06 July 2017

The hardest part of being a delivery driver

One of the many jobs I held after retiring from the military was as a delivery person. 

I delivered flowers, balloons, and potted plants. This entailed a great deal of sitting down (driving) for long periods of time, and trying to find addresses in a rural/suburban county using a lousy map. 

Often, the address was almost impossible to find, as the people sometimes didn't WANT to be found, or there were no numbers on the house, or a street had no name sign, or the numbers on the invoice were transposed, making me having to ask if this really was the Jones residence and no, thanks, if not you can't have the flowers. 

I was once, unwittingly, sent to the worse part of town, where the street was covered with syringes and spent bullet casings, and the people on the street stopped talking and looked at me with malice and suspicion. But the recipient of the flowers was so very grateful for my efforts.  It wasn't until afterwards that my boss told me three other flower shops had refused to deliver there because of the risk. Gee, thanks.

I had to use my own vehicle, meaning I had to pay for fuel, maintenance, insurance, etc. 
I wasn't compensated for it, and it was a part time, minimum wage job. Pay was augmented by a small 'stipend'..fifty cents to a dollar per delivery. That was, I suppose, the companies compensation for using my own ride.
I was told I could keep any tips I received, but never once did I get one. The boss was a sweetheart but the company was run by a cut throat, lowest bidder bunch of cheapskates. They paid us virtually nothing. Management made millions.

This company had its headquarters in Maryland, but had tentacles all over the country, serving smaller markets. They had a contract with Teleflora, the bunch with Mercury as their logo.
Let me warn you: when you buy flowers for someone and have it delivered, it may nor may NOT be what you picked out from the company's lovely pictures. It all depends on what the latest shipment of flowers consists of. If you ordered very expensive lilies and none are available, your recipient isn't going to get lilies. The arrangers will stick something cheaper in the arrangement, and you will still pay for the lily. You won't be told this, mind you, especially if you order online.

Oh, and those lovely, tightly closed roses? The ones that cost an arm and a leg? Well, that's not how they look when they come into the shop. The rose that comes out of the box from the shipper is the size of a softball, with all the outer petals dead. The arrangers strip 75% of the petals away, until she gets to the tight bud. THAT's what you are paying for: a rose that was cut two weeks ago, packed in ice, shipped from Columbia or Ecuador, and then stripped, de-thorned and stuck in a plastic sleeve with a packet of crystals that you add to water to 'lengthen' the life of the flower.

It's a hoax. You can't extend the life of something that is dead. 

IT'S DEAD. The flower is dead. The only thing that the extender stuff does is cost you money.
By the way, instead of paying a lot of money for extender, here's a cheap and easy recipe for it: 

1 tsp (5 mL) sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) bleach
2 tsp (10 mL) lemon juice
1 Qt (1 liter) cold water. 
Mix and store in glass jar until needed

It's what the shop used for those displays of roses.

One day I was told they had to cut back, so  from now on, I would be paid ONLY the stipend, not a paycheck. When you put ten dollars of your own money in your gas tank and you make 5 dollars total in delivery fees, you know what it means. It means management wants you to quit so they don't have to pay unemployment.

So I quit. Much wiser, now, and with a solid map in my head of every spot in the county.
Given all that, you would think that the above things were the worst part of the job?

Not hardly. Actually, I liked being autonomous. Here's a bunch of flowers and a list of addresses to deliver them to, be back in time to punch out because we don't pay overtime.

No, it wasn't all that. 

THIS is what I hated about the job:Seeing the neglect of animals.



From: Transcend media.org


from: shutterstock.com

From: unchain your dog.org

source and location unknown

internet source unknown

 
From: arryr.org



If you want to see some horrific images...many times worse than these, just google images with the terms abuse, neglect, etc.

EVERY DAY I saw shit like this: horses in tiny pens no bigger than a bedroom, without a scrap of hay. Mud up to their hocks. Wounds raw and covered with flies. Hooves overgrown and curling up like elf shoes.  Their tails so ratted with cockleburs it was painful to look at. Bones sticking out everywhere. Halters left on their heads until the skin had grown over them. Dogs chained to stakes, or trees, their small spot of movement bare of anything but rocks. Dogs pacing, curled up in abject defeat, and being raped at the end of her chain by a loose dog.
The dogs were insane. The horses were depressed.

