Essays of an Equestrian


I received this comment in my comment section and I thought it worthy of specific mention. Mostly this is due to the fact that the word “Revolution” was in the title, as that word clearly indicates how I’m feeling after recent events. I’ll be posting more on this but in the meantime, warm up your gums with this.

Now I haven’t looked into the site yet, but I will later, but it seems to be something worthy of at least discussing and investigating.

From Erin Martin:

I am developing a mailing list of like minded rider/trainers/competitors who are passionate about preserving the principles of classical dressage. Check out my posts, and if you like what you read, I hope you will help me to promote it. My goal is 100 subscribers initially. Link broken

I am writing this to you to tell you how very special you are to me. When I found out you had passed from that sudden heart attack a short time ago I felt awful, and continue to feel rather melancholy. I’ll miss you, ya big lug. You know, you were definitely too young to die.

I know it makes no sense to write and post this on a blog as heaven may have many things, but I’m thinking an internet connection is not one of them. In a place of infinite wisdom, it’s probable that the internet is not needed as all the knowledge of all the ages is already there.

When I moved from the barn you managed we hugged goodbye and you told me how sad you were I was leaving because I was one of the “good ones”. Well, you were one of the “good ones” too.

But as senseless as it is to post this online, my heart tells me to honor you in some way, and this was the best my feeble mind could come up with. I guess sometimes we just need to get stuff off our chest, even if the reason for doing so is a bit silly. But you know me, silly to the end. In fact, that was one of the things you liked about me, always wanting to have fun and always being a goof.

I came to your barn not long after my horse had undergone colic surgery and when I moved in, you listened patiently to what I had to say. You made sure the vets advice and suggestions were followed to the “T” and you kept a watchful eye over my horse.

In those years that passed you caught the little belly aches (which no longer happen thankfully) and you took care of my horse when I wasn’t able to be there because of work. You treated untold numbers of abscesses and when my drama queen horse got a piece of hay stuck in his eye and it swelled shut. You gave him his meds every day, in fact several times a day. We both joked how silly it was to amass a one thousand dollar vet bill for some miniscule piece of hay. You always made sure to be there for the vet, with me or alone, as you had a true, genuine interest in my horse’s well being.

You held my horse a million times for shoers and vets and never complained. Every time I saw you I’d see you smile, glad to see me. That was always a good, warm feeling.

Together we laughed at all the torn blankets, disappearing halters and tossed shoes which fell victim to my silly horse. The day we watched my horse tearing around the ring, flat out running with his hind legs passing in front of his front legs, you turned to me, pointed and started laughing your ass off. I laughed too and turned to you and said “I ride that?” You know, I never told you, but seeing him run like that I got a little scared. Just for a second though, as once I swung my leg over his back, he was a perfect gentleman.

You understood the nature of my horse and were never put off by it. You always did the right thing, by me and him, even to the point of changing flat trailer tires so we wouldn’t be late (again) for a lesson. In fact, you’ve done so much helping me with trailers and their mechanical issues that I would have been lost without you.

Do you remember the day of the trail ride and barbeque? They had the auction for the shiny jeweled western buckle you had your eye on. And because you had earned it with all your help, I made sure I bought it for you and I outbid all those other people! But there was no way, no how, you weren’t going to get that buckle. You also earned every single penny of those Christmas bonuses, strawberry cheese cakes and any other silly thing I did in my feeble attempt to repay your kindness.

I’ll miss you dear, kind Bill and I hope your place in heaven is full of your beloved horses. I’ll pray for your loving wife (your soulmate) who is left behind. One day, when I too pass, we’ll go for a trail ride in heaven and we’ll joke and make fun of all the people from the old place.

Many wonder of the definition of a “true horseman”. Well Bill, you ARE the definition of a true horseman and also a true friend. I can give you no greater tribute.

God speed, God bless. Take care of yourself up there.

Your Friend,
Dressage For The Rest Of Us

Never before in horsey history has an equestrian had such access to the abundance of information regarding horses, their care and the art of riding them. The internet has put forth many voices and all sorts of tools to further one’s equestrian experience and education.

With my own personal journey I’ve gotten the opportunity to speak with a myriad of people from all over the world. Even the writing of this silly little blog has opened up learning opportunities which have me surprised by virtue of the sheer magnitude of connections.

