Friday 8 February 2013

Take the easy road, Asshole. Remember...Nobody said life had to be fair.

And so, really the only solution to my problem was to get Coach Ritenau more involved in the training of Ms. V, in addition to just the coaching of her flopping adult amateur rider.  Although my original desire had been to do as much of my own riding and training as was humanly possible - well, it just wasn't humanly possible any more.

My program at the time, as I recall, was one lesson per week on Ms. V, and one lesson per week on Paddy the 2nd level schoolmaster.  Since I was only finding time to ride three or so times a week, the rides on Paddy had to go. I had to focus the free time I had on Ms. V.  I also added one training ride per week for Ms. V and Coach Ritenau - without me.

Oh Curmudgeon - what is the point!  Dressage is a journey, not a destination.  Getting your coach to do the riding so you can get there faster?  That is such a cop-out.

I love when people say this sort of thing.  "You aren't going to be one of those people who takes the easy road and lets her trainer do all of the work then just shows up to ride a "made" horse, are you?"

It is right up there with saying that people who ride dressage bred horses are choosing to do it because it is "sooo easy" to ride insanely big moving, hotter than hell Dutch Warmbloods the way Anky does.  And that real, hard-core riders choose to ride beasts that are hopelessly ill designed for the task, just to up the ante and make life a bit more challenging.

But I have already bitched about that elsewhere, so I will spare you the recap.

Mmm-mmm I love a sweet lemon, don't you?

Anyone who utters this phrase has obviously never spent much time in a full training facility dedicated primarily to helping the average adult amateur women who actually wants to ride and show her own horse. Take it from me.. it ain't always pretty.

Even if you let the trainer ride your horse five days a week, warming it up just right for you each and every day - if you can't ride, YOU CAN'T RIDE.  That's it.  Coaches are not magicians.  Trust me, if they were, they would magically conjure up some way to earn a living that did not involve dealing with you, every day.

You are probably wondering if I still read Psychology Today to try to figure out why so many people are so weird and fricking irritating.  Why yes, I do.  I had to take a brief hiatus since just about every other blog post for the month of December was dedicated to discussing how to get Americans with access to guns who also happen to be bat-shit insane to not shoot schoolchildren which is a bit too heavy a topic for my Canadian brain, but they are now back on track with topics that are more my speed... (things like 12 Rude Revelations About Sex...hmm, that sounds good)...or assholes in the workplace (who could resist this one...A Jerk Whisperers Guide to Jerk Management .. might also come in handy for dealing with many horse people as well).

At the Psychology Today website, different psychologists spend a lot of time discussing logical fallacies or biases in the way people think, and how this affects their perception of the world around them. These are some of the articles I find most interesting.  For example "why do 95% of people think they are above average at doing whatever the hell it is they are doing".

One topic that would be right up this alley would definitely be "The Dressage Coaching Bias".  I have not yet read an article dedicated to this subject in particular, but I am sure it is only a matter of time.

The Dressage Coaching Bias refers to the fact that any horse and rider combo that can afford to get MORE coaching than you do - at home, or GOD FORBID, in the warm-up ring at a show - is kind of a scamming "takin' the easy road" cheater (even if the rules don't say so - c'mon!  It is SO not fair. Asshole!  If I had THAT (insert advantage not available to you due to lack of funds here), I would be awesome too!).

The interesting thing about this bias is that as the amount of coaching that YOU personally can afford to receive increases - the "takin' the easy road, Asshole" bar gently slides up the scale, so that YOUR particular amount of coaching is just right - only levels of coach intervention above this are inappropriate.

If your budget dictates that you arrive at your horse shows with only your Grandma as an assistant and a lawnchair, everyone who shows up with Grandma AND Grandpa, three lawnchairs and a beer cooler = takin' the easy road, Asshole

Motorized?  Oh come ON now.  That is SO takin' the easy road, Asshole
If you can only afford to show up with a coach who once went to Germany on a school trip, everyone who shows up with a coach who actually once rode a German horse = takin' the easy road, Asshole

Did your coach once ride at a gold show? Then anyone with a coach who earned a gold medal, at a gold show = takin' the easy road, Asshole

If your coach needs to school your horse at the show because Stormy noticed a terrifying port-o-let barf out its innocent prisoner and has turned into a blubbering heap of equine jello, that's ok. Everyone whose coach schools their horse to tweak their transitions for a 65% instead of 60% = takin' the easy road, Asshole 

I haven't actually done research on this myself, but I would imagine that someone having their horse warmed up by Edward Gal prior to a training level class at a Bronze show would still object to another rider having a microchip implanted in their brain so that the neural synapses of Charlotte Dujardin could be piped directly to their spinal cord.  "Oh come ON now, that is SO takin' the easy road, Asshole

At Psychology Today, the writers always encourage us to overcome our thought biases.  I try readers, I do try.  But I know it is not easy. I remember one day of volunteering at a Bronze show, many years ago, when who arrived but a favourite Gaah-man coach, with her little dressage protege children and their china doll ponies in tow. Why, the first Gold show is next weekend!  We need somewhere to practice before our big day!  Hellllooo Conestoga!

Frau warmed up the perfect ponies impeccably and plopped the actual child riders down in their saddles, ready for action. They then proceeded to enter their training level classes or whatever they were, and of course, smoke the living shit out of the competition - hairy, unruly pony club ponies, ridden by hunched over children sawing enthusiastically away at their faces with their knuckles hitting their knees to get them "in a frame", while their clueless mom and dad "coaches" watched from the sidelines.  And, as their Curmudgeonly whipper-in said silently to herself "Oh come ON now, that is SO takin' the easy road, Assholes

It is so weird. Sometimes my knees hurt when I ride. 
I would probably have been able to swallow this whole scene, had it not been for the mother of the china doll pony children.  As she walked away from the prize table with her arms full of all of the goodies, she had to announce in a very loud voice "Oh my GOD!  More halters and saddle pads!  We win these EVERY time!  What am I going to DO with them all?"

