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!
Last edited by xxBarry Godden; 07-15-2011 at 06:48 AM.