Sunday 13 May 2012

Sunshine. Lollipops. Rainbows. Meltdowns. Be sure to experience them all.

So... What are you saying, Dressage Curmudgeon... if I don't spend time and money in a BNT barn, I won't know what pornography is?  That is ridiculous.  I can always look on the internet and see many examples...

You know, that is actually a really good question.  For sure, regardless of what your activity may happen to be, from Dressage to Extreme Ironing, there are many more examples and resources available to you on the internet now, versus back in 2004, and my connection is actually fast enough that I can watch them if I get the urge.

He is twisting through his body and not keeping his weight centred.  He will really need to  go back to basics to correct these position flaws if he hopes to advance up the levels. 

Nothing needs to be a mystery or a misunderstanding any more these days.

(Case in point - when a single male co-worker once told me he was having difficulty finding the right woman, I asked some "open ended" questions to find out more and see if maybe I could help.  The "right woman" apparently had to be into "hot plating".  I commiserated, told him to hang in there, and thought to myself, yes, it would be hard to find a woman who wanted to live life without owning a real stove.  However surely the right girl would see past this.  Eventually she could convince him that they should visit Leon's together, and would skip out blissfully as the owners of a new range.

That was then, this is now.  Thanks to Urban Dictionary, I now realize that he will undoubtedly die alone, masturbating in front of his computer, while I feel slightly kinky every time I wrap leftovers in Saran).

Where was I...

Oh yah.  Well it is most certainly easier to find examples of fabulous dressage.  Case in point - I hope you all got a chance to watch the video of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro on TopDressage before it went poof.  (There is still a YouTube filmed-from-a-computer-screen version that you can watch if you aren't prone to seasickness) As far as I can tell, even the militant competitive dressage haters should like this pair.  (Disclaimer:  Haven't looked on UDBB yet, but I am going to assume even the totally crazy Classical gals are on side.  But I have been wrong before).

The other great thing about seeing all of the top riders / horse combos on the internet - and a bit of googling can find you an example of just about anyone - is that you do start to get a feeling for the fact that yes, top horses must be incredibly athletic, fabulous movers.  However - really, the limits within this description are quite wide - compare Totilas (extravagant freak of nature), Fuego (non-warmblood kicking butt), Pop Art (non-extravagant still in the game via precise riding) etc.

So it is easy to see the very top of the sport.

Depending on where you live - you can probably also venture out and visit some local dressage shows, and see a cornucopia of different things there.  Some good.  Some, most certainly not.

And you can, of course, scribe.

Hi Barb and John!  Porky told me you are looking for scribes!  Sign me up!

The problem with shows is that you don't get a chance to really see how the glorious FEI horses once upon a time started off floating on down the Nile towards the mythical dressage pyramids.  You see them only at the end of the story.

And - I am about to share with you one of the GREAT REVELATIONS that did not dawn on me until about half-way through my dressage journey.  Maybe I am just totally dense, and you all already know this (but if you are a catty heckler who wants to post in the comments that I am a clueless idiot for not realizing this anyways, please, be my guest.  Don't let me take away your fun).

Top GP riders virtually NEVER show lower levels on their hot, up and coming young horses. 

Yah, yah, sure.  There are exceptions.  But for the most part - if you see a top rider showing a lower level - it is most likely not a horse that anyone expects to make it to GP.  It is probably a dull tempered sale horse - one they have brought in from Europe specifically to flip to a starry eyed adult amateur, or one that they have decided is not worth spending time on, since it won't make it to the end.  Or the horse is actually a 12 year old stopper ex-hunter that they are trying to move for a friend.  Alternatively, they might be putting in some remedial ring time on a surly 17 year old, 17 hh tank that knows who means business and who doesn't, and therefore has frustrated the living hell out of their 55 year old, 100 lb. soaking wet adult am owner.

You might luck out and catch an up and comer being shown just to get a little bit of ring mileage before the 4 or 5 year old classes so they don't have a full on meltdown when the big day comes.  But this is kind of like spotting sasquatch - you need to be in the right place, right time (and apparently without a camera phone).

So, when perusing the typical show (in these here parts, in any case) you are left with the cream of the crop at the FEI levels, and some sort of coffee-mate amalgamation of who-knows-what sediment from there on down.  Not a nice even cross-section of beautiful horses, as you move from one ring to the next looking at the different levels, as you might expect.

Which is kind of disappointing as an onlooker.  Or - actually, as an onlooker new to the sport of dressage - just really fricking confusing.  You find yourself wandering the showgrounds, wondering "How on Earth does THIS motley group of horses morph into THAT in the next two years?"

Answer - it probably doesn't.

Dressage Curmudgeon, you just aren't trying hard enough.  YouTube is there for us... did you not watch that fabulous Steffen Peters / Janet Foy Symposium!  Or pay a little for there are lots of nice young horses there....

Yahhh, sort of.  Maybe.  Kind of.

