Thursday 10 October 2013

Abracadabra... Half Pass. Welcome to fantasy land, population no one.

"Curmudgeon - seriously. Why did you even bother with leg yield?  The dressage masters don't. You should just move right into shoulder fore / half pass".

Yah, yah, got it. Thanks Anonymous. I read that book too. It was one of the toilet library collection, circa 2005.  And I do totally agree - just leg yielding around for the hell of it really doesn't serve a lot of purpose, other than impressing people who are very easily impressed.

And we all know, from a purely practical point of view, the reason we North Americans must bother with learning to execute a perfect leg yield (shoulder just slightly leading, steady angle and perfect rhythm all the way from K to X then back to H, just a whiff of flexion off of straight through the jowl)... is not for any reason relating to the mastery of dressage per se.

It is simply because if we hope to show 1st level, we are required to execute a generous serving of leg yield with a healthy side of useless nose dragging stretchy circle (which I have already bitched about, so I will save you the repeat rant here).

Stupid Stretchy Circle

And I would say for many Oragami Saddlepadders, this why the effort begins, and as a result is where the adventure ends. Because if this is your motivation - you really don't get what it is we are doing when we are teaching the horse to leg yield. And I am not saying this to be some superior bitch, because I don't think I did either.

If I get on someone's horse now, (after all of the time and money I have wasted in my useless pursuit to become a "dressage rider"), I would say the things that I am most amazed by is how many people's "dressage horses" don't go forward when leg is applied (and keep on going) - and secondly, how many horses do not move off the leg laterally when applied - two basic buttons that I can't imagine how someone can possibly ride their horse with any level of enjoyment without installing.  Well, realistically, I do know - I know because I did exactly this for many years - as the saying goes, you don't know what you don't know.

I think part of the problem is that - just as with the conundrum previously described as "psst...what is a half halt anyways, and can you help me find my clitoris" (The Half Halt) - for those of us coming to dressage after many years of doing some other sort of riding, taking a big step back to deconstruct what the hell it is we are trying to accomplish here as a "dressage rider" because really, we have no foggy clue - is embarrassing.

And coaches don't want to embarrass their meal tickets, and so as a team, we sweep this ignorance under the rug and try to muddle through with whatever level of competence shows up for the ride. "Good, Suzie, GOOD!  You had some steps there where Stormy was really crossing over (when he tripped and struggled to regain his balance as he sidled on over to the rail with his head cranked at that awkward angle)".

Nice, Suzie, NICE! I really like the level of activity, he is really stepping through.

Ideally, if the horse is in full training, the coach can work behind the scenes to secretly install these buttons and will only have to deal with the pushing of them by the hapless student. Wow!  Leg yield was a snap. On to half-pass...

However, since the majority of people who are stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of first level are not in full training - if no one takes the time to say "hey, maybe it's just me... but your leg yield exercise is looking more like a head tilting diagonal line exercise - just a crazy thought, throwin' it out there, brainstorming here - can you actually get your horse to move his quarters around at a halt - ever?  Dismounted? - In the cross ties? - Anywhere?"

(One of my favourite poorly executed exercises has to be the "spiral in / leg yield out".  Or, more accurately described in most cases, "spiral in /drift on back to the rail with horse's nose cranked to inside" exercise")

The whole reason leg yield is important - why it becomes useful for all of the reasons often spouted on bulletin boards etc. - is because if you cannot move your horse around - front / back / sideways - at will, any time, any place, bend in / bend out, no debate - you have no hope in hell of ever getting the horse straight. And as much as I like to make fun of the pyramid, this actually is pretty important.

So my advice to you, is stop thinking of leg yield as a "thing" and start thinking about the fact that your horse should move willingly off your leg, wherever it is you tell them to move.  And, if you are a smug classical dressage person, stop telling people that leg yield is useless an we should all move on to shoulder fore, because I promise you, if someone cannot make their horse move sideways in some obedient leg yieldy fashion, they are not going to be able to magically pull a shoulder fore out of their ass either.

You see, it is easy. Just keep the elbow macaroni in the trapezoids, and everything will be fine. 

Friday 13 September 2013

Things seem to be going a little bit sideways...

And what exactly was it that was so rosy on the riding side?

We were finally starting lateral work. My very favourite work of all. (Incidentally, all of my moves at work tend to be lateral as well - coincidence? Hmm... I just don't know)

The good news is that beautiful half passes, once you learn how to do them and when mounted on a horse that is up for the task, are easy. Really. Nothing is more therapeutic to me now after a long day of doing whatever it is that I might do in a day that I don't enjoy than riding a nice tight little 10 m circle (no Bullit-esque fishtails)- shoulder in - 10 m circle - half pass (which you may recognize as parts of the beginning of our current PSG tests).

No No NO!  Weight should be on your INSIDE seatbone

Sure, it doesn't have the flash of a line of tempis. But whereas tempis have always felt lumpy and awkward and confusing to me (you have to move your legs and count for Pete's sake - too much like work), if you set up your half pass correctly (establish correct bend during your circle, sitting in the direction of travel, forward as always is key), and your horse has been schooled to know what the hell this all means, you just get to sit back and enjoy the ride, with only minimal pilot input required.

In fact, I would say that if you ever find yourself straining during a half pass - if you are ever swinging your leg so far back that you poke yourself in the ass while trying to get that aid "behind the girth"...if your saddle pad is all folded up into an intricate series of pleats like one of those towel origami things they put on your bed at all inclusive resorts in Cuba ...if your horse is doing a big beautiful, booming trot around the arena, but then decelerates to a dust kicking shuffle when asked to move sideways... you are doing it really, really wrong.  Just like lots of other people.

Honey! Look! Someone has been riding shitty half passes on our bed.  Isn't it beautiful!

I don't know why there is such a monstrous abyss between "beautiful lateral work" and "horrific sideways stumble with horse's neck cranked in some direction, and a toe out, heel in spur gouge".  But, being a horse person on the internet, I will take a stab at explaining something on which I have no true knowledge with an air of authority. It's what we do, right?

We have already covered several of the terms that you will want to include on your "things coaches yell out to clueless beginners" bingo card - things like "half halt", and "bend through the jowl" and "did you feel that?".  You will definitely want to add "leg yield" to a corner or two of your card, as it is always on the list of pithy advice that is barked at the riders of board stiff, dum-de-dum school horses as they plod around doing the same shit they have done for the last 15 years, with little regard for anything the rider may or may not be attempting to execute up above.

In fact, a quick surf of our favourite bulletin boards shows that the leg yield is such an important item on this bingo card that it is the go-to solution used to cure a wide range of problems that the average horse might face - and not just in the dressage ring either.  Bolting, overbending, failure to pick up a desired lead, inability to change leads, pulling on the bit, rushing through courses, falling souflees, impotence, crab lice - yes, having this one little tool in your toolbox can help you to turn just about any arab cross into Hickstead, if you just know when to apply it.

Which is great news.

The part that is a bit frightening is that when you actually look for information on "how to leg yield" - things get a little foggier. As with the half halt, there seems to be the perception that horses and riders are born with the innate ability to move smoothly sideways at just the right angle, shoulders leading slightly. Very little time seems to be dedicated to explaining to the rider - or the horse for that matter - exactly how the hell this is accomplished.  As a rider, you are just supposed to magically know where to sit, pull, poke - and when.

I do think most of us can blame this on our origins as hunter / jumper riders, because I don't think there is a h/j person out there who will believe you if you tell them "your horse cannot leg yield", just as 99% of h/j people bopping around with draw reins or a chambon clipped to their pelham think you are just being a catty DQ if you announce that their horse is not really "on the bit". (And come on, you kind of are. Polite dressage riders avert their eyes and shut their mouths, then slam their h/j friends on bulletin boards). 

