Marketing. Sell the sizzle?

When it comes to dressage I’m actually not very interested in marketing–though in other parts of my life it has some pull.

BUT, I am bored just now,  away on a clinic, up early, had a walk, and waiting to be picked up by my Organizer–later to shower the locals with Good Advice–and they need it!  It is not everyone in the community that knows the footwork for a correct canter pirouette, and can, if pressed, perform one in jeans and tie dyed socks.IMG_0416

Notice the slightly “heels down” position my feet atavistically adopt when under the pressure of photography?

This comes of a youth spent on the hunter/jumper circuit.

(Websters definition b.)

Definition of ATAVISM

a : recurrence in an organism of a trait or character typical of an ancestral form and usually due to genetic recombination

b : recurrence of or reversion to a past style, manner, outlook, approach, or activity.

But anyway, re Marketing: last night several of the Usual Suspects participating in the clinic went out for several martinis. And one very fine woman, who has a successful career in marketing (and follows the blog) said, “We have to find a better way to market you!”

Sell the sizzle, not the steak!  (I had to look hard to find out who first said this–and I could not!  It is all over the place;  one source:  Here’s their view–I think it valid, if you are indeed, selling something:

“If you have been around anyone vaguely interested in marketing, you have probably heard the saying “Sell the Sizzle NOT the Steak”. Another form of this expression is “Sell the Benefits NOT the Features”. Or perhaps you have heard it put like this, “Sell People What They Want, NOT What They Need”. . .  Ask yourself one thing and one thing only. From the customer’s point of view – “What is in it for ME?“.

Back to the bar: continued long silence,  “Marketing?  Why?  This is a nearly impossible sport to learn, unless you have contact with someone who actually knows how to do it.  Very few people do actually know it, and is not a bid at the Olympics and eight years with the finest dressage trainers on the planet enough?”

(Never mind the skill to coax piaffe out of almost any mutt with four legs and hocks?)

“No.” she explained,  “People only remember the LAST Olympics.  They want more than that now.  You have to look the part.  No more jeans to the barn, and we’ll get you a funny hat.  Set you apart.”

More long silences–in feeling, very akin to a sticky horse coming out of piaffe.

Brain chatter: Forbes Folk from the East Coast do not wear funny hats to get attention.


Well, maybe we do. . .wear them. . .

But we would prefer them to look more like this if we did: supremely practical.


(I have several from this fine Parisian woman:

Cousin John, is a good example of our general sense of style!


(I am a devout fan: my bumper sticker of Kerry/Edwards has finally worn out–but just.  Given that, I also give you, amusingly:,6318/

(Another side note, re stuffy: Lord Forbes has just died this past week: (In case you did not know, he was my great X times a zillion uncle–or 23rd cousin once-removed.)  Story is that such a blight of American Forbes showed up in the seventies at the Castle Forbes in Scotland that they put a sign out to deter visitors: “NO U.S. FORBES!”)


Anyway, here is his obituary:


Genetics?  Don’t believe in them!

(And, if you looked like any of these people, would you be TRYING to remind people of Downton Abbey?)

Alas, though we New England  Forbes prefer to remember the turn of the last century when we were building this sort of barn: (Naushon Island 1913:)


We are currently far more likely to actually reside in something like this:


Fast forward, 100 years, it is 2013–we have horses to spend money on!

The point (as well as entertaining myself while waiting for a ride to work) is that dressage is so darned expensive that luring people with the siren song that they can identify good help by “dress to fit” is not useful.

And more importantly, the side trip, emulating “the look” wastes valuable funds, never mind supporting the idea that looking “the part” will make them able to DO the part.  Never mind, one should not dress like a pumpkin on a horse–plaid or otherwise–for the simple reason that it does not assist the rider to disappear from the picture–which is the actual illusion we are trying to create.  (Duh!  You are not supposed to notice the rider.  Though those who want to learn watch the good riders very, very carefully!)

Anyway, neat and workmanlike is the goal.  Some purchased articles actually do help–but very, very few of them!  Rudolf laughed with me once looking at his rather elderly horse van–back in the day.  He said, “You should be careful that your horse is more valuable than his box!”  Quite true.

So, sell people what they want, not what they need?  I beg your pardon? What they need is to know what they are doing!  And just drinking the Kool Aid is not going to produce skill.


What helps is riding–and then riding with someone with experience that can help your horse sort out the maze of aids no doubt inadvertently installed in said creature.  Like most things, dressage is not difficult–once you know how and have spent a lifetime at it.

And, if in the end, what it takes to “sell my form of dressage” is telling people it is going to be easy, quick, cheap or painless–that strikes me as a form of  Ponzi–collecting cash, not teaching dressage.


We do dressage because it IS demanding.  That’s the point–it is hard to do.  Let’s not make it totally impossible by following bad training or bad advice–nor fool oneself that there is a true short cut.

Indeed, though never short, there are many longer routes.  The quickest is staying as close as possible to the known path and following people who have been down it and come back.

That goes for most things, actually.

Off to work!  Which, despite the former rant, I have once in a while really done in my socks–like in India when offered a morning ride with the cavalry–who could say no to that because not traveling with boots?  (We were invited to watch a demo of “Tent Pegging” (This field but 1987–at the time the last active cavalry in the world)

And they found I could ride–so across the country it was!  A very fine ride on a hot TB while the cavalry raced along side jumping cross country fences made of piled earth–but that is another story.