Indulge me in a moment of ranting, if you will. I’m frequently “treated” to video clips posted on Facebook, usually by friends of friends, that are prime examples of all that is wrong with equestrian sport today. There was the mare, newly under saddle, clattering around the arena in an unbalanced canter while her head was firmly held down, chin near her chest. Much praise was given for this “progress”! That same rider was later lauded on Facebook for competing the mare in her first Combined Training Event … less than six months after being started under saddle! If you are not sufficiently horrified by that idea, you need to read more from the masters, old and new. It takes a year for a horse to develop a strong topline – a requisite for Dressage and jumping. Never mind how long it takes for a horse to actually become educated enough for such endeavors!
But, as much as that example, and many others, have bothered me, these latest two have me downright beside myself with anger and disgust! I normally save my “picking on” for the “big” guys, who have to expect critical viewing at their level – but I’m going to make an exception here.
First, we have a four year old being “taught” passage. The first requisite for passage is collection. Remember that statement about it taking a year to develop a topline on a horse? Well, it takes TWO years to get to collection. This is not based upon the type of horse – today’s horses are talented, but they are physiologically still horses, and muscle takes a long time to fully develop (and don’t forget that whole education thing!). So, does that mean this horse has been doing dressage since he was two? I would hope not! However long he’s been under saddle, clearly he has absolutely NO signs of even rudimentary collection!
I am also “charmed” by the training methods! The rider’s hands are terribly busy, and at times see-sawing backwards on the poor baby’s mouth! What they achieved with all the whip tapping never looks even remotely like passage. But, all the “friends” on Facebook were highly complimentary! I guess that’s all you need for validation these days. I can only hope that someone buys this poor young fellow, and gives him a fair chance to go back to basics … faint hope these days, I realize.
The second example is courtesy of the same folks, but this time they are picking on a different horse. I know less about this horse, but he appears again to be young. Forget collection, this poor horse doesn’t even have working trot down – and the rider’s hands are so busy, at times, that the horse’s head resembles a metronome!
Once again, Facebook friends were all aflutter with high praise for the rider’s “accomplishment”! These are the situations that make me truly despair for the future of Dressage. In fairness, I believe that this rider (like many) is probably a nice person who means well. However, while ignorance truly is bliss for this rider, it is something all together more damaging for her mounts! We need more people to speak up when they see these things, and not let their opinion be colored by how much they like the person – good friends can give and receive constructive criticism. And we need more people to understand that a horse can no more become an instant Grand Prix star than their kid can go to the Olympics in their first year of gymnastics!
Be good to your horses!