But it is still not the same as immersing yourself in the day to day riding at a barn with a mixed bag of everything, all trying to move somewhere in a forward direction.  You need to see the good, yes - but also the bad and the ugly.  There aren't a lot of meltdowns on (yes, I am a subscriber).  Everything is pretty sunny and nice, and neatly sanitized.

Which in some ways, only makes actual life harder, and more confusing, as you are sweating it out dealing with reality.

So, my advice to everyone would be - find yourself some way, some day, to spend time at a good barn.  Even one month of full training would help.  Will it make a big difference to your horse - maybe not.  But once you have paid the price of admission to the show - spend as much time there watching EVERYONE ride as you can (good, bad, awful), and this will make a big difference to your understanding of  what you are going to have to do to move up the levels, if that is your goal.  Sit down (try to find the seat nowhere near the insecure blabbermouth woman that insists on letting you know why everything she does is bigger and better than whatever it is you are doing - unfortunately the empty seats are probably next to her), shut up, and watch.

Seriously - it will be worth it.


  1. The second day I spent at my very first dressage trainers barn (she is tippy top for that area... Well most areas anyway), and she was riding an ex-eventer (stopper) fire breathing dragon that was crow hopping every other change and rearing at passage and doing canter-walk-canter-buck pirouettes...

    I asked her, "Wow, she is gorgeous but will she settle for the testing?"

    She opened my eyes when she said, "God I hope not! She actually has potential."

    Later I saw that she meant over the course of 5 years in training she would end up at GP with her head on straight but to settle and do a test as a young horse? She really didn't want this horse all hum ho 2nd level test.

    I still don't think I want to EVERY attempt to keep a horse THAT forward together... A little less, "I'll break your neck." A little close to, "If I pull hard enough can I eat the grass by the arena."

    Um thanks LOL

  2. This is great advice, and reassuring!

    I have to leave town to see many horses headed the way I want to go, but I definitely have a chance to look around and see the wonderfully obedient lovely first and second level horses; and all I can think is "but how are you EVER going to get that horse going upper levels with so little energy?!" As for explosions... well, that's what we show off a bit more than necessary...

    Again, thank you - both for the entertaining aspects but also for the experienced voice that gives advice which would likely be pooh-pooed on the boards, yet makes so much sense.

  3. Working for a big name in a different discipline, on my one day off after 6 12+hour days, how did I spend it? Watching lessons!

  4. Exceptions to your comment about not showing young horses. In Carl Hester's Fantastic Elastic Masterclass, Charlotte Dujardin rides SIX years old Valegro. Carl very proudly explained that the horse has ALREADY won 13 national titles, he was a champion at 4 yrs old, 5yrs old and 6 yrs old, getting a 10 in canter at 5 and 6 yrs old.
    However Carl Hester says a young horse that has BIG movement won't last until GP. The ones going to GP are the ones looking "normal" as young horses. He commented that Valegro had superb canter, a nice walk, and they were working on his trot...

    Also YouTube does NOT show all the story. I was at the European Dressage championship of Turin in 2007. I SAW with my own eyes Anky and Salinero. You can watch as many Youtube videos it won't give enough impression of that couple. Because they had so much Charisma. The air was vibrating around them while showing ...okay I am a bit poetic, but it felt like it ^-^ And I was anti-rolhkur having the T-shirt and all that.

    Have you seen THIS on YouTube

    Two "fat" blokes sitting on armchair critisizing professional riders ... UNBELIEVABLE!!!! O_o
    THAT is what is wrong in Dressage. These two blokes do not look to me like they have ridden a GP horse for a while or ever ?
    Just scandalous ...

    1. Valegro - No, these results do not show an exception, but support the cause - chalk it up to lack of clarity in my post, I did try to touch on this.

      Yes - absolutely - top horses win the classes for 5yr olds etc. These classes were designed specifically for them. If you get a chance to watch them - do it. But they are just not that common here, and only have a few entries.

      (if you find him proudly announcing that she smoked the crowd at training level, that would be an exception)

  5. I don't know that it is that common, but I do know of at least 2 horse/rider combos that have been pretty successful up several of the levels. I know my trainer took her primary horse to championships each year from 2nd level to I-1 - and they are hoping to make it to Devon this year. I've also followed Lauren Spreiser from her old LJ blog to her current one on COTH, and she posted stuff about showing Victorius/Midgey at Training and First years ago, and later third level and then PSG, and they are showing GP this year.

  6. If someone missed the video of Charlotte Dujardin's record-breaking ride - here's the link to steady-hence-not-causing-nausea version:

    By the way, RE:"As far as I can tell, even the militant competitive dressage haters should like this pair." Nope, they don't. I've read disdainful comments saying that "Valegro was triangulated in piaffe." Horrendous crime in the eyes of woolcaps.

    1. Thanks for posting this - was able to watch even without Gravol.

      (Should have known there would be "issues" with the ride according to some! I never do learn, do I!)

  7. OK, just a simple question..why to 100 lb (soaking wet)women feel they have to ride 17hh monsters in the first place?

    1. Because they can?..
      What does look ridiculous is 300lbs men riding 15hh ponies))

  8. really wish I hadn't looked up hot plating...