Tuesday 31 January 2012

ACT NOW! Operators are standing by. This deal won't last forever!!

Ok, email box is cleared of all incriminating emails.

The year was 2003, and so if you are as old as me, you know that one of the "hot" stallions for just about anything in Ontario at that time was Rio Grande.

Maybe I am wrong, and it is just because I am a bit more up to speed on genetics now, or maybe it is because I am not actively shopping for a horse so I really have no fucking clue what I am talking about - but I think breeders are doing a much better job of matching the parental units to the task at hand now than in the olden days.  Seems like dressage bred/proven sire = dressage offspring, and other crazy out-there breeding strategies like this are more prevalent.

But back in 2003, Rio babies were exceptional hunters, jumpers, dressage horses, could do hand-to-hand combat, quadratic equations and of course, split the atom with their anus as required by F.Trainerin.  Were Wessage around then, they would have kicked some jogging ass.

There was no specialization required.  This stud did it all.

And so, when I saw the advertisement for "El Muddo"  a Rio x Arab cross, I was sure he was THE one.

But...there were two problems with this boy from the start.

1.  He was at the top end of my price bracket
2.  He was rising five... and unbroken


Curmudgeon, there is nothing at ALL wrong with that.  Have you not read Hillary Clinton's (wait, wait - that can't be right.. you know who I mean, whatever the hell her name is) study on the maturation of warmbloods?  Their little spines are like marshmallows up until the age of SIX.  This guy is right on track...

Yahhh, maaaaybe.  But having worked at a TB farm, I am a big believer in the "get on 'em before they get big enough to notice they don't have to put up with that shit" philosophy of starting horses.  Not necessarily "get on 'em and ride them into the ground.." - but just climb aboard and do something authoritative while you are still the top dog in the kennel.  If they go back in the field for a year, fine.  They will come back in 500lbs heavier, but still under the illusion that you actually have some sort of power to run the show.

(The trick is then to keep it this way for the next 20 years).

The great majority of horses, like teenagers, turn into unpleasant freaks at some point during their adolescence.  Get the backing out of the way before this day occurs.  Because whether it be horses or kids... really bad things... like vile eye-burning tatoos that eliminate any possibility of a nice wedding photo without some hard core photoshopping ....and serious buck-you-charlie, you-want-to-put-your-ass-where, how-are-those-kickboards-feelin-now type habits can easily crop up during this period if you don't set the ground rules early.

So.. back to the unbacked.

I gave the seller a call to find out a bit more about El Muddo.  I am sure you can all hear the conversation in your head, and that it goes without saying (but what the hell, I will say it anyways..) that....

* This horse was AMAZING.  A-freaking-MAZING.  Sleek, sexy, floating feet and more, suspension, extension, contraction, elongation, deflation... if you are looking for a horse that can be described with a noun associated with movement, look no further.

* Uhhh... no.  There are no pictures available of the horse.  No, no, he is not a vampire horse or something that would rationally explain WHY he has never been photographed.  But over the course of 5 years, no one owning a camera had dropped by

* video?  Ha ha ha.  Haaa.  NO

Well, he wasn't far away, and was in picturesque Mennonite land.  Nothing nicer than a drive through the countryside to buy some maple syrup or summer sausage from people who are too clueless to notice that their standardbred cart horse is three legged lame.

Well guess what!  On arrival:

* he was in a field, full of mud and burrs, with about 9 other horses, full of mud and burrs.  All 10 begin running around like idiots when we approached.

* there was no arena, no ring, no barn.  Just a run-in shed.  No surface free of mud and burrs - other than the laneway.  But does he look great in that mud or what!  Look at the hind end action!  He really bends those hocks!

(slurp-slurp-slurp - horse yanks its legs free of the sucking mud very expressively)

Ok.  To the laneway!  We did our best border collie impressions, cut El Muddo from the herd, wrestled a halter over his unicorn horn of burrs and forelock and headed out into the wild world.

Poor El Muddo.  Imagine - someone taking him away from his peeps!  This was stressful not only to him, but to his peeps as well.

So, as the owner tried to jog him up and down the laneway, she was accompanied by the 9 other horses, running along beside her on the other side of  the fence (slurpslurpslurpslurp), all 10 tails flagged and 20 nostrils snorting and blowing, while El Muddo looked entirely pissed by the rude invasion into his private time (i.e. 24/7) and I worried that he would lift the poor woman off of her feet and run through the page wire to return to his life interrupted in the mud.

Did he look expressive?  Hell YES.  Did he look impressive?  Hell YES!  Did he look like something I wanted to wrangle a saddle on at the age of five?  HELL NO.  

So I was kind of torn.  But at the same time, did not want to wind up... torn, beaten, bruised etc. I fully believed there was a really nice horse in there somewhere - but I just couldn't see enough of it here, and the negatives associated with a herd-bound wild child five year old were pretty hard to rationalize away.

Then, the owner played her ace in the hole card.

"You know, I am sending him out for training SOON.  Like... really soon.  And his price is going UP when that happens.  So if you are interested, I would ACT FAST".

Will clean blood off of kickboards!  

So how fast IS fast.  Seems to me this guy is 2 years past the date that should have been FAST.

I hate when I read this on a sales ad, and hated it even more as a pressure tactic while staring at Muddy El Muddo.  You know what lady? That's GREAT.  Do it.  Spend your money, start the horse, then post some pics and video that warrant the new price tag.  In the meantime...Fuck off with the "oooohhh-ooohhh!  Time's a' ticking" bullshit.  

