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March 4, 2014

Ringside Chat With Kassie Barteau

Kassie Barteau and her $1 horse Aramo made it all the way to the U.S. Dressage Finals in Lexington, Ky., last year. Photo by SusanJStickle.com

Kassandra “Kassie” Barteau really got a lot of bang for her buck three years ago when she paid literally that much for her now 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood, Aramo (United—Triancacara), who’s been winning classes at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, in Wellington, Fla., this winter with scores as high as 74.45 percent at fourth level.

This year Barteau hit the road for Arizona with 14 horses in tow to compete in the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, Feb. 13-23, before she’ll resume competing across the country again in March. The 25-year-old dressage rider, who enjoyed an extremely successful FEI Young Rider career before becoming a professional, filled us in on the story about how she found “Arie” and updated us on a new turn in her career. 

How did you come across Arie for just $1?

A couple years ago I was a working student for Cathy Morelli in Wellington. Leslie Valenti was Arie’s owner there, and he just wasn’t the right suit for her; he was a little bit problematic back then, so I bought him from her for a dollar, because I basically just took him off her hands.

Did you expect him to make it to the level he’s at today?

I’m stubborn enough to say yes, I did think so. I don’t give up very easily. But he gave me some runs for my money, that’s for sure. Sometimes I would joke that I paid 50 cents too much because he’s very difficult. It’s really just learning how to ride him, and he has calmed down in the past couple years I’ve had him.

I don’t intend to have others ride him because he’s a little bit unpredictable, so I would never want anyone to get hurt.

So since you’ve had him, nobody else has gotten on to ride?

Not really. When I broke my foot on a different horse a year and a half ago, he had some time off, and my mom [Yvonne Barteau] long-lined him for me. Long-lining was a good way to keep him fit while I was healing. He was difficult at first, but we’ve been working to overcome that.

Walk me through your career path after your working student position at Steffen and Shannon Peters’ Arroyo Del Mar up to your current job.

After I bought Arie, I trailered him to Shannon and Steffen Peters’ barn and worked out there for six months with him.

Then I lived in Georgia for a year by myself, and I was running my own little eight-stall barn [Willowbrook Equestrian Center, owned by Leslie Olsen], with a few clients and horses in training. I had Arie that whole time. I rented the whole barn, and I was the barn manager—cleaned stalls, taught lessons, rode.

I did that for about a year, and I had Arabians in training. Mark Miller approached me while I was at one regional championship for our Arabian, and he offered me a head trainer position because he had just bought an 80-acre ranch in Clermont [Fla.]. He asked if I would be interested in starting in on that after [U.S. Dressage Finals (Ky.)] in November. So I moved to Clermont as the head trainer of Al Marah Arabians then.

Do you and your horses live on site?

I live on the farm in a three-bedroom house, and my horses are there. Arie is in the Arabian world as well. I have three warmbloods there now, two of them are sale horses [Babalou and Wilma], and then Arie is my keeper. He’s not going anywhere!

What are your goals moving forward with Arie?

I just moved him up to fourth level in Wellington. That was his second time ever doing fourth level, and my goal was to do developing horses [Prix St. Georges] with him this year, but I’m going to France to watch the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games with my boss’ daughter, and that actually conflicts. I’m going to take the chance to go watch the WEG; it’s going to be amazing.

My main goal for Arie is to do Prix St. Georges at [the USEF Dressage Festival Of Champions] Gladstone [N.J.] next year, to face the top 12 in the country and see where that goes. If we could make the Pan American Games [Canada] next year, that would be amazing. He’s very talented, and I’m in a condition where I have money, I’m single, and I can afford to show him more. This year and next year are definitely our times to really get him out there.

What are his strengths and weaknesses?

He’s extremely light. He’s almost 18 hands, and he’s incredibly soft in the bridle, but he doesn’t really like to be told what to do, and he gets very claustrophobic. With the tempi changes, he gets very nervous the longer they go on. So that’s the hardest thing; he’ll do a perfect line of three tempis, but then he’ll get nervous afterwards.

Pirouettes are no problem; I would say that’s his absolute strength. He’s really good at that. He’s very good laterally. He’s wonderful when he’s on; it’s really just working on not losing his mind. I’ve been very shy with him, not taking him out before he was ready and not over-facing him, but I think now he’s ready for that push. And if we’re going to be able to push him at all, now is the time as he’s turning 9.

What’s he like in the barn?

He gets turned out by himself a couple days a week for about an hour; he doesn’t love to be outside. He’s actually just a big baby. In the barn, he’s like my big puppy dog, and he watches me all day. We have a great relationship. I’ve never had a relationship with a horse like I do with Arie. He and I are very close, and he gets a little bit jealous I think when I’m working with the Arabians all day. He loves to work. He’s so full of energy and never lazy. He’s a really hot horse, but he doesn’t need a longe.

Do you contribute at all anymore to your parents’ business, KYB Dressage? Who has been a major influence in your riding career more recently?

When I visit on holidays, like for Christmas, I’ll ride just for fun because they have so many horses and what’s a vacation without riding?

We still do some sales things together, too. If [Yvonne] has a horse, and I have a [potential] client, we’ll talk, and vice-versa. I went to Wellington, and they’re there as well, so I went and saw them, and my mom helped me at the last show when Cathy was busy. But mostly I’ve been training with Cathy. She’s been my main influence in the past few years. She comes up from Wellington to Clermont to teach me on the Arabs and on Arie, so I still get some help, and that’s good. I’ll be in Wellington almost every weekend in March; that will be when I get back from Scottsdale.

Going from warmbloods to Arabians must have been quite the adjustment. How did it affect your riding?

The Arabians are definitely a lot lighter and hotter by nature. I don’t really need to use spurs at all anymore. It’s made me think about my balance a little bit more and be a bit lighter with my hands, because the horses are so small and very reactive. They’re like driving sports cars versus a semi-tractor trailer. But all of my horses are pretty much working in the same way now, so I think that’s a good thing.

Want to know more about Kassie Barteau? Check out this 2011 article.

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