Sep 14, 2009
Edward Gal and Totilas: Or, My Break-Up With Dressage
So, Edward Gal and Totilas. What to say? No, really, I mean that. I have been at a loss for words these past 2 weeks. I think the future me may well be able to point to this moment and say that this is when I lost my appetite for competitive dressage entirely. I'm not going to post some long rant about this, but this is not what I aspired to when I started my long journey into the world of dressage. I want it to be known that I wish to take nothing away from Totilas -- he is beautiful, powerful, calm and happy. He is a remarkable horse and will win over the hearts of many.
But this is also the dressage of a showman, not a craftsman. And it is clear now that this is the future of competitive dressage. This dressage values flash, a horse that is so gifted that he can literally blind us to the fact that his movement is more show and spark rather than truly correct. Indeed, I am more impressed at how effortlessly he can spring up and fling out his limbs without once changing his frame. Ah, silly me. I am still entrenched in old dressage, where I thought that extended trots required lengthening of frame. I suppose the horse does deserve a new record mark for having the sheer power to execute to near-perfection, tricking our collective eyes to see what I would have sworn was the impossible. It is as I have always said since day 1 of this blog: horses will eventually willingly adapt to execute everything we ask of them. Totilas is a prime example of this - his sheer power is such that he manages to perform semblances of movements that can almost trick you into thinking they are correct. I have not yet seen such a dizzyingly, gorgeous example of my own warning. The power of his passage and extended trot are a very convincing smoke and mirrors act.
I accept that this is the new direction of dressage. I accept that this will win over the hearts of far more people than previously imagined, perhaps making the sport more exciting to the masses. But I will call this dressage and its practitioners out on their hypocrisy. I was duped into thinking that at the end of my quest for oneness with my horse, I would find my place in a room full of nameless artists, slaving away at their craft. In fact, I was actually greeted by a troop of neo-Victorian conjurers that envelop me in their excitement and mystery. It is all at once charming and disappointing. I am excluded from this dressage. Or maybe I am excluding myself. It's unimportant really. I do not give up on dressage per se. I just give up on competitive dressage riding. I prefer to seek the truth of harmonious riding via good equitation, no matter what discipline or who may wish to guide me -- from the self-taught jockey to the Saumur master.
Hey, no tears! We might be breaking up, but dressage and I will always remain good friends.