A recent Dressage Today Viewpoint column by Cindy Sydnor left me absolutely apalled. I had sort of forgotten about it, but this month's letters column was devoted to reader responses to the column (all negative), so I guess I wasn't the only one who thought it was awful.
Sydnor's column is entitled "Own a Better Horse." She wastes no time in appearing both arrogant and clueless! I guess she thinks all of us riding dressage have limitless disposable income and bomb around on any old horse we find lying around because . . . why? We're masochists? We're unaware of the existence of fancy warmbloods?
The first few paragraphs aren't so bad. She talks about making sure your horse's conformation allows him to do the level of dressage you're asking for. Fine (and, duh). She talks about how sometimes an extremely well-trained non-warmblood might lose to a less well-trained but fancy warmblood. I think all of us would say that's too bad, but it's a fact of life. And I don't personally care about winning the class when I compete; I just care about my score. I think that's true of many amateurs. From a fair judge, you can get a great score on almost any horse if he's well-trained. And lots of amateurs don't even care about competing.
Then comes her first claim that provoked a little rage: "When riding a better quality horse, you actually do become a better rider." Huh? Since when? I've seen so many amateurs who have bought fancy, extravagant warmbloods, and then find they can't even sit the trot. How does being overhorsed make you a better rider? I learned the most from riding a little off-the-track spazzy thoroughbred mare. She was never going to be competitive, but her gift was that you could only sit her trot when she gave you her back. If you didn't have it and tried to sit, she'd take off. But when you had her back, wow. She had the loveliest trot with a killer extension. And nobody would ever call her a high-quality dressage horse. Riding a well-trained horse will definitely make you a better rider; riding a high-quality horse doesn't guarantee a single thing.
Then she claims you can't get a competitive dressage horse for $5000. Baloney. What level of competition are we talking about? The Olympics? Then she tells you to take out a loan for your horse. Using what collateral? What if you already have a car loan and a mortgage? Her next claim is that "most people drive cars costing $25,000 to $30,000." Um, most people? Yeah, sure.
She goes on to reassure us that "You can get a very good horse for between $20,000 and $50,000." This is where I burst a blood vessel. I absolutely detest rich people who write about these amounts of money as if they're nothing.
So, this month the letters section was devoted to responses to the column. All the responses were negative, but I'm guessing they only published the more diplomatically-worded ones. Anyway, Sydnor wrote a response. Selected highlights: "No one ever bought me an expensive warmblood. I have bought all the horses I have ever owned except for the three that have been given to me" (emphasis mine). You've had a horse given to you not once, not twice, but three times? Do you think this happens to most people?
Then she claims what she meant by her original column was "try to ride better horses, regardless of the price." Then what was up with her claim that you need a minimum of $20K to get a decent horse? She also claims in the followup that the breed doesn't matter, although in the original column she specifically said most breeds besides warmbloods aren't worth wasting your time on.
She closes with "I just purchased a mare in October for which I took out a loan. I sold my car and bought a reliable Chevy Aveo." Note she doesn't say a used Aveo; it seems to me she would have made a point of having bought used, if that were actually the case. A new Aveo runs $10,000, minimum. To Sydnor, that's trading down.