Also, I guess I was kind of an exception in that I was totally ready to start my own horse - so having you pick your own weirdo to TTouch / Parelli / tarp / bag on a stick or whatever YOU think constitiutes "good starting" may actually reduce the value of the horse in my mind.  Yah, maybe you are going to crack open the wallet and send him someplace awesome.  But based on what I see here before me... I am doubtful.

(Do I get a discount if he turns out to be a total asshole that no one wants to start?  No, I didn't think so.  That can be swept under the carpet, and he can be sold again as ... Unstarted).

So that was the final straw, any tiny crack of open mind I had snapped shut.  I thanked the woman for showing me El Muddo and went back to the drawing board.

I did some stalking this morning - El Muddo did finally find a home, as a six year old, and went on to the Arab circuit to do very well as a "Sport Horse" there, whatever that means, and he has earned some punctuation - AFTER his name.  All good.  I wasn't surprised, as he really did look like a nice enough horse.

So, maybe this diamond was just a little too rough for me, and I missed out big time.  Oh well.  Although he was not "the one" - nothing I saw really scared me off the idea of a WB x Arab in principle.

Now the Morgans... that was a different story.

Monday 30 January 2012


  • I was cleaning up my email box last week and I came across this one I thought you might enjoy.

    I just added the pic of Bart today - which is too bad, I should have had it on the original.  I can just imagine Cara's hearty guffaws, can't you?

    (Back to the story tomorrow, I promise!!)


    RE: Canadian Eastern Regional Dressage Championships - September 16-18 2011 - Volunteers‏

High priority
Dressage Curmudgeon 
To caraw@xxxxxx.xxxx
Hi Cara,

Please take me off of your list of potential volunteers.  I have one more commitment to volunteer at a dressage show this summer, then NEVER AGAIN.  

I volunteered 3 days of my precious time scribing at one of the Palgrave shows, only to have some petty judge complain to the show management that my shorts were too short.  (To sit in a box with my legs totally hidden, in 25+ C weather, doing a boring job, entirely for free).  

They were very normal cotton dress shorts with pockets, worn with a belt and a polo shirt.  I was not sporting some spandex hoochy wear.  

I think some of the "higher ups" in the sport really need to get over themselves.  I have better things to do with my time than put up with small minded garbage.  If you like your dress code more than your volunteers - good luck with that.  

I am sure I can find somewhere else to volunteer where people are more concerned with my ability than my attire.  

Dressage Curmudgeon

(Or in other words....)

Thursday 26 January 2012

Foreign types ask "have you been smoking a hookah pipe" Oh-way-oh-way-ooo-aaa-ooo..Don't buy an EEEgyptiannn

I was of course drawn to Arabs first, since I do have a soft spot for them.  

There was the Platypus, you all know him, but my very first pony was in fact an Arab cross as well, and what fun we had together.  Without her, I would have never experienced the exhilaration of true, XTREME horsemanship - things like rearing / flipping / being crushed. 

(It is best to do this all when you are 10 or 11, and still fairly likely to heal.  Physically in any case).

Also, there was the fact that there are a lot of Arab dressage people out there.  They even have their own shows where they wear real dressage tack and are awarded complex strings of punctuation after their names to mark their wins. 

( I don't know the details of this secret code beyond some of the basics.  For example.... *%$*#  YOU PLATYPUS ...  is a bad thing. Conversely, PLATYPUS +++//  is actually very good.  ).

They can’t all be wrong, can they?  (Oh – they can?  Well, never mind this point then).

Lastly the coach with Mr. Limpy (remember him?) actually had a really cute young Trak x Arab at the time that I kind of liked and that was apparently going to go on to great things (blah..blah..blah..uhh...yah.  I have now seen the finished product and am thoroughly underwhelmed.  Is it the horse? Rider? Hard to tell.  But they both seem to have their miserable ears pinned and teeth gritted every time I see them go.  Perhaps better suited to Wessage?)

And c’mon – when you look at the conformation of the average Arab, do they not just scream DRESSAGE SUITABILTY?  Their perky little croups pointed to the sky, hocks set high above the ground and way out behind, straight shoulders for good jackhammer action...

However there are actually not plethoras of WB x Arab crosses out there, which I found kind of surprising.  There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of crappy Arabs incrusted in burrs occupying nearly every barbed wire paddock across Canada.  People could be using them to breed to excellent stallions to crank out “fine” sporthorses, as is done with Thoroughbreds.

Perhaps the reason is because...with their baby seal eyes and punched in little faces, they are like crack cocaine to the first time, totally ignorant horse buyer.  

One theory I have is that when this first time, totally ignorant horse buyer brings their Arab mare home from the St. Jacobs auction and releases her into the wilds of the local “pasture board, $150” farm, she is actually able to outsmart the owner for the next 20 years and is never caught for riding, breeding or any other purpose, until the day she drops dead and can then be captured with a winch and flatbed truck.  This would explain her absence from the eligible mare pool. 

Just try and catch ME sucka!  I got the moves,  ooo-AAY -oooh!  

Or at least from the warmblood baby daddy + mare pool – because chances are actually excellent that the totally ignorant horse buyer also brought home a stallion, and the two of them will doing their best to make beautiful pasture ornaments for years to come.  

(No, no...The MARE and the stallion.  I realize the wording is not entirely clear here)

More likely the reason is that even if you bred the most athletic, magnificent Arab on Earth to Popeye K, the majority of hunter people would not touch it with a 10 foot pole.  

