Dressage Day 1: A Beginners' Guide

Know anything about dressage? Me neither. So let's be bamboozled together as we attempt to make sense of a bunch of Ruperts and Pippas staging an olympic horse ballet.
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Know anything about dressage? Me neither. So let's be bamboozled together as we attempt to make sense of a bunch of Ruperts and Pippas staging an olympic horse ballet.

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13.21 Right, it's now the lunch break and with another three hours of this still to go and a semblance of a life to lead this end I'm off. Still none the wiser about a surreal, baffling, strange world that I have no intention of inhabiting ever again.

13.19 My dog has just walked past me slowly. I marked her down for a couple of technical faults. She looks disappointed with herself.

13.17 Christ on a horse that Japanese guy was 71 years old! Impressive stuff it has to be said. Man and horse as one like an elderly centaur.

13.15 This Judy woman commentating is starting to do my head in. I bet she's vaguely related to royalty or once let James Hewitt ride her like a filthy filly.

13.12 Am I really making jokes about beastiality? Is that what this has come to? Two hours in the company of these weirdos and I'm starting to admire their frisky fetlocks.

13.11 Commentator just said that Whisper is not 'an armchair ride'. Oh forget it then.

13.09 Her name is Whisper and she was apparently quite naughty recently in Hong Kong. Aye aye things have perked up.

13.08 Japanese guy now comes in. Supposed to be shit-hot and has a horse that I find strangely pretty. Is that wrong?

13.05 Why have all the women got such weird fucking faces? It's like they spend so long with their horses their features start to merge.

13.03 Dorothee Pippa's horse has been loaned from a guy who is suffering from 'dramatic' glandular fever. There is nothing dramatic about glandular fever. You just feel tired all the time and drink more milk than usual.

13.01 Nope, it's just the same as every other fucking routine. Trot, stand, canter, a bit of zigging and zagging, then raptuous applause. I don't belong in this world.

12.58 43 year old Dorothee Pippa Schneider trots into the arena. The German women have won every individual gold since 1984. Bloody hell. This should be good then.

12.57 I bet every female's middle name is Pippa. Even the Germans.

12.56 Jesus even I was impressed with that. The Dutch woman with the freakishly alligned back has just snagged second spot.

12.51 A woman with thighs the size of Gibraltar is now doing rather well. Her back is so straight I suspect she has a plank of wood tucked into her jodhpurs. Can we check for that?

12.50 And then there's the grooming....

12.46 Confession time. I've never really trusted the 'horsey set'. It baffles me why people invest their whole life and purpose into an animal that shits and smells.

12.44 Yeah, yeah 'a good extended canter....accurate zig-zag'....they're all doing the SAME THING! Jesus this is dull.

12.43 'I dream of world peace and a small mountain of sugarcubes'

12.42 I think I'm starting to get a handle of all this now. It's basically a beauty pageant for horseys yes?

12.40 Polish guy now takes his turn. He looks scrappy and...well, normal. Seems at odds with the rosy-cheeked bally-ho mob around him. I like him.

12.37 The horse was ridden by possibly the only ugly woman to ever come out of Sweden. She looks' reflective' as they depart the arena and the ripple of applause sounds sympathetic.

12.35 The next horse just got spooked then 'napped'. Or in layman's terms, threw a wobbly.

12.33 Rafalca did well but to my mind he veered too far to the extreme right during canter.

12.29 Rafalca, the horse part-owned by Matt Romney, has just appeared, ridden by a middle-aged American who looks like he sends young men to war.

12.18 And they're back after a well deserved rest. The 'well deserved' was sarcastic as so far they've put in less energy and effort than a kid on a pony enjoying a Center Parks forest trail.

12.05 Bloody nora the Brit has taken the lead. 77%. Great stuff. And now we're on a break.

12.03 Karl completes his routine and it's a triumph. Well done mate. He then takes off his top hat to reveal luscious hair that presumably has only ever known the finest, most expensive, conditioner.

12.01 Apparently they do but both man and horse have turned things around well here. Looks good. And I have to say I love it when they do the piaffe - a kind of dainty trotting on the spot. They look like Louise Spence in barefoot putting out the bins.

11.59 But hold your well-groomed horses because here's a Brit. His name's Karl and his horse just sneezed. Do they get marked down for that?

