Tuesday 25 October 2011

The Playboy Grotto, Dressage version.

Have you ever wondered, if there was a dressage playboy grotto, what it would look like?

Well, there would be an old guy in a hat, and squealing women.  Otherwise, it would not be a playboy grotto, would it?

I think he is getting straighter!
However in a dressage playboy grotto, the women are middle aged, the hot tub is replaced by an arena, and to keep the women coming back for more, there are plenty of Iberian stallions.  (Horses!  Seriously, where is your mind?)  Beautiful white horses, with flowing manes and tails, gently Spanish walking through the dirt.

Yes, my experience at Senhor Cavaleiro's barn was like being part of some sort of an eclectic classical dressage dinner theatre enacted by undersexed women en route through their mid-life "eat pray love" crises. Only without food.  A place where one could  ride the stallions they have dreamed of all their lives and gush over an old guy while being encouraged by his soft, cooing European accent that their ex-husband from Milwaukee most certainly did not possess.

I had no idea what I was in for.

I should have had a clue when I was told over the phone that I would be the first rider, and was then told what the other riders would be doing  (Suzie will be learning half-pass on Escobillia, followed by Lucy on Profilactica, who has always dreamed of riding the piaffe and Spanish walk).  It was evident that I was expected to stay for the evening, which I found strange. Typically I want everyone to clear the hell out of the arena during my lessons and figure that anyone who stays to watch the drudgery which is my riding has entirely no life whatsoever.

I arrived in my - (ok, now don't be too alarmed, I am going shopping in a few more posts) - field boots and khaki coloured breeches, since I was still officially a "hunter" rider (wrong). I neither hugged nor kissed Senhor Cavaliero (wrong) but just stood back awkwardly while Ms. Michigan et al. squealed, kissed and gushed because they were so elated to be here, in this exotic villa perched on the edge of romantic - uhh - Mono Mills.

It was obvious from the start that I would be the star of ACT I... you know, the part where the wayward H/J rider receives salvation.  For this unfortunate participant in the grotto, there is no Iberian stallion. Only a fat draft cross of some sort with a back somewhere between a sofa and a sausage.  Wearing only a pad, surcingle and longeing cavesson.  Hop aboard and around (and around and around) we go!

Ms. Michigan et al. perched on stools at the side of the arena, watching intently as I rode the trusty Salchica, arms out like airplane wings, guided by the soothing voice of Senhor Cavaliero.  "Reeeelaaxx, loooooseen the heeeeps, floooow... now, you will ride oonnnnnlyyy weeeth your seeeeeet... floooowww..." And so on.  For, about 30 minutes.  Dum, duh, dum, duh, dum... around and around on Salchica...

I am sure if you had never ridden a horse before in your life, this would have been challenging and exciting.  However, if you rode at all as a kid - this was also known as your typical Tuesday evening.  Forget the longe line.  (If Tracy is reading this... I think you ruined more than one soccer field while doing this exercise on the legendary Patches.  All for free).

As the grand finale of the exercise, Senhor Cavaliero explained to the audience the ultimate goal of "the dressage seat".  When one is truly at one with their horse, they ride only with their seat, and in fact can bring their horse to a halt using ONLY THE POWER OF THEIR SEAT!  (Ooooh! from Ms. Michigan..)   "Now, we will try.... Seeeet deeeeep, deeep, beaaaar dowwwwn and theeenk slooooow...." (Dressage Curmudgeon wonders... should it feel more like I am pooing or having a baby?  I can't ask that.  I have never had a baby, and neither has he, so what is the point?  Neither of us have a frame of reference.  Maybe these things feel the same?)

As if by magic, Salchica bounced gently to a halt.   The squealing from the sidelines started - they even clapped.  I may be a crusty bitch, but really, it was so cute.  As awesome as I like to pretend that I am, I am sure that Salchica had done "the longe lesson" so many times that he knew exactly how many circles he would do before I would be asked to use THE POWER OF MY SEAT to bring him to a halt.

But you know, where I was critical of the last Classical instructor for copping out, I had to give Senhor Cavaliero credit for putting a lot of work into the whole show.  For ACT II - Suzie and Lucy got on his adorable white stallions, and they pranced around the ring like perfect little circus performers, doing mechanical flat half passes and shoulder-ins like robots, more to the aids given on the ground by Senhor Cavaliero than the riders I am sure.  He merely had to stand beside the horses and flick his whip at their hindquarters, and they ticked into piaffe, whip out to the front and it changed to Spanish walk.  And when Suzie got off her smile was huge - she actually gushed (I kid you not) "that was better than SEX".  Which might just explain why she was divorced.

Lastly, for ACT III - Senhor Cavaliero brought in the Lusitano stallion owned by Ms. Michigan.  She had bought the horse based on dreams, not reality (welcome to the club, you say), and now could not ride the beast.  Senhor Cavaliero worked with the horse, on the ground then under saddle and got him to do ... something ... I don't really remember what, or whether I would find it impressive today... but at the time, I did come away thinking it was pretty neat.  Probably it involved a lot of tense prancing which does seem to wow the ignorant.  But whatever, kudos to him for actually getting on the horse.

When it was all through, the grotto girls and I all did a group hug and air kiss with Senhor Cavaliero, and promised to stay in touch.  Well of course, I thought to myself.  Don't we need to do this every week, Senhor?  To really learn, to get better?

He looked kind of confused - uhhh.... I am touring, doing clinics, on the road... I am not here for weekly riding lessons like the average "poor schmuck".... oh, for christ's sake, not this again.  I hit the road.

So, all in all, it was good entertainment, but it was not what I was looking for on my journey to become a dressage rider.  However... did you see the way those girls rode the half-pass?  Huh.  What if it really was better than sex?  I got home and checked the internet... yes, after an hour or so surfing bulletin boards, the next step was obvious.  I needed to find myself a good "SCHOOLMASTER" to take lessons on.  That would fix everything.   Luckily, EMG said there were a few just around the corner!  To the batmobile!

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