Lexington, Ky.—Nov. 9
If you watched Marsha Lewis do her first level freestyle with Pedro today, you’d have seen a faint smile on her face throughout nearly the entire test.
“As soon as I start riding him, I smile,” said Lewis, who finished sixth with Pedro in today’s class. “I did all the work on him, and it’s just amazing to be here. I’m so happy to be here.”
In order to make it here to Lexington, Ky., Lewis, Pedro, Lewis’ two daughters, Zoe, 2, and Ruby, 5, and Lewis’ mother endured a 16-hour drive from Elgin, Texas. But their overall journey to the U.S. Dressage Finals has been much longer. Lewis bought Pedro, a now-11-year-old, 14.1-hand Appaloosa gelding, for around $900 in late 2006.
“All my horses are bargain horses,” said Lewis. “They’re mostly ex-racehorses, but I knew I wanted kids eventually, so I told a lady at a rescue organization to keep an eye out for a colorful pony. She sent me an email and said, ‘There’s one online, and he’s under $1,000, and I’m worried about him. They seem like they really want to get rid of him.’ She sent me a picture, and I said, ‘I’ll take him.’ ”
Though Lewis thought Pedro, named after a character from the movie Napoleon Dynamite, was around 6 when she purchased him, a veterinarian confirmed he was more like 3 or 4.
“He wasn’t broke at all,” she said. “He was completely green, so I just started working with him. I thought he’d be a minor player in my string of rescues, and I’d mostly ride my Thoroughbreds. But he’s just so well-balanced, and his trot kept getting better and better.”
Lewis also discovered Pedro has talent for jumping, and the pair won two recognized beginner novice events together in 2008. But she also discovered a downside to his jumping prowess.
“He doesn’t like to be confined,” said Lewis. “If all the other horses are out of the barn, he’ll find any way out. The first time my husband came home and said, ‘I swear I put him in the stall.’ We finally found where he nicked the top jumping out. Then he did it a second time, and the third time we saw him do it.”
Lewis and her husband added another foot of boards to the top of their 4’ stall door, which keeps Pedro inside. Keeping his tricks contained under saddle is another story. Lewis started riding with Christine Bergeron-Calao for dressage, and the two have been making quick progress since. Lewis' freestyle was designed by Cynthia Collins of Luna Tunes to highlight the pony's personality and includes "These Boots Were Made For Walking."
“He’s definitely a character,” said Lewis. “That test, [the first level freestyle], can go much worse. He can throw in bucks here and there. Just two years ago he wouldn’t even canter the first level counter-canter loop. Christine has really made me tougher. She said, ‘He’s taking advantage of you.’ If you’re tough, he’s willing.”
Perdo and Lewis finished second in their USDF/GAIG Region 9 Championship (Texas) first level freestyle class to qualify for this, but Lewis took some time to decide she’d make the trek. Coming to Kentucky meant she’d have to take off about a week from her job as a lecturer and researcher at the University of Texas-Austin.
“My husband [Kirk] said, ‘You should probably go. I don’t know when you’ll ever get the chance to go again,’ and he was right,” she said. “I rearranged my class schedule, and I asked my engineering class if they’d mind if I put their presentations off a week. They didn’t seem to mind!”
Pedro will eventually be Ruby’s pony, but in the meantime, Marsha is going to continue having fun with him. The pair is already showing second level, and they’re going to start schooling third level with the aim of Marsha earning her USDF bronze medal.
“I saw all these horses warming up today, and I was like, ‘How are they in first level?!’ There are so many nice horses here,” Marsha said. “I heard some people trying to clap to the music during our ride, and I thought that was so cool. I just can’t believe we made it here.”
Marek Comes Back To Win Grand Prix Freestyle
After being eliminated from last night’s Grand Prix for a bloody spur mark on Unico G, Anna Marek returned tonight to win the Grand Prix freestyle on 75.12 percent. Heather Mason and Warsteiner were second on 70.66 percent.
“It was heartbreaking [to get eliminated], but I completely understand the rules, and I think they should be there for the good of the horses,” said Marek, Ocala, Fla. “I absolutely love Nico, and I can’t ever take that ride from him. It was sad for him [not to win], but I was out to get it back for him tonight.”
Marek and Nico’s freestyle was designed by Lynnette Wadsworth. Marek’s had the ride on the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Negro—Kleora, Animo) gelding since the horse was competing at training level.
“I’m not usually very emotional, but during the walk work, I was like, ‘This music is so pretty,’ and I almost started tearing up," said Marek. "I was like, ‘Pull it together! We have to finish!’ ”