When I first started this whole dressage thing, I was worried about the DQ people. I am not a pretentious person and frankly, I am not interested in any form of a Who's Who. Name dropping doesn't do a thing for me, mostly because I don't know anyone. I say this over and over: where are the Dressage Queens because they don't seem to be in my part of the United States.
I've been fortunate to be included in several dinners with Christian Schacht. I don't know if it is typical for the riders to have dinner with the clinician afterwards, but that's how this group usually does things. For Saturday night, our group was quite small, just five of us. We went to a restaurant that Christian had remembered from an earlier visit. We ate on the patio where we could enjoy the balmy evening air and listen to the band play next door.
As you would expect, the conversation centered around Christian's experiences as a trainer and international judge. Each time I've had the opportunity to visit with him outside of the dressage court, I learn something new. One part of our discussion centered around his approach to argumentative or unwilling students. As a teacher myself, I run into that issue from time to time so I knew that he must as well.
Christian is a far more patient instructor than I am. It turns out that his focus is always on the rider and horse. If he feels that he can't reach the rider directly, he focuses his energy on movements for the horse which invariably benefits the unreceptive rider. I found this "admission" to be very compelling. When I work with my students, it's just them and me. A clinician (or trainer) has the added burden of dealing with the equine's issues as well. That was something I had never really thought about.
While Christian is a super cool guy, he wasn't the only person that I enjoyed getting to know better. There were several other riders that I had met before but hadn't spent much time with. I enjoyed visiting with W. from over in the desert, E. who is actually from Bakersfield, and of course V. who rides the most adorable pony ever (he's new to her).
TM is a brilliant rider, but that isn't what makes him such a great guy. He proved himself to be a real class act. I've seen him ride before, and I had spoken with him very briefly (not during one of my better moments. To say that there might have been some tears would be an understatement. I hope he doesn't remember the encounter.)
While we weren't formerly introduced, we did get to visit during the Saturday evening dinner. And even though he is this fantastic rider, he spoke to me like I knew a little something about horses and about the dressage world in general. He was charming and very funny.
Christian had made a point of telling me that Sydney's tail was too long which was causing him to step on it and pull out hairs. This makes the tail thin and limp. I keep it trimmed so that it doesn't drag the ground, but Christian's comment made sense. On Sunday morning, I chucked my pride out the window and went looking for TM and his immaculately groomed gelding.
All it took was one word and TM had his scissors in hand. He walked back to Sydney's barn and proceeded to groom my horse's tail with a gentle touch all the while sharing his grooming secrets with me. After he trimmed Sydney's tail to the correct length, right above the fetlock, he took me down to his tack room and proceeded to condition Sydney's tail and give him a massage.