Hey, I am not perfect.  I struggle to overcome this Dressage Coach Bias too, even when I don't have a dog in the fight, as Dr. Phil would say.  I have to remind myself that some people are just socially awkward, really fucking irritating, and only have loud voices. And just make a mental note to stay far, far, away from them.  Then stick to this mental note.  Then make a mental note to remind myself stick to my mental notes.  And also remind myself that whether I like it or not. I know, Mr. Curmudgeon, I know.  Nobody said life had to be fair. And if it ain't against the rules, short listed riders can warm up ponies at Bronze shows - it's not pretty, but it IS entirely fair.  

I guess what I am saying is this... in defense of myself, and my gradual progression away from "self reliant rider, bringing her horse along all on her lonesome" to "Curmudgeon in full training and hating every minute of it"... If you think it is depressing to NOT have the money to get the very best training for your horse, I agree.  It really sucks.  But try to get over it.

Because I have witnessed something even worse - people who have all the money, the sound horse, the right coach - and still  are not able to sit the trot, or ride a transition, or do any of the other basic things to get out of the dressage basement.  When you are in this boat, there is no one to blame but you.  Now THAT must be depressing.

So next time you are at a show, and sneering away from the sidelines at these bouncing yanking women - well, just stop.  Do your best to overcome Dressage Coach Bias. There is a good possibility that these women are actually jealous of you, relaxing with your Grandpa and a beer in a lawnchair.  I don't know what this bias is called, but it sounds much less stressful to me.


  1. DC, I say you turn this one into a stand-up routine and warm up the next National Symposium with it. Pure gold. Cheers!

  2. This reminds me of the breed-bias that so many bad riders think all the judges have.

    Personally, I think showing, training, and all the rest would be a lot more enjoyable if the biggest dressage demographic didn't seem to be neurotic, middle aged women who don't understand sports.

  3. This was very humorous and I certainly agree. For the record, I would not have thought any less of you (and don't now) for adding pro training to your program. Good for you AND Ms. V, I'm sure!

    HOWEVER, I would like to TRY, just once, being one of those people who can afford a six-figure mount, every piece of fancy equipment known to mankind and a phenomenal trainer (not necessarily big-name, just a truly good one). If I then fell on my face it would be own fault but at least then I wouldn't waste time being jealous - yup, I admit - of anyone else! :-)

    1. When you make it to the big times - don't forget to fire up your motorized cooler to drive over to have a beer with me. Pfft, who needs a mini-bike.

  4. Bwahaha - so very, very funny. When I arrive at this Sunday's schooling show, alone, toting my own damn lawn chair, I will be laughing at myself - the middled age adult ammie who can only afford one lesson a week. Cheers!

  5. Haha I love this! Although, I have to admit, I still feel a twinge of jealousy when I see some teen rolling in with her coach and a big rig with a fancy warmblood wrapped to its eyeballs when I came clunking in with an old stock trailer and my plump pony. Then I beat them and I feel alright, because I remember you can't buy dedication. :)

  6. In fairness to the loud voiced pony mom... the prizes at our Bronze shows could probably be improved. For example, at one show I won a purple mini grooming bucket, and some type of pony bathing glove? Both of which are proudly gathering dust together because really, what use do I have for a miniature grooming bucket? I haven't even been able to find anyone to offload it onto!
    A saddle pad is (at the very least) somewhat useful. However, my vote is that they give out chocolate or something edible. Can't go wrong with food ;)

  7. Went to a show once where part of every prize was a delicious, gormet, horse shaped cookie :)

  8. Food (horse or human) makes a great prize; however, in the summer you have to watch what you buy. One year we offered chocolate horses for the division champs made by a local chocolatier, but had to keep them ice in a cooler, so the competitors were disappointed in our lack of prize table, since the prizes were hidden in the shade.

    Anyways, I've been one of those people with the rickety old trailer lucky to have my husband or friend to drag along, and sometimes even a coach to read a test or two. Although I've never won a first place ribbon, I can definitely say my horse is the best behaved at a show.

    1. I think handing out partially melted mutant horse chocolates would have been more interesting. Would have helped remind people to keep the show running on schedule as well.

      "Do you want Mr. Cocoa's ass to totally dissolve into a puddle of goo? NO - well then get in the fricking ring NOW!!"

      Regardless of what the prize is or how little they want it - people who aren't clueless blowhards should accept gracefully, or alternatively, give back to the show to "regift". No one is forcing you to win a prize.

      If life were fair, this would be especially true when children who would give their left arm for that saddle pad are listening in.

    2. It's funny you say 'puddle of goo' because the horse shoes were looking like toilet seats and the horse heads were looking like dinosaurs. After that we learned to put them on ice.

  9. "If your coach needs to school your horse at the show because Stormy noticed a terrifying port-o-let barf out its innocent prisoner and has turned into a blubbering heap of equine jello, that's ok."

    OMG, that made me laugh. I have arabs and do endurance rides, so my horses are no longer afraid when the port-o-potty eats me and then minutes (I hope) later regurgitates me. But I remember the look on Flash's face the first time I reemerged from one :)

  10. I used to clinic at the most beautiful private barn, filled with beautiful 6 figure horses being ridden terribly by the middle aged barn owner, who knew she road badly. It was clearly depressing for her as she was always a class A bitch prior to her rides and then much more agreeable after her rides with a few drinks in her.