If you’ve ever received a dressage test and spent the next hour going line by line, trying to decipher the scribbled notations and finally throwing up your hands in despair as to whether it was your horse or your circles that “cld be roundr” or “nds electy,” then you are in good company.
But you are also in luck. Now a scribe can input a judge’s scores, movement comments and further remarks into a laptop computer that scores the test with each input and sends the final result to a printer that produces an ever so neat and clean test, complete with the judge’s digital signature.
As a perpetual “long on goals, short on cash” rider, I spent most of my teens and 20s either riding or working to pay for my riding, and didn’t get in a whole lot of practice on the dating thing. So when it came time for middle-aged me to find a new mount—er, gentleman friend—I was at a loss. (Read Part 1: The Wish List and Part 2: Buyer Beware of this series.).
When it came time for me to jump back into the dating paddock after 15 years in a relationship, I decided that since I lived in the sticks (or at least the New England version thereof), and my main hobbies were heavy on the four-legged creatures, going online would be my best bet. In doing so, I discovered that many of the strategies I'd developed in two decades of horse shopping served me well.
Here are a few pointers I picked up along the way…
I recently had the opportunity to chat with a newcomer to our farm—a tall, dark and dashing gentleman who, in a former life, was a race horse.
He’s handsome, he’s quick, and I may be in love. I gave him some tips on human management, and he helped me get in touch with the Thoroughbred side of my pedigree. He also told me about his traveling adventures to exotic places like Florida and New York, and he mentioned the great variety of hay, grains and grass he’d gotten to eat in his career.
I wish that I'd received some advice before embarking on a European horse-buying mission. I realize that flying to Europe to buy a horse is a fabulous privilege, but that doesn't mean there aren't many humorous moments. I hope this commentary provides you with a light-hearted idea of what to expect.
People in the horse world have a different definition and perception of amateurs than the rest of the world.
Horse folk think of amateurs as ammy-owners: the over 18 crowd who jump their horses 3'6". Everyone else thinks of the fools who try to do things that they’re not quite capable of. It’s sometimes used as a put down: “What an amateur!”
The hard part is when you take a person who belongs in the second definition of amateur and put them in the horse world. I know all about these people. I’m one of them.
Any time I've ever scribed for a dressage judge, the dressage test requires marks for “transitions to” various gaits. The judge is called on to award scores for the smoothness, energy and accuracy of the transition, whether from trot to canter, canter to trot, changes between collected and extended gaits or what-have-you.
No one in their right mind will tell you that the British, the Irish or the Arabs don’t know their horses.
So it came as no surprise to me when, in my travels in various parts of the world, I got to play with their horses and discovered well-muscled, alert beasts glowing with good health and energy. What struck me most noticeably, as I got older and presumably wiser, was the different kinds of care and attention these horses received and the fact that they responded so well to care that in other parts of the world would have been cause for alarm.