But the truth is - most of them can't - well, not in the dressage sense of the word in any case.  And I don't think anyone notices or cares.  I once attended a BNT hunter clinic where a group of about five 12 year olds on sour faced ponies were instructed to "shoulder in down the long side".  Hey, call me a Curmudgeon but I think his request was a tad on the optimistic side - or conversely, on the "what the hell, it is a clinic and I will never see these people again, let me throw out some juicy instructions to wow them, who cares if these little wanks even know what it means" side. You can pick.

So - if like me, you have this foundation in place, and you come from a world where as long as your horse was drifting somewhere in some fashion, while you pulled on a rein or dug in a spur, you were deemed to be "leg yielding", and crab stepping up the long side was "shoulder in" - you may find lateral work to be a challenge at first. Just like connection. And sitting trot, and ...and...and...and...(insert various aspects of dressage here).

Now I am not saying that there are no tips at all on the internet to help explain the mysteries of the leg yield.  For example, I found a site that promised to teach you how to leg yield in 14 easy steps.  Here is an excerpt:

With your core muscles, lighten the seat bone which is on the hind leg that you want to cross over. For example, if you are leg yielding to the left, lighten your right seat bone by scrunching up the right side of your core, making sure that you keep your upper body straight.

A-ha. Makes perfect sense, no?  In my books, this advice does get points for using the key dressage words "core", "lighten" and "seat bone" all in one sentence, along with the no doubt classically inspired term "scrunching".  You don't see that every day. I must also point out that this was not the first step in successfully executing your leg yield - it was somewhere down near number 14.  There were other preparatory steps early on, such as #2 - mount your horse.  Huh. Good tip. 

Now after that -if things start going a little sideways - well, we will know it is working.

P.S - Happy Friday the 13th!

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Now the barn owner don't mind.... and the boarders don't mind... Please, please stay, a little bit more.

And so, with Regumate and a box of rubber gloves on order each month, finally the clouds parted, the sun shone down, and happiness reigned at Lana Acres. Dr. Lana loved Ms V, now that she was a squeal free, fatty weiner dog eunuch horse. 


Cue the Angels! Cue the Angels!

Not her again. Is she for real?

No, of course not. 

Over the next year or so I stayed at Lana Acres, and my horse managed to somehow stay, unloved, at the bottom of the pack. 

She apparently could not get along any other horses - so only got turned out with the crustiest old gelding, in the paddock with the manure heap (while other horses frolicked in rolling green hilly feilds). She cowered fearfully in the corner and was a pain in the ass to get out the gate without a whip in hand to keep Alligator Face from attacking during our escape.

(She has since been on group turnout with many different mares - even on 24 hour turnout at one point in time - without incidence).

I arrived one day to find the clip on my halter wrapped in duct tape because it was "impossible" to get the strap over her ears, so only the buckle on the crownpiece was to be used - who knows what happened to inspire this judgement, but I removed the tape when I moved to a new barn, and everyone has used the clip ever since.

And so on. So forth. Dr. Lana just had a dislike of my horse that never quit.

The upside was I noticed a really big difference in the way she went under saddle on Regumate!  Wow!  Oh wait, no. That's wrong. I am confused again.  There was absolutely no difference in her way of going under saddle at all - she was still the same old "good some days, goofy others" horse that one might expect when riding a 5 year old.

The real only difference I noticed was in the amount of money I was forking out in vet bills - the Regumate was costing over $200 per month.

But hey!  Being the eternal optimist that I am, I must say there was a few perks associated with this whole debacle. On the plus side - when the day came to rationalize the cost of my move to a full training barn, this $200 was like a justification bargaining chip - I could spend it on the "training" part of training board, instead of as some freaky offering to appease the Gods of Lana.  Totally makes sense, right? 

Also on the plus side - when we hit the "progress up the levels" wall with Coach Ritenau, pinpointing the cause was a little quicker than it otherwise would have been. Once we bought the new saddle and tried the Bowen Therapy - we saved a few months in the process of systematically investigating  "reason your horse is not progressing that have nothing to do with the fact that I am not experienced enough to help you move to the next level" since we already had "maybe her ovaries are sore" covered. 

I said it before and I will say it again - "silver lining, every cloud".  Have another glass of wine if you don't see it.  It is there somewhere.

Dinner's almost ready, Ms. V

Curmudgeon, you moron. Why - oh - why did you stay?

Well, you have to remember that although Ms. V was not a favourite - Dr. Lana wasn't exactly giving anyone else a free ride either. And all in all, this made for a pretty pleasant riding experience on the human side. 

The other boarders were all very normal people, because the blowhard, know it all weirdos got kicked out in short order.  And it is worth at least $100 in Regumate to me to not have to deal with weirdo boarders after a long day of dealing with weirdo pet owners. 

There were a few neat and polite teenage girls who were pretty much always accompanied by their moms, who were almost my age and were a pleasure to spend time with while laughing and grooming. There was another woman in the same age bracket who was working on backing her dream horse, a Lusitano she had bought in utero - who was also fun and funny and made evenings at the barn enjoyable. 

Dr. Lana herself was also great to shoot the breeze with - the same no holds barred honesty that she brought to telling you your horse was (insert negative horse characteristic here), she brought to all of her conversations, which sounds bad, but is actually very refreshing.

All and all- once I made it through the gauntlet of control freak barn owner-isms, I really liked Lana Acres

I think sometimes along this horse journey I have lost sight of the fact that the horse and I are in it together - A barn where the horse is perfectly happy but I am not enjoying my hobby is no better than one where I am enjoying myself and the horse is miserably cowering on a manure pile being and bullied by Alligator face. Sorry to depress you, but you must add the challenge of finding a barn you can both stand to the almost impossible mix ... trainer, horse, ability, money, barn free of wackos...

(But seriously, I do think Ms. V has gotten the better deal most of the time.  I have put up with a lot of wackos).

And - for the most part - her training was coming along very well at Lana Acres. I felt that we had successfully made the leap from "Green Horse" to "Green Dressage Horse", as in, someone watching from the sidelines could probably tell where we were headed, even if we still had a long way to go. It would have been hard to give up on the situation at this point in time, when everything under saddle was looking so rosy.

Saturday 17 August 2013

I think I am slowly losing my marebles.

Ok team. I am feeling energized to write today.

Finally, after humming, hawing and generally being a whiny little down in the dumps "why me" sap about my horse situation since January, I filed a small claims court claim against the people who I am alleging broke their lease-to-own contract with me. I have my "Settlement Conference" date in October.

Am I the pig?

Or the person who shouldn't wrestle with pigs, because you only get dirty and pigs like it?

Well, if George Bernard Shaw was here I would tell him I am not really sure. I do know I have paid  the equivalent of a month's worth of board to have mud slathered on me and be wrapped in saran at a foo foo spa in Quebec for a week - and it was pretty fucking fine. Granted his time the slatherer will be barking at me in a German accent, not coooing softly in French... but I think I might enjoy it just as much.

Will the courts see things my way?  I have no idea (again, at this time - I am alleging - judge could decide I am delusional). But win or lose - it is time to go Sandra Dee again. I am happiest when the bridges are a-blazin. Turning the other cheek has never been my strong suit, and giving it a go this summer has just been really draining.

Curmudgeon! No one is EVER going to want to do business with you again if they find out you took someone to small claims court! Bad move!  Everyone is going to think you are a money grubbing nut!

Yah, maybe. So be it. That's how I roll.

