05-18-2011, 01:42 PM
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I had cause to day to sit and consider where DiDi's future lies. Undoubtedly it is in dressage and perhaps later as a brood mare. When the time comes right she should be put to a fancy stallion - perhaps a Lusitano. It would be interesting to see the result of the mating.
I have now finally decided that she will never ever make a Gentleman's Riding Horse - she is too skittish and at the age of 11, she is unlikely to change.
However last week at her first affiliated Novice dressage test, she entered
For only her second ever Novice level test and scored 67.5% - and if not entered 'HC' - she would have come third out of ten entrants. Undoubtedly she is a changed horse in the care of The Countess.
Today I was asked by the Countess not to help prepare DiDi for her outings to the competition centre as apparently my presence hypes her up. So in future I will turn up at the venue rather than at the stables. But in all truth I am not into spectator sports. In any case I do not have the eye for dressage movements - neither do I have the knowledge or ability to enter mysel for any test even on my own well schooled horse. In any case that competition in any speciality is not my game.
The writing is on the wall. The logical thing to do would be to pass DiDi on to a new kindly owner with an interest in dressage or to come to some deal with The Countess about DiDi's future.
I daresay sometime this season matters will come to a head and it will involve relinquishing ownership of my Irish Huzzy. In the interim I have passed prime responsibility for DiDi over to my wife, who still rides her at least once a week.
I haven't ridden her for months and am unlikely to do so in the future. The higher DiDi climbs up the dressage ladder, the less likely it is I shall ever ride her again.
I have thought about looking around for a steady cob but in truth the area in which The Countess's yard is located is not good for hacking. Until DiDi's future is settled then it makes no sense to think of taking on the responsibility of yet another horse.
So with this situation in mind for the moment the sequence of events behind this thread has come to an end. It remains only to sort out DiDi's future but since I don't know the details of the end game, I can't yet write them down.
As and when the future unfurls, I shall add a postscript.
In the meantime, thank you all for reading.
07-14-2011, 05:35 AM
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The world keeps on spinning round.
It has been some time since I updated you all on DiDi 's progress in the British world of Dressage. Much to my amusement she is doing well - very well in fact.
It was just about 12 months ago that I decided to put her in the care of the Countess and this last weekend she did us proud. She came 3rd in a second ever test at Affiliated Elementary level with a score of 65.6%. The competition was, as is common these days, mostly fancy warmbloods which cost a fortune to buy, whereas my girl had an Irish Draught dad and a mum named Molly - probably a connemara. DiDi is of common stock. Of course it helps that her dapple grey coat and the multicoloured tail give her a sprauncy look.
What it all boils down to is that within less than 12 months she has gone through 'Walk & Trot', Preliminary, Novice and now Elementary levels. More to the point she is regularly scoring '8' marks on the score sheets and finishing regularly with scores of total 65%+ at Novice & Elementary level.
Watching her perform I am a little torn. It is all a bit like me visiting a university to see my daughter perform and there she is dressed up in a tutu and pointed silk shoes dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy, when I wanted her to learn to be a Chartered Accountant.
I am told she is now worth double what I paid for her but who cares. I bought her because she clicked with me then I paid the asking price to own her. She is not a financial asset, she is my horse.
One problem is that she is a little stiff on the left hand side. Maybe this is to do with the fall she had two years ago. We'll see. In the meantime we are trying to qualify for the Petplan Area Festival competition. She needs two test marks for affiliated at a high level and she already has one at the un-affiliated level -but which sadly doesn't count. But there are months to prove herself. As long as she behaves herself in the warm up arena we should be OK.
She's got me taped now. I have to take her two juicy pears as her treat instead of one. Bless her.
07-14-2011, 07:16 AM
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What a wonderful, yet bittersweet, update Barry. Pictures would be lovely if you have the chance to post them. :)
Well done DiDi!!
07-14-2011, 08:52 AM
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Dai - if you go to my CP and look up all the albums - there are the photos.
As far as the dressage is concerned - if you see one still photo of DiDi prancing along with The Countess aboard dressed in white and blue, doing the light fantastic, then you have the lot.
I had a plan to incorporate in some sort of electronic book not only a video of her parading around the arena whilst being judged but also to include a copy of the score sheet. However I am told that if I were to put together such a publication, I would be infringing the copyright of British Dressage and therefore would be liable for damages. Ugh. What a world we live in.