This is no way to keep an animal. No. How badly I wanted to drag the owners out into the cold, the heat, the wet, and chain THEM to a tree with no water, no food, nothing. How badly I wanted to kick the living shit out the assholes who stuck a horse in a pen without any room to move, to run, to stretch out and sleep.
A few years ago, a man was arrested (and subsequently released with a hand slap) because he'd bought a horse for his kids, stuck it in a hastily erected dog kennel, left a five gallon bucket of water and a bale of hay...and then left for a week. What? that isn't enough food? He was mad because the guys building his house ratted him out to the cops.

How many times I saw horses and dogs neglected,chained, kept in filth, unfed, untouched, unloved.
The worst of it was there was nothing I could do. Oh, yes, of course, I could report it to the police, who would then shunt my complaint to Animal Services, who made the determination that it wasn't within city limits so it wasn't their jurisdiction despite the fact that my tax dollars from an unincorporated part of the county pays for them. I would be advised to talk to a rescue organization, don't bother us. I couldn't photograph, I couldn't trespass, I couldn't scream at the owners until I felt better.



In another case about three miles from my village, Miss Paula Jean Nichols, supposedly a 'talent scout' 'dance instructor' 'boxer breeder', had 15 horses (three more were found dead and skeletonized in her pathetic excuse of a barn) on five barren acres, and 8 boxers in a kennel about 6x8 feet. The animals were taken from her, she went to court to get them back because they were her 'family". The judge, smarter than most, said no effing way. So "Miss Paula" (that's what her sign in front of her house called her) moved to Mason County, one with more areas to hide in. Last I heard, she allowed a litter of boxer puppies to die because she didn't heat their ''kennel'.  

It's always the same litany of excuses: 
The owners "didn't know", "can't afford to feed them", "they're not that bad" and of course, it took an act of god to take the animals away from them because they're property, not people.
Most of the time they protest, but by this time, so many of their neighbors are so fed up with the person that they whine and then shut up.
The unsung heroes of animal rescuers are angels, but there's only so much they can do.
(in fact, my Barnlord rescues her favorite breed of dog).

Once in a while, the asshole goes much further. a shithead woman in my county was a puppy mill breeder: raising dozens of Borzois (Russian wolfhounds). They were taken away from her by a Borzoi Rescue organization; fed, cleaned, medicated,  spayed, neutered, groomed up into something beautiful and then put up for adoption. The owner is STEALING THEM BACK, one by one. She's gotten three of them back, and can't be found. But the rescuers know who she is and what she's doing.

(update: these two were found and have subsequently adopted out.)

Having to quit, then, wasn't such a bad thing. For one, while I know it's still going on, I don't have to drive past these poor creatures feeling powerless. The second point is that quitting my job kept me out of prison.

Because every time I'd see these poor animals, all I wanted to do was put a bullet into the owners heads.


From Pintrest. 


I forgot to ad this poem. I don't know who wrote it. But he or she felt my pain.



Alone again

I wish someone would tell me
What it is that I’ve done wrong,
Why I have to stay chained up
And left alone so long.

They seemed so glad to have me
When I came here as a pup,
There were so many things we’d do
While I was growing up.

They couldn’t wait to train me,
As companion and as friend,
They told me they would never fear
Being left alone again.

The children said they’d feed me,
Said they’d brush me every day,
They’d play with me and walk me,
If only I could stay.

But now the family hasn’t time.
They often say I shed.
They won’t allow me in the house,
Not even to be fed.

The children never walk me,
They always say “Not now!”
I wish that I could please them,
Won’t someone tell me how?

All I have is love, you see,
I wish they would explain,
Why they said they wanted me
Then left me on a chain.

Author unknown












29 June 2017

Riding wisdom from 1899 is still relevant today

One of the joys when you have time on your hands, is to surf the net without a certain destination in mind.  Often it's a waste of time-but sometimes you stumble on gold.

