Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Riding Disciplines Explained

I can't lay claim to writing this -- it's been floating around for years. But it did amuse me somewhat...

The backyard rider is usually found wearing shorts and sports bra in summer, and flannel nightgown, muck boots and down jacket in winter. Drives a Ford Tempo filled with saddle blankets and dog hair. Most have deformed toes on one or the other foot from being stepped on in thin Keds sneakers. Pulls a two-horse bumper-pull trailer stored behind the barn, used for hay storage. Her horse, Snookums, sports a hand-cut (with scissors) bridle path; duct tape holds a shoe on until the farrier gets by next month. Overheard frequently: "It's too hot/cold/wet/dry to ride."

The endurance rider wears Lycra tights in wild neon colors. The shinier the better, so the EMT's can find her body when her horse dumps her down a ravine. Wears hiking shoes of some sort, and T-shirts she got for paying $75 to complete another torturous ride. Her horse, Al Kamar Shazaam, used to be called "you bastard" until he found an owner as hyper as he. Can spook at a blowing leaf, spin a 360 and not lose his big trot rhythm or give an inch to the horse behind him. Has learned to eat, drink, pee and drop to his resting pulse rate on command; he has compiled 3,450 AERC miles-- with his rider compiling 3,445-- the missing five miles are the ones when he raced down the trail without his rider after performing his trademark 360. Over-heard frequently: "Anyone have Advil?" "Anyone got some food? I think last year's Twinkies finally went bad." "For this pain I spend money?" "Shazaam, you **** -- it's just a leaf [thud]!"

The natural horsemanship devotee looks like a throwback from a Texas ranch, despite the fact that he lives in the suburbs of New Jersey. Rope coiled loosely in hand in case he needs to herd any of those kids on roller-blades away from his F-350 dually in the WalMart parking lot. Cowboy hat strategically placed, and just dirty enough to look cool. Levi's are well worn. "Lightning" is, of course, this natural horsemanship guy's horse. Rescued from a bad home where he was never imprinted or broke in the natural horsemanship way, he specialized in running down his owners at feeding time, knocking children off his back on low-hanging branches, and baring his teeth to look mean. The hospitalization tally for his previous handlers was 12, until he was sent to Round Pen Randy; after ten minutes in said pen, he is now a totally well-broke horse, bowing to the crowd, and can put on his own splint boots (with R.P. Randy's trademark logo embossed on them). R.P.R. says, of all this, "Well, shucks ma'am, tweren't nuthin'!" "It's simple horsemanship." "With this special twirly flickitatin' rope ($17.95 plus tax), you'll be round-pennin' like me in no time!"

The dressage queen is freshly coiffed and dressed. Diamond stud earrings are elegant and stately, and not so large that they blind the judge during her passage-piaffe movements. $30 dollar denim jumper is worn over $300 full-seat white breeches and custom Koenigs. Her horse, Fleistergeidelsprundheim ("Fleistergeidel" for short) is a 17.3-hand warmblood who was bred to make Grand Prix in a European nation where his sellers are still laughing hysterically when they talk about 'zat crazy American.' Despite being runty, his new owner fell in love with his lofty gaits, proud carriage and tremendous athleticism. Never mind that this talent was not revealed until he was chased by a rabid fox, and has not been repeated since.

The hunter/jumper competitor is in a wide-striped polo shirt and beige breeches. The polo is so folks will know they're a jumper rider until they put on their shirt and stock tie. Baseball cap is mandatory after a ride, in order to exhibit free advertising for that trainer's stable for which they've forked over a mere grand or so per month. Her horse, Neverbeenraced, is a prime example of American Thoroughbred. The coat is deep bay, no markings, a textbook TB head (no jowl), and no unusual conformational characteristics other than crooked legs. Perfect, just perfect. The gelding has learned to count strides all by himself, and asks in midair which lead his mistress would like to land on today.

The eventer is always hunched over. Bent forward under the load, it's from carrying three saddles, three bridles, three bits, and all related color-coordinated gear to every three-day event on the East Coast, or it could possibly be a defensive stance for protecting his/her wallet, which is, of course, nearly empty after buying three saddles, three bridles, three bits and all that color-coordinated gear. Looked down on by the H/J set as "people who just run their horses at fences" and by the dressage queens as "not pure dressage riders," eventers are smugly convinced that they are in fact the only people in the world who CAN ride, since the H/J's don't jump real fences and the dressage queens don't ride real horses. One popular horse, Fastnhighasican, is a Thoroughbred track reject who had never won (or placed) in a single race. Perfect eventer! He has two speeds: gallop and stop'n'dump, which are used at his discretion for all three phases of eventing. His favorite stunt is performed at cross-country water obstacles where his rider invariably stands up slimed in waist-deep in murky pond water and threatens to sell him to Fleistergeidel's owner. Called "Hi-ass" for short, Fastnhighasican delights in another hilarious speed variation, the imfreeandyoucantcatchmegallop, a real crowd-pleaser. It brings down the house when he stops and licks the Crisco off his legs before continuing on to the merciless telephone-pole jump just ahead.


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