All I can say is - that for the first affil elem test for which she scored 65.6% , I personally could not see that she had put a foot wrong. But I am no judge.
What I did not get to photo was the look on the face of another competitor whom we had beaten. SHe was riding a tall, stunning jet black warmblood gelding and who had arrived in a $200,000 plus, 6 horse horse box complete with accomodation. This affiliated British dressage world is a whole new ball game - we are up with the toffs that is for sure.
I suppose they are all practicising for the Olympics next year. My guess is the riders will be English but the horses will be German warmbloods. Sad really. You can't have a foreign rider in the various Olympic teams, how can there be foreign horses?
07-15-2011, 06:43 AM
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Bitter-sweet a contradiction in meaning
You used the term ‘bitter-sweet’ in your recent post in connection with my relationship with DiDi. In many ways it was appropriate term for you to employ but the phrase stuck in my mind when I read it. It brought me to thinking and then back to writing.
I am a little bitter that DiDi is doing well at dressage in the hands of a young semi professional rider. Dressage is an equine speciality of which I am not yet “au fait“. I could never pass judgement over a horse and rider’s display in a dressage test. Little about the concept of formal dressage appeals to me. It is a performance originally conceived in the ménages of Paris by the likes of De La Guerinere and Baucher for a nineteenth century audience. It is a display more reminiscent of the circus than the riding out of the horse into the community. It is a dance and a show of supreme control by the rider over the horse. It becomes a display of gymnastics when the judge makes comment by using words such as ‘stiffness‘.
I liken the sport to dancing. The discipline is usually conducted in a quiet flat, sandy, safe arena where the stresses of modern day living have been purposefully removed. A horse’s shy would bring a disastrous loss of points in competition. There are no dogs to bark, no sharp noises to frighten. Nor are there noisy intrusive vehicles to circumvent. If left to me I would aim to deliberately introduce into the training arena hazards presented in the community so as to reduce the fear of them in DiDi’s mind for when she is hacking out. However the Countess does not want the horse to become frightened of the arena, so such training is restricted. Personally I would rather the horse be frightened in the arena than the lane. These are two opposing trains of thought.
In dressage, the horse is collected up and the pace is directed by the rider. The horse must respond instantly whilst alongside a letter it can’t recognise according to instructions it can’t read.
Out on the trail, the horse is left with a length of rein to move its head. Without instruction a naturally competent trail riding horse will look after both itself and its rider. The human decides only on the general direction of the outing whilst the horse picks its way carefully along the path and over the obstacles.
My slight bitterness is associated with DiDi’s obvious propensity for an activity which I can neither do nor appreciate. Yet when I do take DiDi out into the lanes to face a world with which she is perfectly capable of coping, she becomes skittish and highly strung. Then, as she picks up on what disturbs me about her behaviour, she deliberately plays upon it. Yet again she tries to show she is the boss.
Actually she only misbehaves sharply when she is in a ’mood’, be it from hormones or some slight she has perceived and wishes to remind me of. That slight could be as simple as my having said ‘hello’ to another horse on the yard before I spoke with her.
Is she “sweet”. Never, despite her outwardly kind temperament towards the casual observer.. DiDi is devious and will remain permanently so. She is one of those horses who knows that she as a horse has strengths which humans do not possess. She knows she needs protection through humans but never at the cost of loss of dignity.
DiDi has noticed that I leave her more with The Countess. Nowadays I even have to ask which cloak DiDi should wear and what she is to be fed. DiDi knows that with me, she is offered the greenest of grass and treats by the pocketful. I am the only source of pear. I am the only groom who leaves her untied when she is being tacked up. I am a source of affection. I am the soft touch.
But rarely do I ride her because I might dull her response to an aid.
The Countess keeps her calves off the flanks of the horse, I wrap mine around her ample belly.
The Countess wears dull spurs, I indicate a ’cue’ by a squeeze of a muscle, or a resistance on the rein.
The Countess pulls it down into a rounded outline from the very beginning of the session. I let the horse set the angle of her head and neck.
I leave her to choose where to place her feet, the Countess places DiDi’s feet precisely where they are deemed to tread.
I am old school, The Countess is strictly a modern competitor who sets out to win.
