The Wellington show season is coming to an end, so we are beginning to think about the tedious process of packing up our “traveling circus” and moving 17 horses from Florida to our summer base in Idaho.
This was a particularly fun and rewarding Florida show season for me, as I got to compete several talented upcoming horses. The process of training and developing a horse always has drawn me to dressage and continues to fascinate me every day.
I love learning how each horse thinks and reacts, while trying to figure out what makes them tick. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to work with several developing horses at the moment, and I am thoroughly enjoying the training process with all of them.
Betsy Juliano’s Horizon and Kylee Lourie’s Harmony’s Duval both have been stars this season, and I really have had a good time training and competing them. Duval has been with me for more than three years, while my partnership with Horizon started a year ago.
Two weeks ago, I rode Duval in his show ring debut. We competed at fourth level and he acted in no way like a rookie, scoring a 75.5 percent and then an 82.5 percent. He came into my life as a lanky, timid five-year-old who had never been ridden. Bob McDonald, Debbie McDonald's husband, has an incredible eye. He picked out Duval from a field of youngsters at Harmony Sporthorses in Colorado.
In no time, I fell in love with Duval when he was sent to us so he could begin his training. Clearly quite intelligent, he also was a bit jumpy and easily flustered at the time. He always has been a perpetual motion machine. Duval just wants to be going, going, going, which means one of our biggest challenges involved getting his brain to slow down enough to focus on the task at hand. Yet I always knew if I could channel all that energy into his work, he would be pretty special.
Duval was scheduled to return to Colorado after a few months of training. But when I fell in love with Duval, Bob McDonald stepped up for me and called Leslie Malone at Harmony Sporthorses to see if he could work out a deal to keep him. Through Leslie's generosity, they were able to make an arrangement to purchase the horse for me to ride. Bob believed we could make something great out of him, and wanted to give me the opportunity to try. I also owe a big thank you to Pam Jones, who came in as a co-owner for past two years, which again allowed me to continue my journey with him.
Under Debbie McDonald's expert guidance and instruction, we have developed a great partnership and Duval has grown into an impressive show horse with a heart of gold. Most recently, Kylee Lourie of TYL Dressage, has taken over ownership of Duval to allow me to develop him further. A big congratulations to her. Many special people have touched this horse's life already to allow us to get to this point, and I know he has a very bright future.
Betsy Juliano’s wonderful mare Horizon continues to impress me with her talent, work ethic and showmanship every time she goes down centerline. She is another energizer bunny with an engine that never stops. I have to give a lot of credit to Debbie (who I have dubbed “the mare whisperer”) for helping me understand this mare’s thinking and how to approach things with her.
I have come to realize that any error this mare makes is because she is trying too hard. Never do I have to use a strong correction with her, or she gets worried and tense. She is sensitive to my seat as well, so it is my job to give her confidence by maintaining her balance with a centered seat and quiet aids.
Horizon has been living up the potential that Betsy saw in her when she purchased her as a three-year- old from PSI in Germany. I started the season showing Horizon at fourth level, then moved her into the Prix St. Georges. My goal for her this year is to try for the U.S. Equestrian Federation's Developing PSG National Championships, where the top 15 horse and rider combinations at this level are invited to compete.
Horizon has been making quite a statement this show season, with a 77 percent in her first-ever open PSG and then another 77 percent and 73 percent in the Developing PSG last weekend. Betsy and Horizon have a very special relationship--she has believed in this mare since she was a youngster. I feel so honored to get the chance to develop this special girl and build my own relationship with her. We are all very excited about what lies ahead for her.
What I find special about this sport is not only the relationships that develop with these horses, but also the relationships that develop with these wonderful owners. I am so fortunate to be involved with such great people, who love and respect horses as much as I do. They appreciate and enjoy the process of developing a dressage horse. It is a wonderful journey to share with such great company.