So saying, I discovered Google Books, and somehow, this poem popped up. It's lovely. 
It's titled "Hands", by W.Phillpott Williams. It was published in "Bailey's Magazine of Sports and Pastimes" (volume 72, 1899) in England.  The magazine itself has at least a dozen  articles,all of them having something to do with the sportsman of that era: riding to hounds, yachting, hunting farm raised and released pheasants (sorry, not much sport there, in my mind). But most of it was regarding horses.  

What I like about this poem is that it is still so very applicable to today's riding. 

Herewith, my friends, is "Hands"

10 June 2017

When the sick one is the rider, not the horse.

Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSbP or MbP) is a term often used when a caregiver or spouse fabricates, exaggerates, or induces mental or physical health problems in those who are in their care, with the primary motive of gaining attention or sympathy from others.[1] Its name is derived from the term Munchausen syndrome, a psychiatric factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves. However, unlike in Munchausen syndrome, in MSbP, the deception involves not themselves, but rather someone under the person's care. MSbP is primarily distinguished from other forms of abuse or neglect by the motives of the perpetrator. Some experts consider it to be an elusive, potentially lethal, and frequently misunderstood form of child abuse[2] or medical neglect.[


Munchausen directed towards animals

Medical literature describes a subset of MSbP caregivers, where the proxy is a pet rather than another person. These cases are labeled Munchausen syndrome by proxy: pet (MSbP:P). In these cases, pet owners correspond to caregivers in traditional MSbP presentations involving human proxies.[71] No extensive survey has yet been made of the extant literature, and there has been no speculation as to how closely MSbP:P tracks with human MSbP.

Both these excerpts are from Wikipedia

I put these citations taken from Wikipedia in order to make my post a bit more understandable.

'Munchausen syndrome' is a mental illness where someone believes themselves to be deathly ill, despite physician and medical tests to the contrary. 'By proxy' is when someone believes someone in their care: a child, most often, to be desperately ill.
Recently it has been elucidated that people also attribute illnesses to their pets.

We've seen this in our barn. M is a rather strange woman. She purchased Zeke, a bay Quarter Horse gelding, from a swaggering, blowhard of a ''cowboy". Cowboy had broke this horse, yup, broke him to be a range horse. He did it the old fashioned way: saddle him up, climb aboard and ride out the bucks. He'd "drug bulls out of the brush and chased cattle"with Zeke. But even so, Zeke is dead quiet, see how gentle he is. A kid could ride this horse, you bet.

 At first, Zeke was quiet and subdued. Was it because he was in a completely new environment? No cows, all women, no range. No, I think it was because he was rail thin. He was at least 200 pounds underweight.  Once our Barnlord put some meat on his ribs, he turned into a bit of a nuisance. He's not mean, and will back down if you get in his face, but that's just it..you have to get in his face, otherwise he'll walk all over you.

This is easily changed, with a little horse savvy and re-training. But M won't hear of it. Because M is the problem, not the horse.

Zeke pushes her around. He gets away with murder because she won't discipline him. Because he's 'sick". On the few occasions when I've turned him out, I've had to tell him, no sir, you are not running over me, pulling me, barging through the gate. He's always backed down. 


When you board, you must conduct yourself as a guest in someone else's home. You are polite. You don't gossip.
You go by the rules. 
Barnlord runs a Very Good Barn. It's neat, clean, shipshape. Her rules are simple and direct. The rules are you pick up after yourself and your horse. Your halter and lead rope  is hung in a certain way to facilitate speed in case of an emergency.  You don't dump wet horse blankets on the floor. You sweep the aisle after you've groomed your horse, and dump the stuff into the bucket to be sent to the manure pile. The wash stall is to be cleaned after every use, to include disposing of the wet gunky hair accumulated in the drain. If your horse poops in the arena, you clean it up before you leave the barn.

 You don't act as if your boarding fee means you are free to act as you like. You don't do what M does on a routine basis: "forget" to clean up after Zeke poops in the aisle of the barn. "Forgets' to pick up his hair, hoof trimmings, etc after grooming or trimming. If you enter the arena while she's in there with Zeke, will she share it? Oh, no. It's HER arena, all of it, despite the fact that there's room for several if only you constrict your circles to smaller ones. This is not stated verbally, no, it's enforced by her riding as if you weren't even there. Get out of my way, spoken in horse. There's not an "outside' or "inside' from M, no,you had better watch HER horse as well as ride your own.
 Even a "hello, M" when you enter the barn gets you only a scowl, and a grumbled 'mornin' if you're lucky.

