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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pebble Beach Impressions: Day 2

If Day 1 was recognizing the base similarities between endurance and dressage, Day 2 at Pebble Beach was illustrating the extremes that each sport represents – and why that isn’t such a bad thing.

I think the tendency is to try and make all the activities that we as individuals do, to suit us. For example. The endurance rider may sit around and complain about the “uptight-ness” of the dressage world, and the pomp and circumstance that accompanies riding a simple pattern in a court with artificial footing. The dressage rider may lament the “slip shod” methods of endurance riding and the lack of image and presentation in endurance. “Take some pride!”, the dressage rider may say to the endurance rider. “Loosen up!”, says the endurance rider to the dressage rider.

However, I think there is value in preserving the extremes of the sports. While my individual tendency is to “freshen up” my image in endurance, and roll my eyes at the unwritten social rules of dressage – I think that given 3 wishes, I would keep endurance casual and “rouge” – even if I wince at the quantities of duct tape and baling twine. I would keep dressage full of customs and tradition. Much like I wouldn’t trade my favorite pair of jeans in for anything….it’s still fun to go to the ball in a fancy dress sometimes too.

So while I don’t think polo shirts or shirts with collars are a bad thing in endurance rides – I’m not likely to vote to make it a requirement either, even if it means that endurance riders get to endure being viewed as a collection of fashion mistakes. Likewise, as much as I like my colors, I am not likely to don any of the new approved colors in my dressage tests. If I get to the upper levels, I can’t promise that I won’t ride my test in a top hat. I’ve come to respect the traditions of dressage, even if I thought they were a bit silly before. Does dressage go to the extremes in the bowing and nodding and smiling to grump officials and judges and never feeling free to discuss or even comment on a situation? Probably. However, I’ve also never seen a screaming match between a contestant and judge at a dressage show, and there’s a touch of elegance to the whole shebang.

My advice is this. When you are exploring a new horse world, don’t try and change it. While we can all agree that consideration for horse welfare is paramount, accept the other idiosyncrasies that make the sport what it is. Have fun with your colors and put a Mohawk on your helmet for your endurance ride, and then go and play dress up at the dressage show. It’s not a bad thing.

My first day of showing went well. I got my “qualified rider score” which was the original goal, many months ago when I decided to ride this horse and show one last time. Unfortunately, the 60 score remains elusive – but the judging overall is tough this year and it’s definitely not just me. The high point of the day was receiving an EIGHT on one of my movements in my First Level test. As this was a tough judge who gave me 5’s and 6’s (and a few 7’s and 4’s…..), I felt that the 8 was well deserved and I’m proud of it. Tomorrow I show the same tests. Based on what the judge has historically placed emphasis on in the past, I’m not expected to score exceptionally well - however I may just surprise myself! Sometimes weird stuff happens when you just go out with the goal to have a blast during your test.

I watched the trot ups (or “jog ups”) for the FEI horses this morning, which was fascinating. Superficially it resembled endurance ride trot outs, but were full of pomp and circumstance. The horse and rider were turned out beautifully, and potted plants were set up for the trot out lane. Horses trotted (or bucked or did other shinnagins…) in a straight line (supposedly….) and then someone over the intercom would announce the horse’s name and that they were “accepted”. Of course all the horses were accepted, because in dressage you do not present your horse if there is even a question of it not passing inspection. Watching this process was actually what inspired the thoughts at the beginning of the post. At first I was a bit disdainful of the “jog up” because it didn’t appear to have any real purpose other than cause horse and rider to get up absurdly early in order to be braided and turned out properly. However, I soon realized that it wasn’t as much about passing a vet exam, like in endurance, but a nod towards tradition, and the show, and presenting a certain picture – and there’s nothing wrong with that, and I actually enjoyed it.

I ended my day by watching a Grand Prix Freestyle, which took my breath away. She was the last ride of the day, and the precision and grace in which her and her horse travelled across the arena was absolutely amazing. May we each have a relationship with our horses, that at least in our imaginations we can perform similar feats of harmony.

1 comment:

  1. This made me think of you...


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