11.58 “The secret” to enjoying dressage, he said, “is not to watch too much.”

11.57 The British three-day-eventer William Fox-Pitt told Reuters recently that the sport “is hard to follow.”

11.56 Yeah okay I'm descending into Partridge. But I literally have no idea what the fucks going on. They're just walking around on horses. Seriously.

11.54 I loved the little touches the Spanish guy added. The way he turned, smiled at the judges, a litle wave, a little wink. Marvellous.

11.53 A huge round of applause for that. Take that horse back to the stables and give it a kiss.

11.50 This bloke looks the business. Like the Lone Ranger on Tonto. And his horsey looks very 'trotty'. Though according to the annoying woman on the telly it's missing the lines. What fucking lines? There are no lines!

11.48 Spanish midget now flounces in. His buttons look shiny.

11.44 Commentator just informed me that she's married to a professional German footballer. Heart-broken isn't the word. 67.5% represents a disappointing score for MRS Oatley. Ha, good.

11.43 To be fair I just got all that from Wiki. I remain perplexed in the extreme. I'm in love though so that's a bonus.

11.42 Accomplished piaffe there Kristy love. And a lovely collected trot. The flying changes are achieved with consumate ease.

11.38 Woah woah woah, an Aussie lady has appeared. Kristy Oatley. Even her name sounds equine. And most importantly of all she's fucking gorgeous! Blonde, great poise and unlike any of the previous female riders she doesn't look like a young colonel in drag.

11.36 Packed stands which is good to see. I wonder how many of them have a single clue as to what's going on? The German exited looking pleased with second spot.

11.33 There's probably a technical term for this but I love how they get the horses to look downwards as they trot as if it's embarrassed. Then again, if I had a stocky fraulein sitting astride me I'd look a bit chargrin too.

11.30 Here come the Germans who apparently have won team events in every Olympics since 1976. Impressively every German horse who is being ridden this year has been sired from the one stud. Kind of shits all over Neville Neville's achievements. Oo the horsey just walked sideways!

11.26 Yet the crowd go apeshit when she's done. The Canadian rider rubs her horse on the neck with all the frantic vigour of a teenage danger wank.

11.25 Even to my ignorant gaze this looks like a piss-poor showing from De Niro.

11.21 Horse called de Niro who has 'lovely dark eyes' is now doing a lovely 'extended trot'. The last time I had extended trots was after a reheated steak and kidney pie. De Niro snorting like a raging bull through the routine whilst the rider looks anxious. Ears are now pricked. Is that good?

11.18 Camera just panned back to reveal the mystery of the flowerpots. Behind each is a judge in a fancy wooden gazebo. This looks beautiful and utterly mad. Like a Gok Wan dream.

11.15 Fifteen minutes in and I'm utterly lost. This seems to be just a bunch of blokes dressed like hotel doormen poncing around on gee-gees and getting applauded for it.

11.13 One of the horseys just flicked out his/her leg twice whilst in a canter. I'm not an expert but that deserves a medal surely?

11.12 There's flowerpots with letters on them spaced out around the arena. What's all that about? Rule one of journalism is research. Rule two is more research. I forgot about rules one and two for this.

11.10 72% for the Dane. She's got to be chuffed with that. I got the same mark for my Maths GCSE and got shit-faced on bubblegum flavoured alcopops that evening to celebrate.

11.07 A Danish woman has just completed her routine. She looks happy with the performance but the commentator gives all the praise to the horse. Is that fair? Apparently it had energy, spring and enthausiasm.

11.05 Firstly a word about the setting. Greenwich Park looks ace. Like 18th century Vienna in the sun.

11.03 Okay fedora donned, servants admonished and breeches tightened. Let’s go.

It’s day one of the dressage and I’ve volunteered to cover this bizarre ritual that haughtily poses as a sport despite not knowing one end of a horse from the other. Okay that’s not strictly true – I’m aware that one end craps copiously whilst the other resembles Sarah Jessica Parker.

This is an event well worth watching though because there is talk of records being smashed today. The previously insurmountable barrier of 80% in the ratings could finally be toppled with the level of horsey/human harmony now reaching a level of excellence never before seen.

Plus there are men in top hats and women with strong jaw-lines. What’s not to like?