Saturday, October 02, 2010

a few words on WEG 2010

I just tried to watch the available musical freestyle dressage rides from WEG and I'm not sure if I have totally lost interest in dressage as a competitive sport or if there were no horse/rider teams who moved me, but I couldn't finish watching any of them.

The bright lights, the indoor arena, the huge crowd, the noise, the shadows - all of it made me slightly ill. I can't fathom that any horse, however accustomed to the environment they might get because it's what they know, enjoys that setting and all the chaos. I felt heavy and sad watching Totilas. He performs like a trained robot, and with every step he seems resigned to his life and his job. I watched long enough to see the lack of anything even remotely resembling an extended trot, the break from trot into canter, and the free walk, where at one point he looked slightly lame, and I stopped. That this ride got a score higher than 90 is utterly shocking to me. 

I can't say much more about the other riders and horses. I tried to watch, to have a different experience than the Totilas ride, but the sounds of the crowd and the loud music, the tension, the horses' faces and heads/necks in tight frames were more than I could bear.

I have seen competitive rides where I got a good feeling from the horse and rider. I'm not sure if some of that was due to my own lack of education about what I was seeing - the ignorance is bliss syndrome - or whether things are truly worse now for the horses and it shows in competition.

I've read a lot of "reviews" today and it sounds like the ride on Fuego got huge applause and boos of disagreement when the scores were put up. The one part that struck me was what I couldn't get to on the video - Fuego rearing in fear at the end when the applause went through the roof. I don't know - that seems to put the entire thing into perspective for me.

My enjoyment of competitive horse sport may well be gone.


Greta said...

Billie, I met a woman in another county recently who wants to compete in (I think) cross country events but has to compete in dressage to qualify. She voiced a dislike for dressage. As a non-equestrian, I simply don't appreciate the formality of dressage.

forever in blue jeans, Beth said...

Have you ever read Deborah Tannen's book? She says that once you learn about "metalanguage," it changes you forever. I should say. I also believe once educated about horses from the perspective of their culture - changes at least this one person forever. I see a world of hurting going on in the lives of horses whose people "love them." I just see differently now when I look in the eyes of these beautiful, more often than not, compliant animals.
So - while the horses in this gal's alternate horse show may appear to be doing "circus tricks" - it is a huge step in the right direction of no contraptions and at liberty. I'll be interested in your take.
Beth and Cookie
in Virginia

billie said...

Greta, the dressage in three-day eventing does not go up to the higher levels so most of the time you don't see the more intensive collection or the Grand Prix movements.

Don't get me started on cross-country! I'm not sure which is worse, the ongoing use of rollkur to skip the levels, or a dead horse who flipped over a solid cross-country jump. :/

I suspect if you saw "real" dressage you would enjoy it. It's meant to be a journey - actually, I'm going to paste what I wrote yesterday on a horse forum:

Dressage (as I understand it) is meant to be a journey between rider and horse - one that takes many years over the course of the horse's physical/mental development and life. The training scale provides a model for this journey. Sjef Janssen's method, by his own admission, takes a short route to the top. If you google him and read about his riding career (and other aspects of his business practices which are not exactly upstanding) you will see how he came to this type of training. It was never about the horse or the training scale. It was about getting a horse to the top levels quickly. A lot of horses trained in this method end up ruined, mentally and physically. I know someone who ended up with one of Anky's horses - took years to undo the damage.


The formality comes more from the show environment. In daily life, dressage is all about harmony and circles and ... well, I wish my magical pony book was on Kindle, because I think if you read it you'd get exactly what I mean! Soon, soon!

billie said...

Beth, I did see that video - love the freedom of the horses, but am not as enthusiastic about the "trick" aspect.

I would love to see video of a training session with this woman and her horses. I love too that she does a lot of patting them.

Even in dressage, my favorite thing part is the extended gaits, not the collection. My least favorite thing is the pirouette.

I most enjoy collection when I see a horse do it naturally in the pasture, and I appreciate the athleticism it takes for the horse to master collection from behind.

In some ways my view of dressage is balancing the horse, balancing the rider, and then putting the two together to achieve harmonic balance between the two, so that what the horse can do at liberty he can also do carrying a rider who has mastered his own body in order to make it "light."

I also feel dressage has a spiritual and almost meditative quality to it when done well. Both horse and rider leave the arena, or the pasture, or the trail, or the show arena, renewed and relaxed at the least, but in the best case scenario, transformed in some inner way. I know the moments of real dressage I experience with Keil Bay are noteworthy for the transformative feeling we both get. Nothing else comes remotely close to that feeling.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I've yet to see any of the rides in the dressage arena. We will get them on TV tomorrow, Sunday. I did get to see some videos on blogs of the schooling rings. And I can tell you they are disturbing. Isabell Werth's hands couldn't be more busy and it looks like a fight all the way round with the horse losing of course.

It's hard to find a way to condone any riding these "professionals" are doing today or be interested in going to competitions to either compete or watch. The training practices they use are so accepted now that I don't know if there will be a way to stop it. My question has always been, when I see a rider abusing/training horses, is why would you get into riding and dealing with horses if you basically don't like them. Because how could you feel anything for another living being and treat them so badly. There's something just not right about their interactions, if you own horses, ride horses, like horses etc. anyone with an ounce of feeling wouldn't treat a horse the way these people do.

I agree with you that there are very few rides to be seen nowadays that actually give you a good feeling. A ride where the horse and rider are in harmony and relaxed,and most importantly enjoying themselves.

jme said...

i have to admit i'm in a similar place. these big shows have taken on a circus tent atmosphere to me, and the riding little more than circus tricks designed to look spectacular but lacking substance. the high drama and theatrics that accompany these performances seems so contrary to the nature of the horse and so undignified for all involved. dressage shouldn't be something cheered from the stands like nascar, and the fact that these riders are more celebrities than horsemen is vile to me.

billie said...

Arlene, after the things I saw wrt dressage at WEG, I was hoping cross-country would go clean.

Just read about numerous falls today and the Italian horse was tarped on course and then hauled to the vet clinic with a shoulder laceration. :/

billie said...

NASCAR. That's what it feels like, for sure. The last musical freestyle I saw in person I thought I was going to scream due to a group of women sitting behind us who were cackling and talking about what they were wearing to some party later. And we were second row, they were third. It was incredibly disrespectful. Worst part - they had ridden themselves that day! You'd think they would just go on to the party.

Dougie Donk said...

Mmm, haven't watched any of the WEG stuff & don't think I will now.

Just read an interview with Edward gal & he talks about what a super horse "Toto" is, adding that he had to get off really quickly the fiirst time he rode hiom, coz all that power was scarey.

Just a thought .....Maybe the horse would look happier if he got to use some of that power in the way nature intended his legs to work?

billie said...

D, I still find it bizarre when people talk about how beautifully he moves. I don't find it appealing at all. I would love to see how he moves at liberty in a huge pasture.

Máire said...

Billie, like you I could not watch all of the Freestyle dressage. It is quite disheartening. I read somewhere that Totilas does not like to go from his stable to the ring. If that is so, it tells a lot. There is no sense of flow, joy, lightness. They are performing for a crowd who want entertainment. There is more honesty with circus horses.

billie said...

Maire, how sad if it's true that Totilas does not like to go to "work" - especially since I'm fairly certain he is stalled many hours of the day. :/