Saturday, June 09, 2007

How to piss off your trainer: Part 3 of Gumby Horse

Arabian Native Costume. (not me!) Photo from

The morning of my Native Costume class with Synbad arrives, and Blair has me hop on him for the first time since the accident to see how he is. The swelling has gone down a lot but you can still see some adema in his back legs. He was still cantering in this weird way where he would hold one or the other back leg in the air during the canter stride. This made me really nervous and I was afraid that he'd fall down or that he was really in pain. Blair insisted that he was fine and that I should be ready to show him that night.

So, a few words about the Native Costume class. It's a class where both horse and rider dress up in a "native" arabian costume. Most of the costumes are full of glitter, sequins, and other flashy stuff that I'm sure the bedouins did not have access to in the desert hundreds of years ago. But, it's a costume class and part of the judging is on the costume itself so you see lots of fancy intricate costumes on both horse and rider.

The riders are only asked for three gaits in the class - walk, canter, and hand gallop. The canter should be large and animated, and the hand gallop should be huge and the horse should really be moving and covering ground. They don't want to see the horse out of control, but the faster you can go and still steer, the better. Usually the most hyped up and excitable horses go in native costume and it's not unusual to see people fall off or have collisions. Despite the danger it's a real crowd pleaser and a blast to ride in.

The class I was going to ride Synbad in was to be at night. This was an outdoor show so the huge arena was lit with gigantic lights which made all the costumes sparkle and gleam. It also made scary shadows for the horses, already snorty and hyped up, to spook at. We made our way down to the warm-up ring and I got on. We began our warm up canter and I still felt Synbad holding his back leg up. With all the excitement and horses in the warm up he also decided that he'd take that leg and, as long as he had it in the air, he'd kick it out. This added another element that I just wasn't happy with.

Finally, I pulled him up, walked up to Blair and told her I had decided I wasn't going to show him. I didn't want to hurt him, I didn't want to get hurt myself, and I certainly didn't want to put other horses and people in danger should he fall down in the ring.

She looked at me, super pissed, and said "Fine. Go back to the stalls then if you're afraid." She turned her back and walked away.

I was crushed. I didn't want to disappoint her, but I stood by my decision. I dismounted and Cheryl walked with me back to the barn as my eyes filled with tears. She told me that she thought I had made the right decision and not to let it get to me. Synbad's owner didn't seem upset about it, and trusted me that if I thought he shouldn't be shown then so be it.

Blair was really mad at me for the rest of the evening, which sucked because we had other horses going in the ring that night. By the next morning she had gotten over it and things were back to normal. It was weird because we never really talked about it. We just sort of moved past it and got on with the show.

Synbad made a full and complete recovery and I did show him later in the season. I haven't heard from Synbad or his owner for 17 years, so I don't know what's up with him right now. He would be very old by now, if he's even still alive. Regardless, he was fun to ride, taught me something, and will always be remembered as the horse that bent but didn't break.


Anonymous said...

There is walking and controlled canter in Native Costume? All I seem to remember from the few shows I've seen is a bunch of crazies running madly around while "The Sabre Dance" blares into the arena!

I want to see some pictures of you in Native Costume!


dressagemom said...

Oh yeah, you have to walk and do a regular canter for Native Costume. Mind you, the "regular" canter is much bigger than most people do in any other class. The trick is to have a big canter, and then show a huge difference when you switch into high gear for the hand gallop. People think that any horse can do Native Costime if you just get them all dressed up and let them run wild in the class, but you still need big gaits at the canter and hand gallop and a horse that can handle the excitement without blowing a gasket. And a horse that can show a true walk, and not do a jig, in the middle of the class. Sometimes that's the hardest part.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of me showing Native Costume. Some of my old barn friends might, so I'll ask around. I'm sure Blair had some, but I don't know what happened to all of her pictures.

craig said...

Thank God that's not you in the photo! If you start having a bigger 'stash than me, then we're going to have problems.

Rising Rainbow said...

I think you made the right decision. Maybe Blair got to that too once she had a chance to think about it.

I've never seen a wreck in costume but I don't think the classes are as big as they used to be.

Anonymous said...

You told the Gumby story! I'm quite sure I said "get off that horse" and had Blair pissed at me as well. Cheryl

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr