Like a prima ballerina Bella Rose prances across the riding track. With braided mane, polished coat and swinging gait, the Westphalian chestnut dutifully performs her freestyle. High on horseback sits a discreetly reserved and straight-lined the currently best dressage rider in the world: Isabell Werth. Concentrated, I follow on screen the tricks Bella Rose shows at this year’s World Equestrian Games in the USA. The trained mare “dances”, I learn as a layman from the expert comments of the reporter – piaffe, trot traversals and gallop pirouettes.
Only an irritating close-up of the head of Bella Rose with deeply drooping Sabber threads brings me back to reality. Meanwhile, the commentator continues unabashedly on the elegance of the horse, but also does not save with quiet criticism. Bella Rose is still too “overzealous”, she lacks “exam routine”. The initially sobering interim report of the reporter: The mare acted “strained, at least in stages”. The final overall rating then turns out to be brilliant, as expected. Bella Rose trot “with an elasticity, a matter of course and a strong expression”. Why the spokeswoman is constantly on the horse, it seems to me at this moment: While the animal moves in a sweaty rapid change of step, trot and gallop passages, sometimes sideways and forwards and in a circle, makes the rider in the saddle almost stoically permanent the same figure.
Far more rebellious than in dressage or show jumping, it is all about a different, not so prominent place in the cosmos of riding, without whip and black riding boots. However, if you are not a proven horse lover, you will not get much of the so-called Western riding. The riding style of the cowboys is neither an Olympic discipline, nor enjoys a high reputation among colleagues of the classic freestyle. Also, I bring only the opening credits to the US Western series “Bonanza” in connection. The repeats of the eve program that was filmed in the 1960s ran across the screen of my grandparents when I was little. Marked in my mind, however, has more of the theme music than the western-style wild and freely ridden horses. Well, a more detailed research shows: Landauf, cowboys and girls cowgirls and girls compete regularly against each other, for example, the Hessian state championship at the Freestyle Ranch in Erbach. Western girls usually hang there, depending on the talent more or less casually, in the saddle and keep only one hand loose on the reins. With the other one could theoretically swing a lasso.
The participants of the tournament are subject to a dress code like their colleagues in classical equestrian sports. But this is less strict and chaste than in the English etiquette characterized dressage. What’s hot here are rough western boots, cowboy hats, frayed leather chinks – these are down to the knee-reaching buttocks-free trousers, and – I think – tasteless, sequined belt with glittering buckle. I follow the choreography of horse and rider in the discipline “Reining”, a kind of dressage of western riders. What impresses me the most is the “sliding stop” in the freestyle. At a gallop, the horse brakes abruptly with his hind legs and comes to a standstill, almost sitting down, slightly raised. That looks brutal. But the Western horses look more compact, more like rectangular field leaves. The riders, at least I would describe it as observers not so familiar with the discipline, rhythmically bouncing in time. I imagine the highly gifted, adorable Bella Rose, who dances like a top model in a kind of limbo through the square. She would probably break her knuckles at the sliding stop. I do not know what would happen to Isabell Werth. Presumably, for the world’s best dressage rider, every discipline on the back of her favorite horse, which, according to her words, “bundles only the best of all her previous horses”, feels like a home game.
How much effort does someone who has such top horses in the squad actually have to invest in animal training? At least since reports on allegedly anti-animal training methods such as the Rollkur, which allegedly had to endure the famous dressage stallion Totilas some years ago, the training of horses in elite sports is a topic that heats the minds. Consequently, Isabell Werth after her victory in the World Equestrian Games is also a welcome guest in talk shows, recently Markus Lanz. In the illustrious round, the moderator jokes: “The horses I know are different.” “Training a horse is like bringing up children. That takes time. “, Replies the dressage rider harmless. Somewhat bluntly formulated, carrot and whip, I think. I immediately realize what the moderator is up to. He wants the rider martialischere formulations such as “whip” and “make pressure” elicit, which are used a little later by Werth. Which horse would voluntarily trot or gallop sideways in the square? The receipt Isabell Werth after the transmission via Twitter afterwards called. “I can not take these equestrian off,” one indignant. These were supposed to “dance themselves and jump over wooden poles”. Another gets “the puke” when he hears Werth telling how she uses the whip to make the horse’s legs.
I will not be so smart. But the suspicion that in this so strictly regimented and on form respecting sport no rebellious behavior of the horse is tolerated, is obvious. As if to cleanse their souls, even the world’s best dressage rider, in her answers, similar to pet owners, assigns human traits to their horses to emphasize their intimate relationship with the animals. She tells of the “envious” horse that you signal with angry hoof strokes against the door, come over to me and do not stand so long at the other box. She tells of acts of desperation she would commit if they provided the solution to problems with a horse. She would end up walking around the church tower at night, even at night.
Every extreme sport has its pitfalls. A barely surmountable conflict, with which the equestrian community will probably have to deal again and again. Only when Western riding in Erbach, the world seems fine. There the horse cages stay under themselves.