If you’re like me, you have spent the majority of your riding career trying to convince non-horse people that this activity called “dressage” is indeed a sport. And if you’re like me, when someone tries to argue with you, you adopt the persona of a fire-breathing dragon and defend your sport with the fierceness of a chestnut thoroughbred mare. And if your experiences really are like mine, the high blood pressure and the adrenaline coursing through your veins only amounts to yet another person writing you off as “one of those crazy horse girls.” Ah, it brings back some fond middle school memories.
The recent attention that dressage has received (thank you, Stephen Colbert and your tiara-accented “piaffing”) contributed to more public discussion of the sport than ever before- but not always in positive light.
Opinion columnist for hutchnews.com, Mary Rintoul described dressage as “a handsomely brushed horse that can leap short fences and tiny puddles without knocking down any fence boards or splashing itself with the smallest droplet of puddle water,” in an article published shortly before the start of this year’s Olympics, called “Dressage by any name not an Olympic sport.” (Full article here: http://www.hutchnews.com/Columns/Mary-R-column-6-24)
Makes you want to throw your computer across the room, doesn’t it? Well, I have a few choice words for Mary Rintoul, but I’ll keep those to myself. From the looks of the reader comments section below the online article, it seems as if some readers have already given her a little taste of the fury of the equestrian world.
It is absolutely infuriating to see something in which we invest ourselves so wholeheartedly, degraded and sorely misrepresented. We are followers of the study of dressage because we believe that it is worthy of emotional, mental, physical and financial investment. ?When we invest so much of ourselves into our riding, it means so much more than “a handsomely brushed horse” or the ability to ride a movement accurately (which I think is what Mary meant when she said “leap short fences and tiny puddles”.)
Merriam Webster defines a “sport” as a source of diversion, or a physical activity engaged in for pleasure. The truth is that if we were to say that this definition aptly described dressage, we would be doing it a great disservice.? So yes, as a matter of fact, we would be wrong to call dressage a sport, but only because calling it a sport would be the understatement of the century. Dressage is an art form and for many of us, it is a lifestyle. And considering the great lack of understanding that there seems to be of dressage, I think it would also be appropriate to call it an enigma.
So thank you, Mary Rintoul. You got one thing right. Dressage is not a sport. It’s much more than that.