I remember hauling my rented two horse trailer with my old green beater truck to dressage clinics. It was winter and my hairy horse in her full January coat stuck out among the clipped, immaculate warm bloods like a sore thumb.
The lessons usually involved (expensive) criticism of my horse. “She’s just not built for dressage,” was probably the least hurtful thing I heard. The whispers among auditors and general feeling of not fitting in, not feeling good enough, and obsession with image made me feel like I didn’t fit in with the dressage crowd. I didn’t have enough money, didn’t have a good enough horse, and didn’t belong. I felt like dressage was not for me.
I found new teachers and a new crowd, and my teacher never bats an eye at anything I bring her. I’ve ridden mustangs, warm bloods, Arabians, quarter horses, Morgan’s and Iberians with her. The long time student of Egon von Neindorff shows up to teach me in whatever setting I have, in comfortable clothes, and gives her all to improve the wellbeing of every horse she meets.
Dressage is for all horses, and true stewards of the horse can see each horse’s individual needs and balance. We aren’t going to the Olympics, but week by week we are happier together, finding suppleness and balance, and enjoying our work more.
Dressage is for everyone – whether you can afford the imported warm blood or have a $500 horse from the auction. If you don’t feel like you’re good enough for the sport, you’re in the wrong crowd.
This is my quarter horse. She’s sounder today at 15 than she was when I got her at 8, because of dressage. She was lame enough at 8 I considered euthanizing, and now we are developing piaffe steps on a happy, confident horse. If I’d have given up because of the discomfort I felt in the stuffed up environment I was in, she wouldn’t be here today.