Tuesday 26 February 2013

Dressage - you dare to be dull. That's why I loved you

Sorry, sorry, sorry...again.

Even Mrs. Curmudgeon has bitched to me now about my failure to keep up the posting pace here in February. It is winter! You should be holed up in your house complaining about dressage, Curmudgeon!

True, very true.  I do apologize. However, I have been out of town, again - this time, on a fabulous vacation to the horse show mecca, Wellington, Florida...

Yes, my time had finally come. Way back in December, I planned myself a nice little trip to sit proudly in the bleachers in West Palm (or on the rooty, lumpy grass at White Fences..wherever. Hey, not to be catty, but seriously, our Trillium shows have better rings). Yes, last week, I got to plunk my ass down somewhere warm and sunny, misty eyed, proudly watching...uh..well..errr... it ends up, proudly watching a random assortment of strangers. For no particular reason.

This is the horse world, my friends, and nothing ever seems to go according to plan, now does it. Long story short...I made it to Florida, Ms. V and her new "owners" did not. But airline tickets and other things related to fabulous vacations are not necessarily refundable, so I packed up my golf clubs and went anyways. And as a result, I am behind on my posts again.

I didn't limit myself to visiting only dressage related venues. No, I went to see some "H/J" stuff as well. And yes, a comparison of the two did bring back my love of dressage just a little tiny bit. As I walked around perusing the engraved spurs, to be strapped on to the snakeskin brown boots trimmed with alligator scrotum, to be worn with diamond studded breeches etc. at the golf cart choked carnival known as PBIEC (or, the Palm Beach International Equestrian Centre..if only the E were a U, it could be such a fun anagram..) I was reminded of one of the things that I really loved about dressage in the beginning...

It's utter simplicity when it comes to acceptable "in the ring" fashions.   White pants. Black coat. Good to go.

Sure, the whole helmet thing has added a bit of "wild renegade" to the costume, but for the most part, I could pull out the same old suit I bought back in 2004 and ride on into the ring without anyone blinking an eye.  Even my scuzzy old velvet helmet would be ok. Maybe I could paste on a rhinestone or two if I really wanted to be cutting edge.

I guess to be fair, I did get really good wear out of the grey pinstriped hunter jacket that the Curmudgeons bought me back in the early 80's.

This same jacket went on to participate in scholarship and job interviews in the early '90's, as well as Trillium shows in the early '00's, and a variety of funerals all along the way. Hey, a good wool coat never dies. I think that my niece is still using it now, 30 years later.

So really, hunter clothes can be very versatile, if you don't mind people thinking that you look horribly dull, dowdy and outdated.  And if you don't mind smelling faintly of horse manure in job interviews. (Dry cleaners can only do so much. They aren't miracle workers, people!).

(Actually, the grey pinstriped jacket never truly went out of style.  Had I splurged on a brightly coloured dark pink or purple shirt to wear under that jacket back in 2002 when I last showed hunter, I would have been almost up to date in appearance. And, as an added bonus, I could have proudly sported big drippy dark sweat stains under my pits and down my back into my ass crack like all of the other cool hunter girls when jackets were excused. (Does anyone else remember this? Who on Earth thought this was a good look?) Mercifully, I was too cheap to update my jacket OR my shirt, and stuck with my traditional white, sweat camouflaging rat-catcher).

It was not only the simplicity of the required show garb that appealed to me with respect to dressage back in the day. The whole affair was just so bare bones as compared to lugging around poles and brush boxes and coops and whatnot - no "rigamarole", as Motard would say.

Even with winter ending and show season looming just around the corner - REAL show season this time -Training level, with cantering and everything - there were really only a few basic things I needed to do to prepare for the really big shoooows.

First - the Land of Liliput did not have an outdoor sand ring, but only a fenced in, rock hard grass area. However, it was flat, smooth, and large enough for a full dressage court - including the nice big area to circle around the outside, do a last little warm-up, and have your horse freak out and predetermine your submission score for you before your enter-ex-halt-salute as you would at a REAL show (well, a real show with the exception of White Fences, I learned this weekend, where you are expected to dodge trees and what not).

 So, althought it was not perfect footing-wise, it was spatially superior to many dressage rings I would come across at fancier barns in later days.  Luckily, I was still new enough on the dressage scene to not realize that riding on grass was equivalent to wearing a purple troxel in the "things that truly cool dressage people would never do" department, and so I really never gave it a second thought.

(Actually, as time went by on my dressage journey, I would say I was more often faced with suspensory sucking deep sand footing at "professional" facilities - which we all know is a bad thing. In fact, work on hard ground is reported to strengthen bones and ligaments in growing horses.  I don't know if this is reported only by people on bulletin boards to justify riding on such footing in a way that sounds more classical than saying "I ride on rock hard, lumpy grass because I have no place else to ride" or whether it has actually been researched. Regardless - it wasn't on my "things to obsess about" radar.)

There were no dressage letters - and what I did obsess about a lot was the potential of showing up at a show and having Ms. V be terrified of potted plants and whatnot.  So, I put out the word at my new job chock full of crazy pet owners that I was looking for used cat litter pails (no, no - not the tray where the cat actually shits - the non-recyclable landfill-filler plastic pails the litter comes in), bought a roll of duct tape, and created a nice set of A-K-E-H-C-M-B-F flower pot thingys to put around the ring at appropriate places. A shovel of soil in each plus a geranium when the risk of frost was gone, and we had ourselves a pretty nice looking, regulation sized ring.

