Let's All Pitch In - Dressage Today

Let's All Pitch In

Cleaning up is everyone's responsibility
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Who’s this famous former Olympic dressage rider, scooping poop (at the letter P no less) like all the rest of us should?

Who’s this famous former Olympic dressage rider, scooping poop (at the letter P no less) like all the rest of us should?

The picture above doesn’t seem very inspiring, unless you look more closely and realize who is wielding the manure fork. It’s a certain former Olympic rider, guiding light for kids, champion of ponies, and inspiration to anyone who loves dressage.

The picture appeared on Facebook this week and drew a flurry of responses from former working students, clients and friends of Lendon Gray, mostly because it’s, well, typical. Back a decade ago when high-tech footing was installed in the indoor arena at her former farm, Gleneden, a decree went out that it would be everyone’s responsibility to scoop the poop and maintain its dust-damping qualities. If you were watching someone ride, you scooped. If you were teaching, and there was no one there on foot, you scooped. If you were on a horse and no one was on foot, you scooped the moment you dismounted at the end of your ride.

Although Lendon has retired from boarding horses herself, she is busier than ever teaching and conducting clinics, especially for kids, all over the country. The picture above was taken at Clair Glover’s beautiful farm in Millbrook NY.

This ring-scooping practice has become more commonplace since high-tech footing is now found in more arenas, but back then it was rather a new idea. It’s now considered good arena manners to scoop your poop even if the footing is something more mundane, like sand. It just makes the conditions nicer, no matter the type of footing, and helps to prevent the buildup of dust that comes when organic matter breaks down.

As I have moved on from Gleneden to other farms and locales I’ve noticed that some people are diligent in helping out and others are, well, either ignorant of its benefits or uncaring about their responsibilities to their barn mates. These tend to be the same people who leave messes in the barn aisle or can’t seem to ride left-to-left in the ring and crash into you.

Around Lendon, however, there was no hesitation. If you were watching a lesson and didn’t leap into action immediately when “poop happened,” you would be growled at. A gracious attitude for your barn mates starts from the top in any boarding situation, and Lendon’s Gleneden was one of the happiest barn environments I’ve experienced in five decades of riding because Lendon made sure everyone acted with consideration.

Wendy Luscombe, resident (dry) wit at Gleneden, noted in a Facebook post with the above picture: “Here is a list of the qualifications of people who have picked pooh at Lendon's barn. 1) multiple PhDs, 2) CEOs of public companies, 3) Oscar winning actors, 4) someone who is 150th in line to the British Throne, 5) Saudi prince, 6) Olympic athletes, 7) doctors, 8) someone on the FBI's most wanted list.” I’m not so sure about that last one, but the rest sounds about right. It’s everyone’s job.