Identity Crisis

As many are aware, there are a number of stereotypes regarding different types of riders and a really funny email forward about how certain types of riders would change a light bulb. Generally when filling out surveys, I identify my primary area as “dressage” and if they ask for a secondary style, then I go with “eventing”. Admittedly, I haunt EventingNation much more often than DressageDaily online. Usually, I don’t give it a lot of thought. I won’t be showing up in the Olympics for either so I don’t lose much sleep over it. I have one “dressage” horse (Whitman) and one “event”/all purpose horse (Ries). There are certainly some differences in the approach for each though.

Dressage certainly has the reputation for being more “high maintenance” and some of that is well deserved. Playing in both sandboxes makes for some interesting comparisons. What got me thinking about it was a brief comment this morning. I went to a weekend eventing clinic that was far enough away I didn’t feel like making the trip back and forth and stayed the night. This morning I decided to run hay and grain to Ries before getting dressed so I wandered into the barn in my less than flattering plaid jammy pants and t-shirt. With my usual timing I managed to parade myself right in front of an arriving dressage rider (to take a dressage lesson from the visiting eventing coach). I know she is a dressage rider due to her pointing this out to me (Its not a big area, I knew that before hand but since it was announced to me, I decided to run with it). While I assume no affront was intended, evidently I was being presumed to be an “event” rider. This could have been due to the fact that I was at a de facto eventing clinic or it could have been my “not good enough for Walmart” outfit. Regardless, it led to some fun pondering during the day. Who or what am I?

Much of it can probably be attributed to my horses and the vast differences between them. I arrived about an hour before my ride on Saturday. I left Ries on the trailer. I opened the back doors of the trailer (he was in the first bay so remained secure – no safety rules broken). I opened the escape door in front of him (there is a bar to keep him in – though with Ries I could probably just ask him to “stay”). I hooked a water bucket up for him and went to go watch for a few minutes.

When I arrive somewhere with Whitman, the process would be different. I would quickly go and set up Whitman’s stall – bags of shavings, buckets secured, hay in corner, walls perused for any possible dangers and then I would promptly unload Whitman. I would have to rush opening dividers while keeping a hand or foot on Whitman’s haunch so he would not back up too soon. I would then wrestle his head still to get the trailer tie off and the lead shank securely in place. I would then unload Whitman and put him in his stall with his shipping boots on for a few minutes in case of any dumb leaps of surprise or pawing to get attention.

Once I had chatted and checked in (sessions were running a bit behind), I unloaded Ries and pulled his shipping boots as soon as he cleared the ramp. This is usually done with the lead rope over his neck, but the grass was beckoning so I had to continue to hold him. I then tied Ries to the trailer near the tackroom. I forgot that at our last event Ries had discovered that I keep pretzels, a friendly Labrador, and horse treats in the tackroom. Ries seems to view this as a drive through so promptly sidestepped over and began to rummage around inside looking for his beloved pretzels or peppermints. I laugh and continue getting his tack out and on. I also sprayed Ries with fly spray without a second thought. Out of respect for Pony Club rules I put the reins around Ries’ neck before undoing his halter but its really just a matter of protocol.

With Whitman, I would tack him up in the cross ties in the show stabling or in his stall. I can tie him in his stall but would never leave him unattended. Unattended means that I quickly but not so quickly that I might surprise him get the next piece of tack or equipment and promptly return to the stall. Actually, he is not that much higher maintenance then your standard “fancy pants” warmblood until we get to fly spray at which point Whitman gets quirky and ritualistic. While he has been fly sprayed since he was a weanling, it has become an issue over the last year. It has to be done outside of his stall or he will flip over backwards and if he escapes his stall run over horses in the aisle before rampaging through the country side dragging a board from his stall wall behind him. At the last show, I let go of his face to spray his butt and he destroyed his halter while thrashing and rearing. When we were randomly selected for drug testing, I joked with the vet who had witnessed the rearing/thrashing episode earlier, that she could probably skip testing him for tranqs.

Once tacked, I dragged Ries over to the bleachers and got on from there. He needs a lot of walking to warm up so we dawdled around the grounds while the previous lesson finished up. Warmup with Ries is more about getting him stretched and less resistant to everything. He eyed the jump that went from the outdoor ring to the cross country schooling area, but as always is unimpressed. The xc session was not able to actually be on the course due to the wet footing, but xc type questions were the focus of the ride. It was a very fun and educational session. I had to give Ries a little tap with the crop when we got the jump out of the arena. I knew this would be a problem for him since jumping out of an arena would seem like rule breaking to the obedient one. The only near excitement was going over a skinny that was maybe two and a half feet tall. It was a combination of Ries jumping everything as if its 3’6″ (his standard jump – feels like no effort at all) and he turned right when I was planning on turning left. It took me about a stride to figure out that we were on different trajectories. What would have been the most embarrassing would have been the fact that it would have looked like I dove off a perfectly obedient horse. Other than a loss of balance and a squeak out of me, it probably didn’t look like much.

Back to the original theme – first off a dressage clinic is almost always private lessons. I cannot say if Whitman would stand and chill in the group while everyone took there turn and then going back out and taking his turn again. For the event clinic, we do our round, return to the group, and stand around. OTTB stereotypes be darned. All of the horses were either full TB or half but were able to stand like statues, leave the group with no concerns or hints of being barn sour, pick up canter, bang out a course, flying changes included, and then come back to stand on a loose rein like a cow horse. By the second day, I caught myself sitting on my horse with my arms crossed, feet dangling out of my stirrups, reins discarded on Ries’ neck while watching – demerits I know. I guarantee you that I have never considered being so sloppy at a dressage show or clinic. 

Now at either venue, I have cleaned my tack, spiffed up my horse, wear my show boots and not half chaps/paddocks boots, pull my hair back neatly, am clad in a polo, clean breeches and a belt. So, in short (in case I have not already exhausted your attention span), what I am probably depends on what horse I have. Now tomorrow, I am planning on going trail riding – possible on my now tired OTTB or my husband’s 16.2 sofa size Belgian mare in jeans, boots and my treeless sport saddle. What I am then?



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