|| Print ||
|Written by Kelsa Staffa|
|Friday, 10 September 2010 00:00|
The best definition of badass I've been able to come up with -- thanks to Wikipedia, dictionary.com, and urban dictionary -- is someone of extreme coolness, someone hardcore, and my personal favourite, someone who has "the ability to kick someone's ass and look amazing doing it." Who, then, are the badasses of the equine world? The shrewd business managers of the mega racing stables in Kentucky? The elitist show jumpers with their white breeches and swagger? In my opinion, the true badasses are the horses themselves. The finely-honed athletes of speed, endurance, power, and intelligence. The competitors who always give 100% effort under pressure and then coolly cock an ear at you when you have the audacity to enter into their stalls during their rest (determined by themselves, of course). The horses who, without ever being given a choice, strive to be the best in some of the most extreme tests of athleticism. Below are just a few of the categories in which all of the top-notch horses (and, if you ask me, a solid majority of the horses in general) can truly be considered badass.
Show jumping involves navigating a twisting, turning course to successfully jump fences or obstacles in sequence against the clock. Jumps include verticals (a straight fence), oxers (two fences very close, requiring the horse to jump both at once), combinations (several fences in close sequence), and open water (a long, shallow pool of water that the horse must jump over). Time faults are allocated to riders who fail to complete the course in the pre-allocated time; therefore, show jumping is a difficult combination of speed, agility, collection (deceleration), and thrust power. At the Olympic Summer Games the maximum height allowed is 1.6 meters (5.3 feet), and the maximum width is 2 meters (6.7 feet) for oxers and 2.2 meters (7.2 feet) for triple bars. Water obstacles can be a maximum of 4.5 meters (14.9 feet) wide.
Cutting originated from ranches in the American West, where it was the cutting horse's job to separate cattle from the herd for vaccinating, castrating, and sorting. In cutting a horse and rider select and separate a cow from a milling group of cattle. The cow wants to return to the herd, and the horse's job is to prevent the return for a specified period of time. The rider leaves the reins loose, and the horse, knowing his or her job, reads the cow's body language and spins, dashes, and changes direction to maintain the separation.
Dressage was developed as a method of progressive training to develop a horse's athleticism, responsiveness, and attitude. Classical dressage has a series of tests for each graduated level with each level requiring a horse to perform certain movements in sequence. By the highest level, horses are expected to perform each gait (walk, trot, and canter) in both straight lines and circles, each at several speeds and styles (free, collected, working, medium, and extended) requiring the horse to power forward or condense power into a shorter step (much like coiling a spring). At higher levels, several very difficult elements requiring supreme muscle control are required in tests; the passage, a slow-motion trot; the piaffe, a "trot in place;" tempi changes, where a horse appears to "skip;" and canter pirouettes, where a horse canters in a circle in place. "Airs above the ground" are a non-competitive series of movements that a horse performs while leaving the ground. Originally designed for battle manoeuvres, airs include the courbette, where the horse raises its forehand off the ground and then jumps forward, never allowing the forelegs to touch down, in a series of "hops," and the capriole, the horse jumps from a raised position of the forehand straight up into the air, kicks out with the hind legs, and lands more or less on all four legs at the same time. Many horses do not have the conformation (build) to ever develop enough power and strength to perform airs above the ground.
Combined driving is a series of three events that one, two, or four horses hitched to a carriage may perform. The first phase is dressage, where the team of horses is expected to perform a set series of patterns with various gaits and speeds. The goal is for the horses to work seamlessly together, conveying the image of effortlessness. The phase of combined driving is the marathon, testing the speed, endurance, fitness, and stamina of the horses. Teams must navigate through 10 to 22 km courses of obstacles, ranging from natural obstacles such as trees, hills, and water to manmade fences and pens. Drivers are scored on speed. The final phase of combined driving is Obstacle Cone Driving, where teams must navigate a course of up to 20 pairs of cones, each with a ball balanced on top and only a few centimetres wider than the carriage wheels. Obstacles such as bridges may be included. Points are added for speed, but deducted for knocking over cones or refusing to enter a pair.
Puissance, meaning "power," is an event within show jumping. Instead of a longer, timed course of jumps, there is a shorter course of four to six jumps, including the final puissance wall. In the first round the puissance wall is generally between 1.7 and 1.8 metres tall (5'7" to 5'11"). Each subsequent round has one obstacle in addition the puissance wall, and after each round the two jumps are raised in height. The puissance wall has often become taller than 7 feet. The record for the puissance is held by German rider Franke Sloothaak, who in 1991 jumped 7ft 10 inches on Leonardo. At a similar event, Equestrian High Jump, Captain Alberto Larraguibel Morales, riding Huaso ex-Faithfull, successfully jumped a height of 8 ft 1¼ in (2.47 m).
Endurance riding is a difficult test of stamina and endurance. One-day races are generally between 50 to 100 miles (80 to 160 km) long and involves racing to a finish line while periodically stopping at a veterinary check to determine if the horse is fit to continue. Endurance rides and races can be any distance, though they are rarely over 160 km for a one-day competition. Winning riders complete 100 mile rides in an average of 10-12 hours. Veterinary checks are placed after each stage of a race, and horses are not allowed to continue until the veterinarian checks soundness (any pain or difficulty in moving), hydration, heart rate, and respiration. Certain criteria must be met for the horse to carry on. The rider's time does not stop during a check, so the horse must recover quickly. The Best Conditioned award is generally more prized than finishing first, as it is determined by a combination of speed, weight carried, and veterinary scores. Multi-day events are sometimes held with each day having a set distance to cover. One of the most famous is the Shahzada marathon of Australia; the 400 km ride is held over 5 days with horses covering 80 km per day.
There are many other disciplines in which horses competing are true badasses (polo, eventing, thoroughbred racing, team penning, steeple chasing, and roping, to name a few). Horses carry their riders to money, fame, and glory (in our small circle of equine enthusiasts, at least), and are generally regarded as wonderfully-trained tools. Nevertheless, the horse as an athlete proper should be given due consideration and acknowledgement. And no matter how highly-trained an international star, the horse will still wilfully pull away from you and head for the nearest juicy grass . . . And yes, look good doing it.
Tags: alberto larraguibel, athletes, badass, combined driving, culture, cutting, dressage, endurance, equestrian, franke sloothaak, horse, huaso, puissance, show jumping