Tuesday 29 November 2011

When Engineers and Germans collide. The Chin-up.

Right from the start, Mr. Motard was intrigued by the concept of "full training board".  The engineer in him had to see how the mechanics of this situation were going to work.

He just couldn't accept what was so simply obvious to me - you go there, you ride a lot, yada yada yada - Prix St. George. For some bizarre reason, he thought it was more complicated than this, and felt the overwhelming urge to tear it down like an engine and stare at the greasy parts.

"You are going to take a lesson with this woman EVERY time you ride?  That is crazy!  Aren't you going to get sick of each other!"

"Uh..no.  I don't think so"  (anyone who has been in full training knows the answer to this is... HELL YES!).

"How much is all of this costing you - it must be a fortune!"

"Uh..it is surprisingly affordable"  (anyone who has been in full training knows the answer to this is... HELL YES!).

"How are you going to find the time for this!  Who is going to make dinner?"

And so on and so on... instead of answering an endless stream of questions, I suggested that he be a loving S.O and come along for the ride to help me move.  Don't ask me why this seemed like a good idea at the time.  Probably because I am not good at backing up the horse trailer, I thought at very least he might come in handy.

Frau Trainerin greeted us warmly and helped me to organize my crap, that was all fine, and barn staff made appropriate comments about the cuteness of the Platypus.  Then the tour of "the horses much better than the Platypus" began.

Now to me, this is totally normal.  You could walk into a barn full of three-legged critters with their heads screwed on backwards, and the owner would begin regaling you with the life and times of each special and awesome creature in their care. How they can split the atom with their anus or some other incredible feat that makes them worth 500x their value as meat.  We are horse people. That's what we do.  But I could see the first flickers of Mr. Motard's eyes rolling in his head, as his "oh my god, what bullshit am I submerged in" alarms started to go off.

In this case, most of the horses were pretty awesome, and I was actually really interested in hearing their stories.  But Mr. Motard's final string of polite restraint snapped when we got to the one that looked....like a cart horse.

"Well, WHAT is the story on this one.  Surely you are not going to tell me you imported THIS from Germany.  Or that he has some fancy breeding.  He looks like he should be pulling a plow".

Frau Trainerin smiled wryly and said "No Eee is not Ghaman bred.  Eee is out of Texas by Trailah"

Mr. Motard stared at her blankly.

"Out - of - Texas - by -Trailah!  Out of Texas... by Trailah!  Dees is a joke!  Eet means vee don't KNOW hees breeding.  Eee has come on a Trailah from somwhere, where, we do not know, maybe Texas".

Mr. Motard stared at her blankly.  Some more.  I explained the joke to him.  I then proceeded to struggle to stop him from trying to tell it for the next 8 years.  (No - it is not that funny, honey, really.  And when you ask someone who just spent $50,000 on a Dutch import if the horse is "Out of Texas by trailer" - it is just insulting.  Not funny.  No seriously - stop.)

Then, the trouble really started. Frau Trainerin's next mount was tacked up and ready for her to warm up for her waiting client/owner.  He got that certain smirk on his face that always proceeds his "but honey, I was just making conversation" routine.   The conversation is never, never good.

He mentioned in his wide eyed and "curious" way that he couldn't help but notice that although Ms. X and Mr. Z owned this horse, and Ms. ABC owned that one, and Sue Jones owned these, and so on...Frau Trainerin rode and showed them all.  And why can't Mrs. Smith warm up her OWN horse?  Don't these  women actually do any of their OWN riding?  What the hell is the point of having a hobby that someone else does?  What gives?  Are they too old and weak?

Ooohh... did you have to go there?  Really?  We all know this is kind of the way the competitive dressage world is.  There is most certainly a large contingent of rich horse petting clients.  Part of being a truly awesome full service coach is providing them with the just the right balance of riding  (to be sure that they feel they are entirely necessary to the game beyond just the wallet part) - and not riding (so as not to fuck anything up in the training department).  The business is built on it.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, whatever floats your boat - it is not how I see my world unfolding, but gee, we don't usually stop and point fingers, honey.

It was Frau Trainerin's turn to stare blankly. I could see just a hint of "who is this asshole" somewhere behind her cool and professional demeanor.

"Vell.  You know a lot about dressage, you think, heh?  How strong is YOUR girlfriend.  Vee ONLY have strong veemen here"

"Oh, she is strong.  Really strong"

"Yah? Vell let's see her do a chin-up eef she is sooo strong.  Can she eeevan do a chin-up"?

"Oh no PROBLEM. Curmudgeon - show her!  Do a chin-up.


"Aaah you seee!  She eess not so strang now, heh?"

"Oh she is going to do it.  GO CURMUDGEON.  DO IT!"

Ahh, it took me back.  To another place and time... not a good one.  Back to grade school, when I was the "husky" kid doing the "ParticipACTION challenge".  Where I never, ever got anything other than the shitty "ParticipACTION" badge and the little plastic pin - not even a bronze badge for me - because I could not haul my chunky little ass up and do flexed arm hang for 8 seconds.  And now I had to do a chin-up.  In front of my fabulous new coach.

Sigh.  Again.  I guess I could have walked away.  But I told myself, Curmudgeon, you won't get to PSG by refusing to do chin-ups.  Or something along these lines.

Not another fucking PIN!

I took a deep breath, grabbed the barn beam, and **HUUUUHMMHHUUUUHHHMMMM**  (insert another deep breath here) ***HUUUMMMUUMMHHUUMMM** believe it or not, for the first time ever in my life I did ....a chin-up.

It was kind of like the stories you hear about when a car crushes a woman and her spouse finds some hidden superhuman strength that miraculously enables him to lift the vehicle, saving the life of his beloved. And not anything like when a crazed dressage woman drives her truck and horse trailer right over HER significant other, because she is so annoyed by his behaviour.  Which I can totally see happening too.

Well, that was that, I can't really remember anything else that happened as I think I blew a blood vessel or two in my head trying to haul my chunky little ass up just like back in '78.  I guess we made our way home and I probably had at least 3 glasses of wine to wash away the memories of my truly strange first day at my fabulous new barn.

To this day, Mr. Motard still seems to think this is some sort of bizarre dressage ritual that we do as a form of greeting when going into a new training situation.  Like Frosh week.  He doesn't get that it was just...weird.

So years later, when I finally went back into full training with a different FEI coach, you should have see the disappointment on his face when we got ready to go after dropping off my mare...

"What?  We are leaving?  But he hasn't even asked you to do the chin-up yet!"


  1. Oh that was a good read!! Your posts crack me right up and I sit here laughing & nodding the whole time!

  2. This is the funniest one to date...especially because I know Mr. Motard!

  3. Next time you run into him... ask him if he has ever seen me do a chin-up!

  4. too funny!

    I don't know how I did it, but somehow I managed to land in a training barn with an American FEI rider who'd been short-listed for the Olympics at one point. She took in new-to-dressage me and the naughty little Morgan and treated us as well as she'd treat someone with a GP horse. I was very lucky!

  5. A chin up? I had to tack up three horses before my new trainer realized I wasnt the help! Bwahaha

  6. Well quietann, that is all well and good re: the dressage part, but did you develop the upper body strength and horse grooming skills that Anon and I did? :)

    (just kidding. you lucky bitch)

  7. I just spent way too long at work reading through your archives and all I can say is PLEASE WRITE A NEW POST SOON!!! :)

    And I am impressed by the chin-up. I probably would have dislocated my shoulder and still failed!

  8. You're a riot! Waiting impatiently for the next installment!!!