Let’s Discuss: Is dressage due for a makeover?
People in stuffy costumes riding around in circles, occasionally accompanied by boring music… Biz Stamm considers ways in which dressage might spruce up its public image.
Even though I’ve been referred to as a hipster on many occasions, I don’t enjoy the fact that my sport of choice is so obscure that most non-horse people (are they even really people?) have no clue what I’m talking about when I tell them I’m a dressage rider. When I take the time to explain it to people, I’m usually met with long, quizzical stares followed by the inevitable “so do you jump?” question. Well I hate to say it, but the reason so few people know about dressage is that it can be flat out boring for subhumans non-horse people, and even riders of other disciplines to watch.
Aside from me not wanting to put my sub-par communication skills on display every time someone asks me what I do with my horse, why should we care whether people know what dressage is or not? Well it’s really quite simple. Greater popularity leads to more exposure, more sponsorship possibilities (Carl Hester would look amazing on a Wheaties box), and more opportunities for riders to make money in this increasingly expensive sport.
So by now you’re probably thinking, “How can we possibly make something as boring as riding circles and figures in an arena made by someone who obviously never learned the alphabet properly interesting to outsiders?” ** Imagines a horse with ice skate easy boots and a tutu**
I have a few ideas:
- Educate people on the origin of dressage. If you’ve ever watched primetime television, you’re probably aware that we’re obsessed with violence in this country. I think people might be a bit more interested if they were aware that dressage movements were developed to use horses more effectively in battle. Next time you watch someone ride a pirouette, imagine her holding a sword, slicing off the heads of her enemies (those that dared to call dressage boring to her face). Nothing boring about that!
- To appeal to the more artsy types, it might be a good idea to encourage riders to use better music in their freestyles. Current music choices tend to either put me to sleep or make me cringe. Judges also need to get over the fact that a lot of good songs have lyrics.
- Change competition attire requirements to something that looks like we participate in an actual sport. This is a tough thing for me to say because I personally love the look of the shadbelly, but to outsiders, we just look like a bunch of stuck-up rich people prancing around on our ponies.
I’m guessing dressage will never be as popular as football or baseball, but I think with a little bit of effort we can get more people interested. We could at least catch up curling, right? How do you think we can make dressage more accessible?
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