Twice I cleaned up Zeke's poop pile after M walked past it without batting an eye. The second time I went to Barnlord and said, "Look. I usually mind my own business, and I'm always the first person to try to help.I don't mind grabbing a broom and cleaning up  someone else's mess, because everyone else in the barn does the same thing for me. Except M. I"m tired of cleaning up after M."

Barnlord rolled her eyes. "She's the problem child of the barn. I will talk to her."

I have never seen M smile. I couldn't tell you what color her eyes are, because they never, ever meet yours.  She radiates a uncalled for sullen resentment.

I don't know what her experience with horses is. I believe I heard Zeke is her first. She seems to know how to ride, but it's western, so maybe it's just her sitting on him. I don't know. But I do know that one, if you combine all the experience of the other women in the barn together, there's at least 250 years of horse handling experience, and two, M won't listen to a bit of it. Not one ounce.  No one 'knows Zeke like I do".


Sue, ever the diplomat, once mentioned that perhaps it was M's saddle that was causing a problem. Oh, my no. It's NOT THE SADDLE.  ( no one mentions that it might be her riding...barnlord offered to give her some lessons. That did not go over well at all. Either).

She's had half a dozen veterinarians out to examine Zeke. None of them can find a thing wrong with him. M insists he's lame. He has EPM. He has a 'rare disease'. He needs stall rest. He's got arthritis. He needs bar shoes as he has navicular.
 She's had blood tests, ultrasound, x-rays of his feet, his gut, his neck, his spine...the vets and the tests all show a disgustingly healthy horse. But no, M insists he's 'sick'. He's weak. He needs stall rest. He needs quiet. He's sick. Don't you see he's off?

Well, no. I don't see him being sick, lame or lazy. This morning Barnlord released him in the paddock and Zeke took off like a rocket, bucking and farting, heading at a flat out gallop for Raven.  "He's a sick horse, you know" she said to me. Huh. Really? I saw him almost crash into Raven and the two started grabassing.
"Don't you see he's ""lame""?" she asked, her eyes rolling in sarcasm.
"I'm the wrong person to be asking that, he doesn't look a bit lame to me," I responded.


No, it's not Zeke that's sick. It's M. Somehow she's siphoning something off Zeke, giving her something to fuss over, worry about, gain sympathy for her plight.

She's not getting that from us.

Which is probably why, oh joy of joys, she is 'leaving'. I will believe it when I see it, but Barnlord told me today that she's moving Zeke to a different barn.

Well, as we used to say in the Army, 'don't let the door hit your ass on the way out." Goodbye, M. It's not Zeke that's sick, it's you, and until you get some professional therapy, you are never going to find a better barn.




27 March 2017

Buying a horse




Above is a link to an excellent article, found on Haynet, on how to sell a horse. Haynet is an excellent website devoted to horse crazy folks such as ourselves. 

I do hope Haynet doesn't mind that they inspired this post. 

Having been both buyer and seller of horses, I thought I might chip in with a post on what a buyer should do in the process.

There is more than just money involved when you are shopping for a horse.Of course, you want to do a lot of homework on the process of buying a horse: Conformation, pedigree, etc. This is concerning a few other things that might not immediately come to mind when you head out on the road to look at a prospect.

First and most important: you must be honest with yourself. Precisely WHAT do you want a horse for? How experienced are you as a rider? How good a horseman are you, meaning how capable are you at the everyday care of a horse?
Do not go horse shopping with ‘unrealistic expectations’. If you want a horse on which to learn to ride, you are looking for a completely different horse than if you are looking for a 4th level dressage horse on which to compete.

EQUUS magazine, (issue 13, which is many more years than I care to admit), published a matrix titled “The 7 Attributes in buying a horse”. It is undoubtedly long out of print, and I do not have the time (or money) to ask permission to reprint it.

