Impressions of Pebble: Day 1
|July 9, 2011||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
For all the apparent differences between the world of dressage and the world of endurance, the fundamentals are the same. Yesterday the “Buzz” was about the footing. Whether it was suitable for the upper level horses, whether it would be improved by the next day, and whether horses would be scratched or ridden based on the footing conditions.
Have you ever scratched or not started a ride due to footing concerns on the trail? Maybe a surprise rainstorm blew in and now it’s much muddier than you had anticipated. Did you grit your teeth and ride anyways, after taking as many precautions as you could? Did you scratch and decide to ride another day? Were you trying to qualify for an upcoming ride, which complicated your decision? You may have more in common with a dressage rider than you think.
At the core of each sport are people who care about the welfare of their horses. Day 1 at Pebble was about the common core for both sports. There are recreational dressage riders, just like there are recreational endurance riders for whom to “finish is to win”. However in both sports there is also a subset that are performance oriented – who are interested in how to get the best performance from the horse, who are interested at qualifying and competing at the national or international level. And it’s OK. There is room for both types of riders in both sports.
There are definitely differences between endurance and dressage but I think that these differences are more superficial than maybe it seems at first. For example, dressage operates under different drug rules than endurance does, a horse doesn’t necessarily have to pass a vet exam to perform in the ring (although an obviously lame horse can be excused from the ring, and the rules differ if you are competing under FEI rules). However, just like endurance riders, dressage folks are very aware of, and care about the longevity of their horses and careers. On Saturday I will get to watch a very special ride – a century ride. A century ride is where the combined ages of the horse and rider is one hundred years. Just like most endurance riders are making decisions about their horse management and veterinary care based on a combination of performance, horse welfare, longevity factors, so are most dressage riders.
The temptation to form a strong bias based on a first impression is powerful, however just like I would caution people not familiar with endurance not to form an opinion about endurance based on watching an “endurance rider” at their boarding stable, or attending a local endurance ride that may or may not be sanctioned, I would caution riders who are only superficially familiar with the dressage world from doing the same. At Pebble Beach I see sound, happy horses that love their job, riders who are having to deal with both success and disappointment, and a genuine affection for these 4 legged beasts that make the sport possible. Sounds familiar eh?
Day 1 I did not show, but did jump on my (my trainer’s horse that I am showing) horse to hack and see what the status quo was. The status quo was….not desirable. He was quite tense and “up”. At home he’s usually laid back, however I was warned and expected him to be more forward at the show – something I was actually looking forward too. I wasn’t able to get him to relax and a tension cycle started between us – and once recognized that happening I walked over to my trainer, who was schooling who own horse and asked for help. So very nice to have that option! My trainer hopped on him and warmed him up a bit, and then I got on and had a very nice ride. I’m writing this post on the morning of day 2 and I have yet to get into the saddle today. I’m optimistic that after getting out yesterday he will be good to go and I won’t have to deal with any nonsense! With this horse, to get him to release tension you have to let go. The more tension, the more you have to let go. This is actually quite hard when your body is yelling “NO!” and you have to force yourself to throw the reins at him, sit up straight, relax, and smile. This is not a mean horse in any way – he just hasn’t shown in a while and seems to think this is a 3 day event! 🙂. I have 2 tests on day 2 and 2 tests on day 3. Today I will be focusing on accuracy and relaxation on my tests, tomorrow (day 3) I’ll see how fancy I can get and see if I can get some 8’s! Wish me luck.