This long-time pair is settling into a close partnership and setting bigger goals.
Jo Moran is finding it much easier to laugh these days, especially after winning the Grand Prix Stakes on Minna at the Dressage Getaway, Jan. 16-18, in Indio, Calif.
“It was a good ride,” said Moran of their 72.12 percent. “I was really happy with it. We made one mistake during the ones, and the rein back was tough, but the highlight was her piaffe and passage.”
The pair has come a long way since the open invitational Grand Prix, held during the Rolex FEI World Cup Dressage Finals in Las Vegas, Nev., in 2007.
“It wasn’t funny at the time,” said Moran in reference to Minna being tough and over-sensitive. “But looking back I have to laugh. She was saying: ‘Hey, where am I? Why are all those people up there?’ Horses are so humbling. It’s just their nature.”
Minna, a 14-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare, has been Moran’s partner for seven years.
“She’s very girly and sensitive, but she has a huge heart,” said Moran, who brought the mare to Grand Prix from third level. “She’s hot, but not crazy. She just has a lot of go and is so talented physically. It was mentally hard to get to know her.”
Moran said she primarily works on the basics with Minna, because the upper level movements come so easily to her, and she has become much more settled in the past year. “The new Grand Prix test is much more friendly, though the rein back is not her favorite movement,” she added.
Moran and her husband, Nacho, have owned their farm in Valley Center, Calif., for six years. She teaches several amateur riders who ride first, second and third levels, and has one student who is competing at Prix St. Georges. Of all the aspects of the dressage world, she said that training the horses is her favorite part.
“My goal is showing, so I always have something to reach for, but I love training horses,” she said. “Each horse is so individual, and they all have so much to teach you.”
Currently, Moran has several other horses she has been working with, including Charisma, a Holsteiner gelding, who is competing on the small tour at Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I. She plans on moving him up to Grand Prix at the end of the year. She also has Walking On Sunshine, a Hanoverian mare and Gianna, a Swedish Warmblood mare, both of whom she is aiming toward the FEI 6-year-old classes. In addition, she has plans to start working with Minna’s only foal, a 2-year-old filly by Festrausch, in the spring.
“I bred Minna because I love that horse so much,” she said. “I wanted to see what she would produce. It’s also a way to plan for the future. We have started working with her and hope to back her in the summer.”
Moran has an avid interest in bloodlines and their relationship to performance and traits. She said that when she works with a horse she really likes, she takes note of the horse’s lineage. When looking for new prospects, she really pays attention to whom the horse descends from.
For 2009, Moran plans to head east to tackle the Festival of Champions at Gladstone (N.J.) with Minna again, but will remain in California for the more local CDIs and the Del Mar National. She trains bi-monthly with Kathleen Raine, weekly closer to competitions and said that everyone she’s trained with has benefited her riding.
“They’ve all given me great tools,” she said of Johann Hinneman, Robert Dover, Michelle Gibson, Anky van Grunsven, Tineke Bartels, Steffen Peters, Linda Zang and others.
Moran hopes to continue to campaign Minna and is aiming for the FEI World Cup Final eventually. “Swedish Warmbloods are much later developers,” she said. “Minna is just hitting her prime.”