But - as my very favourite song lyric of all time goes... "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose". I am free.  I am enjoying having my horse back, at a small stable, no trainer, no lessons, no pressure. I tried the high commission, high profile, high price sales route - and it flopped miserably. I have now come to terms with keeping her forever. Or, alternatively - should the absolute perfect person walk through the door with a few bucks in their hand and a starry look in their eyes that says "I dream of someday riding a flowing halfpass"- dropping her price to a mere mortal level to make their dream come true if it suits me.

I have nothing left to lose.

Yah, yah...I know, I know. You all knew this would happen, even though I keep insisting I want to sell her.

I just can't quit you, Ms. V

So!  Long story short - I have to make this Long Story short so I can someday report to you on "SCHWEINWRESTLE FEST 2013". Exciting, isn't it?

Where were we. Mare acting like a mare. Barn owner acting like no other barn owner, past or present.

Curmudgeon! Please tell me that you packed your things and got the hell out of there!

No. No, I did not. Why you ask? Did I have a screw loose?  Had I lost my marbles?

Perhaps. To this day, I can not explain to you why insisting that I find a way to transform my normal, hoochie mama mare into a female eunuch seemed to be a reasonable request, and why I did not just thank Dr. Lana for her time, pack my things, and leave.

However, I can assure you that what I had certainly not lost was my Marebles. I had ordered them on the internet for the low LOW price of only $18 dollars each.

What, pray tell are Marebles, you ask?

Well, I don't know all of the details, so be forewarned - my story may not be entirely accurate (surprisingly enough this event is not covered in bible, which was kind of the National Enquirer of the day as I understand it). Apparently, once upon a time, long ago... a camel driver sitting around waiting out a sandstorm blasting though the Sahara (or doing whatever it is that camel drivers do during their down time) got really bored.  So bored in fact, that an interesting thought crossed his mind. "I wonder what would happen if I shoved an apricot pit up my camel's hoo-hoo"?

(Maybe I just have a warped mind, but I suspect this is probably not the first thing a bored man in the desert shoved up his camel's hoo-hoo.  But that is another story all together).

Well lo and behold, as legend would have it - the camel drivers found that camels with apricot pits in their uteruses (what is the plural of uterus? Funny, I don't think I have ever attempted to use this word before in my life) no longer exhibited signs of "oh hot, baby, hot for you" estrus.  Which was a good thing, I totally get this. I can see how being trapped in the desert for a month or two with a whole camel drive full of hormonal female camels living together and fighting over the male camel would be a bit tiring.  Kind of like "The Bachlorette" for camels.

Anyway, fast forward to today - although we have modern medicine and technology, somehow the idea that "if it is natural, and has been done for thousands of years - it is better than anything your so-called "science" comes up with" prevails.

Enter - the Mareble.  A clean, shiny, autoclavable version of the apricot pit, ready for implantation into your mare's uterus, which apparently works to supress estrus naturally.  (Well, as naturally as having something other than a foal shoved in your uterus can be, in any case).  So, whereas the obvious solution from a vet medicine point of view was a daily dose of evil, pharma generated Regumate, which is tried, tested, true (as in "truly expensive", as with all horsey things it seems) - if you love your horse in a natural, holistic, way - you knuckle down and get out your aggies.

Of course, Curmudgeon - it is an IUD for horses!  Why wouldn't it work!

Oh come on now. We all know why it would not work. Because nothing in the horse world is ever simple, effective, and costs only $18.  That really should have been all of the information I needed to reject this treatment as a possibility.

But I did look into it a bit more. A girl can dream, can't she?

And, what I found basically eliminated the Mareble from contention.

Sure - it is kind of an IUD for horses, and IUD's do work in people. The only difference is that effective IUD's for people are coated in birth control type hormones or copper that fucks with the sperm's minds.  Perhaps their mere presence in the uterus does have an effect as well, but they are not just blobs of inert glass that show up and say "Ta Da! Bet you think I am a baby!"  So really on further inspection, they are kind of nothing like IUD's in humans, other than their place of residence.

Next - I did some research and found that while natural, holistic, bulletin board prone people insisted that Marebles were a valid alternative to proven science - they also reported that Marebles seemed to emit strong waves of placebo effect that worked well to control heat cycles throughout the winter, but that they strangely seem to lose their power as spring approached. Or worse still - that they did horrible damage to their horse's reproductive tracts.  Or were impossible to remove, without doing horrible damage to their horse's reproductive tracts.

So, although they were beautiful and fun to play with - I did not try the Marebles route.

Since this time a lot more research has been done into "The effect of intra-uterine devices on the reproductive physiology and behaviour of mares" and as far as I can tell, the jury is in - it doesn't work.

That said - if you are a bored camel driver in the Sahara looking for ways to pass the time and your friends catch you elbow deep in a camel - I think you could still save face by telling them you are implanting an apricot pit in her uterus. It is worth a try.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

If you can't be with the one you love, love the wall you're with

As I am sure you are well aware, the battle of the bulge never quite disappeared.  It became one of those passive aggressive barn topics that lingered around until the day the trailer rolled out of the driveway. I poked my fingers into Ms. V's spongy fat tailhead with a critical look on my face when I thought Dr. Lana was in eyeshot. She beamed with pride when the farrier said how good Ms. V was looking - and so on, so forth. We smiled and joked about it on the surface, but I know each of us secretly thought the other person was way off base, totally wrong. 

But never fear. The fun had not ended. Soon, project porker morphed into something new.  Project...uh...pork'er.  As in, my horse was apparently a raging, nympho slut.

As a border, it is easy to forget that your horse has her own little social life gig going on during the 22 hours per day you are not in her presence. Apparently, a few weeks of the year Ms. V liked to spend these 22 hours polishing the stall walls with her ass and screaming out for love like a 13 year old Justin Beiber fan.  (No, no. They don't do the polishing part. I don't think so, anyways.  Just the screaming).

Now, I kind of had an inkling this was the case, as the top of her tail often looked kind of like she had been electrocuted.  And, her hocks sometimes were a little on the crusty side - nothing a little leg hosing and a stiff brush couldn't fix. But in all the time I had owned her up until then, that was about the extent of my exposure to her nympho slut tendencies.  She was no different when I rode her, so frankly, I really didn't care if she wanted to get busy with - whatever - when I was not around.

Neither Muddy Acres nor Liliput had mentioned anything to me about this "problem" other than in passing (hey, your mare is in heat, eh?  Why yes. How about those Blue Jays. Etc.). No barn has had a huge issue with it since either - it has been managed by choosing a stall in the corner, or next to a crabby old gelding who has long since forgotten he ever had testicles.  I would likely have never ever known that my horse was a sex starved nympho slut...

But then... we met Dr. Lana.

Actually, I was first made aware of the problem by Miss Lana, one of the Dr's daughters, on my return from a week long business trip to Kamloops or someplace equally as fascinating.

"It is a good thing you are back. Ms. V has really missed you. She cries all the time".

Oh, how sweet. This little urchin thinks my horse is pining for me. I smiled and said "oh, well - no worries.  I am back and I have lots of carrots.  She will feel better now". And I thought that was the end of that.

Well, no. It was not the end of that at all. The carrots were the right shape, yet not quite the right size for what Ms. V was really pining for.

Oh! Oh! I know Curmudgeon - Ovarian Cysts!  Ms V. had Ovarian Cysts! 

No. And no. Mares do not get ovarian cysts. Don't post this in the comments.

Nor do they act like wingnuts when you ride them during their heat cycle due to feeling "crampy", like a 13 year old Justin Beiber fan trying to skip gym class.  Don't post this either, it drives me insane when people say this.  It doesn't even make any sense. If you don't know why - well, you should have paid attention in sex ed when you were a 13 year old Leif Garret fan, we don't have time to review this now. Besides, you likely don't have time to read a review anyway - you are probably busy taking care of your 18 children conceived while using the rhythm method of birth control. 

