The last time I wrote, I had a story to tell about the morphing of Mane Stream Hotmail into a Grand Prix horse. We were mid-season at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Fla., and I knew that his career was about to take off.
Now that is easy to say in the sport of dressage, but not always so easy to predict or manifest. There are so many uncontrollable variables in our sport, including judging. (A five-star judge once told me: “Catherine, dressage is a judging sport. If you can’t take that, take up jumping!”) This was his comment after I dared to complain about what appeared to be partial judging at a World Cup qualifier in Europe. You can imagine, Rita, how that comment spurred me on…
I promised myself that evening that I would become the best DRESSAGE rider I could be. That even if I was never rewarded for my riding in a test again, I would persevere and present the best performance I possibly could on every horse I possibly could for the rest of my career. I want to ride better every day of my life, and THAT is what will bring me happiness.
You see, Rita, you can ride and ride well, over and over again, but until the actual ARENA IS RIPE for your success, it may not happen. Jumping is a clearer sport. Rails down and time clocks cannot be subjectively judged. So a top performance will give instantaneous success.
This rarely, but occasionally happens in dressage as well. Incredible pairs like Valegro and Charlotte Dujardin can make their entrance at the top of the sport and just stay there until the next super star comes along. This is unusual.
Most good horses have to start with a test that is somewhat interesting, but not blockbuster, from the get-go. These horses have to FIGHT for success and climb slowly through the ranks. With a bit of luck, lots of good riding and clever management (for these horses have to start twice as often as the Valegros of the world) they keep climbing all the way to the top.
I think the No. 1 most important factor in developing such a horse—in the face of various challenges from conflicting judge’s opinions, pressure from trainers and coaches and impatience from others watching your journey—is to teach that horse to love the sport. If your horse loves what he does, he will give everything for you, over and over again.
Hotmail is such a horse. Finally he has been noticed and finally my arena skills have been honed again. We ended the season in Florida with super marks, over 71 percent in the Grand Prix and over 74 percent in the freestyle. We ALMOST qualified for Reem Acra FEI World Cup Final, and we were interesting enough to qualify for a USEF grant to travel to Europe and compete this spring. Not bad for our first season at Grand Prix.
Our star is rising. And when your star is rising, it is time to be fierce and press on. Let’s go!
We flew to Amsterdam on April 12! Our upcoming schedule looks like this:
Hagen (Germany) CDI4*, April 24-27
Villach-Treffen (Austria) CDI4*, May 15-18
Munich (Germany) CDI5*, May 29-31
Mane Stream Hotmail is the best horse I have trained to date, and I have only scratched the surface of his ability at Grand Prix. I cannot wait to be back on European soil with him!
Wish us luck, Rita, and come along for the ride!
I’m Catherine Haddad Staller, and I’m sayin it like it is from yet another airport on this incredible life journey…