Tuesday 18 September 2012

When I'm walkin' I strut my stuff..but my reins are all strung out...Bad hands, I know you're the ones...

I guess it is up for debate (and no doubt, has been debated ad nauseum  on many a bulletin board) but I would say the first thing recovering hunter riders need to get straightened out is their hands.

Because without half decent hands, there is no hope in hell of half decent contact.  You get to post in training level, so you can do a pretty good job of faking some version of a seat.  Even in the canter, you can still hover your ass around on the saddle as usual.  If questioned, just make some excuse about the maturation of the young spine, and no one is likely to argue with you, especially if you say it slowly with a sugary smile and a whiff "oh, I am talking to a moron again" condescension - the go-to tone of voice to use whenever you are trying to convince another horse owner that yes, you do know what the hell you are doing.  Even when you don't.

But if you are doing any of the typical weird hunter things with your hands and arms, it is kind of a screaming giveaway that you, in fact, don't know what the hell you are doing.

If dressage lessons were like GolfTech Player Performance Centres
In the spirit of Jeff Foxworthy, I would like to suggest the following.  Please feel free to add in your own. 

You might be a hunter rider if:

- Your arms appear to be elbowless sticks
- You have ever punched yourself in the knee while riding
- Your wrists flap like johnny on the spot doors at a fall fair beer tent as you ride
- If you have ever been asked if your horse ever says YES-YES-YES-YES just to shake things up 
- If a video of you has been used during a pony club presentation as an example of "person with really long reins and busy hands way in her crotch, who looks like she is pleasuring herself".  
- If you have ever been on the "pro" side of a conversation relating to the use of a chambon while riding
- If you have ever uttered the phrase "a pelham is pretty much the same as a double" in a non-mocking context

And so on.  

Curmudgeon!  Seriously. I have been riding hunters for years.  I win the "show hack" class at every Trillium show.  People are constantly asking me to get on their horses and frame them up. I think I know what I am doing.  

Ahhh yes.  The hack division.  Perhaps you are a Showy Road hackin machine who puts the Pee in Pleasure.  I have been there too.  And I thought I knew what I was doing as well.   

I know there are many of you out there reading this blog who have no idea what the hack division at a Trillium show is.  You lucky ducks. Let me help you to understand.

Once upon a time - people went to hunter/jumper horse shows to actually ride their horses over JUMPS.  Big ones.  Sounds crazy, doesn't it.  

But then, somewhere along the way, someone figured out that there was a rich, untapped population of riders and horses who wanted to go to shows and win stuff... without actually ever having to have learned to ride very well.  At all.

And so - a whole world of new classes were created.  Low beginner children's hunter.  Modified low beginner adult amateur hunter.  Modified low beginner crossrail children and relatively immature adult amateur hunter. Etc.  

But - even though the managers of horse shows progressively reduced the height of the obstacles, eventually they were left with a rail on the ground between two standards with a few cedar boughs in front and some potted mums on either side.  Yet there was still an plethora of people who could not ride their $50,000 import over this obstacle without a coach with a longe whip and lots of clucking. 

And thus, the hack division was born. All flat classes, none of the hassle of actually having to leap over anything.  

Who are these people who wake up at an ungodly hour to participate in not one, but three flat classes, you may ask?  Well, they are a diverse mix of folks.  Some are pros riding 3 year olds that don't jump stuff yet.  Fair enough.  

But many more are people riding horses that actually did jump stuff once upon a time. But then they learned that if you put little Suzie face first through the rails enough times, all of that nonsense comes to an end, and instead you get to hang out in the sun at horse shows after only 15 quick minutes of hacking around, alternating your speed now and then and holding your head and neck in a variety of different positions as prescribed by the amount of sawing on your face that your rider does at any one time.  

Curmudgeon! You are on a tangent again.  How does this relate to dressage?