Essentially, the Y axis is the rider’s experience level and the X axis is the aspects of the horse. The human experience level ranged from raw beginner to high level competition, as well as breeding. The horse’s attributes were: temperament, size, conformation, age, skill, soundness, and pedigree, with a score of each attribute of 1 being essential and 5 unimportant. With the exception of breeding, the higher the score, the greener the rider.

In a nutshell, it enabled you to decide what horse would be best for you.

  If you are a novice or a beginning rider, you do NOT want that drop dead gorgeous but green as grass three year old colt (a wise old horseman told me once, Green + Green=Black and Blue).
You want an old timer,  in his late teens who’s been there, done that.  He might have leg issues or not be the best in conformation, but if he has a reputation as a ‘babysitter’, give him a really good look. Pedigree is nice but you can't ride it. A 'grade' horse can be just as good a horse as the most blue blooded one.

If you have no experience whatsoever at training a horse, you don’t want that cheap-in-price mustang just three months off the range. If you are looking for a mount for a child, a Shetland pony might be the right size, but an older horse is a better bet. Shetlands have a deserved reputation for being little monsters,because they are so small an adult horse trainer can’t ride them. On the other hand, if you are a Grand Prix dressage rider or an eventer, you might be in the market for a hot tempered off track Thoroughbred that, with a steady hand and a little retraining, can become a gung ho eventer.

Decide what characteristics (i.e. vices) are acceptable to you. I would never take a cribber or a barn sour horse, but some folks can accept that if the horse meets their criteria in all other aspects. If you’re not going to breed them, a gelding or a mare with less than ideal conformation is perfectly acceptable. With age, horses develop common sense and wisdom. As my vet once said about my Arab, Jordan…”he didn’t get to be 25 years old by being stupid.”

When you contact a person who’s advertising her horse for sale, do so at a decent time of day. Understand that the seller is busy, too. Mom taught me, never call before 9 (AM) or after 9 (PM). These days, texting and emails are acceptable and convenient forms of contact.

I once had a woman call me at 11 PM without so much as an “excuse me, is this a bad time to call? (It was…I’d been asleep). She said the horse I was selling; a 16.2 TB/Appaloosa gelding; was “perfect for her daughter who wanted to do eventing.” I said "He doesn’t jump". She proceeded to shriek at me, what did I mean, he doesn’t jump? He has to jump, how can he do eventing if he doesn’t jump?”  “Nowhere in my ads does it say he jumps. He doesn’t jump.” I said, aggravated at the woman’s arrogant insolence.  She then called me a liar and hung up.   

If you go to see the horse, be there ON TIME. The seller has taken the time to prep her horse for you. She’s got things to do, too, and it’s rude for you to show up two and half hours later.

If you have to cancel, let her know as soon as possible. Set a return date and KEEP it.

When you get to the barn or stable, remember the Golden Rule: leave the gate as you found it. Other rules include not feeding any of the horses anything, being polite to the staff and other horse owners, etc.

Don’t be a ‘looky lou”. If you’re definitely horse shopping, it’s okay to go and look, but don’t  go 'shopping' solely  because it’s a lovely day and you want to see horses.

Don’t take your dog(s). I know, he ‘goes everywhere with you.” But it’s not your barn, and the seller’s dogs might not appreciate a stranger peeing on their turf.
You might not believe this, but not everyone likes dogs. Just because there are dogs everywhere in horse circles doesn’t mean that everybody is fine with it.
Your dog may be well behaved at home, but in his eye, that strange barn cat is fair game. Do not take your dog, even if you keep him on a leash. Don’t take your dog with the idea that he can ‘stay in the truck’. You are at someone else’s barn, not an offleash dog park. In this State, it is illegal to leave a pet (or a child) in a vehicle for more than 15 minutes, especially if it’s extremely hot or cold. Don’t expect the barn’s staff or horse seller to keep an eye on your mutt.  Leave your dogs at home.


Don’t take your babies or little children. This is business, not a trip to the petting zoo. Some folks, (like my barn lord) have dogs that have proven to be untrustworthy around small children.  The seller is trying to sell you her horse, not be your free babysitter. Don’t expect her to keep an eye on your kid while you ride.

The only reason you should take your child is if you are buying the horse for the CHILD, in which case, the care of the child is on YOU.

