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Redneck Dressage

Ann Switalski

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a book. Clearly, I dig music, but people write about music all the time. Horses are no different, but most of the stuff you find is informational, not anecdotal. If you’re in to horses, then you know they’re a source of constant frustration and LAUGHS! I took at stab at an opening… What do you think? Help a sister out!

REDNECK DRESSAGE

I can’t imagine a life without horses. When you’re from Louisiana, people automatically assume you’re a cowgirl. I’m not. In fact, I like to stay as far away from a bucking horse as possible. When you tell people you ride dressage, they look at you with a blank, glazed stare… Unless, of course, they’ve been watching Stephen Colbert, who named Dressage the ‘Sport of the Summer’ in homage to Mitt Romney’s wife Ann and her horse Rafalca, whom by the way will be representing us at the 2012 Summer Olympics (the horse, not Ann).

People just don’t get my obsession with horses. It all began with my mom. I grew up around horses and there are pictures of me as an infant strapped to her back as she cleaned stalls. That’s dedication! She grew up with ponies on her family’s farm in Ohio. There were three kids and one saddle. Being the oldest, one of her younger siblings generally got to use the saddle, so she’s one heck of a bare back rider. Her seat puts mine to shame, even at 67 years old, which is sad, considering the sheer amount of lessons I’ve invested in. My mom doesn’t ride bare back now, but more often than not, when she loses a stirrup, she’s happy. Not me. I’m a first class weenie. I used to con my trainer in to letting me drop one stirrup at a time… Until I found out that that was actually harder. She should have never told me that.

What can I say? I’m female, I’m into horses and as that implies, I’m slightly neurotic. I can’t imagine jumping on a horse bare back from a fence. I know people do it, but they haven’t met my horses… or me. Heck, I can’t imagine mounting up without a three step mounting block. Call me a diva if you will, but I’m a big girl and I’d rather not stress my horses back or piss him off before we even get started. Besides, if something can go wrong, it will. And it generally happens to me. That’s why I took up dressage.

Jumping really started scaring me a few years ago. Maybe I realized my own mortality or something. I didn’t wreck at a jump, but I had a pretty traumatic experience. We’ll save that story for later. After all, I’m not 16 any more and it HURTS a LOT more when you fall in your 30’s. I thought, ‘Why don’t I make myself the best flat rider I can be, that way I’ll be as secure as possible if and when I decide to jump again’ After all, jumping is just flat work with fences in between. Yeah, tell that to my sphincter. One day, I might actually believe it.

Either way, holy smokes! What was I thinking? Dressage is tough. While I know it really only means ‘training,’ it breaks everything down to the basics, perfect basics mind you, and brings you back up. Now I know why eventers would rather school cross country or jumping any day of the week rather than dressage. It points out ALL of your flaws… and your horse’s, too.

 

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