Now don't get me wrong - I do think mares can be more tricky to ride. All the time.  Every day. And some people just aren't cut out to ride mares.

But I suspect that much like "poorly fitting saddle" or "in need of chiropractic adjustment", many instances of riders reporting that their mare is"not herself during her heat cycle" are actually due to kind of an equestrian nocebo effect - i.e. I have been told that mares are idiots when in heat, my mare is in heat - therefore thus - she must be acting like an idiot. Suddenly normal spooking or resistance to do whatever it is you are asking them to do is not due to lack of rider skill, but instead is  is all due to the MSG in chinese food.  Or gluten.  Or your mare being in heat.

I just can't seem to do a decent transition today.  Either this guy is in heat, or those windmills are fucking with me again.

But what do I know, I don't have any well researched proof of this, and the anecdotes of many horse owners on bulletin boards all over the internet say I am wrong - which is almost as good, right? I am probably just being my Curmudgeonly self. Maybe your mare really does morph into a board-stiff angry hateful bitch when in heat. My condolences. I have never once noticed any difference in Ms. V's way of going at any time of the month or year (other than in the winter or spring due to lack of turnout as a result of excessive ice or mud). 

But I did notice a difference in Dr. Lana's way of going immediately.  She let me know that under no circumstances was this acceptable or normal behaviour. I had to get to the bottom of this problem right away.  There would be no sex starved nympho mares at Lana Acres.


I realized that I was not a vet.. but I really and truly  thought I did know what was at the bottom of her behaviour. Ms. V wanted some hot loving and baby birthin. That's what animals generally want out of life. I really didn't see it as a topic in need of an investigation.

Wrong again, Curmudgeon. I may have gotten away with riding around on my totally sound horse without investigating her cocktail weenie legs, but Dr. Lana was the vet.  I was not dissing her knowledge twice. I needed to get a repro specialist in right away to do an ultrasound and investigate.

Lucky for me... I happened to know one.  Otherwise I most certainly would have been too lazy to do the work involved in hunting one down to deal with a problem that was in my mind, non existent.  The prof over at the vet college was a friend and she agreed to do a field trip with some students out to see Ms. V and determine if there was anything abnormal going with her ovaries that could explain her sex starved nympho behaviour.

Five or six students showed up, told me how good my horse looked (shut up already!), quizzed me on the life and times of V and her VeeJay, got busy with the K-Y jelly type stuff, poked and prodded with the ultrasound wand, and eventually reached a unanimous decision as to the crux of my horse's problems.

It seemed that Ms. V's sex starved nympho behaviour was due to the fact that she is a mare.  Her symptoms could be cured by introducing her to a sex starved nympho stallion, or reasonable facsimile.  Or - they could just be ignored, since acting like sex starved nymphos is generally what mares do when they are in heat.

Done and done. Right?

Well, no. Because the bottom line was that it was still Dr. Lana's barn, and if she didn't want a wall polishing urine squirting whore in the joint squealing the night away, that was her perogative. I had to fix the problem or move out.


Friday 12 July 2013

And so it begins... Again. Groundhog Day Dressage

Good morning readers - are you all still out there?  Or have you died of old age waiting for my next post?

I must apologize for my delinquency, yet again.  Unfortunately, the happenings of the last few months have really taken the wind out of my proverbial sales. Ooops - did I really type that?  It is an honest Freudian Slip. Because as any of you who enjoy virtual shopping on Warmbloods-for-Sale already know, Ms. V is back. And I am find her the "perfect home".

Up until now, I have done fairly well at poking fun at my misfortune, and in fact I started this blog as kind of a cheap form of therapy to help myself talk through the insanity... but I really am kind of bottomed out right now.

I kept hoping I was going to pull some fairy tale ending out of my ass to share with all of you, but alas, this will not be the case. In less than a year, I have lived through a "sale" gone horribly wrong ("didn't anyone tell you not to trust those people?"...  Said several incredulous acquaintances after the dust settled, not seeing the irony in the fact they they did not tell me not to trust "those people" that actually ironic?  I am always paranoid to use that word after everyone mocked Alanis Moressette ), and a lease gone horribly wrong (stay tuned for my rants on young riders entitled "PSG is hard. Who knew").

The good news is of course that I lived through these things.  The worst news of all is that the one person who I would call up and bitch to when the nutty world of dressage was too much for me to handle - the person who could always make me laugh no matter how whacked out things in the horse world happened to be... has died. I still really can't believe he is gone.

So please bear with me.  Don't worry - you will get to read about all of this someday.
I am sure I will get my shit together and get back to merrily mocking my life soon.

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Dr. Lana is going to PAMP YOOOU UPPP girly horse. Legs and all.

Almost immediately, parts of Ms. V did begin getting a lot fatter.

Two specific parts - her hind legs. Ever since her bout of scratches back at Muddy View Acres, she had always been predisposed to stocking up in her hinds, especially the (anyone, anyone?) that's right kids, especially the white one.

However, this stocking up typically exhibited itself as a thickening through the fetlock and pastern that showed up after a night in the barn, and would be barely noticeable were her legs not thin little twigs at all other times of the day. An hour or so of turnout or riding completely eliminated it.

Not on the new Dr. Lana diet. She suddenly had cocktail weenie legs. All the time.

"You know" said Dr. Lana. "You should really have that checked out".

The stupid thing is, I really didn't immediately make the connection between diet and the weenies.  And when  a vet looks at your horse's legs and tells you that you should get them checked out, you do start to worry. The "good horse owner" fairy starts poking at you saying "if you loved her... you would..."

But then, the "good wallet owner" fairy speaks to you and tells you what a raging asshole you would be to spend money having your horse's legs examined when she is 100% entirely and totally sound.  There are people with dead lame horses who spend gobs of money trying to figure out why they are dead lame who can't get to the bottom of it. What on earth would you fork over cash to have someone probe around to find out why your horse is just so stubbornly sound?

But maybe the horse communicator can convince her to only shit in one spot in her stall!  Think of how nice it would would be money well spent.  

These two fairies battle it out on a regular basis when it comes to horse care.  I think no matter how logical you are, any time you are having an issue with your horse and some other horse owner says "well have you thought of trying (insert something that you know in your heart of hearts is totally stupid here)", that fucking good horse fairy does whisper in your ear "what's the harm...maybe you should try it?"

Lucky for me, I am a skeptical and crusty curmudgeon, and the wallet fairy can usually bludgeon the little bitch into submission before I am convinced to try anything too stupid.  I would say the furthest out I have gone on the "stupid" limb would be trying Bowen Therapy on Ms. V, which to me sounded pretty much like massage therapy tramped up with a better, sexier marketing campaign.

Bowen Therapy treats the whole body, and its holistic effects are apparent in patients who find resolution to problems above and beyond those for which they have sought treatment, for example lack of energy, stress or emotional issues

For the life of me I don't remember what the specific reason was that Coach Ritenau decided we needed to try Bowen, but I do remember it set me back close to $600 for a series of treatments and I thought it made not an ounce of difference.  Ms. V still had lots of energy - enough to cause me plenty of stress, and relaxing with a glass of red when I got home from the barn generally took care of my emotional issues, for the sort term anyways.  Think of the wine cellar I could have started with that $600?  Or, I could have spent it on good training, which would have done more to fix whatever the underlying problem would have really and truly been at the time. Because thinking back, I am 99.9% certain it had nothing to do with problems of her fascia storing negative energy or memories or whatever it is that Bowen people say they are resetting as they do their little thumb circles and whatnot.