Go to see the horse with a definite plan in mind, and don’t waste the seller’s time. For instance, if you’re looking for a jumper, discuss whether the horse jumps or not BEFORE you go to the barn.

Take your own equipment with you. That means, YOUR boots, helmet, gloves, etc.

You don’t want to wear a helmet? Understand that, at least in the US, horse barns/stables are not liable for any injuries you might sustain while trying out a horse. If the seller insists you wear a helmet, wear it.

Keep your opinions to yourself regarding the seller’s appearance, weight, experience, etc. You’re there to look at a horse she is selling, NOT criticize her or impress her with your show record or knowledge.

Do take someone with you, preferably a trusted friend who knows more than you do about horses and knows your capabilities.


Do be careful. There are scammers in the horse world just as everywhere else. If the seller says “this horse was Canadian World Champion Dressage horse in 2010”, ask to see the ribbons, or pictures. If his price is high because he’s registered, ask to see the papers, and don’t accept a cock and bull story about “well, they were left out in the sunshine so you can’t read them.” Ask about the background of the horse: what was he used for, where did you get him, how long have you owned him, any medical issues he’s had? DO ask about vices. An honest seller will tell you.

Handle the horse. Groom him, look at his feet, his eye, his general attitude. Tack him up, (with HIS tack, as it fits him). Lead him up to a horse trailer. Lead him away from the barn and his buddies. Will he load? Will he start crying for his friends? Will he stand tied? Do ride the horse. Yes, I have had occasions where a looky lou refused to actually get on the horse. Have the owner ride the horse in front of you, to see what he can do.

Have the horse vet checked. Your vet may even be willing to come with you for a fee, of course.  You may even arrange to take the horse home for a few days: (leaving a good check for the agreed price as collateral). Why? He might be sedated for your inspection. Don’t ask me how I learned this-it’s a long and infuriating story.  Remember he’s going to be stressed in a new barn, but there is stress from new situations and stress from coming down from a chemically induced state of calm to find himself in a totally new barn.

If you like him, make more than one visit.  

Do have a formal contract with a return clause, as well as a bill of sale. Forms for this are available on the net for a nominal fee. Contracts will save your butt. Trust me. 

If you truly want him, leave a down payment for him, contingent on the horse passing a vet check. Half the selling price is a good down payment.

 Don't  leave the seller hanging.  A down payment is strictly that: something that says I am going to purchase this horse. Taking him "off the market' makes him almost yours, but it's not fair to keep the seller waiting for weeks. Three  business days is the unofficial limit on 'holding' him with a down payment. 

 If you realize he’s not the horse you are looking for, Say So. Don’t hedge. If you don’t like the price, she may be willing to negotiate, but don’t expect it.  Americans don’t like to haggle. Don’t say, “well, I’ll see what my husband says,” or “I’ll let you know in a couple days.” Or “I’ll have to look at that price after payday”. If he’s not what you want or you can’t afford him, be honest. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I can’t afford him” or “She’s a nice mare but I realize she’s not what I want.” Then THANK the seller for taking her time to show him to you.

Good luck and good hunting. Your horse is out there. It is just a question of finding him.

08 March 2017

My apology to Western Equitation and the evils of Rollkur



Lifted from "The Mugwump Chronicles" a Word Press blog.


Before I begin this rant, let me relate something I learned from one of my massage clients.

A woman owned a very lovely Arabian stallion. She’d bred and raised him. He was a complete gentleman. She could hand breed him or let him out with his mares. She could lead him past a mare in raging heat without him turning a head or a hair.
He was gentle as a lamb, beautifully bred, well conformed, and perfectly trained.
He could not win in the show ring. 

Why?

Well…then..as now…judges didn’t want to see a gentle, quiet, gentleman of an Arabian stallion. They wanted to see a hyped up psycho on a lead, racing into the show ring on hind legs, eyes bulging, nostrils wide, screaming his head off, dragging his handler by the lead rope. They wanted to see flash and insanity, not a well-trained, quiet horse. A horse galloping, spinning, kicking, bucking was far more entertaining than a quiet stallion you could reliably put a toddler on. 