So, if a breeder chooses to create an Arab cross, they had better pray (to Allah? God? Not sure here) that the face and tail are both flat, because even a whiff of Arab is problematic.  Say what you would like about dressage breed prejudices, but we are positively kumbaya when compared to the Apartheid which reigns in the Hunter ring. 

(This is not entirely true for hunter ponies.  Whereas for horses you can fatten up your TB and say it “looks like a warmblood” – you can fatten up your Arab pony good ‘n’ juicy, weigh down its anus-displaying tail with a big tacky fake one , and longe it until nearly dead and rideable by the average child – voila, problem solved – “welsh pony”).

Step away from the round bale, Sir Porks-a-lot.  It's weird how ponies founder sometimes, isn't it.

I did find one that sounded quite promising though.  Ha ha ha.  Ha.

Monday 23 January 2012

Half-breeeeed, that's all I ever heard, Half-breeeeed, how I learned to hate the word

Alright, alright.. back to the story.

And so I got home from WXYZ, (mercifully not a 12 hour drive!), washed the mud off of my boots, and went back to the drawing board.

Time to stop thinking of "good" and "bad" horses in big amorphous groups. I tried "CSH", "from a small breeder", "from a large breeder" - with zero success.  From now on, I would concentrate on evaluating each horse as an individual, and judge each one on its own nutty baggage.

What were my criteria again?
- Horse with potential to be competitive at upper levels (four good feet, etc, etc)
- Modern, leggy - no cocktail weenies (more on this later)
- Flog free temperament - a.k.a "hot"
- Smaller in stature
- Cheap

I was pretty stuck on the fact that the horse have one sexy, impressive "dressage-y" parental unit - most likely the sire.  However... hot dressage-y dam would be perfectly fine too, but what are the chances of that - who would breed a smoking hot elite mare to some backyard unproven stallion?

(Oh wait, I forgot about the whole contingent of insane cremello people, who  for some crazy-assed reason do this, and for even crazier-assed reasons, seem to make a go of it...there is an entire post to rant on about here for sure).

And so, I hit the bulletin boards again.. exactly what were the reportedly good choices in the dam department that might make it to higher levels of dressage, without the price tag associated with full WB....?

The obvious category here that actually does make sense are the Iberian horses.  I have known and ridden a few now, including a PSG stallion who was absolutely georgeous, and I must say I am a fan - the nice ones really are nice.  However, due to the Fabio romance novel factor, even the totally crappy ones with the double jointed paddle knees that look like flagella coming down centreline are more expensive than a similarly talented warmbloods.   So this was out of the question for me.

Curmudgeon, I still don't get it.  The obvious choice is a TBx.  Why do you hate TBs so much, what is your problem? Did you seriously eliminate them from contention all together?

No, no....I did not avoid TB crosses, not at all.

But the problem here is that decent TBxWB’s are generally marketed as hunters – which adds $$$ to their price tag for no particular reason related to athletic ability.  And the ones I saw WERE hunters – all-round flat boring movers, definitely not worthy of the upper price bracket to me.  The other issue is that they tended to be bigger than what I hoped to buy; since everyone wants their hunter to be 17hh so that it can safely clear the massive 3’ fences that the average child or adult amateur owner will be soaring over.

The only breeds I eliminated from contention “just because” were the hard core rainbow farter breeds, and colours or crosses thereof – things like Friesians, Canadian horses, and anything with flowing hair and/or described by a word ending in an “o” (palomino, tobiano, sabino, Art Deco = owner weirdo). I know, I know...some are very nice.  Maybe I missed out on a real gem here due to my fear of nutbars. I was willing to take that risk.

Don't you want to comb me, baby?

So, eliminating all of this – I found 3 breeds that kept cropping up in discussions of good options for warmblood crosses:

Arabs, Morgans, and Saddlebreds.  I am not saying this was right or wrong, but that's where I headed...

Friday 20 January 2012

Shuffle Shuffle Shuffle Shuffle Shuffle...yeah! Your'e western and you know it...

I have tried, really I have.  But I am failing, since this is the second post in a row....

I stay off bulletin boards as best I can.  Really I do.  But for those of you who don't know me, I do have a sideline business, and about once a month, I visit the local EMG to post an ad and stir up some customers.

Shameless promotion disguised as a link

And when I was there a month or so ago - I saw it for the first time.

I couldn't control myself, I made a few snarky posts - but then I backed away slowly.  Slloooowllly.  Until yesterday, when I went back over there to post my "how about a portrait for Valentine's day" advertisement.

And there it was - still.  The thread lives on - a month later...freshly bumped.

Come on now, I am not super human.  I can't resist temptation indefinitely.  It is like a plate of French Vanilla cupcakes and a coffee with a shot of Baileys, calling out to me softly... I could jump into the mud and wrestle with the others, but instead....I bring you, here on the pages of Dressage Curmudgeon...


(Really, it is a testament to the kinder, gentler person I have become that I was able to put it off for this long).

What is it that burns me so much about Wessage?  Why on earth do I care?  I have no idea.  Maybe I am insane.  People can train the animals in their life to do whatever the hell they want, really it is no business of mine. Just because I am incapable of training Mr. Motard to do.. well, really anything he doesn't want to do.. maybe I am bitter, it is true. Lucky for me he likes doing laundry, all on his own.

I guess it is because it is something new that people who would really like to make a buck doing something horse related have pulled out of their ass and tried to make a legitimate "sport", so they can start charging for clinics and training and the like.  Replace little wool cap with cowboy hat - voila, same shit, different day.

