A Rekindled Passion for Dressage

Anne Early learned how to fall back in love with dressage in a clinic with international dressage competitor Michael Barisone.

Credit: Courtesy, Laurie Krause Photography Anne Early and Frangelico (aka Fritz)

I rode my 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Frangelico, who is affectionately known as “Fritz” or “Cranky Franky,” depending on his attitude. I have owned Fritz for eight years: eight years of working through all sorts of ailments—ulcers, sclerosis of the midline, OCD, ringbone. You name it, we have faced it. And with these issues there have been a whole array of unwanted behaviors. I mention these things because they have given me my own form of equine-related post-traumatic stress disorder. I often miss those days of blissful horse ignorance, when as a child and teen I rode no matter what. But now, these ailments have created my own large riding roadblocks. I have become so consumed with all these extra things, that I have forgotten what riding is all about. I have, instead, learned to almost avoid it. I have spent so much time focusing on what is wrong and what isn’t working, that I prevented myself, and thus my horse, from moving forward, growing and developing. The worst thing a rider can do to herself, and her horse is enter into this paralyzed state. You stop all progression. Instead, you dwell in a very negative place. 

The day of the clinic, Michael Barisone was amazing. He was complimentary, helpful, understanding and, as many already know, witty. But I walked away more in love with someone else: my horse. Through all my anxiety, Fritz did everything I expected him not to do—he remained calm, cool and willing. It was not our prettiest ride. But through its imperfections, the ride was life-changing. 

Michael was just telling me what my horse tells me all the time—regardless of the issues, “You have a nice horse, ride him.” And that’s it. I overanalyze so much with riding and with life in general, it becomes debilitating before I know it. I get so preoccupied with the details, I lose sight of why I do it to begin with. 

But this clinic reminded me why I ride, sacrifice so many hours of my daily life working on the farm and push myself past exhaustion everyday: I love my horse. I love that he takes care of me when I need it most, when I feel like I should just throw in the towel. It’s special, and any rider can tell you that is why she rides—that bond between horse and rider. You will have miserable rides. You will have days you leave the ring crying. You will have heartache. People will think you are crazy for the time and money you put into a horse that you don’t even show. You will have days you just don’t think you can do it anymore. And then it happens: You have a magical ride. You and your horse show up and as a team, you make it happen. You put everything else aside, and you ride.

Those rides restore your faith, they give you motivation again. And any rider will also tell you, one ride like that is worth all the sweat, tears, money, time and hard work that go into riding and owning horses. As with many things in life, sometimes you get so caught up in the petty things you forget to enjoy everything that is around you and you forget that your horse is the same one you fell in love with years ago for whatever reason.

So thank you, Michael. Thank you for your patience, compliments and guidance. But thank you, Fritz. Thank you for your patience, compliments and guidance. I just hope I can return the favor.