Tuesday 6 December 2011

Exhibit #1. Your horse sucks.

I must admit, I don't read a lot of other blogs, but one library I do visit on a fairly regular basis is Psychology Today.  They have a bunch of different bloggers covering assorted topics ranging from overcoming the difficulties of raising teenagers (easy solution - don't have kids) to work, sex, sleep (no, not all at the same time. These are separate blogs) to whatever else you feel you might like to understand better.

The ones I read are usually the ones aimed at helping me to try to answer the question that is often raging in my head as I lie awake at night after dealing with people I just don't get - namely, WTF are they thinking?

The answer to this is typically - give up trying to guess, you can never have any fricking clue what is going on in someone else's head, and trying to figure it out will just drive you nuts.  Which might explain why I am the way I am.

But to this day, I still wonder to myself what series of thoughts went through Frau Trainerin's head when it was time to deal with the Platypus situation. And how this lead me to decide that although I still think she is a good coach and awesome rider, I never wanted to ride with her again.

Exhibit #1:  Your horse sucks.

The first outcome of her two week intensive relationship with the Platypus was pretty straightforward, and entirely logical. No Psychology Today needed here. She decided he was not cut out for dressage.

Now it is easy to jump to the "breed bias" conclusion here, but in reality, from what I have seen come out of her barn since she is actually pretty understanding on this front, and will work with a variety of different horses, as long a they have a natural inclination towards dressage.  In fact, those who know the story also know that "Out of Texas by Trailer" eventually made it to GP.

But the truth is - a horse that wants to debate "forward" is just an astronomically bad bet as a dressage prospect.  The Platypus was not at all willing to just GO and keep on GOING, without a whole lot of attitude.

In case I had any doubts regarding this assessment, she was kind enough to bring her observations to life for me with the utmost in clarity, using the traditional "chase the balky horse around with the longe whip" technique. (I am sure classical instructors have a much more sexy sounding name for this).

This is a popular technique, I have since learned.  It is one of those "rubble at the foot of the pyramid" steps that occurs along the road to enlightened dressage.  For it to be effective, you need a well seated rider who can handle many degrees of freak-out, and a fleet footed assistant who can crack a horse in the ass with a longe whip, then get the hell out of the way before their head gets kicked off.

To bring the experience to life - first you must picture that Frau Trainerin was just a little too big for the Platypus, making the whole picture look a bit comical.  Secondly, the Platypus was not anywhere near the sexy and sleek type of beast that one would typically see her riding - they were incredibly mismatched from the start.

Now that you have this pictured - add to the scene this usually composed rider taking bucks from a stubborn little pony, while being chased by a working student with a longe whip and barking things at the student and the Platypus in German - the whole thing was just not anyone's vision of elegant dressage. I stood back and watched my dressage dreams for the Platypus puff up in smoke, thinking...  just when you thought your dressage nightmare couldn't get any worse, Dressage Curmudgeon.

I started to get a bit edgy and tried to lighten the situation "Hey maybe you should try yelling at him in Arabic instead?"

"EEee will not understand ARABIC!"

Oh.  Yah, good point.  I stopped to wonder when he had become so fluent in German. And decided to keep my mouth shut for the rest of the session.

When the show was over, I took a good look at the poor sweaty little Platypus. Even his eye wrinkles were sweaty.  All he had to do was go-stop-go-stop in a prompt fashion - and it was just too much to ask of him.

I know, I know, there are those among you who are thinking right now "if she had found a more tactful coach, or tried Parelli, or maybe some natural horsemanship, the Platypus would have understood.  It must have been the saddle, or the footing, maybe the barometric pressure.  Horses want to comply, and if they don't, they are confused or troubled  - dressage should never be ugly..blah blah blah...  It wasn't fair..."

Forget the technique - it really didn't matter. Horses are living animals, with strong ideas of what they would or would not like to do. What was really unfair was that I was trying to take this dorky little $1500 pony, who had a perfectly reasonable gig as a hunter and to try to turn him into something he really, really did not have any desire to become. And if "go" was debatable - just imagine what awaited us down the road when something more difficult came along - like, oh, just about anything.

I felt something in the pit of my stomach, and could tell I would cry on the way home.  It didn't matter how fancy he looked once he was going - I knew she was right.  The Platypus would not be my dressage horse.

1 comment:

  1. Aw been there done that :( I had to find out the hard way as well about the NON forward button in my guy... BUT my girl now is very willing and I had no idea how important 'willingness' was in dressage until I first lessoned on a horse that was WILLING.

    Good luck dear blogger!