Oh Sorry.  Well, the problem is - the judge is supposed to be judging you on things that they call "collected trot" and "extended trot" and other terms that sound familiar to the average dressage person - but look alarmingly different.  A horse pushed to Mach 5 in the trot until it flings its feet out in front to avoid snapping its fetlocks as it falls forward onto its face is not ACTUALLY doing "extended trot".  And slowing your horse to a wessage like crawl is not actually collection.  Unless you are in a wessage class (it is so confusing, isn't it?).  However, if you are routinely rewarded for these things at the local shows, you may mistakenly get the impression that you are right on track to show 2nd level. 

And so, when actual dressage folk recoil in horror when you sit down and start building that frame with a nice saw-saw-saw... well, don't worry.  We have all been there.  And - STOP IT!! You look like an idiot.  

Keep your hands still - give - thumbs up - blah - blah - blah.  Hands out in front.  GIVE!  Give from the elbow.  Think of how gorgeous Charlotte's hands look!  (no, seriously...you don't look anything like her.  Don't be ridiculous.  But try). Oh, and while you are at it... shorten your reins.  (No, really - do it.  I am sure you are not actually pleasuring yourself, but why not remove any doubt).  

There.  That's better.  We can still tell you don't know what the fuck you are doing.  But you are at least a little closer....



  1. Wow. "Curmudgeon" is right. There's no pleasing you, that's clear. Yes, I got the point about the hands, but the dripping-with-contempt tone is SURE to motivate people to try harder, right? This kind of snob-drenched nonsense might have an insider's knowledge of the various levels and expectations of show dressage, and yes, it's cleverly written, and even moderately funny, but in no way could I envision this sarcastic diatribe encouraging people to take risks to keep learning, keep getting better, keep hoping they can ever achieve their riding goals.

    Now this writer's perspective I find very hopeful and encouraging: http://frwdnrnd.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/how-do-you-develop-feel-in-horseback-riding/. This is the kind of writing that makes me want to keep dreaming I can ride well and easily with joy and confidence one day, to keep sacrificing my time, money and diligent effort to improve my skills and authentic connection with my horse. I remind myself of the progress I've made so far, and thank God at 52 years old, I'm healthy enough to dismiss such hopeless negativity as yours and keep on going.

    1. Some of us respond very well to sarcastic diatribes. While reading this I was thinking, "Oh christ. It's been so long since I took a dressage lesson, I bet I HAVE reverted back to hunter hands. Note to self: fix it."

      So let the curmudgeon curmudge. If you want puppies and rainbows you might be better off looking elsewhere. Those of us that like this hopeless negativity need a blog to read too.

    2. Did I say I wanted puppies and rainbows?? C'mon, LISTEN, don't just read. I'm not looking for fawning praise and no criticism, and to give my hard-earned money to someone who won't tell me the truth. I am making the best of what I have to work with to move forward in my riding goals. I seek out criticism and honest assessment so I can grow. And I like good writing and sharp wit as much as the next person (maybe more than the next person). I just lived with hopelessness and negativity in my own head too long, and now that I'm past that, I find that MOST people are motivated more by a balance of honest assessment, helpful criticism and sincere praise. The surly curmudgeon's perspective of biting sarcasm, withering disdain, and bitter negativity might be fun for a blog but I sure wouldn't pay an instructor to speak to me like that.

    3. Ok, no puppies or rainbows. Check. You require criticism and honest assessment, maybe some sincere praise. Check. Also, unless there's something you're not telling us, you're not paying curmudgeon to speak to you. What's your complaint again?

    4. Sounds like someone has busy hands in their crotch.

    5. Here's a suggestion Julie - don't read the blog. Wow, what a simple, effective idea!

    6. Really not sure why someone wants to be coached by a self-proclaimed surly amateur over the internet - but whatever floats your boat. Meanwhile I am heartily amused - Ride on, Curmudgeon! Ride on!

  2. Oh, phew, I just checked. Yep, the header still says "A restrospective journey from backing to PSG through the eyes of a surly Adult Amateur." For a second I thought I had mistakenly ended up on the "Blowing air up your backside with an unrealistic glimpse into the butterfly and rainbows transition from hunter to dressage."

    I'm still in the middle of the hunter to dressage rider transition after 3 years of working on it. Somehow, it's just easier to perch, not open the hip angle, not ride effectively.... I see myself in this blog and think it's HILARIOUS! But then again, my hope and positivity comes from my everyday life. Not the internet.