In truth we should not be trying to share the same horse. I am acid, she is alkali. We come from different ends of the spectrum.
Nothing about this trio of horse and riders is ‘sweet’. It is not a descriptive adjective to be found in equestrian jargon. DiDi is no filly foal. The Countess is a very self possessed young woman. Me, well I am a cynic.
My underlying concern is that an Irish Draught cross, no progeny of a famous sire, is not fashionable in the upper echelons of the world of dressage. There is ceiling to what DiDi can reach in such company. A 15h1 mare is not the preferred stamp of horse. Totilas is almost of a different species.
Undoubtedly my Girl will move up the ranks of Elementary and she might even break into Medium but then she will have reached her peak. She’ll never reach the top.
At the point the highly competitive Countess might discard her and take on a new challenger, especially if DiDi continues to become unpredictable in the warm up arena. On one hard won and important day, my girl might well throw a strop, merely because she felt slighted or perhaps just superior to the other horses in the ring.
On that occasion the Countess will lose her cool. Then it will take just one sharp dig of the spurs or a angry tug on the reins and DiDi will switch off and refuse to cooperate, thereby making the Countess look foolish. That loss of face will cost my mare dear. DiDi will have demonstrated, once and for all, that she will be compliant but never submissive.
And where would my girl be placed in such circumstances? Well it will be as a brood mare although I am not too sure that DiDi is maternally inclined. Chances are that if she were to welcome the favours of a Lusitano Gigolo, then she’d eventually procreate an awkward filly as stroppy, sharp, intelligent, self confident and as devious as herself.
Bitter - sweet - hmm!
07-15-2011, 08:33 AM
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Barry, I love your posts. Very heartfelt, intelligent, entertaining and endearing.
However, I miss the posts about your meanderings around the countryside.
Why do you not let DiDi go?
You sound so sad. I think I remember months ago you saying that you wouldn't get another horse 'at your age'. Please correct me if I am wrong.
I think there is a horse out there who needs you. And you need him/her.
I wish you.. and DiDi.. all the best. :)
07-15-2011, 10:32 AM
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Get another horse
“Get another horse“. Oh, if DiDi could hear you say those words.
Even, the suggestion of doing a deal with The Countess and swopping DiDi for a mutt would be a non starter. No, it can’t be done.
The sad fact is that at my age I am well past my sell by date as a rider and it would be wrong of me to take 24/7 responsibility for a vulnerable animal which could easily live longer than me. Anyway, the mistake which I made when choosing DiDi to be my hack, could easily be repeated.
DiDi does give me pleasure in various ways but at the same time she is a worry because she is such a complex creature. One does not force this animal to submit, one asks for, and awaits, compliance.
Of late there have been visitors to the yard looking at two horses which have come up for sale. Pretty Girl has gone after what proved to be a lengthy and difficult sales process. Hilly is presently attracting a lot of attention, too often from the wrong type of buyer. In both cases whilst the prospective buyer was trying to decide whether the horse for sale was fit for purpose - we were looking at the visitor to see if they could handle properly the horse in question. However neither of these horses presented the problem that DiDi would present were she to be put up for sale.
Undoubtedly we would receive lots of calls about DiDi from the Dressage community - all of them seeking a winner. She has already aroused a lot of attention in the local community. However the tentative newcomers to the sport would not be competent to get the results at prelim level and the aspiring winners would soon get fed up with her tantrums at affiliated elementary level. They would no doubt be pleased to see DiDi’s quiet gentle behaviour in my presence and her sharp paces on the videos but they would not realize that she can be a complete and dangerous huzzy for no apparent reason. The new owner might soon wonder if they had been sold a pup, in which case we might get back a different horse from the one we sent away.
I would dread to have to go through the sales process with her. The last time I tried this selling a horse palaver was three years ago when I gave Joe back to his previous owner. But within six months he had been put down as being no longer economically viable. If I had kept him, he would still be alive. The thought haunts me as I know that finding the right home for DiDi presents more of a challenge, be it of a different nature, than for Joe.
The decision has been made to review the situation about DiDi on an annual basis. She is set to remain with us until next Spring. In the interim we shall see how far she can get in competition and I’ll keep an eye open in case I come across a suitable owner for her. A better answer would be for the Countess to keep her indefinitely but the long term question is whether I can trust her not to sell my Girl on. In this scenario the yawning gap between the professional rider’s attitude and that of the amateur owner becomes starkly evident.
