Sunday 25 January 2015

Dear Dressage Trainers. My condolences. Really.

The one thing that was true for sure at this point in time - I was in a much better place for coach shopping than I had been in the past.  After hanging out at shows for the last three or so years, I really did have a good picture of who was available, who I would be able to stand listening to for a few hours a week, and whether or not they were likely to be able to help me on my way up the levels.

I had now witnessed some of my "oopsies" from the days of trying out bad coaches - and no, it was not just me. None of them would have been suitable if I had stuck it out long term. I am adding Coach Ritenau to the pile of course. (Hindsight is always 20/20 as the saying goes).

For example - Time Machine Schoolmaster woman gave off the impression of being someone who is actually in the game at higher levels - but although she has a lot of nice horses, and appears to have a lot of parental money backing her up - she has not yet had a lot of success in the FEI sense of the word. Which is too bad, and as I have harped on about already, dressage is not easy - but if with all of that going for her, she is still kind of in the backwoods, it is unlikely she would have been the one to help a less endowed rider such as myself.

Limpy's owner has the country's finest PSG Arabs - all two of them. So, I guess she deserves some credit. But there was just something about her horse's way of going that seemed off to me - they looked tight and miserable. I knew how to make a horse look tight and miserable - all on my own - so paying her to help me do it better seemed unnecessary.

Also - she only showed higher levels at breed shows. I feel a pro who expects to be paid for training your horse should show up in the ring at a recognized show at least once in a while as well. Sure, breed shows are better than not showing at all, this is true, But come on now - get out and get into the game properly. Claiming on bulletin boards that the reason you don't play with the other kids is because of breed bias and the high cost of showing gets kind of old. If you can cart your Arabs all over North America to attend congresses or whatever it is you Arab people do - you can foot the bill for one show at Palgrave. 

Now, the one coach on the pile that I know COULD have definitely brought us up the levels was of course Frau Trainerin. No doubt in my mind - she would have gotten the job done. 

So why didn't I give her another try? Simply because she snubbed me in the stir-fry line? Sure, she seemed to be kind of a stuck up or socially awkward person, but if I had showed up with my $1200+ in hand every month, I bet she would have turned that frown upside down in a hurry... She was undoubtedly located the closest to my home out of all of the contenders (I could have ridden my bike there if motivated)...and I knew for sure from watching her at shows and coaching others as well as riding herself that she was truly the real deal in terms of FEI trainers...

Why did I reject even the thought of returning to her with Ms. V?

Well, this brings us to kind of an interesting turn in my story - the point where I stopped feeling like the horse owning customers were always getting the shitty end of the stick.

Somewhere around this point in time, it began to dawn on me. Being a dressage trainer is really a tough gig. I would never wish this fate upon anyone.

When you are at a mixed bag barn, or a hunter barn with a few dressage riders, or any of the other barns that I had been up to thus far - you get a little bit of a mixed bag of people. As much as I complained about the folks out at Muddy View Acres, there were enough sane ones stirred in there to make life bearable. Lana Acres had a few teens, and eventing people. There was a balance of sorts.

But when you go hard core, all-in dressage - there is one demographic that dominates above all others.

Crazy, type A women, with lots of disposable income, who think that because they can afford nice horses, and expensive coaching - they are somehow entitled to act like total bullies, or mind-fucking ninnies.

Is Aschwipen all warmed up?  Because I am READY TO RIDE, Coach!

And - they don't always come alone. The ones that are not actually riding themselves bring along their entitled ninny children, all unique and special just like every other child, and all hell bent on attending NAJYRC (North American Junior and Young Riders Championships)

Watching the dynamics between clients and coaches in the stable areas of horse shows, or listening to clients on the sidelines revealed the most terrifying side of choosing my new barn. I was wading into the territory of hard core, nutcase dressage clients. I would commit to doing my very best not to be one - but could not avoid the others already in attendance.

And the Frau had a doozy. Loud, pretentious, in your face - and to make matters worse, she was a holistic nutritionist who hawked dubious "natural" supplements everywhere she went - which, as a real nutritionist, was also blood curdlingly irritating.

The thought of dealing with being in her presence (and hearing about the miracles of magnesium or whatever shit she was on about on any given day), after a long day of work was too much to bear. Because of her, I eliminated the Frau from contention.

(But no worries. You won't miss the fireworks. She catches up with me later).

I also eliminated a nice young couple that trained together from contention - because they had a barn full of pre-menopausal high maintenance ladies. As someone who is still menstruating, I felt it was a little early for me to join the hand wringing, obsessive horse owning but non-riding lady club.

(But again - fear not. We will circle back here too. Even though I do continue to menstruate, I was not able to escape this fate. Double whammy).

Which left two good candidates in the 50km radius / seemingly tolerable club. Both were easy on the eyes, and both had good, biblical names. How could I go wrong?

Coach #1 was short listed - which I figure meant expensive - and extraordinarily charismatic - the kind of person you saw from a distance and wanted to get to know. He was always surrounded by a gaggle of people, and most seemed to be having a good time.

Coach #2 was more up and coming - a little more subdued - but was very friendly and gracious, and seemed to have pleasant, sane students who were progressing nicely.

I decided that I would start with the more low key option. I wasn't entirely sure I wouldn't get bulldozed by all of the fun hanging out with Coach #1.

I am, after all, a Curmudgeon.


  1. so I cannot wait to hear how this turns out. I too wouldn't wish being a coach on anyone....

  2. I love your characterizations of people in the horse world. They are always so spot on!

  3. lol 'aschwipen' - love it!

  4. Yesss! Another one. And, as other readers remarked, spot on!
    It is with sadness, and somehow embarrassment (although I'm not sure why, since I only ride and do not teach at all.) I acknowledge all your words about the wicked dressage scene to be true...

  5. I'm a stablehand at a dressage stable, they are generally a good group but I have still seen a lot of what you mention at shows etc

  6. Not to split hairs, but pre-menopausal women are also still menstruating......that's why they are PRE menopausal.

    1. Yep- I think you meant to say menopausal or post menopausal. ^_^
      What you say about straight dressage barns is so true! Still I would love to be at one, for the chance to have multiple lessons a week, and to not have to wait through the snow/rain/wind seasons to ride... but alas, I cannot afford it.

  7. Hahaha! Oh man, and I thought Hunter Princesses were difficult to deal with!

  8. I'm still enjoying your stories. It's great that you can find the humor in it. Look forward to the next installment.

  9. I agree completely about barns that only have dressage clients. It's too bad but talk about an uptight group of people! I grew up eventing and trail riding so to me there is so much more than riding circles in an arena. I can't wait to hear the rest of your story.

  10. Please carry on with the story!

  11. I hope you stopped writing because you got a book deal!

  12. Dear Stephanie, Are you even out there any more?

  13. "I had left the blissful "Unconsciously Incompetent" rung of that "Learning Ladder" thing that coaches always show you, and was hanging out embarrassed and frustrated on the horrible "Consciously Incompetent" step"

    I love that line.

    I forgot about your blog for a while because Google Reader went kaput and I didn't bother to set up another RSS feed. Then I came back to it and remembered how unbelievably awesome it is. Please keep posting!!!