The injured horse is the most traumatic event (or rather ongoing drama) possible to imagine. Whether it is a first time hairy or a multi-million pound grand prix horse the unfolding story is always the same, always expensive and almost always requires psychiatric help. how you get there is a many headed hydra but the results are the same -
1. Know that all horses are stupid – it is just that some are more stupid than others: it is perhaps no wonder that the Funded reaches the point where box rest is the norm (though as we shall see that is really circular). The extreme danger and risk of putting a horse in a field should never be underestimated ( and certainly not commented on by the Funder). Fields have -
- MUD – guaranteed to tear off shoes and give mud rash
- WILD LIFE – guaranteed to take off and appear unexpectedly and terrify the sensitive horse into galloping in panic until he loses a shoe or his life
- PASSERS BY – worse that wild life as they might try and say help, and bound to be ion the look out for horsenappers.
- PAPER BAGS – clearly out to attack
- PASSING CARS (see bags); and worst of all
- GRASS – which guarantees laminitis.
Even the act of getting to a field is fraught with danger as terrors lurk in the hedgerow and each gust of wind a hostile and frightening adventure.
Hence a stupid horse ( ie all of them) will always assume the worst ( like their owner), panic and injure themselves at the first opportunity if allowed to go into a filed. WHICH IS BAD.
2. Know that all unlevelness is terminal
Once a horse has been in a field and moved, the assumption is that he is injured. And once injured, terminally so. AND THAT IS REALLY BAD. In particular -
- Any sign of unlevelness is catastrophic and career ending, notwithstanding rocky ground, thorns, stiffness from competition, natural gait etc etc. And the funded sees lameness everywhere
- Once unlevelness is seen a vet is called (with X-ray). This inevitably leads to further paranoia as no X-ray in history has ever been 100% clean
- This leads to box rest, which should be fine except that (see above) all horses are stupid so that as soon as they get put into a safe box they want t o get out into a field ( where they will inevitably be injured ) In trying to get to the field from the box indeed they will often achieve injury in any event.
All of which means that whether in a box or in a field a horse will always be or at least be seen to be injured and probably terminally ill. RESULT MISERY (for everyone).
The misery of an ill horse cannot truly be described. It is a black cloud away from normal unhappiness and is all pervasive and Dementor-like in its ability to suck the joy from life of the funded and the Funder (and all else).
Thus the “sport” designed to give pleasure actually delivers ongoing misery. WHICH IS BAD.
This of course describes the amateur funded. A more pragmatic approach pervades the professional arena where it appears to the uninitiated external lay observer to be more a case of a production line, with desperate need for success leading to regular rejection of non-perfect and over faced specimens counterbalanced by a constant stream of well-sponsored acquisition which to the amateur funded would be inconceivable. It is actually unclear who is the unhappiest; the permanently miserable amateur (see above) or the constantly desperate pro with the strain of having to win and rarely doing so, thus being consigned to penurious mediocrity. This leads to much bitterness and bad behaviour, as seen elsewhere, and makes dressage the sport it is.
Oh dear! The most popular form of dressage and fantastically skilful. But Kur is to music what dressage is to sport. A lamentable parody of serious intent. The possibilities are endless and the results so disappointing. Rather like going to the Berlin Philharmonic and finding yourself with an oompah band in a Munchen tent.
Why it should be the case that a dressage judge after years of silent watching must suddenly become the arbiter of musical and rhythmic taste is somehow lost on the average THF, as they fork out for another bespoke freestyle test. How many times have we heard the certainty of ” that piece is wholly unsuited to the trot” when clearly the beat falls precisely in time, only to be told by another judge how wonderful the choice was for the trot – but the canter pirouette… Tempting though it is to think that the disease of blindness in judges is increasingly accompanied by that of concomitant deafness (no doubt brought on by years of failing to listen to anyone at all), one can simply put it down to the usual. That is to say – pay a lot, make sure everyone knows that is what you have done, put on some 60’s or 70’s pop musical abomination and wait for the marks.
As horses get bigger, dogs get smaller.
Whisper the word quietly as the Funded finds selling their horse akin to selling a favourite family member into slavery and likely death. For this reason, whilst buying a horse is relatively easy and allows the tendency of Dalmatian plantation creation, selling is rather more tricky. The psychological impact and scars are clear, but the intricacies and practicalities of the sale merit detailed analysis.
WHY SELL? – why indeed.
- There comes a point in even the richest funded’s life when there are simply more stables than horses. This is a sustainable model during the summer when you can pretend that there is plenty of room, but as autumn and then winter draw in so the horrible realisation dawns that choices have to be made.
