I showed up at some posh stable somewhere, ready to audit, $20 or whatever was required in hand, wrapped in the smelly emergency blankets from the trunk of my car- because of course, it was a clinic, in Canada, and therefore - it was frickin freezing. Got my obligatory styrofoam cup of lukewarm apple cider and cuddled up with the others on the benches.
As usual I was late - the action had already started. Herr Van Coachenhof was giving the rider in the ring shit for... something. Something to do with not listening and riding in a non-classical fashion, something that could only be described by using the cliches of the classical coaches of yore. Was it front to back or hand before leg? Ride him forward and make him straight? I can't remember, probably wasn't listening either. Anyways, it isn't particularly important to my tale. I do wish I could remember if *I* thought she could actually ride, but with my level of experience at that point in time, I would have had no true clue in any case, so it really doesn't matter.
Bottom line - yikes, some rider in a double got her ass kicked immediately. None of us rode in doubles, imagine the wrath we would have had to endure in her boots, we really sucked. This guy meant business. (all together now...oooohhh.... let's look at other with surprised and nervous sideways glances). Double lady left in a huff, undoubtedly wondering why on earth she spent $150 to ride with this jackass.
Annnyways.. next up - a very large bottomed lady on a very small horse, with a very long back. Honestly, I am not (merely) being catty - it truly was not a match made in heaven. Ooooh... if double bridle lady got her butt kicked... what would happen to this poor soul! Aye carumba, the butt was large, the kicking would be great....
But - a-ha! She did the right thing immediately. She gushed. And smiled, and giggled like a schoolgirl. Oh, Herr Van Coachenhof, I am so honoured to be here! Blah blah blah. (more riding, less gushing, lady. Let's go, cider isn't getting any warmer). Oh, there would be no resistance here, she was already putty in his hands. (Not to be confused with razor blades in the hands of monkeys which for some reason is something that we must fear in the world of classic dressage).
However, even with this sappy intro - it didn't start well. There was a lot of bouncing. There was an attempt at circles, longsides, all accompanied by plenty of.... bouncing. It might have actually been posting. Hard to tell. I suppose the bounces were rhythmic, and her cheeks did look fairly relaxed. Parts of her body were schwunging to and fro, despite her sports bra's earnest attempts at collection. But even with my limited experience, I could tell this was not what the spirit of "the pyramid" had in mind.
But then - as if by magic, a cloud of dressage excellence somehow descended upon our pair - and Herr Van Coachenhof announced that they were ready to work on... Walk / Canter / Walk transitions. Yes, forget the complexities of... uhh... trotting. Or basic cantering around. You are ready to move right on up to... uhh.. 2nd level! Let's DO it!
They spent the rest of the clinic, on a tiny circle, doing canter / walk / canter / walk - no more than a few strides of canter at a time, walk immediately.
I was perplexed. What happened to "the pyramid"? How could this person who couldn't trot a 20m circle suddenly be ready for these transitions, the first steps of collection? But hey, I don't claim to be Herr Newman, I never chummed it up with Nuno, what the hell do I know. This guy is "classical", he has an audience of women fantasizing about him even though he is an old toad... surely to God there is some master plan at work.
So at break, I nervously approached Herr Van Coachenhof to ask him to help me to better understand the intricacies of designing a training program which could instantly take a pair from walk-trot to 2nd level. I need to learn, please, enlighten me.
He smiled a condescending smile, the kind you use to talk to an idiot (or me, apparently. Hmm. Probably just a coincidence). "My dear, did you SEE what she was doing to that horse's back? I couldn't watch it any more. I had to have her do something - ANYTHING else, to stop her from bouncing and hurting the poor animal!"
Oookay. So rather than helping her to fix - anything, not a single thing about her terrible riding - he found a loophole and sent her home thinking she was ready for 2nd level, at the doorstep of collection. (cue singing angels here).
Which helps her - or the poor horse - how?? Wank. Instead of having the balls to take her aside and tell her the truth...or working slowly on her seat at the walk or something boring like that... he copped out and sold her the dream.
Which of course, we got to read about on the message boards the next day in the clinic reports. She knew she was destined for greatness... she knew her horse would ascend the levels...and Herr Van Coachenhof had seen her potential, within minutes, where other "poor schmuck" instructors had entirely failed to see the light. Just WAIT until he comes back next time.. wow, just wait.
Ahhh! Of course - THAT is who it helps. Not the horse, or the rider... it helps the pocketbook of the trainer. She was a satisfied, soon to be repeat customer. Nice work.
And that, my friends, was the last time I attended a "classical dressage" clinic. Yes, first and foremost because it irritated the hell out of me, but also because now I knew now what I really needed to succeed in dressage... I needed a good seat. And for this...the internet says you need....Longe Lessons, of course. To the batmobile...
And I must add as a post script - I do know this rider "in person" now, and should she happen to read my blog (unlikely), I am sure she will think I am a terrible evil bitch for writing this. Well, maybe I am, but maybe I might help someone else from wasting their money....