Thursday, 25 June 2015

Yes. I am still out there somewhere.

Yes, I know - I am not writing at all. Again. Sorry about that.

Actually I have had thoughts of my blog, and dressage, and horses in the last while, but just haven't made the effort to sit down at the computer and share.

Back in February or so, God or the Aliens or whoever it is that transmits warning messages to me telepathically did send me a quick and friendly reminder (Currrmudddgeon... stay awaaaay from horrrseeess).  I went riding with a friend who insisted that once I smelled the amazing aroma of horseflesh I would weaken and try to yank my Cavallos onto my winter-fat calves in a desperate frenzy to get on her horse whist freezing in an arena in February. Very serious longshot, I thought to myself - (to clarify - boots fitting, or riding her horse? Actually both longshots) but I attended to humour her and also she promised to make good soup for dinner when we got home. I like soup a lot.

Just as her ride finished up and I headed back to the barn to thaw out my toes while she wandered around the arena with her horse and a pitchfork picking up freezing turds, I heard the unmistakable sound of a scrambling cast horse - accompanied by the freaked out "woah - woah - easy" panic of a twenty-something stablehand.

Long story short - after about an hour of the three of us trying to get old Stormy to his feet without getting our heads kicked off, we succeeded only to find that his leg was dangling from the hip. Driving home I had to break it to my friend that no, visiting the barn with her that night did not make me nostalgic for the utter heartbreak and crazy vet bills associated with horses.

(No, Stormy did not make it. RIP).

In March - I joined a private golf club. As the salesperson gently explained the financial commitment involved in being a GOLD member (it will run me approximately $600 - $800 per month, depending on how much beer I drink) all I could think was - pfft... isn't there a PLATINUM level I can sign up for?  Maybe DOUBLE DIAMOND or something? This is a fricking bargain versus owning a horse...

(You will be happy to hear that although my leisure venue of choice has changed, the nutty women seem to be the same - my very first day hitting balls I was informed by a member that my pants were inappropriate. I checked with the Pro and he said perhaps the 80 year old member who commented didn't share my fashion sense and would not be caught dead wearing Rickie Fowler inspired orange, but the pants were technically just fine).

Next April - the month which officially marked the anniversary of the final "yes she is actually really and truly gone, and I am fairly certain she is not coming back" sale of Ms. V - came and went without any particular pangs of nostalgia, or anything else noteworthy.

Then, in early May - I went to see Cavalia - yes I know, I am possibly the last "dressage" person on Earth to attend the show. How did I like it? Well, I knew the magic of "the three P's" was really and entirely gone for me when I spent more of the show wishing I had those springy feet things on so I could jump over 3 foot high fences than wishing I was riding the upper level horse during the finale. Trying in vain to execute clean changes while splashing around in a giant puddle was just a bit too reminiscent of horse shows I had wasted money on in the past.

(I do recommend the "RendezVous VIP" Experience if you go, where you get to sit in a lounge during intermission and eat shrimp on a stick and drink champagne. Still much, much more economical than actually attending a horse show, and I think I was able to down at least $47 worth of small cups of Haagen Dazs to offset the cost of the ticket. Apparently you can visit horses at the end of the show too, if that still lights your fire).

Usually when you find yourself upside down over an oxer it is a bad thing. Not with these springy feet things.
So I am not sure what the rest of June and July will bring to dissuade me from ever riding a horse again, but I am sure there will be something. Pan Am games are just around the corner too - I bet CBC will do their best to keep me out of the saddle with some awkward "get to know dressage" broadcasts. (No one will ever bring dressage to the masses the way Colbert did..)

Colbert Does Dressage

Actually it is the Pan Am games that bring me to write my post today, as I am doing a little stalking of the Canadian riders list... hmmm... hmm... a few of the usual suspects, but also a few notables missing.

Two people who are not on the list are the two riders who I was choosing between back in 2006 or whenever it was that I had to pick a new trainer.

Coach #1 - is missing for a very obvious reason.

Coach #2 - is missing - but I have no idea why. I know I read an article a few months back indicating that he was definitely going to try to qualify for the games, and was on the Dressage Canada Short List with not one, but two horses.

Did he have horse issues? Sponsor issues? Health issues of his own?  Did he decide Pan Am games are stupid, since when it comes to dressage, they are essentially the Canada US games, so why bother?

Who knows, not me, I am hopelessly out of any loop of gossip or factual information for that matter.