- Alternatively, a Funded’s herd built up to support a number of children becomes suddenly difficult to sustain as those children showing little appreciation of the damage they are causing have the temerity to grow up, leave home, lose interest AND fail to produce grandchildren sufficiently quickly to allow smooth transition and succession
- Money of course has never been a legitimate reason for the Funded to be asked to reduce their flock, and this will never be a genuine reason for sale.
To be continued
The art of dressage may appear to be a somewhat limp attempt at manly sport at first sight, with balletic terminology and bling obsessed accoutrements. And I guess it is a little less kamikaze than Eventing. However be under no illusions that the funded is safe (unless you really have spent a shed load on a bomb proof genius) in this activity. Horses and ponies are basically bonkers and regularly try to maim or murder those who spend their lives looking after them. Somewhat perverse but keep an eye on the following and keep a hotline to casualty. Never be taken in by -
“I’ll break it myself as no one else will understand it and they will only ruin it” brigade. This guarantees urgent calls at work from hospital or returning home to a regular stoic denial of pain as bruises break our following a buck/fall/kick. Funder should fork out for third party help.
“Stallions are so much more supple/active” – all the better to bite you and kick you (and anyone else in the vicinity). Funder should snip quick.
“Some of my best talent and sweetest stock have been chestnut mares”. Funder should remember that when the mare in question is standing stock still at a regional competition with her head to the heavens refusing to move and with torn tendons on the forearms, and embarrassed competitor spitting “good girl” out of the corner of her mouth.
“Shetlands are nice” – not technically a dressage point – but a lie all the same you must know as your funded gets dragged under a branch just high enough for the pony to get under and amply low enough to knock the head off the rider.
So basically you are paying loads of cash to hospitalise your family.
I put these 4 together, though they would never be seen in the same company til hell froze over. Each at some stage performs an invaluable function. The truth is that horses are so horribly designed that there is almost always something impenetrably wrong with them which means that desperation breeds a multiplicity of remedy and longed for comfort. Truth is that each occasionally work and so each keep a loyal following.
In the sun-baked torment of an all day dressage show – all day meaning how long you have to stay rather than the 6 minutes of competition – the mind can turn to people watching. The ebb and flow of teams as they roll up, prepare and then compete is a fascinating window on the weird world of dressage. Again there are tiers of teams -
- Formula One – full on pit team of technicians an dangers on to change tyres (bandages), fill tanks , wipe brow of driver/rider/horse, carry jackets,spout tactics, training and psychology. Usually accompanying the mandatory union-jacketed, perfectly presented rider with a bespoke trainer and latest communications system; making sure that notwithstanding the comms pack everyone can hear the training loud and clear. This caravan of hired help and hangers on follows from pop out to working in, to competition arena and on to score board with matching jackets and sycophantic commentary interacting with other teams only occasionally and with suspicion. This team is especially prevalent for ponies where the hierarchy of very rich (non-horsey) high achieving owner/daddy stands close to (very lucky) highly paid trainer, with orders barked to protégée who usually reacts by pulling even harder on the expensive pony’s mouth to “get it up (and through)” and throwing a strop when it objects ( presumably on the basis that how could it object when you have spent so much on it)…. Formula One teams are expensive and successful.
- Formula 3 – may share a trainer but will have a dedicated groom and probably a mother to follow doggedly around and prepare the horse/pony which the rider couldn’t possibly be expected to do. A smaller entourage at ringside but usually a few hangers on to support the team enthusiastically. No union jack I am afraid as they cannot afford it. Formula 3 are small tour and want to be Formula One.
- Formula None – there is always one, turning up alone and groomless in an old box. The team is really just the horse and rider and they live in a permanent state of hyper-anxiety as to how the get through the various tests with no help other than the charity of those around the ring to remove bandages or read the forgotten test. Formula None are relieved to simply to complete the test (and then go home to do the mucking out themselves).
These swirl in front of the observing horse funder who is desperate for the joyful success of Formula One but happy with the expense of Formula None.
There is no such thing as success in dressage, unless you ride Totilas, in which case just as you achieve it it is snatched away by someone richer than you. To the extent you achieve success on your own terms beware. A “successful” British rider is not quite good enough for the international circuit. A “successful” pony is an expensive old one which requires steering round the course by a rich young rider (to be handed on to the next in due course). A “successful” rider is a rich one training in the right yard with the right trainer and the right connections, with a flash Dutch/German horse recommended by the aforementioned trainer. A “successful” trainer sells a strange and usually foreign “method” , excluding all others and charging as much as possible whilst looking for the video and the next best thing.
True success of course is different and something the THF can only hope for in the Strictly synchronised swimming world of dressage. The personal satisfaction of training your difficult young horse to do the test; a place rosette; a happy and grateful child are not the stuff of true dressage, where patronage, backbiting and the following of rigid and fashionable form are the order of the day. Learn this quick and with cash you may truly find success as a THF.