Just exactly what are you basing this accusation on, Curmudgeon (ya bitch)?

Well - One of the first people in Ontario to really jump on the slowly jogging wessage bandwagon was caught trying to smuggle her featured wessage clinician over the border or some crazy shit back in the fall, which did not add to my impression of this activity as anything other than slightly crooked and shady people trying to fleece middle aged women.

But you are right, maybe its just a total cooincidence that trainers that don't seem to be getting much traction in REAL dressage seem to be the first ones that embracing wessage as an alternative income stream.  Who knows.

Curmudgeon - obviously you don't speak French.  Dressage just means "training".  

Oh, trust me.  I wasted too much time in my life learning to speak French, only to learn that people from France have better things to do with their time than talking to scum like me.  If western people just want to learn horsemanship based on the principles of dressage, why don't they just call up a local dressage trainer, explain this to them, and take a lesson?  Or organize a clinic?  Why do we need a "special" category?

I really did try to give it a chance. To learn, to embrace. Whatever.

So I went to the FAQ's for the new Western Dressage Associaton of America to get a real feel for Western Dressage principles.

Here is what I learned.

1.  What is Western Dressage

Western Dressage helps a rider to improve the horse’s balance, cadence and carriage. Whether your horse competes in reining, roping, cutting, western pleasure, or enjoys the trail with you, using dressage will improve your partnership and keep your horse happier and more sound far longer than it would otherwise be.

Hmm...So far, so good.

2.  Who can compete in Dressage / Western Dressage

Regarding Regular Dressage:

The USDF says "Dressage is for equines of all breeds and all sizes!"

The Western Dressage Association of America has a slightly different take on who "Western Dressage" is for:

"Western Dressage horse will be evaluated with the conformation and movement of today’s western horses in mind. The Western Dressage horse will have a shorter stride than a Dressage horse and the Western Dressage horse will be asked to walk, jog and lope as opposed to walk, trot and canter". 

Woah, woah, woah.  Wait a second here.

Can you imagine if USDF posted something similar?  Something that said

"Because success in dressage at the higher levels requires a horse that actually has the athletic ability and conformation for collection - and big expressive extended gaits too - horses will be evaluated with this in mind".

(Everyone would freak out and lose their minds.  UDBB would have virtual heads mounted on stakes.  Even if it is kind of true).

I read their disclaimer as "we really want to have something going on here that we can market as "dressage", but boo-hoo, our horses aren't built for the sport as it exists.  So let's just change the rules to matchy-match their abilities, so we can have a game where we can be WINNERS too!"

Strangely enough, the Guidelines for Judging Western Dressage state:

"the description of the gaits is virtually identical but the western dressage horse must maintain rideablity for the rider in a western saddle" 

What the hell does that mean?  How is jog virutally identical to the big-n-boomy trot that wins at training level in normal dressage?  Can you imagine being a judge (and as their FAQ states "any licensed Dressage judge can judge western dressage" - ha ha, I am so picturing Judge OOOhhh! I am sure they are booking her in now, Danno) and trying to figure out how to place a shuffling trot wessage test?  (Well, he is jogging, and that is allowed -  but that gait is not identical to anything I have ever seen anywhere related to dressage...)

I watched a few Morgan dressage tests on YouTube - basically the jog appears to be a prancy little gait that doesn't track up. What is a dressage judge supposed to do with THAT?

And what is so special about riding in a western saddle that a horse needs "special gaits"?  Some coach expected me to be able to ride my horse's uber extended trot in a Stubben Tristan for christ's sake, but these riders only have to lope around in their sofa saddles?  WTF?  There is even a holey shit horn to grab onto to stop the bouncing!

3. WTF - well, the "purpose" statement should clear this up

"It is not the goal of Western Dressage to create western horses that compete in open dressage but to create better western horses and riders through the use and principles of dressage".

That's great!  And I am sure I can learn more about what the goal of each test / level is by looking at the overall purpose at the top of the test.  You know, that box that noone reads, but is often quoted on message boards.

For example,

Training level test 1 says:

Purpose: To confirm that the horse is supple and moves freely forward in a clear and 
steady rhythm, accepting contact with the bit

First level test 3 says:

Purpose: To confirm that the horse, in addition to the requirements of Training Level, has developed 
the thrust to achieve improved balance and throughness and to maintain a more consistent contact 
with the bit

Wessage Primary Level 4 says:

Primary Level 4

Uh... there is no purpose.  It is essentially a training level test.  Purpose is to ride around and pleasantly execute figures.  I guess.

This is also the highest level test listed on the Western Dressage Association website - apparently they planning more.  Which will be awkward, because if the foundation of the pyramid is shuffling jog, it is going to be a hell of a climb to the little pointy peak.   (Yes, yes, I know, for lots of riders of normal Dressage, this is true too).

This is what I find so funny about some of the stuff I am reading on the boards.  They are talking about ultimate collection, light in the hand, blah-blah-blah... zzzzz....have they even gone and looked at the tests?  They are training level for pete's sake!  Or have they noticed the fact that the judging that's "just like normal dressage" includes a disclaimer to favour shuffling joggers?

There have been some cool videos posted of Western dressage-like freestyle riding...absolutely, really fun to watch - (anyone who says a spin is the same as a pirouette needs a strong kick to the head, but still fun) -  but this is exhibition riding based more on reining, and is absolutely NOT what you will be seeing at a Wessage show. You will be seeing jogging prancy pretty horses doing training level tests, not tracking up, and dolled up in lots of silvery tack.

