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  My Prima Donna - kindly written for World of Horses by Karry Gardner
Dear Readers

Blimey; already it is almost midsummer and I haven’t sat in front of my computer to write anything meaningful for several weeks .

You see, I now have 'a proper dressage horse' . Those people who have read my previous articles will know that many moons ago, another livery owner at my yard asked me when I was going to get 'a proper dressage horse 'rather than my beloved but aged old mare Madame Ginger Bits (Hayley actually but everyone should be allowed at least one alter ego or nom de plume don’t you think?).

My 'proper dressage horse' has just got 17 BD (British Dressage) points in 3 outings and I am so delighted ,I have to stop myself from being too cock- a - hoop and smug on the yard. It’s quite hard to contain my delight
I’d like to tell you that it was me that was riding Tia when she achieved her very first win doing Novice 37 but it was Charlotte who must take the honours for that along with the 4th place ,the 2nd, the 3rd the fourth and the fifth places that as a team , the pair have got over the last few weeks under judges that have openly admitted that they are not keen on Iberian horses per se.

I am recovering from having my shoulder operated on , bits have been shaved away so that I can move it and my physiotherapy is very painful . Even so, I got back on after two and a half weeks despite being told that I should leave it for six but I’ve always been a rebel !

I am riding Tia on a daily basis although not really as she should be ridden .. I am not doing her any damage which is the main thing but I am probably not doing her a great deal of good either ; the riding is purely for myself and my own self esteem .

I am 50 this year and I am beginning to feel my age . I debated long and hard the wisdom of buying such a young horse at my age but felt that I could justify it on the grounds that I didn’t feel it (my age) at the time but it is catching up with me so I tend to push the boundaries even harder on the basis of “use it or loose it “ .

I get a great deal of pleasure out of watching my horse do well, knowing that I bought her (well my husband did really) on my own , abroad and without Small Boss or Big Boss seeing her , that I help produce her and that no amount of money will ever make me part with her. But there are days when I miss MGB with her uncomplicated way of forgiving me all my rubbish riding and the way she looked after me when time and time again I didn’t ride her properly. I thought that I did but maybe in retrospect she was just such a kind old mare she let me think that I was managing and in charge.

Tia is not forgiving in the way that Hayley always was. Maybe that is an age thing and maybe that’s just about temperament . Tia is sensitive in a way that Hayley never was. She hates people having plastic bags in the gallery; she can’t stand deluges of rain on the roof of the indoor school or kids running riot in the yard on a Saturday whereas Hayley just ignored it all . P’raps Hayley was a bit deaf and maybe Tia has sharper hearing. Tia certainly has huge ears a bit like satellite dishes picking up Radio Mars .

I’ve had a few lesson with Tia (before my operation) and I am still having lots of problems on the left rein . The main problem being actually getting off the left rein and back onto the right rein so I have to do a lot of counter flexion to the outside before I try and turn her to the inside . I don’t think I’ve ever found it so difficult to turn a horse left off the outside track , in my life . I think it might be my fault although Small Boss admits that Tia isn’t very easy to ride. Talented, but not easy.

There have been interesting comments from judges , especially about the walk which tends to look a bit like Spotty Dog from the Wooden Tops ( showing my age now) and we get comments like “staccato rhythm “ and “too tense” and “will not relax down into the contact” but even hours of walking don’t seem to make much difference . Tia still insists on goose stepping (some call it Spanish Walk) and having nervous breakdowns when she is asked to rein back . I don’t know why rein back is so difficult but she will only do it if she is wearing a double bridle and even then only if she can swing her quarters right . I think her Latin temperament is letting her down on this . For the very first time, I am thinking of getting a horse physio in to see just how tight her right side is and to see if we can relax her a little on the right side.

She has had comments about her trot being “too flashy” in front . Small Boss has spent ages and ages teaching her trot extensions without breaking into canter and now she is “too flashy” which is a bit like saying the Queen is “too Royal” in my opinion.

Her saving grace is that she finds canter and counter canter very easy and stays in perfect balance. Small Boss can answer the phone and have meaningful conversations with important people whilst executing circuits of the school . (I will be very impressed when she can actually text during canter but maybe she already does and I haven’t noticed).

In private , Small Boss is already teaching her canter pirouettes and changes of leg when I am not looking (but I am looking really , Small Boss just thinks I am not paying attention) and doing clever half passes and renvers and travers and other things in French that I don’t quite understand. Small Boss told me that Tia could get to PSG quite easily .(I thought, at first that PSG were posh tea bags). That news should have please me shouldn’t it but I am becoming a “competition hag” ? I have noticed how my attitude to Tia has changed the more successful she is becoming and that I am getting very competitive in a way that I never was with Hayley . I am looking at “novice qualifiers” , thinking of buying a horse box and contemplating putting some music together so that Small Boss and Tia could do a Dressage to Music test. I am beginning to dream of success and talk in my sleep about “Novice 33” and “not enough neck bend” .

I was writing at the last competition for a judge and admired a lovely bling-y brow band on a very nice black horse that came down in a “vee” on the horse’s head and wondered aloud if I should get Tia one. The judge said that Tia was bling-y enough already and didn’t need a brow band to make her more so. I didn’t know whether this comment was good or bad .

Tia is oblivious to all the angst I am experiencing whilst orchestrating her career. I am just like some sad mother whose daughter is at stage school worrying about her prom dress (numnah) or her hair do (Portuguese plait held in with invisible stitches) and whether or not she will manage her solo tap dance (extended trot) .

I had a chat with Tia after the last competition and it went something like this:

Me: Tia darling, you are just so talented but why can’t you just rein back properly for Mummy Charlotte and why can’t you walk properly ?

Tia: Canna pliss have some ‘ayledge . I ‘ave just ‘ad a varry nasty experience . Some judge ring-ed the bell at me when I was tryin’ to attract ze attention of zat stallion I am fancying .

Me: Darling, you must think of your career. You cannot think of burdening yourself with a child at this time. It would spoil your figure.

Tia: ‘E iz var attractive. ‘E ‘as nice-a fetlocks and ‘is movement is to die for. I want ’is babees.

Me: Don’t you want to get a score of 66% and qualify for the regionals ? Don’t you know that it has been my life long ambition to see your name in lights ?

Tia: And , eet as bin my lifelong ambition to get as fat as I possibly can on lots of green grass , ‘ tangle my mane into knots zat even you cannot undo, roll in ze mud until I am green and brown all over and attract a varry hunky stallion to be my loveur . Az you are not givin me any of zeese sings, pliss can I ave some ‘ayledge and a big juicy apple and canna you not put zat stable sheet on me. It stops me from getting coated in nice warm poo on zeese cold nights you ‘ave in zis God forsaken country !! And tell Bonfire not to call me anymore, ‘e is not my type !

Until next time...
Karry Gardner
To send your email question to Karry please click here
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