I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m probably not ever going to show in dressage at high levels and I have no desire to. The main reason being that even though an old hunter/equitation dog can learn new tricks, from what I’ve seen I don’t really want to be a part of the dressage showing world. At this point I have no respect for most of the judges who reward bad riding, the trainers who train what they think the judges want to see, or the riders who only get by because they buy the “right” horses to get them ahead.
I don’t want to single out anyone in particular from the above grouping but some of the blame should ultimately be put on riders for not questioning the practices that are being taught for reward in the ring. Once you realize that most of us are not going to attract sponsors, the accepted philosophy of showing, in my opinion, comes down to torturing a horse for a ribbon that we may or may not get rewarded with. How sick is that? Our horses are supposed to be our partners in a relationship forged with mutual trust. How then can we reward ourselves with a ribbon for totally abusing an animal who started out trusting us?
Another reason why I probably wouldn’t show is I know that Dusty (a lowly quarter horse) would be discriminated against and she doesn’t deserve that sort of treatment. She’s trying hard to learn what I ask of her and does many movements right, but because she’s a palomino quarter horse the judge probably wouldn’t even give her a second glance, so I won’t waste my time or hers. Unless she gets fantastically good, then I might just take her to annoy others and show that indeed a quarter horse can look light and correctly do what’s asked with proper training. I’m considering a musical freestyle performance to either Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or the song “Brickhouse” by the Commodores. (Is there an instrumental version out there somewhere?) Which do you think would be more “Dusty”?
Lest you think I don’t like warmbloods, you couldn’t be more wrong. I have nothing against warmbloods; the love of my life was a fancy 17.2 hand grey Dutch Warmblood from Holland who I had for 15 years and lost a few years back. What I rebel against is the discrimination of any horse. The whole meaning and definition of dressage means “training” so any horse that’s trained properly and performing to the best of their natural abilities should be accepted.
What I’d like to see, if and when the dressage community seeks reform, is an acceptance of greater diversity, both in training schools/philosophies and in breed/type. There is such a cookie-cutter mentality out there now that any deviation from this very narrow definition isn’t considered worthy of the term “dressage.” Unfortunately, this new school of dressage has proven itself false and inferior to more traditional methods in many ways. It has also proven itself less tolerant of those who don’t conform to its particular brand of dressage. If we’re ever to rescue the disciplines from this downward spiral, I’d like to see more representatives of different schools and breeds not only taking part but given equal consideration; I’d like to see them judged on their individual merits rather than their degree of conformity to some new fad. Let’s welcome them all, side by side, and let the performances speak for themselves.
Until next time
Quote for Today
If you only see the beauty of their markings and limbs then their true beauty is hidden from you.