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Dead Letters: The Horse People Are Furious

Photo credit: John Locher/AP Images; Annotation by the author.
Photo credit: John Locher/AP Images; Annotation by the author.
Dead LettersWelcome to Dead Letters, the feature in which we reprint our favorite reader mail. We should take this moment to remind you that all emails to Deadspin and its editors and writers are on the record unless otherwise specified. Now for your letters.

Last week, I wrote a blog trashing the presence of horse sports at the Olympics. My point was that they should get these goddamn horses out of my face, because the Olympics are for humans. I watched a bunch of horse sports during the first weekend of the Olympics, and they were even more boring than I thought they would be.

This did not sit well with the Horse People, a small but incredibly vocal group. I’ve never received as much feedback on anything I’ve ever written. Most people who reached out called me out for my ignorance, which is indisputable, because horse sports are dumb and why would I ever want to know anything about them. Additionally, many invited me to suit up and try dressage, which is almost certainly a trap. Almost all of them came from someone who was stroking a horse in their avatar.


These are their letters. Some of them have been edited for brevity, because good lord, the Horse People write long emails.

Article about horse riders

From: Angelique

Dear mr Redford, I did read a part of your article an i am sure that you never rode a horse..... It looks indeed very easy but every rider Who rides on an olympic level has to be in a perfect shape,they have to train aswel as the horse ..i was for years a dressage rider and i did ride international so i think i may tell you my opinion. A rider has to do fysical en mental training they have to do fitness,jogging and al the stuff other athletes have to bild a relationship with your horse an indeed the horse earns a medal to But the rider has to bild up the training, en believe me i really want to invite you to ride my horse because every muscle you have to use!Also Proven, on the university at leuven in Belgium,that if you want to lose weight riding is the best sport because the body and muscles have to work over a long time In the same regularity without exhaustion and indeed it is different from an marathon runner who has a short and exhausting run but it is a sport an only people who did really ride can give an opinion.As a journalist i think you are a little short minded ,you should do some real research, if you saw Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari ....well it looks very easy and i can drive a car too!!!!but i wasn’t the triple world champion.It is a little unrespectful for riders who did so much hard work an earn the trust of there horse ....the training,the commitment,the passion of this sport....because riding is a real lifestyle you spent more time with the horses in the barn then with your friends and family.It is a partnership so maybe you should write an article about figure skating too....the man has to do all the lifting!!!! So we should ban this sport to because the women doesn’t do so much!!!!LOL...i have respect for your job as a journalist but if you write articles you have to be honest,do research,and there must be no prejudice....otherwise it makes no sence to do journalisme and everybody can do the job i refer to the riders anyone could ride a grand prix horse probably....i even apologize for my bad english writing.....that’s why i was a dressage rider and not an english writer or journalist.Anyway i am sure that you don’t rewrite your article but horse people are full of passion,they live for the ride and the horses so i had to write back because i quit riding a few years ago but still the rider in me has the flame inside to defend our sport....wich is more than an olympic game or a medall! Kind regards,

Equestrian Article

From: Matthew

Your writers attempt of belittling the sport of equestrian was unjustified. How many times has Patrick Redford even touched a horse, let alone saddled up? I’m assuming you think golf shouldn’t be in the olympics since the club does all the work? I assume 99% of America has never watched an Equestrian Competition, although my assumption could be wrong, the writers ignorant opinion of this “privileged” sport is a slight to the athletes who participate. I invite Patrick to ride a horse and see if he can get it to go over a 6ft jump on his first 100 tries. I also invite him to step in a pile of horse poop on his way out to the barn.

An invitation for a dressage lesson

From: Lindsay

Dear Patrick, As a fellow writer, I was humored by your very interesting piece about dressage in the Olympics. I’m not sure where you are based, but I was wondering if you would be interested in coming to the Washington, DC area so that I might pay for you to take a dressage lesson with a highly qualified professional, aboard either my own horse or a school horse. I am eager to help you gain more experience in dressage so that you can write about the topic with some first-hand knowledge under your belt! Just let me know your availability!