ENTER-EXS-HALT-SALUTE. We were ready to practice not only bits and pieces, but to do full run-throughs of our tests.

For Ms. V - there was really not much to do in the appearance department.  I banged her tail, and shaved off the fuzzy explosion at the top that she had rubbed ragged on the stall wall while in heat, and bought a few proper white saddle pads.  I also learned to do those big, blobby braids - actually, now that I think about it - forget the clothes.  These are very the BEST thing about dressage, you poor, poor, 40-braid hunter suckers. Twelve braids done with elastics - they alone are worth the switch to dressage.

Ha ha, suckas! See you in a few hours, you braiding H/J losers!

We were good to go.

Our first show was just around the corner - beginning of May, 2005.


  1. Just got back from my first visit to the Wellington Dressage shows. Eye opening for sure. I had always thought that showing in Florida was some sort of amazing opportunity available to only the most serious of dressage riders. That the horses, riders and judges were "super dressagers" of such high quality that it would be an honour for a lowly Canadian to even try to compete against them in such a venue. Well, the riding didn't look too different, the horses didn't look too different and the judges were exactly the same as we get up north in Canada. In fact, a couple of them have been seen judging schooling shows at RCRA in the last little while. Weather was great and it was fun, but.....underwhelming. Loved the PBIEC, though, it was like horsey Vegas with mascots and everything.

    1. Totally agree.

      The show I watched at White Fences was a "USEF Level 3 Competition", which as far as I can tell would be similar to one of our garden variety Gold shows (YR qualifier, young horse classes, but no CDI). What did you get for your money? Two rings had S judges - ok fine - but some of the lower level classes were actually judged by an "r" judge! Seriously?? You rarely see this at even a Bronze show in Ontario. Why exactly would you need to haul all the way to Florida to get the opinion of this judge?

      In comparison, I checked out Caledon Dressage Silver shows from 2012 - FEI level judge at all but 1 of them, and that one had an S judge just like White Fences. So, I guess the moral of the story is.. if you truly are showing for feedback from experienced judges - choose Orangeville, not Wellington.

      (But hey, who wouldn't. Ahhh...the exotic land of Orangeville).

    2. By the way, saw your comments on Equiman re. the cost of auditing the YR benefit clinic. Then the comments all vanished! Did you say something to piss the moderator off?

    3. Why yes! I was planning to add that the YR should be holding a benefit for me, since they seem to have access to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of made horses for their teenaged butts to sit upon, while I do not!

    4. Damn, that would have been funny, too. Sorry if I cost you the opportunity to share.

    5. Sorry for denying you a credit DC, but I don't think it was your comment that caused the removal of that thread. One of the clinic organizers posted a long reply explaining their motives, and she did it under her daughter's blogger name. Totaly unnecessary. Another person responded, and soon the whole thing was gone.

    6. Yes I did see that post (don't remember if I saw any after it). It did leave me saying "oh, really? Your daughters aren't going to be riding, eh?" *cough*bullshit*cough*

      I would strongly suspect it was the organizers, not EMG, that had the thread deleted.

      I do know I have been banned from auditing OHT clinics. It probably has a lot more to do with Darth Vader being Luke's father than anything I posted on EMG though.

      Despite this - I do respect what they are doing, and am impressed by the events they are organizing (hey, I spent close to $400 at the "high tea" myself!). Regardless of whether or not I agree with the nitty-gritty of how they go about it - they are making it happen, good for them (but...still waiting to see financials posted on their website!)

  2. The best things about "switching sides" and showing dressage is 1) you have a scheduled time to ride (none of this arriving at 7:30 am to squeeze in your practice rounds with your coach and then sitting around all day to wait for your division), and 2) simple, big, rosette braids that you can tape or tie up with elastics, none of this sillyness with threads and needles that you can puncture yourself and bleed all over your freshly bathed steed. I'm happy with 12 bubble braids, 40 results in blisters.

    1. YES! How could I have forgotten to mention ride times!! You are so right.

    2. Well, I for one love the Whipper-Ins - they tell you how much time you have left before you're expected to enter into the ring and will FIND YOU to give you a count down (and the last opportunity to find a portapotty for the gutrot that doesn't seem to go away in the July high noon heat).

      Also, if you're showing with a ring stewart, they're more than happy to point out any tack issues BEFORE you enter the ring, not after you've finished your course and are wondering why people are pointing at you as you finish with a nice trot circle, or yelling something from the sidelines.

      Downfalls of dressage showing - white see-through breaches and white gloves...I may as well buy disposable clothes and granny-panties.

  3. Hmmm... you dressagers DO have a leg up in the braid department, that's for sure. The only kind of braids I've ever done are hunter braids, and I have the scars to prove it. :-)

    I would love to go check out WEF or HITS in FL. I'm sure I would fall ill to a serious case of the "have nots," but it would be fun looking at stuff anyway.

    What's this about Ms. V being sold? Is that true?

    1. Next you are going to ask me if Darth Vader is really Luke's father. You have to wait and see what happens!

    2. You really do have a sadistic streak, Stephanie. We have to wait for the story to unfold, but you are free to live your life, taking weeks to give us the next piece, but randomly dropping hints such as "but Ms. V and her new "owners" didn't show up".

      Sigh. It's just...not...fair... ;)

  4. Yep, get your blogger butt in gear. Keep it coming