The tales of an Arabian stallion (or any gender) being artificially jazzed up  before ever entering the show ring…with drugs, whippings, insertion of foreign objects into its anus…are not apocryphal, or even anecdotal. They are true. It’s all to win a piece of fabric. 

The owner was excused from a show ring on more than one occasion because her stallion wasn’t insane. She was accused on more than one occasion of ‘sedating’ him. WHY sedate a quiet horse? She retired him from showing because she was disgusted with the expectations of a registry more impressed with insanity than horse training. 

To continue:

There are times when I have to admit I am wrong.

Now is one of them.

In the past, I’ve been a fairly harsh critic of “western equitation”. Most especially, I’ve disliked, vociferously, the WE’s fashion for the horse to go ‘low and slow’. Their horse’s gaits are so very slow, slow enough that a lame human like myself can easily keep up on foot beside a ‘’’jogging’’ (trotting) Quarter Horse.
What I disliked most, though, was the fashion for ‘peanut rolling”. 

Well, at least he's on a loose rein



This was the form they approved of, one where the horse’s nose is a mere handful of inches above the ground. I could always tell, just by ear, when a Western Equitation class was being held in an arena, just from the coughing of the horse.

I still don’t like it, because it appears to me as if the low hanging heads were forced into that position.
Now I wonder if I was wrong because of typical bias, or wrong because while I’ve heard that the way they’re ‘trained’ is by tying their head high the night before a show, I’ve never actually witnessed it.  Somehow, though, I believe that it’s forced carriage. While a horse at liberty does carry his head relatively low, it’s not THAT low. 

In the past few years, I’ve heard that WE judges have changed their positions and now want to see a higher, more traditional head carriage, and a more natural speed of trot and canter. This is good news, and more power to them.
My bias has showed in my failure to attack the opposite position, that of rollkur , an affectation that is now common in upper level dressage. (This was not intentional. I don’t have the opportunity to see upper level, international dressage.)  
Is this a happy horse? NOT. His rider is a VERY famous and professional rider. This is "rollkur'.

 “Rollkur’ also known as ‘deep’, took the dressage world by storm. No one protested, because deep pocketed donors liked it, and famous riders and trainers did it. Suddenly, the horse that was ‘deep’ was winning despite not being correct.  In rollkur (I won’t go into the biomechanics of it too deeply), the horse’s head is sharply overbent, in some cases, the horse’s chin is literally touching it's chest. (as in the photo above).
WHY this occurred is beyond me. Was is it to give the impression of collection? Obedience? (to me, it looks like abject submission.) Acceptance of the bit? Or, was it more one of “that is so cool looking”? 


I think it is the latter. Dressage people, it appears, are no more resistant to a fad than any spangled, teal colored  spandex ‘western’ body suit than any Western Equitation costume designer. Flash wins ribbons. 
 
Butt ugly, but that's what wins ribbons. Don't think the clothing manufacturers wouldn't love to convince the FEI to accept shit like this in the gravy train of  dressage.

 
Like my friend’s Arabian stallion, substance, gentle, proper training and presentation gets the gate.

What is even more offensive is that several people who should know better, went all aboard on rollkur. It’s one thing to say, I want my horse to look like this because I’ll do anything-even hurt the horse- to get the prize.  It’s another, offensive thing altogether to say, if you don’t agree with me then you are obviously a moron. It is utterly criminal for the judges to flop over in acceptance of rollkur, in complete denial of the very rules they are hired to adhere to. 

Dressage ideology used to be based on the concept that things like collection must be achieved correctly and NOT by the use of force. Perhaps in the days since I learned about the basics of dressage, that has been dismissed. Perhaps the line about a horse’s head being ‘vertical’, neither ahead or behind the bit, fell off the page as the regulation was being printed. It certainly is being ignored by FEI judges.

Rollkur is, in reality, ‘overbent’ to a ridiculous degree. The rollkur horse is so far behind the vertical (aka behind the bit) there IS no ‘vertical’. It’s ‘diagonal’. It is achieved, in many cases, by bits that are decidedly NOT a ‘simple snaffle’ or a curb. 
No, they look at this monstrosity:
I see three sets of reins, and this 'double bridle' doesn't look very gentle.