Sometimes there is no way to predict in which direction our attentions will be directed. One of my latest discoveries is the existence of the webinars I found on Facebook and so far, I have found them most enjoyable.

The other day I was taking a break from life and its responsibilities and was watching television. Showing on my nice big HD screen was one of the four billion replays of a Lord Of The Rings movie, “The Return Of The King”. In it, the wizard Gandolph rides a magnificent horse, the king of horses, by the name of Shadowfax.

I found myself watching not from a mere entertainment aspect of the movie, but specifically focusing on Shadowfax and the scenes he was in and what he had to do in those scenes.

In one part Shadowfax (whose real name is Blanco) was galloping up steep rocky steps, bridleless, with the actor playing Gandolph grasping a piece of mane (or maybe a neck rein) and going along for the ride. A few thoughts crossed my mind.

First off, was the fact that were it me I would be half scared to death of my horse slipping from the unprotected sheer drop side of the stairs and both of us plummeting to a sad end. This is mostly because my horse has the tendency to be a klutz.

The second was that my horse would probably trip over his own feet trying to pull of such a move. A mountain goat would have the necessary agility to pull off the move but I have no doubt that my horse does not. Agile, he isn’t. Athletic yes, agile no. In fact, when he was a young horse if he ran too hard in the arena he would promptly slip and fall on his side. I witnessed him doing so a handful of times. Thankfully, with age and increased balance and a maturing mind he hasn’t done such silly things for just about a decade now, but his lack of agility still sticks out in my mind.

So there was the beautiful Blanco – Shadowfax pulling off all these stunts and such, (bridleless) yet with a look of splendid grandeur and nobility. He looked just like you would imagine the King of Horses to look. If only our show horses looked so grand!

Well lo and behold the next day or two I’m doing my Facebook thing and whom do I come across but Shadowfax and his trainer’s page. I clicked “like” and left a message. This began a little bit of conversation and now when opportunity presents I’m going to listen to the lady and see what she has to say.

The Royal Academy

If I had to guess, I’d probably learn a bit, but realize a lot. Sometimes, you can know something horsey but not put two plus two together until some light bulb moment graces upon you. I’m thinking listening to her will provide some great light bulb moments and I look forward to it with great enthusiasm.

If you too are interested in checking it out do it ! And  whether it’s this person or someone else’s webinar you should always take advantage of the opportunity to increase your own education, no matter who you are. You should hunger for it, thirst for it.

The equestrian life you save just might be your own.

Dressage For The Rest of Us

So much as happened with me in the past month it leaves me in a bit of awe.

I’ve been busy creating and writing for various applications and I’m humbled and honored that my work has gained such wide attention and for most, acceptance.

As I write, my animated “Dressage Queen” has surpassed 14,000 hits which I find positively amazing. When I learned of the caliber of riders seeing it, I was blown away, a little scared even.

For a moment I felt like “What’s an ammie like me doing in a dressage world like this?” Then, I figured it out. My voice seems to be the voice of many, so despite my lack of gold medals, my voice and all our voices seem to have some relevance to a lot of people.

I understand that this bestows upon me great responsibility and I will be sure to do my best in my small role within our global equestrian community.

Dressage For The Rest of usBetween animations, blogs and writing articles for publication I certainly have been very busy. But it’s a good busy if you know what I mean! I would be remiss if I didn’t thank you – all my friends and readers – very, very much for your support. It’s truly appreciated.

Like most amateurs, I wish there were more time for riding. Trying to work that delicate balance between all my endeavors is a challenge for me as it is for many of you.

That said, I haven’t been able to ride as much as I would normally and haven’t done so for a number of months. There have been no lessons, no clinics, and no shows. With cool fall weather to arrive shortly, I wanted to get back into the schwung of things and so have gotten the itch to reverse the trend of not riding.

To that end I recently had a friend video me riding my horse. It was a very easy ride to mark the starting point of another concerted training effort, a beginning for horse and rider looking to resume their former level of performance.

I asked for critique from respected friends and colleagues and today I was able to implement their suggestions.

I found myself very pleasantly having a great ride! I worked my horse nicely forward into our correct tempo, had great rhythm, and I was able to follow him with my body better than I ever had before.

