August 14, 2013

Unsolicited Advice

"Diplomacy is the art of saying "Nice Doggie" until you can find a rock"

- Will Rogers

Why do people feel the need to not only watch and judge you, but to then take up a lot of your time giving you advice that while it may be useful, is not wanted? The horse world is particularly bad at this. I adored our Wisconsin barn owner for the simple fact that she never, ever did this. She is an upper level dressage rider and instructor and is a very good rider. She would be hanging around when I rode Gem at times and I could literally be bouncing off the walls, running amok, screaming, falling, cursing and all she would say "Gem sure looks good" or some other vanilla type comment. She wasn't even being sarcastic! She was just a genuinely nice person who butted out unless asked.

I remember one time I rode around the fields with her on her imported, super well behaved gelding, and Gem freaked out over nothing and bolted. I circled back around to her and she just smiled and we continued on. Oh, I'm sure a piece of her was dying inside every time she saw me, but she kept her mouth shut unless I asked for help. When I did ask, which was rare since I didn't want to impose on her, she would answer with something easy to do and helpful without a lecture or looking down on me.

This was most definitely not the case yesterday with our new barn manager (BM) :( After life getting in the way the last two weeks, I finally got to the barn on an absolutely gorgeous evening. You know the type - sun beginning to set, light breeze, blue sky with big fluffy white clouds. Lovely. I was in a great mood and Gem behaved really well for the first time in the grassy field beside the arena. Walk, trot, canter without an issue. She can be so wonderful. Lessons were beginning to end in the arena so I headed on over. Gem was not amused. She thought we were finished, silly girl! We have a 50 to get ready for!! :)

The BM was lecturing two students in the center and all the jumps had been rearranged to take up a lot of the free space, so it was a little tight maneuvering without crashing into anyone or anything. Gem wasn't into the whole turning, bending, listening thing right then. Usually when she gets like this I just let her canter around until she calms down, then I make her canter just a bit more and ask her to trot and get back to business. I've grown used to it and while it won't win us any blue ribbons, it works for us. I couldn't safely let her go with everyone in there, so I asked her to slow down. She did what I knew she would do: got tense, threw her head into the air and completely ignored me. Not wanting to create an even bigger scene, I turned her in a small circle to slow her down.

Apparently the BM was watching this and she did not approve one bit. With the tone a school teacher uses on a bad student, she asked in a not-quite-so-sweet voice if I'd please come over. With my spider sense tingling, I did. She immediately grabbed the reins from me. Um...? Ok. She then launched into a lengthy and daylight consuming lecture on why I basically suck at slowing my horse down and offered up a complicated solution that I had no intention of ever doing. Her warning that her method tends to make a horse rear until it got used to it, didn't help matters at all. She then instructed me to walk around the arena practicing it while she watched. Yeah...that's not happening. The sun was setting now, my great mood had long since vanished and I was done.

I tend toward being a little anti social which is a trait I am trying to beat down, so I decided to make small talk. I mentioned the hunter pace I was gearing Gem toward in September (more on this soon!) and asked if anyone else was going since I knew it was popular amongst the barn folks. Bad idea. Maybe she is too used to dealing with teenagers and soft middle aged women who require an alpha female to boss them around but I'm neither of those. I may know crap about showing, but I know trail riding and camping and what both my horse and I are capable of. Anyway...

She proceeded to inform me that neither Gem nor I were in proper shape for this and that a 1 hr long trailer ride is very stressful. Trying to remain halfway decent, I just responded that we had driven way longer for a ride and rode much farther (hunter paces here are between 6 and 12 miles only) without pause, but thank you for your concern. Not to be out done, she continued on her ill advised, superiority complex driven rant and explained to me that I wasn't riding as much as before (wrong), Gem wasn't in as good of shape (wrong again) and finally that she decided the barn was all going together and we could tag along (couldn't be more wrong). I turned to her, smiled and in a definitely-not-sweet voice informed her that the hubs and I were going to be there for 9 am, we would be riding it at our pace and that if it was short, Gem would be doing it twice - once with Pete and a second time alone for solo miles. I walked off with Gem in tow and ignored her dropped jaw and angry eyes.



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