From: ‘Cilla

Troll! amazing what drivel can come from an entity that is supposed to be intelligent. Your commentary proves otherwise. Go back to cruising Wal-Mart with others of your kind. Sincerely,

Your stupid post

From: lilly

That article you wrote on Equestrian games at the Olympics is pure non sense. “Horses are not humans” wtf.... There are more horses who are have more sense than you. You literally said shit that made 0 sense about an amazing animal who is better and not as stupid as you. when I read “you aren’t doing anything but riding a horse” I laughed SO hard at you. We are not just riding horses we are teaching them, they are teaching us, they take care of us and we take care of them. In dressage you have to go through LOADS of training for just 1 move!! and there’s up to 30 moves in a dressage test. In jumping, it takes years for you to go to the level of those riders. They don’t just get on a horse and jump 5ft. in eventing, you have to master jumping then brave those strange obstacles. And when you said “people don’t have money to afford horses who can do that.” Well a long time ago a man named Harry rescued a horse for $5 and it won a gold medal.. not all of the horses are $100k or more. For example, Beezie Madden... she is competing in show jumping this year. She is 52 years old and still going strong. Her horse Cortes C is 13 which is pretty old for a horse and he is still going strong as well. She bought him a LONG time ago and they are still showing today.. I think you should delete your stupid article because every horse person is so upset with you. Oh and when you said we just sit there... we don’t. I dare you to try to get on a horse and do what those amazing people do. Wait no you couldn’t because your a freaking retard

The Olympics Are For Humans, Not Horses

From: Jada

Ok hi, I just read you article on deadspin. And I may not be the best email writer but I had to write this to you, so as a going on 14 year Equestrian rider I have to say, how much of an idiot are you? Frankly you have absolutely no right what-so-ever to voice your dumbass opinion on a sport you know nothing, and I mean NOTHING, about. For example, I don’t know the first thing about skiing or marathon running or bicycling. So just because I don’t know much about them doesn’t mean I’m going to belittle their sport and want them out of the Olympics. Equestrian ridding or “trotting and shitting” as you put it, are not even two words to appropriately (you know what that word means right?) describe it. Have you ever, EVER trusted your LIFE with an animal, ten times your size and has a will and mind of its own, that could easily kill you? Or gone 30 mph on a animal toward a 5 foot jump? No I’m guessing not cause you don’t know what commitment even is, cause you’re talking about a SPORT, yes it is a sport, that you don’t know what a saddle is, you Trump version of a journalist. Who, like Trump, should shut up about shit he doesn’t know a single thing about, other than, that it involves money. :)

Oh and if you threaten me or email me back, I have people that could get you fired :)

(no subject)

From: Susan

You are one uneducated dumb mother fucker. Doubt they would have allowed that response to your article on horses at the Olympics, but that is my two cents.

Regarding you article about equestrian sports on the Olympics

From: Kate

Hi, Just would like to say after stumbling across you article about Equestrian sports in the Olympics , that you sound like a small child that is being made to do something they don’t like. Everyone is allowed an opinion and I honour that, but saying it is not a sport and takes no skill is Damn right rude and miss-informed . How is a human being able to jump over a pole or run rather quick any more justified as a sport? The years of skill and dedication it takes for rider to get to the level an Olympic rider needs to be is too much for your meat head brain to even try to comprehend. If you don’t like it then don’t watch it, don’t write some uneducated bull crap on smear it all over the internet. I don’t like cricket but don’t go ranting on the internet about it. Enjoy your weekend- try not insult any more athletes! Sincerely

