It’s amazing that I can still remember the horse that my instructor owned. I was not allowed to handle her as I was only 9 at the time. She was a beautiful Hanoverian mare trained in Dressage. I would just watch in amazement when she would ride “Bellbay”. It has always been a dream of mine to own a Hanoverian since then. I have been fortunate enough to ride and train several types of warmbloods over the years, but my love for Hanoverian’s has remained. However, the breed remained untouchable to me as the demands and prices of them rose.
I am always looking at horses for sale just out of curiosity. Last summer, I came upon a very affordable Hanoverian mare! She was being sold as a broodmare due to a lameness issue. Her bloodlines were elite. The price was incredible but I was hesitant as when I chose to look at her, all the red flags were there:
1.) The horse could not be caught easily.
2.) The owner was nervous to ride and only rode for a short time.
3.) The owner did not want me to ride.
I requested a video of the horse being ridden previously. The video showed a beautiful but very tolerant mare being ridden in a lesson. I say “tolerant” because she was being ridden in a weymouth (curb) with a standing martingale (tie down) to to keep her head in a flexed position. Please know that I am not speaking with an ego, just in confidence. I have re-educated enough horses in my life that I have developed an eye for hidden potential. I purchased the mare. I began the re-education that was necessary to reduce her lameness and create the mind and body of the athlete I knew she could be. Her back and neck were tense from having her head forced into a position. This caused her to develop an inverted rotation in the spine. Wrong rotation begins to develop wrong muscle memory, which creates lameness.
My daughter loves to compete and is very good at it. She has begun to develop a relationship with the mare. Reassuring her with patience, kindness, and no forceful riding. This has allowed her to successfully catch the mare. She is helping with the training in excitement of being able to compete on such a beautiful moving athlete. My daughter Lizzie has been awarded high scores, which led her to win the USDF region 5 training level championships. She was competing on her Belgian-paint cross, who is now training at second level. The training begins with in-hand work to develop correct use of muscles without a forceful position. Longeing strengthens and develops balance in preparation for the rider. All of this is introduced using the General Decarpentry method. I have taught Lizzie the skills of re-educating motion and also the skills of Dressage. Straightness, balance, and freedom of movement are important in changing the physique of a “damaged” horse.
Lets look at the definition of Dressage. It means training in French. The dictionary defines it as, “The art of riding and training in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility, and balance”. Dressage can come across as a word that defines a certain type of horse and rider. Let’s always think that Dressage started as bettering the horse. Mary Twelveponies wrote her book, Everyday Training, Backyard Dressage, in hopes of teaching the everyday rider the fundamentals of using Dressage.
I want to help horses and their riders. If you are using forceful equipment or
methods to place your horse in a certain frame, please know that you are taking the path of destruction. Forget the partnership and the love of working together. The signs will begin to show soon enough, your horse does not look forward to seeing you, the horse begins unpredictable behavior, and even worse, the horse shows up lame. This horse I have acquired was given up on when she tried to let her previous owner know she could not take the discomfort any longer. The tolerance level of certain horses makes them continue to please until they are completely broken, in mind and body. This is a story of a sincere love for horses. I did not “rescue” her from an abusive home. I gave this mare who loves to please, a second chance by rescuing her from an uneducated Dressage rider.
“Looking into the eyes of a horse is seeing the soul and purity of life.” -Unknown