My 16 year old crippled terrier bitch lays at my feet. My horse is contentedly nibbling at grass in her paddock. My name is on their passports. I worry too much about both of them.
07-15-2011, 11:07 AM
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Oh Barry! I didn't meant to make you feel badly about DiDi and the situation you are both in. Please do forgive me.
The unconditional love, affection and regard you have for your animals always comes shining through all of your posts and bittersweet was the feeling I got when reading about DiDi's adventures.
I have 2 pasture puffs that seem to me healthy and happy enjoying their leisure. There are times that I think I should just sell (or give away more likely) them to someone who will give them the 'jobs' that we always hear horses need. Would they be happier? Perhaps...I cannot read equine minds.
Would I be happier? No. I would be worried about their futures and where they might end up. No matter how closely I could vet out their new owner, I could not control what that new owner would do the moment their hooves entered the trailer.
Selfish of me? Probably. But I do so enjoy time spent mucking the stall while they are out munching away in the pasture. It is my relief from the stresses of the world.
And could I ever replace the lifting of my heart when I'm preparing the feed and hearing them nicker sharply at me to 'hurry up already!'...doubtful.
In my head I am likening your 'release' of DiDi to a world of dressage and all that entails for a not-perfectly-suited-for-the-discipline mount to watching a child go off to university and then out to the real world. You want the very best for them without them feeling a single second of fear, pain, doubt or anguish. You want them to be 100% perfectly joyous every single moment.
But...you also know, that is simply not possible.
I wish the only the best for both you and the beautiful DiDi.
07-16-2011, 02:49 PM
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Sad posts. Especially as I don't like the artificiality of the professional dressage world. I hope you don't think competition is ALL that dressage means. I feel sorry for DiDi, whose confidence in herself seems to be lessened by the discipline, instead of strengthened. My own wish would be to take her back and put on the trails.
I've seen horses who were really flighty, nervous, taken over by "bad" cowboys with spurs and big saddles and all the gear; but they rode forward, and if they were rough, they were also very simple: go or you get a spur; stop or you get the curb. Everything else is left up to them. Some horses just respond to that. I saw one who was sold later to a small boy for gymkhana. The first owner was in shock, said "she'll kill the kid! I gave --- the horse because she's dangerous!" But I've watched that horse, and she and the boy are doing just fine.
Please don't think I'm criticizing! Our environments are so different. And I do know how hard it is to "re-home" a horse, especially one who you're quite sure, no one will understand so well as yourself.
07-16-2011, 05:04 PM
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The clever horses are often difficult because they won't just roll over if they feel they are being told to do something inappropriate. A riding horse I rode regularly a few years ago was like that. William and I would be up in the hills and I'd direct him one way and I'd feel some resistance in him so I'd let him make his way. There were bogs up on those hilltops - he could smell them, I could barely see them. It was safer for both him and me to let him make the choices.
However DiDi has spent most of her life in fenced paddocks, she's not a country girl. I suspect she wonders why humans keep wanting to go round and round in circles.
I don't know if dressage is the only speciliaty that DiDi could excel at. Having watched her take a few coloured fences I suspect she can jump. However the jumpers are mostly concerned with jumping the highest fences in the shortest space of time and to me that game is not good for a horse's legs although it might be good for the rider's ego. So she is not going down that route.
At this stage of my life I am concerned about DiDi's well being over the longer term. If she can win at elementary level of dressage she'll become a valuable horse. What is more she would be a mare who might reproduce a younger version of herself. If you accept that conformation, intelligence and temperament are inherited traits then her foal might be worth waiting for. So my idea is that maybe DiDi has a future by making the most of what she is. Of course it would be best if she were taken on by a wealthy home who have the facilities to look after her.
At the moment we are still at the stage of DiDi learning her trade. The real sadness is that I'm not good enough a rider to be part of the dressage show.
My major fear is that a 'difficult' horse like DiDi might wind up in the wrong hands. Some so called horsey folks just don't have the patience to get the best out of a sensitive horse. When she eventually leaves my care, she must go to the right owner.
I have ridden some fantastic horses during my riding career and a couple of those equine companions would be hard acts to follow.