The legs Curmudgeon - what about the cocktail weenie legs

Ooops, I am off on a tangent again, aren't I.  Long story short, I came home, googled "stocked up legs" for a while, and read many an informative post on the subject... Oh, here is one...

WWYD - Rein Lameness. Hi readers, hoping you can help - I went to see the horse of my dreams the other day, who is - amazingly - in my price bracket. I think the stars have finally aligned!! I am so excited!  (will post pics soon).  However, when I rode him,because I am new to dressage, I immediately made him rein lame. So frustrating! How long do you think it will take for me to be able to ride this horse properly? I am taking a lesson each week with a good coach and do pilates.  Oh one other question - his front left leg is huge and hot. The owner says it is just stocking up and is nothing to worry about. Should I wrap his legs at night?

(Ok...This isn't real. I made it up. But would not be surprised to read something equally as stupid).

However during my googlefest, I came across something interesting - some horses stock up when fed Alfalfa. Rich beautiful green alfalfa that you might feed to a heavily lactating dairy cow.

Of course, Curmudgeon!! How did you not KNOW this.  

I swear to God, even in all of my years at school - I had never come across this issue in practice or in writing or anywhere.  How could that possibly be?  Did I skip that class? Was I asleep?  Both very valid possibilities, however I think the true answer is is nuts. Textbooks and profs barely have enough time to hammer the things that matter on a day to day basis into your hangover addled 20 year old brains at school, there is no time to waste on "Unit 14 - Bizarre things overzealous owners might feed to horses".  Even one Unit would not really be enough time, it would have to be a whole course - Bizarre feeds 101.

Who the hell would feed straight alfalfa to a normal, everyday horse?  Horses just don't need that kind of rocket fuel.

Well, I bet you can all guess.  When I checked out the hay supply, there was normal - and their was weight gainer plus Alfalfa rocket fuel - for "bone racks" like Ms. V.

Don't you want to tell the 15 year old boys buying this stuff  to just give it some time?  Don't worry, young lad - soon you will be fat and 40 just like the rest of us. Weight gainer mission accomplished. 
Sigh. If she isn't wallowing in mud, she is wallowing in excess nutrients.  Why is middle of the road so hard to find in the horse world... ?  And so, with this information in hand - I planned for my non confrontational, good spirited talk with Dr. Lana - underlying message "just feed my fucking horse the way I want her to be fed".

Monday 13 May 2013

Would you like to supersize your sweetfeed? How about a side of beetpulp with that hay...

Let's see, where to begin.

What was the first thing that was subpar about my horse.

I guess it would be - her body condition.  In the eyes of Dr. Lana, she was obviously much too thin. Which is, of course, why she felt the need to announce that she had the pelvis of a dairy cow.

Oh dear. This was not a good start. Little did Dr. Lana know that at the time, my entire life revolved around preaching the miraculous findings of something called "The Lifespan Study" to pet owners.  Nestle Purina had spent an insane amount of time and money proving that dogs fed 25% less food and maintained at a "lean body condition" lived longer than their pair matched littermates that were allowed to become chubby little labrador sausages, typical of what you might see in the neighbourhood dog park.

Summary - Lifespan Study

And so, as part of my glamorous career I went here, there, everywhere - to trade shows and vet tech colleges and pet store staff training events - showing people how to perform "the healthy hug", which was essentially a way of squeezing dogs to determine if they were at their "ideal body condition" and therefore likely to live "long, healthy lives".

Of course, over time the project was proven to be an abject failure.

The competition quickly twisted the results of Purina's findings into "Dogs live longer when they eat less Dog Chow", flushing any benefit of 14 years of careful data collection down the toilet. Yes, this was technically true based on the findings of the study, but totally irrelevant (since dogs live longer eating less of ANY food versus being allowed to become overweight).  However, the average pet owner doesn't get caught up in semantics, or the nuances of published research - they just want what is best for their dog.

Nice work, Purina - remember, no good deed goes unpunished.  Forget research. They would have been better off spending the gobs of money spent on this study on a lifetime supply of wild caught quail and fru-fru berries, because that is what really sells in the land of pet food.

"Surely this 18 year old at Pet Valu knows her shit, and yes, my chihuahua is very reminiscent of her timber wolf ancestors...sign me up for that $80 bag of elk and tapioca..." 

Anyway, forgetting all of that (and trust me, I really do try to forget)... the most intriguing finding of "The Lifespan Study" to me, as a horse owner, was the fact that dogs fed to a "lean body condition" had significantly reduced incidence of osteoarthritis at the age of 8 years old

Purina Lifespan Study - Osteoarthritis

"Food intake is an environmental factor that may have a profound effect on development of osteoarthritis in dogs"

Now I know dogs aren't horses, and we can't always extrapolate across species, but to me, it seemed like a no brainer to give this a whirl - how could it possibly hurt?  Anything that kept my horse sounder, longer, sounded like a good deal to me. Worst that could happen was nothing, I figured, and I made a commitment early on to keep Ms. V lean in hopes of staving off joint disease.

And so, instead of pumping her full of groceries until she had a jiggling, rippling, dimpled meatball of an ass as is expected with the average hunter or dressage horse, I had instructed the farmer at Lilliput to feed her to a "moderate" body condition score.  I showed him a chart with a little picture, explained how I wanted to be able to feel her ribs, and did not want to see spongy gobs of fat on either side of her tailhead - and voila. He did exactly what I asked.

Crazy, eh?

Actually, this is no easy feat when you are dealing with a horse in the process of growing a full hand between the ages of three and five, and thinking back, he did an exemplary job.

But Dr. Lana would have none of this.  Forget that study. She looks too thin. What would people think when they saw this bonerack in her stable?  This needed to be corrected, even if it meant she became a hobbling cripple somewhere down the road.

So which one of us was right?

Who knows. The research on the subject is really thin (pardon the pun), however the bottom line is that from a "literature review" point of view, when it comes to dressage horses as long as your horse isn't emaciated or exploding at the seams, anywhere from 4 - 7 on the Henneke body condition score chart is deemed to be "acceptable".

From a "catty dressage people whispering behind your back about what a lousy horse owner you are" point of view though, there is no doubt that thin takes the cake - a great number of horse owners are distressed by the notion that a horse has bones contained somewhere within its body - skeletons should apparently be hidden away in nice smooth layers of flab.

And so what if the flab erases half of a horse's athleticism - obesity has its benefits.  Freaking out and throwing your adult amateur rider to the ground is a lot of work when you have to haul a few extra hundred pounds around when you attempt to leap and buck. Why bother. For many riders, the sound of a plodding earthbound trot that causes the arena dirt to throb like a tuner car's subwoofer at a stoplight is the sound of safety.  As an added bonus, insulin resistance builds a nice cresty look so much faster than correct training alone.

So, I kind of see her point. Fat = happy in the mind of many riders, and since she was trying to drum up business for this new joint venture, housing skinny little horses was not in line with "good advertising"

But, as with many things relating to Dr. Lana over time, I actually don't think her intentions were all self motivated in a businesswoman kind of way. I really and truly do believe that she thought Ms. V looked too skinny - we just had different views on what constituted the look of "an athletic horse". Her heart was in the right place. It was just an entirely different place than mine. I think part of the problem was that I had been raised with thoroughbreds and loved the look of a tucked up lean horse, whereas Dr. Lana was more of a field hunter kind of woman herself - her eye had been trained to crave a horse with a meatier appearance.