Coach #2 was not on any lists whatsoever back in the day when I called him up looking for a new gig - he was still a "sometimes seen at Silver shows" kind of guy, with a few nice horses and riders who did not seem like nutbars, including one with a horse at a similar level to mine who seemed to be a really nice woman, based on our very limited interactions (I never did meet or get to know her, but from a distance she seemed to be someone who I could see riding with without having to wear an ipod to drown out her voice).

And even with my limited knowledge I could tell at that time that he was a good bet to go all the way. Not only was he an elegant rider, but he was approachable and nice, and smiled, and, well - didn't seem like a self absorbed asshole.

What could possibly go wrong here?

Well, nothing really. Other than the fact that the exact moment I contacted the man, he was in the throes of having to change barns, because he did not have his own place, but was one of the many nomadic coaches in the area, struggling to share barn space with others all while playing nice.

And we all know how well that typically works.

As I recall, he had just been given his walking papers and told to pack up his little troupe of riding ladies and move on to - wherever he could find someplace that could fit them all in and was in driving distance for the majority. Actually, I continue to be amazed at how sucessfully coaches manage to uproot everything and do this. I guess there are some fixed amount of barns with 10 - 12 available stalls and decent arenas, and all of the nomadic players in the game just rotate around in some version of equine musical chairs and trade places.

I had caught him just as the music was playing... and he had not yet rushed to sit down, while kicking some other person in the legs to slow their progress to the free stable, or smushed his ass and hips down on the chair with more force than the other less desperate candidates, or whatever the horse world equivalent is of nabbing the best free seat in the musical stables game is before you and your students all wind up out in the cold.

Sure, he told me all about a great new place called BerryDrive Stables over on Highway 6 he was sussing out - looks promising, think it might be a fit... eeek. EEEKKK!  The thought of a new coach, at a new barn, struggling to work out his own "fitting in" issues while I tried to deal with mine was just too much for me right then.

In retrospect - it was a good call on my part on staying away from BerryDrive Stables - as I don't know a thing about the place other than the fact that I don't think any coach ever stuck it out there, although the curb appeal is good.  In fact, I think Coach Ritenau did a stint there as well somewhere along the line later in time...

But was it a good call on my part to not stick it out with Coach #2, maybe follow him around to a few disaster barns until he settled at his own place (which he eventually did...)?  Hmm, I will never know, will I. But if I were to name points in my journey where if I were to do them again, I might have chosen differently - this would quite possibly have been one of them. I think Ms. V would have turned out at least as good if not better than she did. I don't think he would have given up on her because she was a little bit nutty and hot. Or me either, for the same reasons.

But the main reason I am sometimes sad I didn't try harder to make things work well with Coach #2 is that I then wound up with Coach #1, who I loved very very much, just like everyone else. Well, maybe not everyone. If only he had loved himself more, maybe this part of my story would have a happier ending.

So, after about 5 or 6 back and forth calls to Coach #2 - I thanked him for his time, and called up Coach #1, who was friendly and welcoming and told me to stop by to chat and we could make plans for my move.

Ugggh... I still felt I wasn't right for this environment. I prepared myself to be more FUN and SOCIAL and to EMBRACE the culture I was about to enter. The full training experience. Come on Curmudgeon, I said to myself...prepare to be made to feel awkward and unimportant by people you don't even really want to hang out with in your spare time, while spending lots of money. You can DO IT!

Actually, it was good preparation for the world of private golf too. The skills I learned are not totally going to waste, even if I never ride again.


  1. No....such a sad blog. Golf is a miserable soulless endeavor full of wankers who drive BMWs.

    Please re think the horse thing again - and drive a pick up held together by duct tape like the rest of us...try low level eventing or endurance, but don't give up on the ponies. It makes me sad for you.

    Riders are a special kind of nutty and we hate to see a tribe member pack it in.


  2. Hey, you're still alive! I just re-read your story from the beginning a few weeks ago - I'm very excited to see the new chapter :)

  3. Welcome back- please post again soon!

    P.S. I thought Cavalia was pretty dumb. The springy shoe things are kind of neat though, except when I think about just how badly I could hurt myself on them....

  4. I await the first installment of The Golf Curmudgeon. I am a dressage rider and an avid, not-very-good golfer. Both sports are perfect for your acidic and very funny commentary.

  5. Not only is golf cheaper than riding, you don't have to compete against someone who has traveled to Europe and bought six figure magic golf clubs that allow her to compete in the masters tournaments without ever hitting a driving range.

  6. Six figure magic golf clubs??? That's too funny!
    Good story.