And as it gains momentum - people with awesome, fancy western horses and good trainers will figure out the game, and come in and kick ass.  Quite possibly, they will be mounted on WB/Saddlebred or WB/Morgan crosses - something with a hint'o'cowboy, but mostly a big dose of what makes high level dressage beautiful today.

And the losers will then say they aren't pure and "classical"....and we need classical western dressage....

AHHHH!  Time for wine.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Mmm - MMM! I love a sweet lemon, don't you!

I have had a change of heart.  

I know, I know, a while back, I said one of the most idiotic things I hear said often with respect to dressage is that "dressage is just flatwork", usually uttered by hunter people.

Well, I was doing a little bulletin board surfing in preparation for my next few posts to refresh my memory on what made me decide to look at the laundry list of crossbreeds that I eventually headed out to see next on my shopping spree of 2003.   

And while reading, I recalled a sentiment which is even stupider than this. 

Someone, somewhere on Chronofhorse, said this regarding riding off-breeds:

It's fun! Anyone can do well with a great, expensive horse, a good trainer doing all the work for them, and enough money. Those people are a dime a dozen. 

Face it, nowadays, you just have to have a bazillion dollars to compete with the big boys who are too chicken to try to deal with the non-standard breeds.

MMMmmm!  MMMmmmm!  Oh so SWEET!

(I particularly love the "too chicken" part)

Fortunately, I was not partaking in the thread at the time - because my answer would have been something along the lines of:


And responses like this are generally frowned upon on bulletin boards.  Some people find them rude.  

When asked why I ended up buying the cross I did, the answer is pretty simple. She was the fanciest, most athletic horse that met my requirements - and with the most potential for dressage - that I looked at within my budget. And she turned out great.  

But I am not too proud to admit that if I had the money, I would have flown on over to Holland and picked out a Sandro Hit x Gribaldi dam line or whatever the hell was trendy that year.  Well, If I had the money I wouldn't have been buying a 2 year old in the first place, I would have bought... well, something like my horse is now, years and $$$ later, and ready to show PSG - you get my drift.  I didn't seek out the breed, the horse just fit the bill.  

But contrary to this attitude... there seems to be this hard core contingent of people out there who, for some reason, like to wear the "off breed, not meant for dressage, downhill, ewe necked, bench-kneed" horses like some sort of hair shirts to be proud of.  "Yes, it's not easy being me, but I suck up the challenges and not only that...I LIKE IT THIS WAY.."

Stop doing this.  You sound like idiots.  

Now don't get me wrong, I have no issue at all with people who own horses not particularly well bred for dressage who love them, and do their best with them, face challenges, some days want to kill the horse and themselves and those around them, but eventually enjoy getting to wherever it is they end up along the dressage spectrum.  Good for them. (I consider myself to be in this group).  

But this holier-than-thou, off-breed riding rebel thing is just weird.  

Imagine that you decided to pack your things and head out for a nice day of skiing at Whistler, or wherever it is you ski, and on the gondola you ran into someone who looked at you with slight disdain, and announced that "yah, any asshole can ski black diamonds on those new fangled shaped skis..Pfft.  Wimp.  What are you, chicken?  Real skiiers prefer the challenge of tackling the slopes on 1973 Rossignols.  The kind with the tethers, instead of brakes on the bindings, so when you fall, the skis flail around and peg you in your helmetless head.  Now THAT is skiing".  

See you back at the chalet, pussy

You would think this person was a total whackjob, and if they turned left off the chair, you would make a point to turn right, staying as clear of them and their hot tub time machine getup as you humanly could for the rest of the day.  

But somehow, in the minds of this weird little contingent of dressage nutbars, this line of thinking is honourable, even preferred. 

Somehow they have this strange belief that announcing  "Yah, we bought horses not bred for dressage because we are HARD CORE. Not warmblood riding pansies like Anky and Edward".  


 "Yah, I am a middle aged, out of shape woman trying to master an Olympic discipline - but that just hardly seems to be setting the bar high enough.  I think I will buy totally inappropriate equipment to make it just a bit more of a stretch goal... who wouldn't" will totally explain the fact that they are not yet short-listed for the national team, and goddammit, that is exactly the way they want it. 

(You really couldn't get away with this in any other Olympic sport, as you would quickly be called out as being...full of smoldering crap.  You can either run fast, jump shit, whatever... or you can't.  There is no horse to blame your inadequacies on).  

Here are a few of my thoughts on this, if you care:

1.  You are wrong.  Not anyone can "do it" with a good horse, a good trainer, good karma, good luck and enough money.  

Just ask Katie Price.

My Crank is really coming along. I will practice Spank later tonight  in the bedroom

2.  There is a reason this sport IS an Olympic discipline.  It is really hard. 

Just ask one of the many higher level trainers out there, who, despite good horses, good sponsors, good opportunities - still just never seem to be good enough to make the cut.  

THESE people really ARE a dime a dozen.  Funny that...

3.  Lastly - the thing I really don't get... If their horses really are impossibly poorly designed for dressage - why do they feel it is anything other than cruel to try to force them up the levels?

Why is it something to be proud of?  At least the wank with improper ski equipment is likely just going to kill himself.  If these people really do get some kick out of pushing an inappropriate horse up the levels - they are also hurting the horse. 

