Wednesday, August 1, 2012 isn't for wimps and not always for the rich

  Whether it is winter Olympics or summer Olympics, it is my favorite time.  I like them both.
 Living in a ski resort,  having been a klutzy skier, I can only admire what a dedicated, talented human can do.  The reality of winter games is personal. My path has crossed with many  of the Olympic and para Olympic  medalists who train  in Winter Park. Colorado.  I am awestruck  in their presence.
I have my own favorite summer Olympic event. . Dressage.  Yes, that is the same executed in formal wear that has become politically controversial. Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, is a dressage rider and her horse is ridden by a professional  in the Olympics . Whoa, there.  The sport itself needs defending.  
I confess I was a  dressage rider , hanging up my spurs a couple of years ago,  but I learned enough to appreciate the technical ability of the top riders.  It is so technical that it is not much of a spectator sport  in the US.  Unless you are a practitioner,  watching a dressage competition is a little like watching  grass growing.The exception in free style,  where horse and rider partner to  dance to music.
I was once an  untutored cowboy rider, beginning  at age four on my cousin’s pony. Finally, after  a string of trailhorses,  my first big timer was a  sorrel  quarter horse gelding  bred at the little ho Ranch near  Granby, Colorado. , a great headin’ horse used by a friend for  team roping in the Granby Flying Heels arena.  When I turned 40.  I took dressage lessons  to improve my riding. 
For the next 30 years, improving balance and control, I gained sufficient skills  to make whatever  horse I owned at the time, a quarter horse,  an Arabian, or a Thoroughbred,  do some fancy maneuvers. I once thought riding English was for sissies,  but  perched  on a nearly flat saddle without the security  of grabbing  the  horn  of a western saddle  is not for wimps.
 Dressage  was primarily born in Spain, based on military cavalry techniques, and popularized  by the white stallions of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna,.  It is the basic training for police horses and there is a direct connection with western riding, which, too, came from Spain. In the past, usually cavalry officers rode  in competition in uniform and some with military or police credentials still do.    Formal, white vested wear   indeed looks very upper classy, but that is the required costume for civilians in competition. 
Yes, it is an expensive sport, but it is possible to do the basics on a budget, and have a good trainer work with you and your horse, a necessity since both need to understand the same cues.   It is not a millionaire’s sport unless you launch into major competition and can  afford the strong,  tall  warmbloods,  a breed developed   from  a cross between German north European farm horses and  thoroughbreds or Arabians.  
 I live in cowboy land again,  but dressage techniques are also relevant here. They are used by barrel racers to bend a horse better. The western form of dressage, reining, is  now an Olympic  demonstration event, expected to be formally recognized by 2020. It is  performed at warp speed, and unlike dressage , with a loose rein. Both disciplines require performance of tests or patterns .   Flying lead changes (switching which leg goes first), roll backs( quick reverses), and spins (turning 360 degrees multiple times with one back foot not moving)  in reining also are  similar to some slower motion, tightly controlled dressage movements. Sliding skids to stop are left for reining, but a dressage horse has to halt from a canter  or a trot immediately with  all 4 feet planted  perfectly squared . No head tossing,  please. Try it sometime, my fellow riders.

No comments:

Post a Comment