fanatics who will think equestrian sports are cruel whatever.

If it had been answered in a jokey way, some people may have taken that view, while others might have thought it showed that the equestrian world had a sense of humour and wasn't so stuck up its own bum after all. You can never please everyone.

Fair bit of stereotyping of Guardian readers going on too. I would try and answer that one but I need to clean up the yogurt I've just spilt on my sandals while trying a particularly complicated knitting pattern
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skewbaldpony

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[ QUOTE ]
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and in fact, if it had been answered in a jokey way, I'm darned sure at least some readers would be sucking their lemons and pointing out how wicked these equestrian types are, who can laugh in the face of their own cruelty.

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So the article shouldn't have been published because it might encourage animal rights activists? Even if they do read the Guardian so do lots of other people, a number of whom presumably enjoy David Mitchell's humour as the newspaper continues to employ him. Surely we should be catering for the majority of reasonable people in the population, not the fanatics who will think equestrian sports are cruel whatever.

If it had been answered in a jokey way, some people may have taken that view, while others might have thought it showed that the equestrian world had a sense of humour and wasn't so stuck up its own bum after all. You can never please everyone.

Fair bit of stereotyping of Guardian readers going on too. I would try and answer that one but I need to clean up the yogurt I've just spilt on my sandals while trying a particularly complicated knitting pattern
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that's OK, I have to dash anyway. I have a couple of horses to torture
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Booboos

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I don't think freedom of speech entails being allowed to express any opinion one may have and simply having an opinion is not sufficient reason for choosing to express it in a public medium. Choosing to express your opinion via a newspaper imposes a duty on you to ensure it is accurate. Although aspects of the original article were clearly intended to be funny, others were not. If someone truly thinks that dressage is cruel why would it be funny to take the mickey out of this? To make fun of dressage because it is stuffy, ponsey, incomprehensible and not entertaining is fine and, done well, could even be funny. To make fun of dressage because it is cruel to horses is bizarre. You either mean it in which case this is not a funny topic, or your don't mean it in which case it is a really unfair allegation which seriously tarnishes other people's reputations.

I also don't see the relevance of the claim that some horses are indeed abused by their riders. Was there any evidence of this being prevalent or even present at the Olympics? Does the sport encourage and condone this kind of behaviour? If yes, then I am seriously concerned about it but would need to see some evidence first! The idea that you are allowed to say that all dressage horses are abused because some dressage horses are abused somewhere at some time is just fallacious.
 

AmyMay

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I don't think freedom of speech entails being allowed to express any opinion one may have

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Doesn't it??
 

skewbaldpony

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Well actually it does, but responsible journalism requires you to think before you express an opinion, what the consequences might be. Of course, when you're preaching to the choir, and playing up to all their prejudices (and that applies to the Mail or the Sun, just as much as the Guardian) you can be irresponsible to your heart's content and the readership will love you for it.
 

Hullabaloo

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[ QUOTE ]
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I don't think freedom of speech entails being allowed to express any opinion one may have

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Doesn't it??

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Not if you criticise dressage apparently
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