Frankly - you might want to do everyone a favour and pick a horse that is built to do the job - whatever breed it may happen to be.  Or at least pipe down about your weird "self flagellation in the form of dressage" fetish.  If you want, I can suggest some others that are probably more fun.  

Monday 9 January 2012

Are you feeling lucky, little lady... winnah, winnah, winnah every time!

Ok, alright... maybe "small breeder" was not the right way to go.

But just because I can't afford to even drive up the laneway at Charlot Farms doesn't mean there aren't other larger scale breeders out there, with many horses for me to peruse.  That are less trendy, less hot and therefore, also less pricey.

Yep, looks like it is time to make a trip on out to WXYZ Farm.

But I had learned a thing or two from my first few shopping jaunts.  You know the saying, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice...uhhh...it must be the horse industry.

This time, I followed a carefully crafted 3 step procedure. I made sure to do my homework, read carefully, talk at length on the phone, and ask questions, lots of them.  And because of this, I came home only 98% annoyed and confused, instead of the full monty 100%.

See - that's called progress.  Take that, you nay-sayers.

Step 1 - Study online videos and write ups.  Prepare questions

WXYZ Farms has a fabulous website, with good videos.  Hmm, I am feeling a winner here!  Allow me time to study the site...


Yes, yes, lots of horses, lots of verbage.  Holey shit, lots of verbage.  Blah blah blah.  Each horse has a genealogy dating back to eohippus listed right out there on the site, for Pete's sake (Schlem Schimmel's great great great grandfather showed exceptional suspension and expressive gaits as he emerged from the primordial ooze, earning him a first premium rating at his inspection with an impressive score of 150).

I am always a bit suspicious when the search for a notable ancestor requires stepping back to the 1800's... Yah, lots of good horses go back to Furioso's grand sire, seriously I am not knocking that..and really, I do hate to nit-pick... but if the stallion I am considering was born in 1985, shouldn't he have at least one notable progeny on the list, instead of just his parental great grand units?

And just curious - how did you determine that your horse is the "best moving stallion on the continent today"?  I guess the continent is not specified, perhaps the writeup was done while he made a stopover in Antartica.  I assume you are not just pulling this stuff out of your ass.  Are you?  (Hmm, maybe I should skip this question.  Seems kind of hostile.  I will think of a way to finesse it).

Step 2 - Call breeder.  Discuss your needs. Ask prepared questions

Alrighty, after readying myself as best as I could online, I gave Mr. WXYZ a ring.  Let's talk horses.

Well, what are you looking for.

Let's see, one of the most important things to me, I am looking for a smaller sized horse - I am admittedly a shortass, and not getting any younger.  I don't like to climb things.  I also don't like it when my legs feel like they might snap at the hips like Barbie when forced to mount up on one of the "Best of the West" horses... I am picturing something not too big bodied or that would mature much over 16.1 - 16.2.  Do you have anything in this range?
Barbie may look mighty fine in a bikini, but she can't spread her legs like you can,  Jane.

Of course.

- Lighter, more modern type horse.  Nothing too coarse or heavy

Of course.

- Sensitive and relatively hot.  More TB than true WB in temperament

Of course

- within my budget - do you have many horses priced under $15,000

Of course

- I have been studying your site.  I think I am interested in looking at Nussig, Fakalien, and Erbrechen.  Do you agree that they might fit the description I have given you so far of what I am looking for?

Of course!

- Could you suggest any others that might fit the bill?

Of course!

Alrighty then.  Sounds like it is worth the trip.  See you Saturday.

Step 3 - Arrive and be disappointed

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.  A picture plus Photoshop, even rudimentary circa 2003 Photoshop, is worth much, much more.  Because if I had known how frightening WXYZ Farms looked before I arrived, and before some creative photographic cut crop 'n' pasting, I probably would not have made the trip.  Aye Carumba.  It was like a horse ghetto, set to mud.

But seriously Curmudgeon, it is fall.  Get over yourself.  So what if things are...uh...falling apart, and are no longer green and pleasant looking...or maintained.  .  And c'mon, really - if the horses are nearly as good as the site says they are, who cares if there are scary, saggy boobed pit bulls circling you with their Hell Hound puppies slowly licking their lips and growling.  A few bites and a tetanus shot are a small price to pay for the next Salinero.  Don't be so stuck up.  Stay calm. I think they smell fear. Time for yoga breathing - Breathe in... breathe out.  Relax.

(Whoa, don't do that again, or at least not so deeply, the ammonia is kind of strong).

Mr. WXYZ was actually very charming, efficient, and courteous.  We headed to the arena to look at the 3 or 4 horses, chosen just for me based on my own special and carefully described requirements.

Uhhh... yes.  They were carefully hand selected out of the gagling herd of, say 30 horses, crushed into the back of the arena by some temporary gates.  And when I say "hand selected", I mean, the first hands that could somehow "shooo-shooo-shooo" one of the 30 horses out into the main arena and away from the other 29 similar beasts had "hand selected" it.  Just for little old me.


Boom-boom-boom... the first big'n'meaty monster headed around the ring, chased by the obligatory running working student with longe whip (a very important skill for working students, take note. Practice if you someday hope to become one).  A nice already 16+ hand high, large bodied 2 year old.  28 inches of bone.  Enough barrel to take up the leg of a 6'4" man.  Exactly as I hadn't asked for.

Uhhh... I am a bit confused here.  Now which one is this - Nussig?

No.  This is ... uhh...Riechen.  Yes, Riechen.

I don't remember discussing Riechen.  He looks kind of big.  Have you sticked him - how tall do you think he will finish?

