“I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name,” I sang to myself, while sitting at my desk looking at Dubai’s paperwork. Why, you might ask? Because no matter how hard I looked, I could not see his name anywhere on any of his documents. (Everyone may recall a time, before purchasing him, that I did not know his name and guessed – incorrectly – that it was Dunkelfuchs.) As I sat and gazed upon the blank space where his name *should* be, I lamented my missed Dunkelfuchs opportunity.
Deciding this simply was a case of too many German words getting the best of me, I texted my best bilingual friend (and best trainer) Susanne Hamilton.
Sue came back to Maine in mid-April, and her first stop was my barn to give me a good sorting out. Honestly, I don’t usually make a mess of my horse training during the winter months, but GOOD LORD am I very glad when she gets back to give me some proper adult supervision!
I always go into my first training session with a list of things Susanne is going to get on my case about. All of my older horses are used to this. The week leading up to The Day Of Reckoning, I catalogue my inadequacies and confess them to my mother, so she can confirm to Susanne that I acknowledge I am riding like an ass hat. Then I promise my horses that I am about to become a much smarter equestrian (and I warn them, if they have been rascals, that things are about to go down for real).
Dubai has never been involved in this process before and was unfazed by my slight paranoia. He believes himself to be perfect and above the law. I was like, “Listen kid. You are literally the very best 4-year-old that I have ever had. But Susanne is going to tell me to crack on and sit back and ride you like you are a big strong lad. (Which he is. And she did.) She is going to tell me to make you go more forward since I spent the winter installing your ‘happy, pokey, chill’ button. (She did.) And she may have some comments about how you are a 4-year-old bowl of jello and seem to have hit the phase of great wiggle (which is actually minor compared to other wiggle’ phases that I have encountered). (But yes, SHE DID.) And then I will fix all these little bugaboos, and we shall carry on!! (Which we did!)”
Overall, I got high marks for riding through a freezing winter, high marks for wiggling (which was not a mark I wanted a high score on), and high marks for fashion, as always. I swore to correct all my issues by the following Wednesday. (I always promise this. I see Susanne on Wednesday, and I refuse to make her tell me the same thing twice!)
Of course, after promising both Susanne and Dubbie I would make incredible strides in training, I immediately left and ran the Boston Marathon (which was delightful and soggy), and then I became ridiculously sick with some sort of ghastly Bubonic plague. I never get sick, so it was quite dreadful and demoralizing. I recovered just in time to ride exactly twice before my next training session, which was NOT ideal. But because I am a MASTER trainer (or because my horse is literally a saint) much improvement had been made! Success!
During this session, Dubs discovered that Susanne possesses a magical pocket that contains sugar cubes for perfect ponies. He took full advantage of this and basically chased her down. (We may need to rethink this reward system!)
Now that the weather is good, my trainer is back, and I am riding like a proper adult again, many fun things are happening.
I took the kid for a little field trip to a friend’s house last week. I love to get out and about prior to making any show attempt in order to see what sort of horse I might encounter in a more stressful situation. Despite his delightful and mentally stable nature, I still packed as though I might be dealing with a compete anarchist. (I may have had a few in my time.)
I loaded up with much protective leg wear for the horse—my eventing days taught me that one ever knows when the horse will become independent and go ripping around—as well as a few pairs of side reins and an extra longe line (haven’t we all been in the position of having the first somehow break? Anyone? …crickets…). Anyway, I packed as though I was dealing with a complete renegade, and it was totally and completely unnecessary. He was just about as good as a kid can be, no bologna or antics that would have required the parachute and eventing vest that I clearly did not bring. Clearly! If one were to be insanely critical, he may have exhibited some slight toppling tension and a minor regression into wiggle-itis.
And if THAT is the extent of the 4-year-old mischief I have myself a winner!!
We have a bit of showing to do in the near future. My main goal for showing a 4-year-old is not the results or ribbons, but the positive impact that it will have on the future. He’s a great kid and is going to be a ringer of a dressage horse. Personally, I love competing and taking babies to shows (with my bag of protective gear in tow)! I expect our first outing to be a bit of a polite drunken stagger, and I’m sure order and decorum will come with time. With his wonderful temperament my only goal is to give him confidence and show him that competition is just part of life, even if he is still a bit too wiggly to win the training level Olympics.
On a non-training front he continues to be a delight to have in my barn! He loves everything except his fly mask, which he regards with thinly veiled horror.
He loves sneakily unlatching and opening (his IN-SWING) gate to let the pony next door in. He loves her very much, and he closes the gate behind her, so I will not notice what has occurred.
He loves napping, rolling in the mud, snacking/food and trail riding in my dad’s garden, now that the weather is good again.
He is going through a gangly, uncoordinated phase where his legs occasionally go in bizarre directions, which he is blissfully unconcerned by. So many good things, from such a very good pony.
And as a final note! As it turns out, my horse actually does have a name. Susanne and I spent a few minutes texting about the phenomenon of the vanishing name, and she thought I was crazy and/or illiterate. (Which is totally valid.) Hilarity ensued as I sent a slew of photographic evidence to the contrary.
In the end, she shot a quick message to his old owners (Lukas and Tanya Fischer, very excellent trainers and the very nicest of people), and they quickly solved the dilemma. Apparently, when you don’t see your horse’s name on the front of his passport in the “name” section, you simply need to look on Page 16. (Page 16. Really not an obvious place if you ask me! I was a bit indignant and felt that the passport had purposefully made me look foolish.)
The best part of this whole situation was getting a video of another horse they have for sale, Dubai’s half-brother, who (believe it or not) IS a Dunkelfuchs— liver chestnut, for those of us who really, really don’t speak German! Plus, they sent me a couple of Dubai’s baby pics, which sent me into a fit of delight. He was so tiny!
So. I have a horse with a name, who is getting better by the day and is ready for some springtime fun.
More updates to come after we tackle a show to see if we can make reasonably straight lines and remain in the arena—because Dubs can jump. He isn’t exactly allowed to, being 4 and all, but I have seen proof of this talent, and I hope it will not become a favorite dressage show skill of his to show off!
I am Sara Bradley, USDF silver medalist and the owner and operator of Waterford Equestrian Center, a small dressage barn in Maine. I spend my time teaching lots of lessons, mostly to fourth graders, but some great adults too; training a delightful array of horses; NOT purchasing ponies for myself; and running the occasional marathon. You’ll often find me riding, competing and ring stewarding around Region 8 with students, my Mah, and her popular dog Daisy in tow. Read all of Sara’s COTH blogs.