I have tried, really I have. But I am failing, since this is the second post in a row....
I stay off bulletin boards as best I can. Really I do. But for those of you who don't know me, I do have a sideline business, and about once a month, I visit the local EMG to post an ad and stir up some customers.
Shameless promotion disguised as a link
And when I was there a month or so ago - I saw it for the first time.
I couldn't control myself, I made a few snarky posts - but then I backed away slowly. Slloooowllly. Until yesterday, when I went back over there to post my "how about a portrait for Valentine's day" advertisement.
And there it was - still. The thread lives on - a month later...freshly bumped.
Come on now, I am not super human. I can't resist temptation indefinitely. It is like a plate of French Vanilla cupcakes and a coffee with a shot of Baileys, calling out to me softly... I could jump into the mud and wrestle with the others, but instead....I bring you, here on the pages of Dressage Curmudgeon...
(Really, it is a testament to the kinder, gentler person I have become that I was able to put it off for this long).
What is it that burns me so much about Wessage? Why on earth do I care? I have no idea. Maybe I am insane. People can train the animals in their life to do whatever the hell they want, really it is no business of mine. Just because I am incapable of training Mr. Motard to do.. well, really anything he doesn't want to do.. maybe I am bitter, it is true. Lucky for me he likes doing laundry, all on his own.
I guess it is because it is something new that people who would really like to make a buck doing something horse related have pulled out of their ass and tried to make a legitimate "sport", so they can start charging for clinics and training and the like. Replace little wool cap with cowboy hat - voila, same shit, different day.
Just exactly what are you basing this accusation on, Curmudgeon (ya bitch)?
Well - One of the first people in Ontario to really jump on the slowly jogging wessage bandwagon was caught trying to smuggle her featured wessage clinician over the border or some crazy shit back in the fall, which did not add to my impression of this activity as anything other than slightly crooked and shady people trying to fleece middle aged women.
But you are right, maybe its just a total cooincidence that trainers that don't seem to be getting much traction in REAL dressage seem to be the first ones that embracing wessage as an alternative income stream. Who knows.
Curmudgeon - obviously you don't speak French. Dressage just means "training".
Oh, trust me. I wasted too much time in my life learning to speak French, only to learn that people from France have better things to do with their time than talking to scum like me. If western people just want to learn horsemanship based on the principles of dressage, why don't they just call up a local dressage trainer, explain this to them, and take a lesson? Or organize a clinic? Why do we need a "special" category?
I really did try to give it a chance. To learn, to embrace. Whatever.
So I went to the FAQ's for the new Western Dressage Associaton of America to get a real feel for Western Dressage principles.
Here is what I learned.
1. What is Western Dressage
Western Dressage helps a rider to improve the horse’s balance, cadence
and carriage. Whether your horse competes in reining, roping, cutting,
western pleasure, or enjoys the trail with you, using dressage will
improve your partnership and keep your horse happier and more sound far
longer than it would otherwise be.
Hmm...So far, so good.
2. Who can compete in Dressage / Western Dressage
Regarding Regular Dressage:
The USDF says "Dressage is for equines of all breeds and all sizes!"
The Western Dressage Association of America has a slightly different take on who "Western Dressage" is for:
"Western Dressage horse will be
evaluated with the conformation and movement of today’s western horses
in mind. The Western Dressage horse will have a shorter stride than a
Dressage horse and the Western Dressage horse will be asked to walk, jog
and lope as opposed to walk, trot and canter".
Woah, woah, woah. Wait a second here.
Can you imagine if USDF posted something similar? Something that said
"Because success in dressage at the higher levels requires a horse that actually has the athletic ability and conformation for collection - and big expressive extended gaits too - horses will be evaluated with this in mind".
(Everyone would freak out and lose their minds. UDBB would have virtual heads mounted on stakes. Even if it is kind of true).
I read their disclaimer as "we really want to have something going on here that we can market as "dressage", but boo-hoo, our horses aren't built for the sport as it exists. So let's just change the rules to matchy-match their abilities, so we can have a game where we can be WINNERS too!"
Strangely enough, the Guidelines for Judging Western Dressage state:
"the description of the gaits is virtually identical but the western dressage horse must maintain rideablity for the rider in a western saddle"
What the hell does that mean? How is jog virutally identical to the big-n-boomy trot that wins at training level in normal dressage? Can you imagine being a judge (and as their FAQ states "any licensed Dressage judge can judge western dressage" - ha ha, I am so picturing Judge OOOhhh! I am sure they are booking her in now, Danno) and trying to figure out how to place a shuffling trot wessage test? (Well, he is jogging, and that is allowed - but that gait is not identical to anything I have ever seen anywhere related to dressage...)
I watched a few Morgan dressage tests on YouTube - basically the jog appears to be a prancy little gait that doesn't track up. What is a dressage judge supposed to do with THAT?
And what is so special about riding in a western saddle that a horse needs "special gaits"? Some coach expected me to be able to ride my horse's uber extended trot in a Stubben Tristan for christ's sake, but these riders only have to lope around in their sofa saddles? WTF? There is even a holey shit horn to grab onto to stop the bouncing!
3. WTF - well, the "purpose" statement should clear this up
"It is not the goal of Western Dressage to create western horses that
compete in open dressage but to create better western horses and riders
through the use and principles of dressage".
That's great! And I am sure I can learn more about what the goal of each test / level is by looking at the overall purpose at the top of the test. You know, that box that noone reads, but is often quoted on message boards.
Training level test 1 says:
Purpose: To confirm that the horse is supple and moves freely forward in a clear and
steady rhythm, accepting contact with the bit
First level test 3 says:
Purpose: To confirm that the horse, in addition to the requirements of Training Level, has developed
the thrust to achieve improved balance and throughness and to maintain a more consistent contact
with the bit
Wessage Primary Level 4 says:
Primary Level 4
Uh... there is no purpose. It is essentially a training level test. Purpose is to ride around and pleasantly execute figures. I guess.
This is also the highest level test listed on the Western Dressage Association website - apparently they planning more. Which will be awkward, because if the foundation of the pyramid is shuffling jog, it is going to be a hell of a climb to the little pointy peak. (Yes, yes, I know, for lots of riders of normal Dressage, this is true too).
This is what I find so funny about some of the stuff I am reading on the boards. They are talking about ultimate collection, light in the hand, blah-blah-blah... zzzzz....have they even gone and looked at the tests? They are training level for pete's sake! Or have they noticed the fact that the judging that's "just like normal dressage" includes a disclaimer to favour shuffling joggers?
There have been some cool videos posted of Western dressage-like freestyle riding...absolutely, really fun to watch - (anyone who says a spin is the same as a pirouette needs a strong kick to the head, but still fun) - but this is exhibition riding based more on reining, and is absolutely NOT what you will be seeing at a Wessage show. You will be seeing jogging prancy pretty horses doing training level tests, not tracking up, and dolled up in lots of silvery tack.
And as it gains momentum - people with awesome, fancy western horses and good trainers will figure out the game, and come in and kick ass. Quite possibly, they will be mounted on WB/Saddlebred or WB/Morgan crosses - something with a hint'o'cowboy, but mostly a big dose of what makes high level dressage beautiful today.
And the losers will then say they aren't pure and "classical"....and we need classical western dressage....
AHHHH! Time for wine.