Being ‘overbent’ or ‘behind the bit’ allows for higher movement in front, yet another concept of dressage being subsumed by flash. Now you see upper level horses (like Moorland Totilas) doing “high school’ movements in the same vein as Spanish riding.  I remember watching the World Equestrian Game’s horses in freestyle dressage…and Totilas won, I believe, by his high stepping.  

 This was NOT what I learned of classical dressage in the 70’s. In those days, balance, harmony and symmetry was the desired picture, not the  high stepping (in front and shuffling in back ) of a circus horse. But…when big money/big names take on a fad, even the FEI is not immune to the pressures.

As seems to be the case in competitive horse showing, dressage people are no different from the WE folks in going to extremes. Here’s a photo of a horse being ‘trained’ into carrying its head in “rollkur’.

 
This is not 'training'. It is  TORTURE.



 How different is this from a Western Equitation horse I saw being ‘trained’ by having her head tied by the bit to the cinch of the western saddle on her back? Was this ‘suppling”? Is this picture showing a horse ‘in training’? No. (note, too, how gaunt he is).

This isn’t ‘training’. It’s TORTURE. There’s not a bit of difference in the mindset here: force a horse into a physical position. Not one whit. Different flavor of horsemanship, but still-forcing a horse to hold its head in a way unnatural and uncomfortable, all for the sake of fashion, is CRUEL. It is abuse. It is certainly not Horsemanship. 

Now I begin to see that the WE folks, perhaps, weren't alone in training their horses to go in a specific head carriage for fad reasons, although I can’t think of a good reason for it, any more than I can justify rollkur.  In a nutshell, I believe in allowing a horse to carry his head like he wants. 

So. To the Western Equitation folks, I apologize. I was wrong. I was being a snob. If your horse rolls peanuts WITHOUT BEING FORCED, more power to him…and you.
So now we come to Raven.

Sue and I have been riding Raven on a very loose rein for about a year.
Raven has a long back, so it is difficult for him to shift his weight to his hindquarters. He’s heavy on the forehand. In addition, he had a heavy, ‘upside down’ neck, coming from that heavy on the forehand work. 

Sue came to the realization that Raven wasn’t happy with the typical collection, or being on the bit. 

So she let him have his head, literally. We’re still making him ‘work’ but not “in a frame”. By allowing him to trot, canter and mostly walk on a relatively long, relaxed rein, we are seeing something interesting: his neck has slimmed and has, over time, become arched. His back is coming up underneath us, and he is carrying himself. The underside of his neck is no longer bulging out. Allowing him to ride with his head down allows his back to come up, his weight shift back and his forehand to lighten. 

Here is how it works:
This is the mechanics of equine movement.

Most importantly, he has stopped ‘arguing’. This is not to say they were fighting, but Raven would not ‘listen’ to Sue. 

When she gave him more rein, his resistance stopped. He began to dance with her. His head came down and his eye brightened. 
To add: this is how a natural lowered head looks, and how Raven is traveling now.

Now I’m not saying he’s peanut rolling. Far from it, literally. He’s carrying it where he wants to carry it. The difference in his attitude and happiness is amazing. He always has been a good work horse, always ready to be ridden and worked. But now he is happier, in ways I cannot elucidate. Is it ‘pretty’? That depends on your definition of pretty. I think seeing a horse carrying himself, with a calm tail and a happy face, is far more attractive than a wired up horse in chains.

 I took a lesson on him a while ago, and the trainer kept urging me to take up more rein. I found myself holding onto the bit with hands of iron, and I don’t like that. I didn’t feel him ‘seeking contact”. I felt myself with a rock hard grip on his mouth. He took it without complaint, but I..I felt guilty afterwards.

I came to the conclusion that, if furthering my education in riding dressage means using the reins as a weapon, well, then, I’m not going to. If dressage has become nothing more than an overly expensive fashion show, I am out of here. 

I will still ride to the ancient precepts of dressage: harmony with the horse. WILLING obedience on the horse’s part, me doing MY job of carrying myself and working WITH him, not against him. Most especially, I won’t FORCE him to do something that might Look Good but isn’t in his best interest.