Essays of an Equestrian

I had looked forward to the WEG with great hope, enthusiasm and anticipation. And while I found some inspiring things, they were not in the areas that I though perhaps they would be or should be.

Part of my brain is surprised by this. Part stunned that the stupid half of my brain still doesn’t get it and holds onto the sliver of hope that one day international will regain its collective honor.

I have made a conscious decision to accentuate the positive in this situation. So let the accentuating begin…… I’m trying very hard not to be a Debbie Downer.

Inspiring to me was the wonderful saddleless and bridleless demo by Stacy Westfall. Now while riding bareback and even bridleless is no great thing in and of itself, the two simultaneously in such a large, loud, charged venue is something to be quite admired.

Quite frankly every rider should be able to do this, or do something close to it. Every rider should be able to at least take their horse into a familiar ring, with the right conditions, and be able to pull off walk, trot, canter without getting killed given adequate exposure, diet, training and trust.

The greatest display of the true meaning of dressage I found in a cross country rider named Rebecca Holder riding her grey horse Courageous Comet. The fact that we are both from the USA is purely coincidental and played no part in my admiration, though it is kinda cool.

This team won my heart during the cross-country phase due to their harmony. Perhaps a part of the reason is that this rider isn’t built like the svelte blonde stereotypical advanced riders you see. In fact, the lady is beefy and for some reason I found that quite refreshing and admirable considering the stamina it takes to ride such a course. But mostly it was because for every stride and every jump that lady and her horse were ONE. No deviation, no momentary hiccup. And her horse’s expression showed it.

Lovely.

Although she withdrew from later competition, she and her OTTB now have a place in my heart.

Admitttedly, I didn’t watch every ride of every event. Although I DVR’d the TV shows and paid the thirty bucks for the online Universal sports coverage it was only days before I found myself bummed out by much of the riding, most notably in dressage and reining. Truly a hyperflexion heaven disappointed me profoundly.

Clearly the WEG riders warming up had decided they were going to do what they wanted to do in full knowing that no one was going to cry foul, unless of course there was blood. Eventually there was blood and a disqualification followed but that’s besides the point.

So I did what any self respecting big mouthed blogger would do. Or at least what this self respecting big mouthed blogger decided to do. I went riding. I did cleaning. I did everything I could but watch the rest of the WEG. I removed myself from the chatter, then went back in to view with fresh eyes. I found that my fresh eyes, and old tired eyes saw the same thing… force, domination, unhappy horses.

Yes, Tortilla looked happy enough, but he was incorrect enough to negate that. His extended trots didn’t happen as they should, and I wondered if there was a reason for the conservative execution of them. Was it me or did it seem the line blurred from time with the trot? There seemed confusion as to whether it was a trot or passage or perhaps some new gait called “trossage”.

So, after weeks of staying away and not blogging but rather doing fall cleaning and organizing, paying bills and whatnot I have finally decided how I feel about all of this and has decided my position on such matters.

Not that anyone would care mind you, but if you do, read on.

My position is: It doesn’t affect me.

It also doesn’t affect every other rider who wants to use a better standard, one that they can live with within their own morality, in their riding. Of course those that prefer such means as what is seen in the horse show world will profoundly affect the horses ridden within that method, but for me and others like me, the world and our training objectives carry on.

The FEI and the like are moving farther and farther away from me, and me from it. With every demonstration as to what that community feels is justifiable, I am repulsed further away to pursuit differing dressage and riding avenues. I don’t want a horse whose head is positioned so as to sniff his own pits or nibble at his chest.

It also occurs to me (based upon the standing ovation for Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz and Fuego XII) that a huge part of the audience just might be feeling the same way about things. That audience, along with countless of later viewers on the internet, sung the praises of this team and were quick to forgive the few errors. That audience admired that combo so much that they leaped to their feet in a sudden and stunning display of admiration, inspiration and appreciation.

Can it be that THAT crowd wants change too?

It is also apparent that the residents of Mt. Olympassage (like the great god Sjeus) are perfectly happy with the status quo. They don’t want to change a thing and are maneuvering skillfully to make sure they prevail.

The FEI also doesn’t seem to mind at all, along with the folks at WEG, who after the brave act of disqualifying bloodied tongues, didn’t say boo squat to all the horses being warmed up in various degrees of torture… errr hyperflexion.

It therefore is becoming increasingly apparent that another equestrian venue is required to accommodate the wishes of a worldwide audience. A “Dressage As Art” venue as opposed to the current “Dressage As Sport”. I’m also going to bitch that after watching a lot of the reiners, maybe “Reining As Art” should be next.

In “Dressage as Art” there could be scoring, placing, competing and judging but with a closer eye to more acceptable riding practices.

Sort of like Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling as compared to Hulk Hogan type wrestling. The Hyperflexors could even borrow Hulk’s pink feather boa if they would like to add a little “sumpin sumpin” to their performances. I’m 91% sure this would work.

With all this on my mind I rode my horse this weekend. Never did I feel more compelled to ride with finesse and lightness. Of course I’m just of the herd of middle aged female dressage riders trying to ride more graciously with our horses and from what I see, it’s really becoming all the rage.

We ammies just eat this shit up.

I’m happy to say that my horse gave me as much as his present conditioning would allow and in the end he was so forward and so strong I really had to work my body to contain the energy as opposed to using the reins to do so.

I loved the opportunity to test my skill and I could see by the horse’s reaction where I performed well and where I needed work. However, considering how infrequent my rides have been, coupled with the active winds and cool temperatures, my horse was so into the ride that it seemed impossibly magical, and it was actually easy at many points.

Like butter.

Now we are riding no where near FEI level but with these rides I got a sense that if I were to ride consistently correctly, and train more often, that we’d progress by leaps and bounds as if overnight.

It left me happy and wanting more, and more desirably it left my horse wanting more too.

Now isn’t that how you’re supposed to feel?

It sure is nice to win at shows and even nicer to win at big ones. But I have no doubt that I, along with innumerable others, would rather have great mid level rides on their horses than forced, domineering rides that are apparently necessary (or at least seem to be so) in what currently is masquerading as dressage competition.

Given this, I’d like a place to go and show before a judge so that our progress can be expertly critiqued according to the standards I and many of like mind, hold dear. Of course this would require a judge unimpressed by anything less than correct and the proper venue in which to place said judge’s ass and the judge would need the guts to score folks as they should be scored, even if those folks didn’t like it.

Then you’d need the herd of middle aged women to fill the class. Of course you would fill the classes as we love torturing ourselves.

As for venues such as the WEG I find myself in a stage of continual distancing. I’m distancing from the FEI dream and I’m drawn to find new sources of learning a la Walter Zettl. I’ve been checking out Manolo Mendez with great enthusiasm and will be attending/organizing clinics in the future. Although he could never, ever be duplicated I would like to find a bit of Zettl in Mr. Mendez. In this regard I’m checking out other notables like Dominique Barbier and I plan on soon studying some things new to me, like Cynthia Royale (trainer of Shadowfax – Blanco from Lord Of The Rings) in addition to others I’ve previously written about.

So far each has given another piece, and I’ll be paying attention to all of these folks some more. So far, and for the most part, I’ve liked what I’ve seen.

For now, I’m not renewing any memberships until I see more of what will happen in the future. For now, I’m going to take my hard earned money and direct it to those who teach a better way.

I never did understand those riders who never show but still somehow mysteriously advance. Now I do.

Now I do.

See, I DID learn something from the WEG!

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The good will of the horse is like the scent of a rose. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.