Sunday, July 29, 2012

Eventing Dressage

I have just spent the last two mornings watching the Dressage Phase of 3 Day Eventing. Tomorrow is CROSS COUNTRY!!! Which, as everyone knows, is why we event. It ain't for the dressage, that's for damn sure. Eventers are a breed unto themselves and there is a brotherhood/sisterhood that marks us all. We ride for the cross country phase, every one of us. For the sheer thrill of that inexpressible partnership one forges with their horse from galloping at speed over obstacles that are both challenging and crazy-ass fun.

It is a fellowship of people who love the spirit of flat out riding, and we will do it no matter what.  Only in eventing will you see someone pull up in a trailer that has a door held shut with a twisted piece of wire or roll out a dirt bike from the bed of their pickup truck to take a quick spin around the cross country course, a Jack Russell terrier perched like a boss between the handlebars.  Admittedly, things are much more high-falutin' now than when I competed. There's certainly more money in it now; more money in the horses, the rigs, the training. There was a time when the horses we rode were all rejects from the racetrack; now they are mostly bred for the sport, with jumpers or dressage horses in their lineage.

But we had the most gigantic personalities back in the day. Eccentricity and off-beat silliness ran deep in this sport, right down to the spectators. At one very prestigious event here on the West Coast, in the most gorgeous setting of Napa Valley, dressage morning dawned crisp and beautiful, with just a slender, cooling mist rising off the grassy fields where the courts were set up. The first horses were scheduled for the ungodly hour of 7:00 a.m. due to the high number of entries. As the unlucky riders who had pulled that ride time warmed up, a beat up old pickup drove right out onto the field. Out jumped a couple of young men who proceeded to pull out of the bed of the truck the most disgusting, filthy, worn old sofa you could ever imagine. This sofa would have stood out as an eyesore at the dump. All business, the young men carried the sofa over to the first dressage court and set it down exactly at E, paralleling the long side.

While the few of us who were up at that hour watched, they set about decorating their private "box." Within moments it looked like this.

Complete with private bar and colorful decor.

The young men then sat down, opened beers and prepared to watch the day's activities. We all took bets on whether they would haul that horrid sofa up to the cross country course the next day. They did.

Of course, if Ann Romney had been pissing away her money on horses in those days, things would have been much classier.

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