Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Dressage Diva

Bunty Pargeter and Pandora La Gueriniere went back a long way. The liveries at Vaysey Pastures all adored their celebrated occasional visitor.

Strictly speaking Pandora was Comtesse de Baucher, but insisted “Darlings, you must all call me ‘Pan.’

It was universally agreed that Pandora’s twice-yearly clinics set Vaysey Pastures apart from and above other yards in the area.

Trained in
France and Portugal in the arcane mysteries of Haute-Ecole, Pandora did not so much "teach dressage" as "share her musings and reflections upon the equestrian art."

During lessons, slightly pained and diffident suggestions on the modification of more agricultural aids were peppered with impressive references to "descente de main", "s’encapuchoner" and "ramener."

Although this may have been Greek to her pupils, they were all sufficiently impressed to knuckle down and try very hard to achieve the required "tact" and "finesse."

Tuition from Pandora was available to all liveries able to afford the fee. Part of its old-world charm was that it was still charged for in guineas: “So much less vulgar than those pounds and new decimal pennies, don’t you think, darlings?

The other advantage of the clinics was the unfettered opportunity to listen to Pandora’s reminiscences for a good part of the day.

Over tea and hobnobs in the specially spring-cleaned common room and later over large gins and Dubonnets, the liveries listened with rapt attention to the stories of Pandora’s glamorous past.

Pandora had seen it all, from teaching side-saddle to the mistress of King Farouk to introducing advanced competitive dressage to swathes of the Middle East: “My dears, to many at the F.E.I. I’m still known as ‘the chef d’equipe who put the Kur into
Kurdistan and brought Passage to India."

Pandora’s favourite memories ranged from her speedy marriage to the Comte de Baucher over a lost weekend in Havana in 1959 and swifter dissolution in Reno some weeks later to pole dancing “with our dear dressage boys” in a club in Munich after the Europeans in 1976.

To those struggling to afford their hobby and cope with the more mundane pressures of life, these glimpses of Pandora’s past seemed divinely decadent and unspeakably exciting.

Bunty was pleased that Pandora’s clinics gave her liveries such a lift. When they were in the remove at Rodean together, Pandora was plain old Phyllis Stackpole, but tact and finesse ensured that Bunty never mentioned this.

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