Horses in the Olympics

From: Verizon Update

Hello Patrick, I have just finished reading your story Humans in the Olympics, not Horses. While you are most definitely entitled to your opinion, as am I, I must tell you that you are unequivocally WRONG. You say that it is easy to just sit on a horse and make it dance in Dressage and jump in Eventing. Nothing could be further from the truth. It looks easy at the Olympic Level because these riders and horses, which are both athletes, have trained for years and years. They have qualified for the Olympics by competing at many other competitions, nationally and internationally. You eluded to the fact that some of the Equestrian sports had their reference to the military. Indeed they did it was called the Cavalry. Horses were used for the soldiers to wield their swords and shoot from either individually or in rank formation. This is the basis for Dressage. The cross country jumping was derived from the obvious, crossing country and surmounting whatever obstacle was impeding their path. You also make reference that only the rich can afford the horses to compete at the Olympic level. That sir you are quite right. The cost of a breeding program to produce the caliber horse that is suited to the demands of their sport is phenomenal. The cost of training, management (ie: Feeding, Veterinary costs, Farrier costs, Equipment, Transportation costs to and from competitions, as well as training venues, Insurance, Housing), Entry fees for competitions, Groom’s Salaries, Security, to name some of the expenses that go into just one horse, not including the training and expenses for the rider is off the charts expensive. So yes, the average “Joe” can not afford this elite sport. The Horse and Rider are no less and probably more of an athlete than some other so called athletes in other sports such as Badminton. The Equestrian sports are the only sports in the Olympics that men and women compete on the same level. So, Patrick you may want to try out your skills on a horse to see just what it takes to ride Grand Prix movements in Dressage, or Gallop at 25-30 mph on a living, breathing, 1200 pound animal with a mind of it’s own, and just hop over about 35 cross country obstacles that are approx. 4 feet high with spreads of about 5-7 feet in width and built so they don’t fall down if a mistake is made. Let me know how that works out for ya.





Olympics Inbox

From: Grace

Pat, Your article about horses seriously sucks. It pained me to read because the author (unfortunately that’s you, dumbass) is so ignorant. Not only do I have an issue with you trash talking the equestrian community, the bigger issue at hand is that somebody could write such a negatively, opinion based, article on a topic they have no experience or education in. However from an outsiders perspective you could think that jousting is “cool” but it is extremely dangerous to the horse, which is why no one does it anymore... To avoid “horse abuse”. And usually equestrians are wealthy, which is absolutely fine because those who compete on the AA circuit (look it up) have to be able to afford maintenance on their horses to keep them comfortable and happy to do their job. There are three different types of “jumping”. One being jumpers, which is not subject to anyone’s opinion and is entirely based on the time and faults that the horse and rider acquire throughout their course. The second and third being hunters and equitation which are judged by a person who has year of knowledge and certifications, however their opinion may differ from other judges. The higher the jumps get the more dangerous the sport becomes, which if you would have taken the time to watch the sport you would realize how dangerous things can get without a well practiced person controlling the horse. Sure the horses do the jumping, but we tell them when to jump. Without us, horses wouldn’t know what to do or where to go. You’re logic of people “horse sitting” is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. When I looked you up to contact you, I noticed that a bunch of controversial (and poorly written) articles came up. So good for you kid, if this is your job it sucks. Good luck to you because you’re going to need it if you’re writing these dumb articles that you know nothing about. You likely know nothing about anything from what I’ve read of your “work”. Next time before you publish something you should maybe do a little bit of research before posting. Someday I would love to see you horse sit in the Olympics, because if it’s so easy, why can’t you do it? You don’t deserve my name,

Are you the author of this article?

From: Chloe

Hi. I am wondering if you are the author of the article The Olympics Are For Humans, Not Horses. I just want to make sure if i talk about it, that i don’t use your name and say you’re the author if it does not belong to you. If it actually isnt, can you tell me who is? Thanks...

Your Olympic Article Inbox

From: Lori

Hi Patrick, I just wasted my time reading your article; ‘The Olympics are for Humans, not Horses’. Do you realise how patronising this is? There are athletes over in Rio from many countries ready to compete and make their country proud, and you’re at home writing some shitty article making fun of them. Some of those athletes have dedicated their lives to horses and their sport. Have you ever ridden a horse? Probably once or twice at the least no doubt. Have you ever ridden and competed a horse to any level whatsoever? Probably not. I also think that one or two sports in the Olympics are pointless, however I don’t know much about that sport or what it takes to excel at it. However, unlike you I can keep my opinion to myself and respect athletes in that sport. I’m not even going to start on the cost towards the sport, time and money wise. The whole point is to make anything, especially sport look effortless and easy, which is what any athlete does. This also includes equestrians and the horses they have trained with for many years. Maybe next time you write one of your articles, think that it’s not some Facebook post that your friends are going to see, it’s strangers who are getting a first impression of you. Maybe next time try and make your articles good also? Might be hard, there is a reason that writing isn’t in anything as significant as the Olympics.

I don’t expect a response.

