However I did get a few PMs welcoming me to COTH, and a reminder that BB's are not all evil - without them, it would be difficult to do really any research on local nutbars. Which is true. They are the best place to find horse related services, and I do still use them for this.
And of course, that is where I started my search for Ms.V's new barn.
In fact, I found a seemingly perfect match - almost immediately! - that would have been out of the question based on geography in the past, but that I just could have pulled off now with my new job's location... Ms. Saurputz Stables.
A highly prolific poster on various boards wrote somewhere along the line that her fabulous coach Ms. Saurputz - who was apparently a GP rider, and had schoolmasters - was hosting a clinic at her farm with a short listed rider in the near future. Now how perfect is that! I could meet the coach, see the farm, she worked with other coaches which should mean she is current, even though she is apparently really old...
The missing piece of the puzzle was that I would like to see her actually teach before I committed too far to the deal - so, I contacted Prolific Poster and asked her if I could come and watch one of her lessons. Sure! No problem. She didn't actually board with Ms. Saurputz, however she was at another local barn so I could drop by, watch a lesson with her, then check out the the other facility when I went to audit the clinic. Sounds great.
I called up Ms. Saurputz, had a long discussion (she was a farmer! With cattle! I was confident the care would be great!) and agreed to meet her at her student's lesson. Wow, that was easy. So far so good.
When the day came - there was a snowstorm. Which I should know by now means - stay home, Curmudgeon. But I didn't, I had told these people I would be in attendance, and so I would damn well be there. This was prior to the days of "everyone on earth has a cellphone" so once you headed out the door - well, you just kept on trucking and hoped for the best.
Which kind of happened, actually - Ms. Saurputz never showed up. Too snowy. So, instead of seeing a lesson as planned, I got to see the student ride all on her own.
As much as I make fun of my time spent at Frau Trainerin's stable, in fact I did come away after my brief 6 weeks or whatever it was with some very valuable information - it was not really wasted money.
First, I learned that I can do a chin-up if peer pressure is great enough, and I have actually done a few now just to impress people here and there. (There is usually alcohol involved). The most important take away message was the spot-on advice I was given regarding my "dressage prospect". This, of course lead me to return the Platypus to the land of the hunter ponies, where he could live out his days being sour and opinionated and no one would really notice, since it is kind of de rigueur for the gig.
But lastly - and very importantly, although I didn't know it yet at the time - spending this six weeks watching beautiful horses ridden beautifully gave me an important piece of the puzzle that I was missing.
I had established the foundation I required to determine whether or not someone's version of dressage - really - sucked.
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["dressage that really sucks"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the riding involved in this case most certainly - really - sucked*.
|Aye Carumba. Now THAT is bad dressage.|
Which left me in that awkward position that we have all been in (no, don't worry, not heading to the bedroom here) where someone in the horsey world is showing off their prowess to you (no, don't worry, not heading to the bedroom here either, this is not a H/J blog discussing coaches and their teenage girl students), and you are forced to watch with a smile, because really, they are doing you a favour, and you asked them to help, and it will be over soon, just grit your teeth and think of England. Or Holland. Or someplace where the riding doesn't suck.
Annnyways... when it was all over, I thanked Prolific Poster - who was very nice, loved her sweet little horse to pieces, and left me feeling very badly that I thought she sucked (especially since she was so prolifically posting about her riding, which did not align with reality whatsoever - surprise!). But really - who cares. As long as she is happy, the horse is happy, healthy - whatever. I was still going to go to watch the clinic, and check out the coach more carefully. Who knows, maybe she drove home from every lesson with Prolific Poster wanting to claw out her burning eyes.
The clinic was - fine. The clinician was excellent - a very professional and earnest woman, about my age, who struggled through three or four beginner lessons, working on exactly the right things. Forward. Bend. Reaction to the aids. I would die of boredom if forced to watch this clinic today, but it was spot on for the riders in question and really, for me, at the time.
However - it was difficult to really hear. Or appreciate. Because Ms. Saurputz WOULD NOT SHUT THE FUCK UP. Because nothing is more difficult for a coach than seeing someone who actually knows what they are doing tell their students... that they don't have a foggy clue of the very basics of dressage. A non-stop stream of verbal diarrhea came from the woman's mouth, commenting on absolutely everything that the clinician suggested. Totally rational suggestions that were somehow entirely ludicrous in Ms. Saurputz's eyes. And she was attacking not only the clinician - but more embarrassingly, her students - I guess just so the auditors were all very clear on the fact that it wasn't HER fault that they couldn't ride forward into contact on a 20m circle. It was skin-crawlingly awkward.
Pfft. Yah, see if student X can do that with her nag. Hmmpth. Yah, that might work if student Y's ass was smaller than her horse's (this was my very favourite comment). Fssst... as if I haven't tried THAT a thousand times with her - has she looked at the horse? Huhhuh... I should have KNOWN she wasn't classical...what the hell is she trying to do?
I thought more about England that week than I had ever before at any time in my life.
|The donuts were good. And it wasn't cold. So really, the clinic was a success.|
Well, luckily, I walked away from the whole investigative affair unscathed, my horse still at MVA, and the worst of it all was just that if I ever ran into Prolific Poster again in real life, I would have to make up some gracious story regarding my decision not to ride with the raging bitch who was Ms. Saurputz. What are the chances of that happening though, eh?
Since then, Ms. Saurputz has hosted many clinics, none of which I have attended, and none of which seem to be by short listed mainstream local riders. Instead, she focuses on... (anyone - anyone?)... that's right! There are a lot of wool caps involved.
Because really, who wants to ride with a local, current GP rider who expects your horse to go forward and bend and boring things like that... when you can ride with an imported legend who thinks you are exceptional in every way, are riding verrrry classically, thanks for your money, and gives you a kissy kiss before saying "see you next year, sucka!".
Pffft, Yah, that makes way more sense.
*shamelessly plagiarized http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_know_it_when_I_see_it