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November 29, 2014: Dressage Troll

Dressage Troll – this is a term used to describe the people who assist in helping out at dressage shows – wizened, withered old crones who should really be ensconced in nursing homes or put in huge turkey bags and set out for the wolves to eat.

Today I was one of these. I said to one of the show organizers that I’d give an assist. The last of the schooling shows was today. Today it was inside. It was the first blustery day of winter this year.

Schooling shows are practice, informal shows. They allow one to be judged by an outside evaluator. You also don’t have to have all the fancy gear that’s required

in formal shows. They’re generally less expensive than schooling shows, and are supposed to be fun.

I went, saw old friends – Marie, Brandon, and Emily, all from Three Rivers Ranch. Beth also rode Liam. And Jenny Rouse and Sharon Sandlon, from my Moose Creek Ranch days, were also there.

I was a reader for a short while – I read the directives riders were to follow in taking specific tests. I guess I didn’t do all that well because I was after a bit told to be a scribe, that is take notes based upon the judge’s observations.

When finally, I was to give an assist, I sat down next to judge Sue Kohlstad and after a bit took down scoring numbers and her comments. The first two tests went okay. Then, not so okay. She projected an ethos of patience but was a very impatient person. She at one point grabbed the score sheet from my hands and told me that I’d screwed up, and then attempted to right what was wrong. I knew where the mix-up occurred, but I just sat quietly as she scribbled all over the sheet. I stayed put and then took notes for the remainder of the afternoon.

I thought Sue was very hard on Liam and Beth. Prior to her taking her first test, she told Beth in a very stern tone that he needed to be lunged more beforehand. Liam was full of energy, and Beth did a good job riding him. However, this was not acknowledged. It was not what Beth would call a “joyous” critique. She deserved better.

Interesting. There was a small bay gelding who, when he had the bit in his mouth, stuck his tongue way out to the side the way Mr. Siggi used to do. People stood around talking about this – Sue suggested that he be given gummy bears to chew on – and another person suggested that fruit leather be wrapped around his bit (positive reinforcement). Then another person suggested that pepper be put on the outside of his mouth, so that he’d pull his tongue in (negative reinforcement). He went into the ring, and after each and every directive, I was told to write down the word “tongue.” I was glad that I knew how to spell it. Very strange – I thought that writing it once would have been enough.

And what becomes of horses like this fellow who, because something is physically amiss, don’t fit in the show mold? I did hear instructors Sue and Jenny talk about this – Sue finally said “good thing he’s a jumper,” meaning if he was a dressage horse that his owner would have to consider an alternative career for him. In these parts, he’d become mushing meat.

I wish I had huge farm and lots of money and a large and competent staff. I’d take them all in.

Next: 319. 11/30/14: Chilly Scenes of Winter