Olympics for Humans not Horses

From: Jennifer

Hey Patrick, I challenge you to come take 1 lesson at my farm. I promise to be “with out favor” you can consider it a fact checking assignment for you article about horse sports at the Rio Games. Just sayin.......


From: Gail

Wowwwwwwwww what a complete loser. Saying that is like saying in golf the club does most of the work. In swimming, the water does most of the work. Sure in horse back riding, the horse carries the human and jumps the obstacles. However do you honestly think we just SIT there and kick a horse around? Because if so your dead wrong.


Now back to the loser that wrote this article. I’m guessing your a pathetic guy, single, and has nothing else better to do than sit on his butt and whine about how this sport shouldn’t be part of the olympics. Until you can jump a 3 foot oxer with correct eq, or gallop a horse around a 3 barrels in under a minute, or lead them through a dance. You have no right to say anything about how this sport shouldn’t be in the olympics. Does it make you feel better to rant about how hard people work at a sport? Does it make you feel better to bring them down? This sport, we do it because we love it. We love the adrenaline, we love that we have a partner that never gives up on us. Oh and next time watch your potty mouth. No one wants to hear you cuss like a sailor. I left that comment on your page and in case you didn’t see it there you should see it now. Please go take a lesson any barn near your home before you spout out more crap like that.

Recent olympic article

From: Gayl

You are just bat shit stupid when it comes to equestrian sports. The humans and horses are a team. It takes extremely skilled riders to do what they do. If you got on one of these performance horses the likelihood of you getting bucked off or ran into something would be very great. We need to have a sport called “Your Mouth is in your asshole” you would win!

A rant on your rant

From: Madeleine

Nice try pretending that you know about horses. Know let’s drag you a way from your computer and put you on a horse and see how you feel. I bet you don’t know how to ride😑. The fact that you just decide to write this horrid article about why horses shouldn’t be allowed in the Olympics must’ve offended millions of equestrians around the world [Author’s note: Closer to 97,000]. Without horses we would still be in the Prehistoric ages. Maybe should try or spec writing one day, it would be really fun to watch you fall off😘. Now I’m just going to go to my country club and play golf because I’m a privileged white girl as you said in your article. Is that OK with you? Because you obviously have the worst opinions about everything☺️

Horses in the Olympics

From: Denise

I have never written an author of an article before. Ever. But, I was compelled after I read your oh-so-uneducated article. Are you kidding me with that? Have you ever ridden a horse? I mean, other than the pony ride you took at the petting zoo when you were 5? Let me educate you. My daughter has ridden horses since see was 7. Not only is this one of the most dangerous sports around, it is also one of the most difficult. Harder than swimming, much harder than golf, definitely more difficult that curling. WTF is curling, anyway? Why don’t you write about that??? I digress. Riding a horse, much less jumping it, requires extreme skill. Balance, strength, coordination, agility, and probably most important, mental focus and bravery. Also, its not only a sport for the rich. My daughter has a horse, but many of these athletes scrim and scrape and work at their barn, sacrificing everything in exchange for riding lessons and hopefully a horse to ride. All of these things are required of both ahtletes, the horse and the rider. So, when you, Patrick, decide to get on a 1200 pound animal with a mind of its own and try to jump over a 4 foot fence with it, please write an article and tell us all how it went. By the way, my daughter is now 16 and it has taken her that long to get to this point. Its not easy.

[Photo of daughter riding a horse]

Submitted for publication: Equestrian.