  3. Agree with Net... rode hunter for 20 years and old habits are hard to break. Having a sense of humor about the process doesn't mean I don't have hope that I will one day perfect my chicken arms or will suddenly miraculously sit my ass down in the saddle one day. It just means I can laugh at myself at the same time. Horse people take themselves too seriously!

  4. It is like the show hack riding at the arab shows. Some of the horses in them actually do dressage but MOST just fling their feet x amount of times and look tense and hot at appropriate times. I get an earful of how its exactly like dressage enough times to want to trip and fall on my pumpkin carving knife... Yes that is a fall joke LMAO

  5. I'm not sure why I can't actually reply to Julie's post, but now I'm also glad that a quick check this blog is also NOT now titled "A surly trainer trying to take your money"!

    1. You are correct, Net, it isn't. I was responding to the condescending, bitter tone. I didn't miss the humor of the article, believe me, I was just saying I don't think most people are motivated to learn that way.

    2. And he does bill himself as the "surly curmudgeon" - at least he's consistent. Truth in advertising! LOL.

    3. Mr. Motard may disagree with you re: truth in advertising when he finds out I have a penis.

  6. He? Stephanie, you grew another appendage!

    It happened even with Violent Femmes references in your title. Wow.

    I'm going to go dance to the soundtrack running on repeat in my head now...

  7. Um, I'm pretty sure this is mean't to be a humorous look at dressage....unless you have no sense of humour, then i don't know wtf to tell you.

  8. Oh this was a good laugh! As a hunter rider that attempts some dressage here and there, I was nodding and chuckling to myself. So true! You hit the nail on the head Curmudgeon! (not that I actually *do* any of that stuff... haha)
    To the people who can't laugh at themselves, perhaps you should find another blog. We enjoy the Curmudgeon's sense of humor and sarcastic wit.

  9. I love this blog. It makes me laugh til I cry every time.

    I'm in the weird position of re-training a dressage horse to be a hunter (I'm a former eventer and then I switched to show jumping, being a hunter rider was always kind of a tertiary career) AND working with a dressage horse who is supposed to stay a dressage horse, but whose owner slapped draw reins on and called it a "frame." Look y'all, I can't afford my own horse so I ride what other people want me to.

    I don't know what to do half the time, thank goodness for my trainer, so I read this blog and laugh and that helps. :)

  10. Please, Curmudgeon, don't change a thing. (Not that you would.) Your blog is my absolute favorite. I am hoping you will write a book.

  11. Stephanie, I don't really know you, but I bet I'm right when I say you could care less about what someone writes in your Comments. Nonetheless, I'm just here to remind you that 99.9% of your readers think you are PRICELESS. Useful nuggets of information sprinkled with a large dose of humor mostly directed at your very own self... it's all good! :) No, I wouldn't want my trainer to talk to me in this fashion (I mean, DUH) but it sure as heck is fun to read here.

    1. Yah, I really don't care. But I do appreciate everyone's support.

      I was going to suggest that if you don't like my blog, you can extend your middle finger and ..."lengthen your reins"... If you get my drift.

      (Not because I care. Because I am a bit simple and this makes me giggle).

  12. I did hunter eq through college, had my greenie for eventing for a while, rode a few sundries... then when I go back to riding for my old college coach, there's lots of snarking about the fact that I *am* sitting up and don't have hunter hands and...

    Even in college, I was more effective than pretty. Which tells you how un-pretty I really was!

  13. I didn't start out in hunters... I was a crazy eventer. But I SO identify with this post! The problem with eventing is that you have to ride a dressage test. So you actually reeeaaally think you know what the hell you're doing when it comes to dressage. Whooooaaaa, what an eye opener when I actually started riding dressage with an honest to god dressage trainer. It was ever so humbling... And it still is. I expect I will continue to be humbled throughout my dressage "career".

  14. This is why I'm am terrified when I meet a girl who says she's a hunter. Or who transfered to my mostly dressage barn from a hunter one.

    I run away.