Dr. Lana
Really, it is no different than with people - we all have our preferences when it comes to body type.  Apparently there are people out there in the world who think Gwyneth Paltrow actually looks good in a bikini. If I were a man, or switching teams, I would want to feed her a sandwich or two with a side of cupcakes so I wouldn't crush her if I rolled over in bed. But hey, she is apparently the "sexiest woman alive" so what do I know. And why does it matter. As long as she doesn't do anything stupid like feed her children bizarre elimination diets, who cares.

Annnyways, Ms. V was now residing in Dr. Lana's barn, and it made perfect sense to to her that we proceed to make Ms. V look exactly the way she wanted her to look, with no consideration whatsoever of my opinion on the matter. Logical, no?

And so began the ongoing battle of the bulge. Or lack thereof.

Thursday 9 May 2013

Damn you Scattails. Damn you.

Sorry, sorry, sorry... again.  I realize that I am one of the world's most delinquent bloggers.

But I have someone to blame it on this week.

It is all Scattail's fault.

Now, if you have ever rolled your eyes or stifled a yawn whilst a fellow boarder rants on about some aspect of their failure to accomplish (insert failure here) without taking any ounce of personal responsibility for (insert failure here), but instead blames (insert failure here) on their simple minded, hay munching, incapable of evil planning or forethought horse... get your eyes and jaw warmed up.

Because Scattails is an entirely inanimate boat. With even less ability to mess up my schedule or to take control of my life or to lead to my failure to do anything than any horse. But whatever.  I am still blaming this all on Scattails.

Although we are sometimes hard on ourselves when it comes to stupid choices we make with respect to our horses, we really should cut ourselves some slack. Whenever I feel down about my lack of success with horses, I pick myself up and think to myself "Curmudgeon, take heart. It is not all about horses.  You make stupid choices in other areas of your life as well". 

Which brings us to the story of the seats of Scattails.

Now, since this is a dressage blog, I am going to tell this story using comparisons we can all understand, as horse people.

If Scattails were a horse - he would be an aged quarterhorse (nee 1982) who had been living in a thistle filled paddock of a friend for approximately 20 years. A friend who desperately wanted to clean up the thistles but needed to get the horse's hairy ass out of there before they could accomplish the feat. In the case of Scattails, the field was a shed, but you get the picture. Motard was approached by said friends, and asked if he would like to pay a paltry sum for the honour of owning the beast (and getting him the hell out of their shed).

Well who wouldn't.  With all of the glee of a $500 horse shopper on Craigslist, Motard brought home his prize, shovelled out the copious amounts of racoon and rodent turds and gave the whole thing a good hosing down. He then proceeded to happily bash around the reedy shallows of Rondeau Bay in his new found toy, sending up rooster tails of silty mud behind him and stopping periodically to rip handfuls of green slime covered stuff off of his entirely fouled prop.

(The zoologists in the crowd are now nodding approvingly at my choice of name here)

The waters of Rondeau Bay inspire you to not fall while waterskiing

Over time, Scattails has proven himself to be the equivalent of the perfect trail horse. He is sound and happy enough to let you drive around like Relic on the beachcombers, outrunning freighters on the St. Clair river and whatnot. Were he a horse, you would ride him confidently over hill, dale, through rivers, down busy highways, and live that dream of going through the Tim Horton's drive through on horseback that we all secretly have...Yet at the same time, he so economical that if - in the course of being a maniac - you were to break his leg or run off a cliff or some other calamity befell you, oh well.  Not much is lost. RIP.

But, being the fussy dressage rider that I am, this was not enough for me. Not nearly enough.

"Motard - look a that thing.  The fibreglass hull is all dull and oxidized - and the glitter paint doesn't glitter anymore.  You tore out all of the carpet to get rid of the wet racoon turd smell and now the floor looks like hell.  And worst of all - the very worst by far - although I do appreciate that you removed all of the rodent nests from the foam within the ripped seats - you patched the rips with duct tape.  Now when the sun shines on them, my legs get scorched by the smoking hot black vinyl while being held firmly in place by the melted glue on the edges of the tape, like some sort of ass flypaper".  

This would not do.

"But Curmudgeon", said Motard. "Can't you just enjoy Scattails for what he is. A fun, cheap toy".


It was the equivalent of riding around on a shuffling quarterhorse.  I became obsessed with fixing Scattails, just as I become obsessed with improving the "way of going" of any horse that I sit on. When I was done with him, he would be moving freely forward in a clear and steady rhythm, accepting contact with the bit.  Or at the very least not grabbing my thigh fat with his sticky seats.

Motard kept me at bay for the summer, however once he was out of the water and safely tucked away in our garage for the winter, I began my makeover process.  I decided I would sew new seats for Scattails.

Curmudgeon, what the hell do you know about upholstering boat seats?

Well.. nothing. But that doesn't stop people from buying green horses now does it?  And it didn't stop me from beginning a project that I had no skill or knowledge whatsoever to execute either.  Pfft, piece of cake. I checked out a bulletin board or two on the subject, apparently other assholes manage to get this done. I make stuff using "Very Easy Vogue" patterns all of the time. Really, how hard can it be.

And so, with all of the blissful ignorance of a horse owner preparing their crusty old "just doesn't want to jump anymore" 16 year old hunter for their new career as a "dressage horse"  (hey, how hard can it be!), I tore the seats out of Scattails and began my re-schooling project.

And, just as you have read about 100x on equine bulletin boards, a strange thing happened.  I found out that trying to do a job that most people pay professionals to do is kind of tricky to execute all on your lonesome with nothing but a $100 Sears sewing machine and a youtube video. And about 47 packs of broken needles. And 8 spools of heavy duty thread tangled into giant fluffy black bundles of something resembling pubic hair bunched up on every seam (no, no, not all neatly trimmed into landing strips.  Think '70's porn, not what you see today).

No problem, Curmudgeon.  Stay calm. It is December - you have lots of time to figure this out.  Just go back to Len's Mill store and buy a few more bolts of vinyl fabric and start again... January...February...March...April... 

I am sure you see where this is all going.  My time was up. I could only hide the evidence of my failure under the canvas tarp like a Boston terrorist for so long.  At some point Motard would be taking the boat back to Lake Erie, and he would expect someplace to sit besides a metal post with a few bolts sticking out of it.

I suppose my next step could have been to convince Motard that the perching on the metal post and bolt thing is actually the "classical" way to ride around in your boat, and that cushy foam filled seats are like razorblades in the hand of monkeys.  And that the resistance shown to me by the seats is actually an indicator of the cruelty of the artificial aid of the sewing machine.  However, since he is not a total idiot, sweeping the problem under the carpet as many a dressage rider chooses to do was really not an option.

And so, to make a very long story short - I have spent pretty much every spare moment of my time in the month of May desperately trying to finish these fucking boat seats.  Which has left not much time for the blog.

Damn you Scattails - you see?  It is all his fault.  I told you so.

Back to your regularly scheduled program soon.. I promise!

Sunday 14 April 2013

It's My Party. And You Can Get The Hell Out if I Want You To....You Would Cry Too, Dealing With You.

Oh ye readers of little faith.

Do you seriously think I can't put up with a little bit of control freak in the form of a barn owner?

Pffft...piece of cake.

Now, there have been very few barn owners along the way on my journey that I have felt I could trust 100%, without a single sleepless night, to do what they thought was absolutely best for my horse.  Dr. Lana was undoubtedly one of them.

In fact, Dr. Lana fell into one of my very favourite categories of barn owners - women operating under the...let's call it the, hmm, how do I put this...the "It's my party, and you can get the hell out if I want you to" philosophy.  And I truly do respect this position.

Perhaps you have one of these barn owners in your area.  Here are some clues on how to spot the signs:

Forty-something. Type A. Successful career. Lots-o-money.

These factors allow them to:
Build a beautiful barn, buy beautiful horses.