I think Herr Zettl would have been pleased.

The ride was easy. In fact, it was so effortless it felt as if I must be cheating, as if I were doing it wrong. But my horse’s responses were telling me it was right…. Gloriously right.

My horse is the boss after all. Like an instrument, if he’s played right, we make beautiful music together. I just have to listen to him. Play him wrong and we’re a Yoko Ono ballad.

I was loose in the saddle (always a great day when an aging body is able to move and flex freely) and sat an awesome lengthening. It was the first lengthening that felt right. In fact, near the end of the first lengthening I was so pleasantly excited that I stiffened for a moment and lost the oneness with my horse for a moment as I realized that this was the best we’ve ever been. But then a wonderful thing happened, I was able to correct it without missing a beat, another small personal triumph. I did this just by allowing my knees to flex and follow his body.

I did one more extension, half the diagonal. I didn’t want to push things just to see if the first extension was a fluke. I learned it was no fluke. I took a walk break to reflect.

I’ve never been (on this horse) successful at sitting his big trot before but today it felt as if we were gliding. Please don’t understand this to mean sitting the trot to stay on. I’m talking about sitting the trot in a way that you’re in perfect unison with the horse for each and every step. Sitting the trot in a way a person could be proud of, and I am.

Listening to my friends and heeding their advice I was able to ride my best and my horse reacted magnificently, lightly, and enthusiastically. Truly it was Nirvana.

The rest of the ride followed suit with everything just flowing. Shoulder fore blossomed to lovely shoulder in. My canter-walk transitions were the best they’ve ever been, and my downward transitions from trot glided so smoothly and instantly, I was reminded of my reining horse days and the feeling of a sliding stop.

I have found myself actually wondering if I just imagined it. Then I remember to trust my instincts, trust that I know at least this much. Trust that I can tell correctly when things are going good.

Of course now this means I have to get this on video, or else my friends might not believe me!

Reflecting on this ride caused my thoughts to wander. I found myself considering the journey my horse and I have shared. I always reflect on my rides, just as much as I visualize the next one. So much of riding is mental after all.

I thought about our journey and how it had such a rocky start. I considered how easily things flow now. There is no drama. I go to the barn, get the horse, brush him, saddle him up and ride. Our rides go well, sometimes wonderfully. After the ride I care for him, love on him a bit and then put him cozily away. Every day is this way. Every day is easy.

How very fortunate I am.

Later on I was speaking with another friend on the phone and she was mentioning some people she knew and all the drama they are constantly having with their horses. I said “Gee, they always seem to have a problem. Isn’t there a day when they or those horses don’t have issues?”

Then I thought of my own horse and how things are going so smoothly and how I feel like the luckiest horse person alive.

I’m lucky to have access to friends who are not only knowledgeable but who are friends enough to tell me where I need to improve. Thank goodness they respect me enough to not just blow smoke up my ass, but to tell me how I can get better.

Tomorrow shall bring us another ride, another opportunity. Tomorrow our minds shall join again, and if they join enough, our bodies will follow.

And for this I am excited…… and I should be!


I’ve always wanted an entourage. I’d watch in amazement as horse gurus, both local and famous, would always seem to have flocks of folks with them, listening to everything they said and blindly devoted to every word and thought, waiting in devotion for the next pearl of wisdom. In time the best devotees became handy, free labor for the guru.

With practice, a guru could get their devotees to do just about anything and some gurus in horses or other areas of life would often do their masters bidding without question no matter what was asked. Manson’s followers come to mind.

Devotees love fighting on behalf of their guru.

In the equestrian world gurus also attract such devotion as passionate as any religions. I remember once going to a horse expo and when I pulled into the parking lot there were a bunch of cars with writing all over them (high school football team style) espousing how much the occupants were in love with Gawani Pony Boy. It looked as if I’d pulled into the 1960’s parking lot of a Beatles concert, screaming swooning girls included.

It’s easy to know when young girls like something because there is high pitched screaming involved.

I cracked up laughing and begin to imagine myself pulling up in a car all marked up espousing Walter Zettl. Cute slogans written in soap with sentiments such as “Zettl Rocks!” or “Show Your Mettle With Walter Zettl”.

