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7 deadly sins

20th October 2012

I saw an advertisement a while back that offered the advertiser’s views on the most pernicious aspects of its particular field of interest and it led me to wondering about my pet hates. And what use is a blog if you can’t have a moan now and again. So, at the risk of appearing a Grumpy Old Git, here goes (in no particular order)….

1. Bling.

Rhinestones, sequins, tassels, sparkle. There’s a video on You Tube that a rightly proud competitor has posted showing a winning performance by her horse. All the chat is about what a fabulous shirt she was wearing, where she’d got it, how many rhinestones had been used and so on. Not a word about the horse. Or what the rider had achieved in getting it there. The sadness is that, reading this blurb, you got the strong impression that someone else had trained the horse and done the real work while the competitor just turned up with her new shirt, mounted, rode the class and went off to be admired in her bling. Poor horse…

2. Moaning about the Judge.

Competition is just that – we’re in it to win. And you can’t usually have a competition without a judge, so we need them more than they need us. Although, thinking about it, they wouldn’t have anyone to judge without us so that may be a bit hasty. But my point is that our competitive instincts sometimes get the better of us and we feel hard done by if we get the idea the judge has placed us lower than we thought we should be. We’ve all got our “bad judge” stories but at the end of the day they’re only human and will have spent a lot of time acquiring the skills to go into the arena with us and decide who gets what. When we sign up for a competition, we contract to accept that judge’s decision. It might not always be the right one but it’s rarely biased and if in your case you feel it’s unjustified, talk to the judge about it. Don’t go moaning to your fellows.

3. Not wearing a hat.

My ideas about hats are already out there (see The Western Hat). What this is about is turning up to a clinic somewhere and doing it in a baseball cap or nothing on your head at all. I suspect this stems from a vague embarrassment about the “cowboy” thing. Or is it that our only hat sits in its can on a shelf next to our blingy shirt and “best” jeans and only gets to see the light of day for the 3 minutes we spend in a Western Pleasure or Reining or Trail Class? If it’s “uniform” (and I don’t know any association that doesn’t require a western hat as part of its dress code), then it’s dumb to treat it as such. How are you less likely to come a cropper in a riding clinic than you are in a show?

4. Blaming your horse

It’s been said that you shouldn’t take your horse to a show unless he’s already proficient in the competition you’re going for. The show arena isn’t the place to be “having a go”. No need to go into the reasons for that here but the point is that, too often, you see people competing on horses that just are not ready and, worse, the rider then berates the poor horse for misbehaving. Of course, there are the occasions when a well trained horse will “have a laugh” but they’re only being horses and, if you’ve got any kind of relationship at all, he’ll most often be doing his best for  you. Don’t blame him if you’re riding isn’t up to it...

5. Spurs

This really should be “misuse of spurs”. A good friend once said to me: “If a horse can feel a fly land on his rump, why should you need spurs to give him a cue?” I’m sure someone will argue that, properly used, they can give you a finesse and accuracy you won’t get just applying your heel but, too often, they’re used by riders who have already given their horse a numb flank through insensitive use of their boot. Or, worse, are simply fashion items being clumsily applied to a poor suffering horse.

6. Unsporting behaviour

Probably the same person who moans about the judge, blames his horse and wears spurs will nick a placing any way he can! Not always the case, of course, but I was once sitting next to one of the riders involved in a two way run-off for a tie decider. Both top riders and the first one to go suffered a sudden and acute back pain when her horse made a sharp turn and that was the end of her run. I said to the guy sitting next to me: “Guess you’ll let her have the place, ay?” “Not on your life”, he said. “I get my places any way I can”. I thought that was a bit unsporting...

7. Not using a stampede string

Everyone knows that a well fitted hat should stay on your head pretty much no matter what. But a Western Horse flat out in a Working Cow Horse class, roping or just plain getting it on round the barrels is going to be shifting at a fair rate of knots. And an unrestrained hat just ain’t going to stay there, no matter how well it fits. And nothing looks dafter on those occasions if the rider is hanging on to a hat because it isn’t restrained by a stampede string. Or even more naf: it blows off altogether. The Western Horsemen’s Association (UK) used to have it in their rule book that a rider would have 2 seconds added to his time if his hat came off his head: more associations should have the same rule!

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