Having been retired from eventing these past dozen years, I had forgotten how much fun the people are at horse trials. I went out to the Campbell Valley Horse Trials (near Vancouver) on Friday with a full cooler and a pillow on the bed in my van. When I reluctantly headed home Saturday evening, the cooler was empty and I was in the best mood I’ve been in for months – yeah, yeah, empty cooler references aside, the good mood was more profound than that. Here is why these friendly folk put me in such a fine state of mind:
1. They love their horses – sure, we all love our horses, right? But eventers are always hand grazing their horses (often with a beer or cider in the free hand), bathing them and generally fussing over them. They even sleep with them, setting up their tents as close to the paddocks as they can without actually being in the paddocks.
2. They have fun with their horses – I saw one very senior competitor who had jumped a few cross country fences and then opted for having a nice gallop on his own out behind the campers. He was having SUCH A GOOD TIME. Eventers cheer each other on, and are genuine about it. In eventing (at least at the grass roots), it’s more about feeling good about how you and your horse performed than about the prize. I know it’s not all warm and fuzzies – not everyone gets along in any community – but the overall vibe is one of good will and good times.
3. They have fun without their horses – I’ll be honest here. The group clustered around my VW van was rather raucous on Friday night, and cross country was bright and early on Saturday morning. If we had been somewhere else – say, a public campsite or a dressage show – we might have received a visit from an authority, or a request to shut up; at the very least we would have got some dirty looks the next day. Not so at an event. By Saturday afternoon, the group hanging with us was bigger than on Friday night. I highly recommend camping at an event, even if you don’t ride at all, as a cheap and cheerful way to spend a summer weekend surrounded by people who love animals, the outdoors and having a laugh.
Onto the mules. A few weeks ago Bernie Uechtritz at HorseTV.com posted a comment on something I wrote way back in May (Bernie, you need to get caught up on your Straight-Up). You can see his comment by going to my May 10th blog, the one called ‘Dead Air, Drugs and Dancing Birds’. Seems Bernie is all hot under the collar because I didn’t personally ask him about the by-now-boring-and-passé clusterf@#$K with live streaming of the Nations Cup in WellyWorld. Bernie, I’m sorry you feel that way. I did receive and thoroughly read your very emotional press release which came out the week after the Nations Cup. My information, as I stated clearly in the blog, came from the FEI in response to direct questions which I asked Richard Johnson, the FEI Communications Director. Since it’s right in my blog, I don’t need to go over that ground again, but Bernie if there were ‘issues’ with the FEI as I was told – by the FEI itself – why would I not believe them, the international governing body for equestrian sport?
After Bernie delivered his comments, I thought I should have a look at HorseTV.com, since I hadn’t been there for a while. Bernie’s remarks led me to think that perhaps HorseTV does a lot of collaborating with the FEI – which puzzled me, since the FEI launched a subscription-based internet TV network of their own in April. I can’t say I found HorseTV oozing with FEI material; the name ‘FEI’ doesn’t appear anywhere on the site that I could find after a quick browse. My quick browse, and an irresistible urge to enjoy fringe entertainment, did lead me to explore the channel dedicated to Mules and Donkeys, though. If you fancy a little Mule time, I recommend “Mule Training with Steve Edwards” Episode 3 to get you started. If you have never interacted with the magical personality of the mule, the topic of Episode 3, which is called “Moving the foot” will give you some idea of how trainable these noble creatures are:
Lesson 3 and we’re still learning to move one foot. In this riveting documentary on how to make the mule offer its front foot so that you don’t have to bend down and grab the pastern, the cowboy academic makes sure to explain why mules have to be approached differently to horses. The reason a mule needs to be taught to pick the foot up this way is because if you put your head down near the back of the front leg, the mule is likely to snap forward with a hind leg and kick you in the head faster than you can say ‘son of a jackass’. Believe it or not, this training video was the most exciting of the several mule TV offerings I clicked on. The one merit of the Mule Channel on HorseTV is that it makes all the other channels look like porn. Apologies to all the mule lovers out there. I invite you to leave your defenses of hybrid species in the comments at the bottom of this page.
By the way, Bernie. The word that means “right away” is spelled “immediately”, not “imeadiatly”. Also, regarding the headline to your channel dedicated to dressage: dressage horses execute half-pass, not side pass.
Next week it will be back to DQ Drama Land for a look at what’s happening with the US team chef/technical advisor secret and not-so-secret contracts, as well as an update on the continuously revolving door at Dressage Canada. In the meantime, if you are like me and had never heard of Morten Thomsen before last week, you can read an exceedingly badly translated page (so bad in fact that it’s worth a read even if you couldn’t care less who Morten is) on his accolades by going to the following link (here’s a teaser: according to the web page, the precocious little fellow was born in 1990 and sold Solos Carex to Tinne Wilhelmson when wee Morton was just 7 years old):