And most importantly - these factors mean that having you as a boarder is not at all essential to their financial plan. Your money is a "nice to have" but not a "must have". And the way you are treated does reflect this reality. Don't expect a lot of sunshine blown at your butt. Fair enough.

So why would someone like Dr. Lana bother with the likes of a Curmudgeon at all then, if they can live without the dough? anyone who has had their own barn knows, riding all by yourself, night after night, is actually very lonely.

It is nice to have some other people around at the barn. If you fall off and break your spine, it is always a reassuring feeling to know that someone might hear your anguished groans. Someone with opposable thumbs capable of calling 911, and not just your horse who will only continue to run around like an idiot without you, thinking to himself "listen to her scream!!  I KNEW there was something horrifying in the corner, but noooo, she said, it is only your cooler slung over a standard, she said...she forced me to go in there totally against my better judgement, causing me to freak out like a ninny...and now it is killing her slowly. Why didn't she TRUST me!!"

It is nice to have some company, even during the good times, when you are putting away jumps together or sharing stories of training or frustrations. There doesn't necessarily have to be an ambulance involved to do some bonding with like-minded equestrians. These people help to keep you motivated to ride, especially when it is still snowing and freezing, halfway through April. Like right now.

However, that said... if your boarders are NOT essential to your financial plan, but are really only required for companionship and occasional comedic relief... well, as the saying goes, she who has the arena...rules.  Or something like this.  The minute boarders cross the line from entertaining comrade to nagging horse freak, these forty-something type A successful career lots-o-money owners have every right to kick you to the curb. And trust me dear readers, they will.

But hey, entertaining is my middle name, people!  When I went to tour the facility prior to moving in, I hit it off with Dr. Lana immediately. She was a little bit sarcastic. Slightly derisive. Fairly jaded.  Imagine Ms. Krabappel of the horse industry, and you are somewhere in the ballpark. And, as I am sure you can also imagine, you are in the presence of someone whom I would like very much.

How does one get to be this way in the horse industry?  Well, I think being a veterinarian can predispose you to it, just as being an elementary school teacher can. You enter into the profession fresh faced and optimistic, looking forward to helping horses, only to be faced by a bunch of nutbar owners who want miracles at a low-LOW price - actually free would be good - that slowly suck away your misguided enthusiasm.

What? You expect to be PAID for your time? But Patches was sick! You are supposed to love animals and want to help them as part of your very nature....What! You are failing Stormy on the vet check just because he is missing a LEG? Four legs is classic genetic redundancy, maybe if you had stayed awake in class while getting your DVM you would know this (I assume M stands for Moron in your case)...What? A snotty nose is NOT an emergency? Are you crazy? This could be some equine plague! You are not seriously going to charge me a call fee for trying to stop the plague? Get me my computer. This is going on EMG*...

Now, like an elementary school teacher, as a veterinarian, or a barn owner for that matter - your subjects will come and go, and you will have your favourites and your... well, not so favorites. This is only human nature, you can't help having preferences. Not everyone can be the teacher's pet now can they?  Fair enough.

But as any of you with a child, or a friend with a child knows, nothing is more heartbreaking as a parent than when YOUR child is for some strange reason, NOT the teacher's pet. Or even in the mid-pack of kids that the teacher is ambivalent about. Sometimes, for some strange reason unbeknownst to you, even though a child may have been under the radar at all of their other barns, or even liked by other barn staff - in certain classrooms, with certain barn owners - they are instantly branded the pariah freak of the group when the new year begins.  And this is really, very hard to overcome.

Oh, I am getting all confused here. Am I talking about teachers or barn owners? Whatever. It doesn't really matter.

Bottom line is, I knew as soon as Dr. Lana laid eyes on Ms. V and loudly proclaimed "she has a pelvis like a dairy cow!" that she would not be the teacher's pet. But I optimistically assumed that she could earn herself a spot somewhere in the middle of the pack.


*EMG - local internet bulletin board

Tuesday 2 April 2013

They are looking forward to spending more time with their family. Travelling. Doing some consulting. Stuff like that. Uh..really.

And so, that was that.  We were no longer dressage show virgins. Training level was crossed off of the list of things I thought I wanted to do in my life, and to this day, I am not exactly sure why on Earth it was on there in the first place.

We had survived the mud and rain and inevitable horrific weather of Palgrave, (how is it that you can drive for an hour in the sunshine from Guelph, only to have dark clouds descend upon you in the hills of Caledon? Every time?), the purple troxels of Glanbrook Cadora, and everything in between.

I photocopied memberships and coggins tests and faxed before deadlines, mailed in money for overpriced stalls, shavings and to pay the man who can magically get your horse to pee in a cup...I ate wilted strawberries and melted vanilla guar gum foam posing as ice cream while trying to be "social" during a downpour in July...

Warning - actual product is absolutely nothing like what you see here

I searched the lists of scores on the wall fretfully with all of the other kids, wondering where the hell my result was (was I so bad they left me right off the list? Why aren't I on the list? I wasn't that bad, was I?), until I finally broke down and asked the world's bitchiest score-adding-up volunteer for assistance....

"excuse me - could you please help - I can't find my score" only to be snapped at... "can't you see the word PROVISIONAL?? That means the list is INCOMPLETE! (you moron, implied not said)", to which I responded "can't you see the words TRAINING LEVEL AMATEUR? That means I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE HELL I AM DOING" (you bitch, implied not said).

I bleached the living hell out of my white breeches then hung them out in the sun to try to remove the indelible clay splashes, leaving them weakened and sickly piss yellow - they punished me for this torture by ripping (mercifully, across my thigh) the next time I tried to climb aboard.  $250 well spent.

And so on, so forth...I am sure you are all mentally adding your favourite moments of horse shows here as well...

But... that was all in the past now.  Curmudgeon, I told myself - shake all of that off.  Bottom line - you survived. Time to sit back (no, no, not just metaphorically - sit BACK! And down!  Put your ass in the saddle, you are not a hunter rider any more Curmudgeon!) relax, and enjoy almost 9 months of preparing for ... FIRST LEVEL.  Right?

Errr.. no.  Of course not.  Nothing is ever THAT simple with horses, you fool.

Probably in...oh, September or October, I was futzing around, reading emails at my desk whilst drinking coffee and taking a break from the insurmountable challenge of trying to develop "communication strategies" to convince pet owners that *no*, in fact, your Chihuahua-in-a-handbag does not require the same ancestral diet as a gray wolf scrabbling for survival in the Canadian tundra... when the email from Coach Ritenau arrived.

I knew right away it was bad news, because she was not one to communicate...well, much of anything, besides the absolute nuts and bolts of Dressage 101.  This was 2005, and so to be fair, there was no constant stream of texts or BBM or facebook or whatever it is that barfs out info to us incessantly today from anyone, but she was less communicative than even the average twenty-something person in the early aughts...and so I knew something was up right away.

Yep - the email was professional and written with a flowery touch that I am sure did not come directly from the cranium of Coach Ritenau without some assistance... It had that faint whiff of a Googled "how to write a dismissal letter".

(No - no - not me - don't be ridiculous.  I was a $400+ per month meal ticket.  I would have had to have ridden around the showground naked and on fire screaming "Rollkur, me BABY! MORE ROLLKUR" to embarrass her enough to ditch ME.  Just watching your student score 53% or whatever might sting, but not enough to put in an application at McD's to make up for the income loss if one were to choose to unload her).

Nope - Coach Ritenau was packing up her bags, and leaving the land of Lilliput   She had a new "sponsor" of sorts, a local Veterinarian who had just built a wonderful new facility and was looking for a keen and fresh faced young up'n'comer to be her right hand woman. Yes, the doors were opening at the fabulous new facility Lana Acres, and Ritenau would be running the show.

