Dressage riders may be more intense than those in other disciplines, but they do have their lighter moments. You may see yourself more than once in these amusing vignettes from showing as well as other aspects of dressage life. Read more dressage bloopers and faux pas in the April issue of Dressage Today.
Sometimes I feel as though my entire dressage career is a blooper! I was taking a lesson with someone who was investigating Linda Tellington-Jones' methods at the time and she taught us an exercise to make your horse more aware of his whole body. She asked me to touch the horse very lightly all over his body. I touched between his ears, his neck, the tops of his legs, his hindquarters and when I touched his croup, he clenched his tail down, catching the end of the dressage whip I was carrying and pulled it from my hands. Of course, the whip smacked him; he jumped and clenched harder, giving himself a couple of really smart smacks until he finally loosened his tail with a series of wicked bucks. I guess he got the idea to use his butt!
Sally Silverman, Pennsylvania
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A few years back, I was spending a lot of time at breeder Edith Kosterka's farm Trakehner Gestut Wayne in Wayne, Illinois, while my horse was growing up. Edith's black Trakehner stallion, Troubadour, had recently returned from Seoul, Korea, where he had been Christine St?ckelburger's reserve mount for the Olympics. A very able German horsewoman, Susanne Koscky, was managing the farm at the time. She had just longed "Troubie" and the three of us were out in the hot sun by the wash rack. "Gee," I said to Koscky, with typical American naivete, "a lot of famous behinds have sat on this horse's back." "Yes, and we get to wash it," replied Koscky wryly, which sent me into peals of laughter.
Mary Daniels, Chicago, Illinois
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It was our first big snowstorm of the winter, and it was just my riding instructor, my pony and me. With a good half of foot of snow on the ground, we headed up to the outside arena just for a little fun after a hard season of basic training. My pony, Rhiannon, just came in serious heat that day, and she wouldn't pick up the canter for the life of me; she would just stop and pee every time I would squeeze my legs.
Craziness was in the air, and my instructor picked up a snowball and tossed it across the ring, hitting me in the back. This got "my little pony" going all right! I got my transitions in both directions, while having some well-deserved fun! Every teenager that does dressage five days a week needs to know when to canter around in the snow and have a snowball fight with their dressage instructor at least a few times a year!
Kate Coleman, Plymouth, Massachusetts
I was at a dressage competition in Wisconsin and was doing all my chores while my horse was ground tied. This means that I've taught him to stand straight and square without moving while he's not tied to anything. It was a big hit with some people while others thought I was just showing off. You should have heard the comments from people who walked by: "Is this horse loose?" "Whose horse is this; is someone here?" "Who would leave this horse here like this? Is someone crazy?" "Oh my God, get a lead quick, this horse is going to run away!" "Wow," someone finally asked me. 'You don't have to hold this horse while you bath him? Teach my horse!' This horse stands while you get on him? Oh no wonder he stands, he's a Quarter Horse!" This was the funniest way to make friends.
Lynn Palm, Bessemer, Michigan
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When I was a kid, I was half leasing a wonderful pony named Duchess, a flea-bitten gray Arab-Appaloosa cross. Back then, Introductory Level had four tests of which the last two had cantering. I was so excited when my instructor said that I could ride Intro. Test 3 at the next show. Duchess and I practiced a lot and the day of the show, everything seemed to be going along smoothly. I was a little nervous as Duchess and I came down the centerline for Test 3. We halted at X, proceeded to turn right at C and ride a 20-meter circle at rising trot at A. Just before Duchess and I reached A, we picked up the right lead and out the arena we went! I was shocked! I turned Duchess right back around and finished the test, but we were eliminated. I was so embarrassed and mad. I hopped off Duchess and told her she was getting no carrots! Come to find out later that, had we not been eliminated, we would have gotten first place. Off to the stable I went - to give Duchess carrots, of course.
Jaclyn Cash, Summerdale, Alabama
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Eleven years ago, as I was still establishing myself in the Lake County, Illinois, dressage community, I decided to create a Pony Club dressage team with my younger, more serious students. I attacked this project with a vengeance, not only working diligently on their lower level dressage skills, but also instructing them on the proper dress, show ground etiquette, grooming, clipping and braiding, as well as tack cleaning. I meticulously wrote out a number of handouts, drawing from my own show history, as well as books. In great detail, I specified what we would need to pack for our first one-day outing with our Pony Club. I even lectured them, as we thoroughly cleaned our tack for our journey to Elgin, Illinois, on what wonderful experiences I had showing as a young equestrian, as well as some of the possible pitfalls and solutions to them.
The big day finally arrived and off we went with our five horses and five riders, as well as a host of family, friends and fellow boarders. Nerves were on edge as I prepared the first participant for her first test of the day. She and her pony looked adorable and before they even entered the arena, I was filled with such a sense of pride and accomplishment. While my student wanted to review her test one more time, I instead chose to spend the few minutes walking to the test area stressing how much fun I wanted this to be for her and her pony.
The previous rider left the arena, and my student rode in with a huge grin on her face, that would in later years become a bit of a trademark for her. After they circled the arena twice, the bell rang signaling it was time to begin her test. Rider and pony rode in as if they owned the arena, a perfect forward trot, straight down the centerline, and a halt that I thought should earn them a 9! Then, the unthinkable happened, as my student saluted, the adorable little gelding spread his back legs a little wider and proceeded to relieve himself. For what seemed like hours to me at the time, the pony continued as his rider continued to salute, never wavering from that point of her test! Finally finished, the pony straightened up and off they went, as if nothing happened to complete their test. At the conclusion of the test, when the judge stood, the crowd went wild for the little duo.
When they left the arena, the young equestrian looked at me aghast and said "Laurie, you never said what to do if my pony did that!"
Sherrill Tripp with Laurie Hedlund, Wadsworth, Illinois