Horses: The Art of Eventing

Continuing with the policy of ignoring anything political when we are all being bombarded by talking heads, candidates, commercials, and so-called experts, horses are the topic of the week.

This is Flash.

As many of you know, I own an ex-racehorse and he is training for a new career as a jumper and event horse.  Part of Eventing is a class called dressage.  Some of you might have heard of dressage due to Ann Romney’s interest in the sport (which she took up on doctor’s orders after being diagnosed with MS).  And yes, it is a sport!  (Ask a few professional football players who doubted my trainer and she gave them one lesson – none of them could walk for a week!)  If you want to see a funny scenario regarding her horse, watch the first minute from this episode of “30 Rock.”

There are all sorts of amusing aspects to owning an ex-racehorse.  First, like with any hobby or sport, there is a whole new wardrobe that must be purchased.  When I was a child, there were four colors of riding pants.  They were canary yellow, brick red, black, and white for dressage shows. Now they are in every color imaginable – purple, plaid, blue, green, khaki, grey plus the traditional ones.  And since fashion is now emphasizing the riding look, they’ll probably add a few more varieties.  There are specialized shirts, stocks, stock pins, vests – both decorative and protective.  Boots come in all varieties and some have colored trim to make a statement.  Then there are the jackets – tweed, Barbour (they make a special one just for riding as well as for all the other outdoor British sports), and tailcoats for the shows.  The outerwear rivals Patagonia for all its potential layers and protection.  Jackets come with removable interior arms as well as vests, and hoods. Add to the clothes, one has leather crops, horse hair crops to scare away the flies, dressage whips, lunge lines, various helmets and helmet covers in every pattern imaginable. (Of course I have skull and crossbones as one of my helmet covers and saddle pads!)

Then we get to the horse accoutrements.  In addition to the critical elements of saddle and bridle, one has saddle pads.  These too have moved into the crazy age – zebra striped, neon green and pink, leopard, etc., etc., etc.  When not being ridden, there are horse rain sheets, light weight blankets, medium weight blankets, and heavy weight blankets – and, yes, they too come in multiple colors.  My horse at the track was known for eating his blankets, but now, he loves them and stands still to have me drape them over him and attach the five straps that hold it on.  (Yes, he is spoiled.)  He is lead around by a halter (skull and crossbones is one) and various halter ropes that also come in every color and pattern imaginable.  There are boots to put on his legs for jumping, for being on a horse trailer, for dressage.  If you can think of something to put on a horse, they make it. There are also hundreds of fly sprays, ointments, potions, vitamins, hoof oils, shampoos and conditioners, and detanglers for their tails.

Now that you have an image of the accessories, imagine what happens at a horse show or steeplechase race.  Tailgating is a must of course.  Now at some fancy races, there are tents and in Virginia, people sometimes have silver candelabra adorning their tables under the tents.  Floral arrangements sit on the white linen cloths. Women wear sundresses, hats, and high heels to trek around the edge of the track.  At the Eventing shows, riders and their horses are frequently in matching colors so that the horse’s saddle pad, rider’s hat, gloves and top are all in the same color.  Some horses even have matching leg wraps to make the outfit complete.

So the next time you are invited to a horse show or a steeplechase or a flat race, you will have a better idea of what to expect.  And, in the meanwhile, you can chuckle over all of us who support this industry to make our 1,200 pound pets prettier and, sometimes, healthier.

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