She thanked Liliput for their years of dedicated service, and wished them luck in their future endeavors.

And added - oh, by the way Curmudgeon - sure hope you ditch them too and come along to Lana Acres with me.  

Oh for fuck's sake.  I remember sighing deeply and thinking to myself,"just what I need". And...of course "I wonder how much THIS is going to cost me".

But to be fair - I totally understood where Ritenau was coming from.

She wanted to make her mark - and move up and on in the world of dressage.  And as much as *I* didn't have a problem with muddy laneways and flapping coveralls, and rock hard grass rings, and thick black clouds of arena dust, and 50 cats peeing on all of my stuff  - most clients who are paying for full training really won't put up with this shit.

For many in the land of Adult Amateur dressage - the sizzle really and truly is more important than the steak.  And, when you are in Coach Ritenau shoes - with your star pupil wowing the world with big 53%'s it is pretty hard to convince people there is any steak happening at all, especially when backed up by a sizzle that is really not a sizzle per se, but more of a gurgle (the predominant sound of one of the 50 cats trying to breathe through the thick snot that they are about to sneeze out onto your cooler, which they have just recently peed on). Really - she had to get the hell out of Lilliput if she hoped to progress at all in the world of "dressage trainers".

Aghhh!  Really I had no choice.  After all of the time it had taken me to find a Coach who I could stand it would make no sense to stay at a trainerless Lilliput. My less than amazing show season had proven that I could not make a go of dressage WITH assistance, let alone on my own, no matter how many Lessons with Lendon I studied, executed, and totally fucked up.

But I did have a nagging feeling in the back of my mind - Dr. Lana's name was strangely familiar. I called up one of my very oldest friends, Pollyanna Obliviosky - yes, sure enough, my memory was correct - she had boarded with Dr.Lana once upon a time, long ago, when she ran a different facility.

And she told me to RUN. Far away.

Which was quite unsettling, because Pollyanna is undoubtedly one of the lowest key, least anal, non-fussbudget people on Earth - the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse could be performing some sort of death quadrille in the arena with her and she would fail to notice the anguished wails of her fellow equestrians if it meant looking up from whatever it was that was catching her attention at that particular moment.  She just did her thing. Whatever fucked up thing that might be, social norms notwithstanding   With this could Lana Acres possibly not be a fit?  Feed, water, basic care... I thought the two of us were pretty much on the same page as to what constituted essential services. And beyond that in her world, just about anything went. So what was the problem here?

She will drive you insane, she warned. She nitpicks and nags - nothing is ever good enough.  You will feel like SHE is the customer, and you are blessed to be there at all... you will dread walking through the door at night...and so on.  So forth.

Oh come on! I told myself.  I can't imagine anyone wearing me down in this fashion.  I can get along with anyone - I am the easiest going person around (yes, I have come to realize this only holds true if I am trapped alone on some desert island).  And really, Pollyanna drives me crazy sometimes, with her irritating Obliviosky attitudes - what the hell does she know.  I am sure everything will be just fine.

I thanked Pollyanna for her input, totally ignored everything she said, gave my 30 days notice at Liliput, and emailed Ritenau back.  Lana Acres here I come.

Thursday 21 March 2013

It may only be one moment in time, but I see two chins...

Curmudgeon, are you seriously never going to show again? That's nuts! It sounds like the worst that happened to you at training level was a few scores in the 50's and some uninspiring judge's comments!

True, and really that is the worst that EVER happened to me, all the way along.  Repeatedly. I never fell off in the mud, or got eliminated, or jumped out of the ring... never missed a ride time or got chastised by a judge for anything other than wearing shorts while scribing.

So, what was it then, that sealed my fate and turned me into "person who never wants to show again..."

Well - it was the time. The money. The hassle.

Also just the fact that I had reached my goal (showing PSG) and I am certain had I continued honing my skills for the next few years, spending money, putting up with the wide world of dressage, I could have brought my mighty 55%'s up to maybe a 63% or 65%... but seriously, what is the fun of that?  A goal is only really a goal if you have some doubts about your ability to actually reach it.

It is kind of like getting to the end of your favourite video game.  For normal people, this means it is time to move on to a new game - spending hours going through the entire process again and again kind of just makes you a self flagellating nerd to everyone you know, except about 5 other similarly nerd minded people. No one I know except for dressage nutbars would even understand why I would be happier to get 55% than 65%, since to people used to the normal world of percentages where 100% is the goal still think 65% sounds pretty fricking shitty.

I know I can break 131590 next time...just give me 3 days!
But there were other, more subtle things that influenced my decision.

For example, I never, ever have to ride a horse in the rain when I don't want to ever again. I will never have to do any type of braids, blobby or otherwise. I will very rarely ever be put in a situation where I have to poo in a port-o-let. And perhaps most importantly of all, I will never be faced with the horror of seeing my white and pasty, puffing, double chinned face captured in 187 frames of online Actionpix photos.  Ever again.

But Curmudgeon!  I LOVE seeing gorgeous pictures of my horse taken at shows when he is all dolled up! 

Oh, don't we all. I love seeing the pics of Ms. V too. But the problem is these photos are always kind of like when you are stuck beside the willowy 5'10" office babe in all of your short and dumpy glory in the departmental photos.  Her beauty only enhances your... lack thereof.

Ms. V always looks beautiful in photos.  Me... not so much.

For example - who wouldn't want to see this beauty hanging on their wall...ridden by...errr...

Some sort of sad looking elf...or is it the eighth dwarf, Druggy?  Seriously, I look bad enough in the morning, do I really need to see this droopy face staring at me while I drink my coffee?  Or really, at any time?

What, me worry?
Or, sometimes, the elegant Ms. V appears to be ridden by a cadaver from the Victorian ages. Is this person dead?  Or just silently praying that nothing goes freakishly wrong. Maybe she is praying she won't die, when something goes freakishly wrong during this class?  Who knows.

Gorgeous horse...

 Puffing freak...

Now, there are some photographers that do try to help, bless them.  I actually bought this picture, and have it on the mantle at Motards Man Cave...

Which on closer inspection reveals the kind of hard-core photoshopping that you probably thought they only used to remove all of the rolls and pimples and tattoos from Victoria Secret models.  Unfortunately airbrushes can only do so much, and they can't stop a severe shoulder tilt to the left, but the artist did give it a valiant effort. I especially like the nice shimmery lipgloss that I wasn't actually wearing in real life.

Now, I realize that I am not the most photogenic person in the world. I have come to accept the fact that, like my distant relative Alfred E, I have non-symmetrical features and a squinty left eye, which according to Psychology Today, may be an early warning sign of the lunatic within.

With time, I have also come to understand why it is that the Curmudgeonly parental units refused to buy my grade 13 graduation pictures.

Thanks Curmudgeons

However, I just really do not think I am as horrifyingly ... horrifying as I come off in my dressage show photos.

I started to develop quite a complex about this whole affair. For the longest time, I actually had a picture on my desk at work where I had cropped my head off.  (I told people it was supposed to look artsy, but I think it just came off as weird). And it affected me to the point that, before entering the ring for my very last PSG test ever.. the cherry on the sundae, the last hurrah, whatever you want to call it...

I did not think of "getting horse more thru over topline" or "riding more precise figures or movements" or "allowing horse more freedom to move up and out..." or any of the other suggestions that the judges had given me in my collectives over the years.

My entire thought process was focused on one thing.  Get out of that fucking ring with at least one picture to hang on your wall where you do not appear to have a double chin.

Done and done. Let's call it a wrap.