What are you looking for again?  Yes - that is how big he will finish.

How much are you asking for this one?

What is your budget again?  Yes - that is how much we are asking for him.

I don't think he is quite what I am looking for.  Could we look at some of the ones we discussed?

Apparently - NO.  We instead looked at 3 more horses - that were absolutely nothing like what we had discussed, but were conveniently located in close proximity to the gate, and docile enough to be chased away from the herd.

These fine qualities were not outlined in the verbose descriptions of the horses on their website... well, I guess I shouldn't say that, seeing as I didn't actually review the pages for any of the horses that were chosen especially for me using the magical horse lottery technique.  Maybe they were ("this gentle giant will await you at the gate, eager to be showered with your love", "an in your pocket horse, he will go wherever you want him to go").

I foolishly wasted my time reading the pages associated with horses that actually seemed to be suitable. I am sure my delicate little picks were in there somewhere, like the one i-pod hidden in among the 25 cent stuffed animals in the claw game.

I used to think my boyfriend in high school was very romantic because he never showed up without a stuffed animal.  Then someone told me there was a claw game at the Sword n Shield Strip joint.  Ohhh... it all makes more sense now.

All of the horses shown were very nice examples of big, clunky, old style warmbloods - very calm, attractive, and all looked like they would be good eating should a world war sneak up on you.  They did all have what Mr. Motard scientifically refers to as "floating feet", which is good.  Bottom line - I am not saying they were not "quality" animals, if giant lumbering warmblood of the 80's was the primary quality you were looking for.

Alas, I was not.  

And so, I slowly backed away from the pit bulls, while thanking Mr. WXYZ for his time.  At least to his credit, I could tell by the look on his face that he knew he wasn't going to sell me a horse, and strangely, really didn't seem to give a shit, either.

To this day, I am not really sure why.


Wednesday 4 January 2012

Ahhh Porky... there is nothing like the feel of a cool breeze on your genitalia, eh?

Hmm, traffic is up here at Dressage Curmudgeon.  Must be those fun loving UDBBers again.

Yep.  And someone is accusing the poor sucker who bumped the post as being a DC shill.

For the record, I do not know or have anything to do with swgarasu.  And the blog shows me where the traffic is coming from, so no, I don't just start talking about you guys after one of my paid goons bumps the post.  Google Blogger tells all...

But since you are all wondering what turned me from average everyday struggling amateur to the super curmudgeon that I am today, I do figure it is time to share with you all one of the defining moments in my dressage career..

I like to call it "the day I went Sandra Dee on Dressage".

You remember Sandra Dee.  From Grease.  "Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee, lousy with virginity" and so on.  She did everything right, she tried to play by the rules, didn't drink, swear, or rat her hair.

Then one day, she got fed up with all that goody goody shit. It just wasn't paying off.  I don't even remember what pushed her over the edge, but she put on some sleazy spandex pants, danced around with John Travolta at the carnival, then shot off into the sky in a convertible (presumably to have hot sex with him all night long, while drinking, swearing, and naturally ratting her hair on a pillow or backboard).

Yep, once you cross that line and just say "Fuck you all, I could care less if you hate me or think I am an obnoxious bitch, I have had enough of this whole gig" life gets to be a whole lot more fun.  And I crossed that line, this summer at Palgrave.  Due to the shorts incidence.

(Which also helped me to finally understand why Porky Pig has never, ever been seen scribing at a dressage show).

It started a few weeks before the actual incident.  I was enjoying a totally fabulous afternoon in a sponsor's tent at a Pan Am Games qualifier, drinking wine and eating munchies with some equally fabulous dressage ladies, when I saw over at the next tent some of our local judges huddled and looking sort of gossipy and miserable.  (Well, I didn't actually notice that they looked gossipy and miserable until I was too close to turn away and run - I was approaching them, wine in hand, with simply the good intention of saying hello).

Upon investigation - I discovered that they were miserable because they had been recruited to scribe for REAL Oh-Oh-OHHH judges at this Pan Am Games qualifier due to the lack of other competent volunteers available.  Being good sports - who wanted to support the sport - they had played along, but I could feel the love was not there.

I felt kind of badly about this.  I am a qualified scribe, and have spent many a weekend madly scribbling instead of actually having a life.  I have shown most levels up to and including PSG, one of the actual Pan Am Games levels.  I was not showing in 2011, and therefore would not have a time conflict.  I should be doing my part to give back to Dressage Canada.  Right?

Sooo... while Mr. Motard was off on his annual Motorcycle pilgrimage to somewhere with his Dad as he does every summer, I volunteered THREE days - all THREE -  the whole show! - of my life to scribe at the next CDI qualifier in my area.  This included not only my weekend, but also one of my precious personal work holidays.

This is what good dressage people do, right?

I planned a nice weekend around the event, which included spending my nights with Mr. and Mrs. Curmudgeon and other friends who live more local to the Palgrave area than I do, so as not to have to commute all the way home each day (1.5 hour journey).  I packed my overnight bag (key to the story) and off I went.  Good times!  La la la..

Things started off great.  The weather was fabulous - and hot.  And so, I wore...(whew, get ready for it.  You may want to cover the eyes of young children)... I wore... SHORTS.

Ahhh!  My eyes!  My eyes!!

My assigned judge was fabulous.  I was working a lower level ring and therefore watched mind-numbingly boring lower level tests for all three days (I think 3rd was the highest, but mostly TL and 1st), but I was ok with that, we were having fun and good conversations, and there were some really nice horses and rides.

