So at American dressage shows, we speak in whispers. When we spectate, we freeze anywhere within view of an arena, just in case a wandering equine eye might light upon us.
Not so in France. Last year I witnessed the Honor Round With Waving Flag, in which a band of intrepid Prix St George horses successfully completed a circuit of the ring at Vierzon whilst the crowd cheered and someone outside the arena waved a huge tricolor a la that scene in Les Miserable. This year in Saumur it was Kur with children and dogs. And no one got hurt.
Dogs and children are a large part of life here. Both are expected to be present during a dressage test. Not necessarily in the arena itself, but hey, stuff happens.
As the first horse entered the indoor for the Grand Prix Freestyle, a fuzzy dog scampered in as well, followed by child, who was diligently attempting to retrieve said dog. Alls well that ends well, but all of us down the “A” end of the arena got a good giggle over it.
It was Sunday, and there were many families out and about at the show. During the class, I witnessed many rampant children in the stands: galloping down the steps toward the glass wall between the ring and the first row of seats; leaping over the seats, kicking chairs and carrying on; parents reclaiming and admonishing said children, dogs in the stands barking at passersby or lunging at children; adults with winky cameras who thought that their teeny flashes would help them get better pictures. All the while, horses performed to music in the arena. Not one of them missed a beat because of the tumult. Kind of makes you wonder why we act as if we are in the cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Dressage Silence in the states.
Meanwhile the Young Horse and Young Pony classes were going on in the outdoor arena, surrounded by dozens of vendor tents, a beer garden, a wine bar, and more of the aforementioned children and dogs. Like I mentioned: no one got hurt. They even stood for more than 15 seconds during the presentations, then did real gallops during their honor rounds.
Oh, and the weather? Wet. A brief moment of sunshine on Saturday afternoon, and then today, during the final award ceremony, the sky completely cleared. We sat outside, blinking, and enjoyed a glass (maybe two) of a fine Saumur red.
Children and dogs rejoiced.