Dressage. Provençe Style.
I learned a couple of weeks ago that there was a dressage competition coming up, in the nearby Écuries de Mane – the people who first put me in touch with Alexandrine, ten months ago. Would the LSH be allowed to go along and take photos, we enquired – it’s a long, long time since he covered an equestrian event and he was keen to do it, while I was keen to see how the Provençals to dressage. Yes, we were welcome to come along, and Madame Barthélemy even asked if we would like to do on-site printing (no, we wouldn’t, way too complicated!).
So Sunday morning saw us up at sparrow-fart o’ clock, with me sorting out the dogs and brekkie and the LSH busily sorting out the lap-top, cameras, lenses and rain-hoods. Rain-hoods? Yeah. Rain-hoods. It was raining. It’s very important to keep expensive cameras dry when it rains.
I was wondering what the standard would be like. Would there be loads of beautifully turned out people on beautifully turned out warm-bloods, half-passing effortlessly across the practise arena? Gaggles of polished little kids on polished little ponies motoring around in Medium trot, à la many of the Byrds (British Young Riders Dressage Squad) competitions we’ve seen, while their instructors communicated with them via head-set? Or middle-aged women on well-presented, earnest little cobs, doing their very best to strut their chunky stuff? Hordes of kids on hairy ponies racing around out of control?
I wasn’t expecting this, although my friend Helen did warn me :
I thought she meant they were allowed to warm up in a De Gogue, but no, you can use one when you’re competing. Eh?
Nor was I expecting double bridles at what looked like the lowest level… Hello? A double bridle? Seriously?
It turned out that the morning’s classes were for the local riding clubs, but, even so, the standard was much, much lower than we’d expect to see at home. The tests are a bit strange, too, with 10M trot circles, leg-yielding and canter loops thrown in at what seemed to be the lowest level. In my opinion, they should take the fancy stuff out of their low-level tests so that the riders will concentrate on the basics – like being able to ride a straight line, for example, or being able to turn their horses, or being able to stop without hauling the horse’s teeth out. Perhaps they need to be reminded of the Scales of Training :
There were exceptions, of course, like this lady who rode her PSG test with a nice light curb rein…
and several people who rode softly and sympathetically in snaffle bridles, with one lady doing Advanced Medium very nicely in a snaffle.
Fair play to them, when all around were decked in De Gogues and curb chains…
In the early afternoon, there was a non-competitive Freestyle class. This was a good idea, as well as giving riders with young horses an easy introduction to competition, it gives more seasoned campaigners a chance to try out a higher level test, or to try out a Freestyle routine that they were working on. Alexandrine rode her baby horse Valentine in this. Aren’t her plaits great?
(Guess who plaited her!!)
The atmosphere lightened later in the afternoon as the riders took part in various displays. This was A LOT of fun, you could see both horses and riders enjoyed it a lot more. And my goodness, the French do Fancy Dress well – I was thinking this at the Clermont-Munster match, but the outfits on display on Sunday afternoon confirmed it for me! They had lots of great ideas, too – we had a couple of circus-type displays, The Blues Brothers, a pair of down-hill skiers, a troop of soldiers and even a Gangnam Style tribute!
And Alexandrine had her “Old Boy” Max in the demo section, too, starting off with a saddle and bridle and ending up tackless. I hope some of the “Heavy Metallers” present took note…
For more photos of the day’s proceedings, visit the LSH’s site at SportingIreland.com