Good times, la la la.. ooooh.. what is for lunch!  Lasagna!  Mmmm.. la la la..

SCREEECCCHH - CRASH - WWWWHAAAAA - BANG (this is the sound of crashing, burning, wheels falling off of things...)

I made several errors at lunch.

1.  Apparently, you do not sit at Judge OOOhhh's  table without being invited.  No worries, my assigned judge quickly and smoothly rectified this error by luring me over to her table with garlic toast or something.  Whew, really dodged the bullet there.  Imagine my gall, thinking that I could eat lasagna next to Judge OOOhhh!  I have a lot of nerve, really.

2.  When fleeing from Judge OOOhhs table as is expected from a lowly volunteer, you should not whack your plastic chair into hers.  Even if you say "oh, sorry about that OOOhh", it is NOT ENOUGH.  NOT NEARLY ENOUGH to make up for doing something so clearly and utterly awful and disrespectful.  I didn't actually see the daggers come out of her eyes, but I heard about them from others in attendance.

3.  You should NEVER. EVER. EVER. wear shorts.

Well, I didn't know about rule three until after lunch.  Just as things were wrapping up, the show organizer gave me the "ahem" with a "c'mere" finger curl and took me aside.

Apparently, one of the judges had complained about my attire.

What?  Seriously?

Yes.  It was not appropriate.  I would have to go home and change.  Do you mind?

You have to be kidding me.  I drove 1.5 hours to get here.  It is 27C out.  I am sitting in a wooden box sweating my totally hidden nether regions off, for you, for three days, entirely for free.  NO ONE can see my fucking legs, or any of my body under my boobs.  I could be naked below the waist, wearing nothing but a sparkly barrette in my pubes, and no one WOULD EVEN KNOW.

I have an overnight bag full of shorts packed to get me through the next two and a half days.  I am not going home to change...  Or if I do - it is for good.

Again, I ask, are you fucking kidding me?  Or can I wear these shorts.

Uuuhh... I could see the wheels turning - if we send her home, and she doesn't come back... who will do our free labour?  As much as her legs offend us - we will be screwed.

Ok.  You can wear the shorts today.  But can you find pants tomorrow?

Well that was it for me and dressage.  Seriously people..that is what matters?  My shorts?

I took a lot of abuse along the way, from various people, and listened to a lot of bullshit from wannabes and fakers, froze my ass of at classical clinics, smiled and nodded while people lied to me about this, that, the other.. but something about a whiny Judge, who should have had 1,000,001 better things on her mind at a CDI event than my bare legs absolutely was the final straw.

I went Sandra Dee.  Put a fork in me, I am done. Time to fire up the Blog.

For about 15 minutes, I struggled with the idea of just packing it in and going home.  But then I thought of my fellow adult amateur dressage riders, left with no scribe, or one with horrid handwriting, or who made lots of errors - why should we all be punished for the fact that there was a petty bitch of a judge in attendance.  I know how important that stupid slip of paper is to us, and how much they cost us, not just in terms of entries for the day, but in terms of the horrifying sum of every board bill, every lesson, every vet bill, every blacksmith bill that all add up towards those 5 minutes that go into creating that stupid slip of paper. I said I would do the job - I did the job.  But I never, ever will again.

I think I cried secretly all afternoon as I wrote down 6 - more 4ward.  5 - not o.  6 more bend.  4 -disobed etc. etc.  and didn't speak to my judge (who kept apologizing for the whole affair) until the next day.   We have to kiss butt a bit, she explained.  The OOOhhh judges expect it.  Don't take it personally....

Well, maybe she does have to kiss butt, it is her job, perhaps she someday aspires to be an OOOHH-OOOhhh-OOOhhhh herself.  Maybe she is practicing her OOOhhhh face right now.  I don't know what drives her... but I am a volunteer, and frankly, although often it doesn't feel like it, a customer paying the bills that allow this whole sha-bang we call dressage to happen in the first place.. and as such, I could really care less about kissing old dressage judge butt.

Or should I say - I was.

To be fair, I still to this day don't know exactly which judge complained about my shorts. It may or may not have been Judge OOOhhh.  I doubt it was the only male heterosexual judge in attendance, but then again I could be wrong, who knows.  Bottom line is - I don't care.  It was Mean Girls, Pretty in Breakfast and Square Pegs, all set to dressage.

And - also to be fair - not everyone was on my side.  Mr. Curmudgeon, who is a hard core National golf rules official said he would have sent me home too.

 (We like to support each other like this at Chez Curmudgeon).

On further inspection, there is actually a scribe dress code that does say - no shorts.   Had I taken the initiative to research this on my own, I would have known it.  Alternatively, the show organizer could have attached it to the "thanks for helping out, see you on the weekend" email she sent to make my life easier (and I had worn shorts often before, with no complaints, adding to my confusion).  I suspect she didn't see this train wreck coming either, and while she was smiling and nodding to the complaining judge was probably secretly thinking "oh for fuck's sake, really? It is hard enough to get volunteers as it is... another one bites the dust"...

On Monday, I called up my coach to whine to him about the incident, and he was 100% fully supportive.

Curmudgeon, he said, I am sure your shorts were not inappropriate hoochy booty wear.  That judge was totally out of line.

I got a little choked up and thanked him for his support, until he pointed out that the reason he knew this - for sure, without a doubt - was because I just don't have the booty for booty wear...it would have looked bad on me, and I am always well dressed.

Uh, thanks.  I guess.