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Confessions of a Former Dressage Competitor

Confessions of a Former Dressage Competitor
Photograph by John MacDougal/AFP/Getty Images

The same three things happen to me during every Summer Olympics: I develop a brief but fervent passion for sports I don’t usually follow, everyone on TV makes me feel out of shape, and I keep having to explain to people what it’s like to wear a tuxedo and ride around on a pretty, prancing pony.

I rode dressage for 13 years but quit the sport during college for several reasons: It was expensive and time-consuming, I had no plans to pursue it professionally, and it detracted from my main undergraduate hobbies of sleeping through class and convincing upperclassmen to buy me Smirnoff Ice. I haven’t ridden regularly in years—probably five or six times in the past decade—and I’ve talked about it even less. That’s because every time I explain dressage to people, they all have the same reaction. They laugh, say something about princesses and horse dancing, and then curl their arms at the elbows and pretend their hands are hooves.