Give me a few glasses of wine and I can make up slogans for days.

If you could hear all the noise in my head now you’d be laughing your asses off with the scenarios my brain is coming up with. Oh look, here are some now….

Imagine pulling into a parking lot for a horse expo. Folks are barbequing by their cars a la football pre-game style. Some are wearing certain colored clothing a la the color scheme of their favorite guru complete with logos. Some have small TV’s playing their gurus best known video.

Nearby a teenage girl swoons and squeals “Oh I LOVE that video!”

A man walks by with a backpack moving from group to group trying to hawk Expo Tshirts for ten bucks apiece. Buy three for $25.00. He has an accent.

The Clint Anderson folks are tossing some shrimps on the bar-bee talking about how great his methods are. His methods seem a bit rough to me but his fans don’t see it. Instead they are huddled around talking about how all the non-fans are clueless.

The Parelli folks are huddled in a small circle. The circle used to be bigger, but some videos came out. One of the fans today has a carrot stick sticking out of a back pocket of her jeans poised up like some erect white tail. They are talking about the injustice of videos posted and how the rest of us non-fans are clueless.

Then there’s another group of fans of some cowboy who was mentored by that Dorrance guy. Good guy to have as mentor because no one really says chit about him and he’s widely respected. Now this new guy who studied with Dorrance has his own line of training videos and DVDs, all still new to the market. The fans talk about how clueless all the non-fans are and how ahead of the curve they are.

John Lyons fans are also huddled about quoting Bible and Lyons quotes. They are talking about the things they’ve learned from John (and Josh) and I’m surprised as most of it is stuff that would qualify as common knowledge that you learned in the beginning of your time with horses. Yet strangely lots of people still need to learn it. The fans talk about how clueless all the non-fans are then quote the Bible a lot.

There would have been a section for Jane Savoie fans, but they tend to be older and are too busy to be grilling in the parking lot. They’ve come in between dropping off one kid at soccer and picking up another one from cheerleading. Plus I really like Jane so its harder to poke harmless fun at her. But I guess in the interest of fairness I should try.

So now I’m listening to a video of hers as I write so that I can find a hole to poke with humor. Dammit, everything is dead on balls accurate. In this video she’s speaking of folks with terrible fear issues so I can’t pick on them either being they are already all freaked out. So here we are with Jane’s group of middle aged women pulling into the lot in their range rovers holding small lattee’s or coffees in my scenario, chatting with their children on their Blue tooths.

Anky’s group is absent because she isn’t coming to America and they’ve figured there is nothing they can learn from low life Anky neigh-sayers. They are however planning to attend some reinings so that they can watch her ride. And win again, strangely. When they do gather at the reining, they can talk about how clueless TWO groups of horse people are, both in reining and dressage.

Edward Gals entourage is in full force because he’s the new big guy on campus despite the fact that his horse of horses Totillas can’t do extensions anywhere near correct and has seemingly just about developed the pacey working walk. None of that matters to them as they are expecting him to score 99.9% on his next show appearance anyway. They lovingly stroke their show ribbons as they talk about how clueless everyone else is.

I’m with the Zettl folks and unlike the others I’m stuffing myself silly with a roast beast sandwhich while the others have salad. I cannot have salad because salad is not food. Salad is what food eats. This group is huddled about talking about how happy and relaxed their horses are. Out of fifteen of us, only one shows with any frequency. The word harmony is spoken often and we cast sidewards glances to the Gal group quietly calling them bitches and saying how mean and clueless they are.

Each group is devoted as they come and I marvel as to how the guru’s do it. And although I know I am the farthest thing from a guru myself (I’m more like a gnu that guru) I’ve seen the same kind of hero worship doted upon the local trainers in my area some of which are far, far from deserving, and I just don’t get it.

How do they do it?

It’s great to have a guru, but it’s better to have a mentor. And it’s best to keep aware and step back sometimes to evaluate what you’re hearing and seeing. Today’s guru just might end up being yesterday’s hack.

It’s tough I think to be a guru. Your smart followers will hang on every word and watch every deed and their judgment of these evolves on a daily basis. Or at least it should.

There’s a great responsibility when you’re a guru and I fear that most guru’s are destined for eventual failure. You see, they forget at what point to say “No”.