Dear Patrick: If there’s one thing we equestrians are sick of, it’s pudgy, puerile little desk jockeys like you telling us our sport isn’t a sport. You think we’re so “aristocratic” (your words, Princess, not mine) that we won’t stoop to your level. Bring it, Princess, let’s go. Equestrian sport in the Olympics stems from the days when it was a international MILITARY competition for CAVALRY. Why? Because back in the pre-mechanized days, if you and your war horse were stranded in a field fenced with barbed wire with enemy shells firing at you from every direction, you better DAMN well have the chops to get yourself and your horse out of there, or end up dead. Mind you, if you miscalculated your take-off point over the jump, your horse was going to get its legs tangled up in the wire and fall down and you’d both end up shelled to bits anyway. Hence: we trained horses to jump the barbed wire. Being able to judge that takeoff point with pinpoint accuracy and get the horse over the jump safely in competition is now called SHOW JUMPING. DRESSAGE, or as you prefer to put it, “the dancing horse thing”, is also a MILITARY sport. What you call “horse tricks” would have saved your sorry little ass back in the days of hand-to-hand combat. Ever been kicked in the head by a horse? You can die that way. Ever been attacked from behind in battle? You can die that way, too. So how much better off are you if you have a superbly trained cavalry horse who can kick the soldier behind you in the balls, or better yet in the motherfucking head and take him OUT while you keep slicing down the ones ahead of you? That dressage move is called the capriole. And if you want to slice the heads off the infantry coming at you from both sides, you better DAMN well have a horse that is trained in the Levade. Yes, Princess, that too is a dressage move that would have saved your ass if you’d ever had enough guts to go in the Army. EVENTING is the culmination of Army equitation, combining the accuracy needed to jump fences and the skill required to train a horse for dressage into a 3-phase event that includes both of those plus jumping cross country. Up until the mid-20th century, eventing was still called the “Prix Militaire”. (That’s “Military Prize”, Princess, incase your French is lacking.) It was restricted to cavalrymen only, and the objective, then as now, was to suss out THE toughest, smartest, most badass horsemen in the world. Because you see, Princess, it doesn’t just take brawn to win a gold in an Olympic equestrian sport. It takes brains, too. We all realize you’re singularly lacking in both, so let me break this down for you. Riding is NOT just “sitting there”. You use your hands, legs, and body weight not just to stay on, but to control the horse’s every move. (Dressage, by the way, is the art of doing so INVISIBLY.) I myself trained with an ex-US cavalry drill sergeant, and if he ever put you through what I went through when I was learning, you’d be so sore in every muscle in your body that you’d be begging for your mama after two hours, and the next day you wouldn’t be able to stand up. And if you want to get to the Olympics, Princess, you have to do that on 3 to 6 horses a day every single day. For years. Then you have to use your brain. I sure God hope you didn’t flunk math, physics or mechanical reasoning, Princess, because you need every bit of all of them to figure out the safest cross country time for your horse and judge the correct take-off point for your horse over every kind of jump, depending on the height and spread of the jump and the nature of the terrain. You can’t just point the horse at the jump and sit there praying you’re right. You have to BE right, and convince the horse you’re right even when the horse thinks otherwise. This is called LEADERSHIP, and it’s clearly a skill in which you are obviously likewise lacking. Now, as to the wealth aspect: You’re wrong yet again. Most Olympic equestrians (not all, but most) are workaday stiffs just like you and me. It’s the OWNERS who have the big bucks. Ann Romney didn’t RIDE in the Olympics, she BOUGHT THE HORSE for a professional rider. Nowadays Olympic equestrians are forced to go that route. They don’t get government funding, they don’t get big corporate endorsements, so they can’t take eight years off from competition to raise and train a young horse (yes, that’s how long it takes. At least that long.) They’re on the road competing almost 365 days a year in order to make a living and earn enough points on the leaderboard to qualify for the Olympics. So they have to buy horses that are already trained and ready-made. And believe you me, when the US and Saudi Arabia are in a dick-waving bidding war for the same ready-made horse, that price skyrockets fast. While your cute widdle gymnast is getting a Coke endorsement handed to her and a pic on a cereal box too, we’re out there hustling the 1% for the million or so dollars we need to buy the next horse. AND riding AND training AND competing, all at the same time. Sure hope you passed grant writing in college. Nutshell version, Princess, you don’t know SHIT about what we do, and your ignorance shows and shows and shows. The reason equestrian sports look so easy is because our Olympic riders are SO GODDAMN GOOD AT IT. And they got there by virtue of relentless training in pursuit of perfection like every other Olympic athlete. Before displaying this level of ignorance in public again, Princess, do your research. Study your history. Better yet, take a few riding lessons too, from a real hard-ass like George Morris or the colonel-in-chief of the French Cadre Noir cavalry unit. They will SCHOOL you. Only then do you get to come back to me and tell me how “easy” it is and how we all “just sit there”. Let the Games begin.

Staff writer, Deadspin

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