Wednesday, June 17, 2009
All Hat and No Cattle
"All hat and no cattle" is an expression that my childhood best friend's dad used to describe someone who was all talk and no action. I think about it every time I'm in the presence of a certain type of horseperson. You know the type. Within the first five minutes of meeting them, you've heard what their show accomplishments are, what big-name trainers they've worked with, and what well-known horses they've owned.
Last week, I was in the local feed store, in line behind a heavy-set gal in breeches. She was haughtily explaining to the clerk-in-training (who was unlucky enough to be manning the cash register when she swooped in) that she'd just spoken to the guys in the warehouse and they had X number of damaged bags of feed and that she WOULD TAKE THEM. When the poor clerk was wondering aloud what to charge her, she rather unkindly explained that she "always gets a 50% discount."
While the clerk wisely went to seek counsel from the manager, I decided to satisfy my curiosity about who this arrogant, obnoxious gal was. (I have to admit feeling a little protective toward the employees of my favorite feed store...) So, I casually asked her what kind of horses she had. She announced that was a "warmblood breeder," taking in my grubby jeans and cowboy boots with an expression of distaste. She added that she had just sold a yearling for $20,000 (or some other astronomical figure - I can't recall the exact number). Catching her a bit off guard, I asked what kind of warmbloods. The explanation was lengthy, and full of stallion names, but ultimately unclear as to the exact registration of the foal crop. (Read: not registered.)
Conversationally, I asked how many mares she had. Answer: one (!!). She quickly followed up with a lengthy monologue that included the fact she'd hauled her "show jumpers" down to Pebble Beach for a show. The monologue curiously omitted any discussion of whether she'd won anything (surely, the omission was not due to modesty). At no time during any of the conversation (if you can call it that) did she (a) introduce herself, or (b) ask me anything at all. Bemused, I paid for my feed, and headed out to the truck, thinking, "All hat and no cattle."
It's been my experience that whenever a horseperson is quick to tell you about their accomplishments, they're not very accomplished. If you ask the right questions, their story usually unravels a bit. Witness the gals at last year's world show who were lording it over my friend on her first trip down there, making her feel like a 4-Her at her first county fair. When my friend said she'd be ecstatic if she came home with a top ten placing, one of these gals bitchily replied that she'd "be lucky to make the finals." Fortunately, I didn't personally overhear that exchange, because I might have let that gal have a piece of my mind right then and there!
After several days of hearing these gals discuss their previous world show achievements (loudly and often), I decided to get on the computer and see what they really accomplished. Guess what?! Their last trip to the world show was ten years ago (when the breed wasn't as nearly as competitive as it is today). One of them didn't even compete in two of the classes she continually bragged about winning. Another one achieved one or two top ten placings, but in the walk/trot division. The third one achieved a few top ten placings, but they were all at or near the bottom of classes with less than ten entries!! Did they not know all this info was available online? Guess not! Boy, was I excited when my friend racked up a reserve world championship AND another top ten placing. And yes, the classes had FAR more than ten entries! (And the braggarts? Did not do so well. Pity.)
The guy you should keep your eye on at a show is not the fellow who pulls up today in the brand-spanking-new trailer plastered all over with his name, hops out in a crisply ironed shirt and barks at his lackeys unloading a bunch of brand-spanking-new expensive show gear. Instead, watch out for the guy who arrived quietly yesterday wearing a t-shirt and dusty boots who's been riding a series of horses in well-worn workmanlike tack. He's the guy who came to get a job done, and chances are, he's going to come home with the prizes.