Thursday 20 August 2015

Eureka. There is a nice horse hiding in there somewhere..

And thus began the start of my first full-full training experience.  Well, the first one that actually lasted longer than 30 days (plus of course, 30 days notice).

Sure, I did give it a try with the Frau. You may recall the few thousand dollars better spent at Casino-Rama.

Why did I stick it out this time? I think this is due to a few different factors.

First factor - (and really, this always is first when it comes to horses and their less than gifted riders)  - in the few years that had passed, I had beaten at least a portion of my cognitive bias known as the Dunning-Kruger  effect into submission. For better or for worse. I think those who welcome a big dose of Dunning-Kruger into their lives are such a happy disillusioned lot - oh, how I envy them.

To recap - as I think I covered this before - if you are not familiar with what the Dunning-Kruger effect is, read the Wikipedia page and prepare to be depressed.  It explains why the majority of the bosses that you have hated over the years seemed to be overconfident, totally incompetent idiots.  You know the ones, the big talking gas-bags that have all of the answers in meetings and get promoted, but somehow can't even figure out how to do an email attachment or find the any key.  Science has revealed the answer - it was not your imagination - they really were overconfident and totally incompetent idiots. Thanks for that depressing info, scientific method.

Incompetent people are too incompetent to figure out that they are incompetent

The jig was up. I most definitely knew all of the things I did not know. They were pretty glaringly obvious at this time.  (Even now, I still do not have an understanding of why my horse was supposed to respond better when being yelled at in German than just being yelled at in English. But then, what fun would life be if I had all of the answers).

The important part though is that I was at the right point in this tale to willing to hand over my ego to someone who had a shot at sorting this all out.  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, swearing that I must somehow climb up to "Conscious Competence" come hell or high water, and make a commitment to never return to this depressing place again. (Writes the woman who either tops her ball or digs a trench with her fairway wood repeatedly, yet refuses to leave the club in the bag).

Image not to scale. At most stables in the GTA, the red step is like a giant platform, crowded with many loudmouth people

But I was also a more receptive player this time around because I had the right horse for the gig - and also because Coach C was just such a truly gifted rider and fun person to be around.

Did he make me get a new saddle?  No. I did not hear a word about it. I had by then moved on to a Stubben Juventus (if you are a shorter rider, do give this one a try) - he either crammed his ass into it without complaints if he had to hop on when I was present, or on days I wasn't riding, he used his own.

Did he suggest I get a different horse?  No, partly because he could get on Ms. V from day one, and make her look like a million bucks.  And, he seemed to enjoy riding her to boot.  She was small and hot and took next to no strength or energy to get rolling, unlike some of the other amateur's big oaf like warmbloods, and with his feel and tact she just seemed to do what she was supposed to do.

Did he make me do a chin-up - alas dear readers, much to Motard's disappointment - no. No chin-up.

However, after I had ridden with him for a week or two, he did kind of give me the "alone time" discussion - namely, that progress could be made without me much more quickly than if I insisted on riding as well.

Once again, the stars did seem to align, as Motard and I were already booked on a holiday at that very time, and would be gone for a little over a week (the "sailing during a tropical storm - if your S.O asks if you are going to die, always say NO, even as your mast is digging into the sandy bottom of the Caribbean sea" vacation mentioned in a previous post)

So off we went to crap our pants on the high seas, while Ms. V and Coach C. worked on bonding.

And, dear readers, I am happy to report I came home to an entirely different horse. Seriously - after only one week.

A mare that could not shorten a stride of canter without a hissy meltdown had suddenly transformed into a little china doll rocking horse doing pleasant 10 metre circles without debate. Or at least with very little debate. Even the debates were not very spirited - they consisted of a few seconds of NOOO... followed by... oh that? Oh. Well, that's not so bad. Never mind. Let's carry on.

A horse that had tight little steps and was chompy in the contact was now booming around doing a forward steady working trot, complete with "flying feet" as Motard would say.

And most strangely of all - I suddenly had a horse that the other owners seemed to actually accept as part of their clique. That is not to say that they felt she was EQUAL to their own special snowflake horses - come on now, that would be crazy talk - but they considered her to be a nice horse, that belonged in a FEI trainer's stable.  Sure, they made comparisons between her and their special snowflakes that were gentle, backhanded disses targeted at things not relating specifically to dressage performance - "oh Curmudgeon, Ms. V really is lovely.  Too bad she is so tiny. Detektiv is such a desirable horse because he is the perfect size for so many riders" But nothing was ever said to imply that we were out of our league in the crowd. When Coach C. got Ms. V going well, even those on the red platform described above could clearly see there was a talented horse in there somewhere.

The other reason we were accepted as part of the FEI bound clique was because no one had any reason to think otherwise. When Coach C. was asked what her breeding was, he would just say "she is Dutch or something" and add "wow, these new bloodlines that are winning are HOT!" then carry on. Because really, why was it any of anyone's business? For all they knew she WAS imported from somewhere other than Arva Ontario, and had cost mid 5 figures or whatever a "contender" would have cost at this point in time.

When it comes to horses my friends, I am sure I don't have to tell you - perception is everything.  My perception at this moment in time was that Coach C's barn was the most amazingly happy place on Earth to be riding if you had the right horse and didn't mind kissing all of your disposable income goodbye.

In all honestly - it was the best time of my entire riding career.


  1. Welcome back! I can't believe your last post was less than a year ago. I think Blogger is lying. Damn internet. Speaking of long ago, I rather wish you'd written this post like 3 years ago.... :)

  2. ...All of which is why I was happy shipping out and paying 4x what the local H/J "trainer" at my previous barn charged, in order to get GOOD coaching. Three years later my OTTB has multiple year end awards and is schooling 3rd well, and no visible change has occurred in the local trainer's students.
    The funniest part is, since I go for good coaching once a month, and they got crappy lessons once a week, we've actually spent close to the same amount, minus the time and gas I've spent shipping. Good coaching is worth the extra $$$, and makes all the difference.

  3. Agreed - welcome back!

    Thanks for introducing me to Dunning-Kruger. I have lived my life by the Peter Principle and the Title Corollary, and D-K caps those nicely.

    I'm sure you have heard of the Peter Principle, which says that work expands to fill the time allotted to it, and by extension that workers in an organization are promoted to the point at which they can no longer do the job -- their Level of Incompetence -- and there they stay, to the detriment of the organization.

    The Title Corollary (named after my brother Neil, who derived it years ago) says that Peter was an optimist; people are actually promoted well beyond their Level of Incompetence, to the point at which they can no longer convince their bosses that they are succeeding/bullshit effectively -- this is their Level of Inconfidence.

    I work for DOD, so I live these daily.


  4. Anxiously awaiting your next post!

  5. Where are you, Curmudgeon? Can't wait to hear the next part of the story!