The Stories We Tell

Jul 13, 2012 - 12:42 AM
The Sprieser Sporthorse stabling compound was a flurry of activity today to get ready for Dressage At Lexington.

84*, a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms, and my students have rides scheduled every half hour (or less) all day in eight different rings. Let’s go!

We settled in great here in Lexington, Va., for one of my favorite shows of the year. Dressage At Lexington is at the Virginia Horse Center, a huge venue that knows its job; arenas are watered and dragged, stabling is neat and efficient. It’s a show run by a top-notch management team that communicates effectively and efficiently, gets good judges, produces scores on time, and gives great prizes. And it’s a local show that has that Big Show Feel to it. We love coming here.

I’ve got my usual ginormous group of riders – I think the final headcount is 13 horses, riding 55 tests; oh boy – but they’re virtually all veterans, and the rookies are quick studies. Among the group this time is Sydney, daughter of Bruce and Caroline, for whom I teach clinics in Wytheville. She’s riding Glory Be, one of the most delightful ponies on the planet, and could not possibly be a more charming and polite young person. She’s also adorable, and is competing against a few other of my grownups, who are so totally screwed because Syd’s in their class. Sorry guys.

Lisa is here. She’s a professional event rider who, along with her husband, Michael, crack me up every time they come. She also impresses me with her riding and has two third level horses here, ready to get her DQ on.

Candace is in the mix, riding Stacy and Jeff’s Quarter Horse mare that they picked up at auction. Candace has done an incredible job turning a cute little project horse into a no-foolin’ dressage horse, with a nice round body and big stride. I’m really proud of all the work they’ve done together, and Stacy and Jeff also have raised two well-mannered and lovely teenage girls who, unlike most teenagers, I have never once wanted to pinch to make them behave.

I’m most excited for Nathalie. Nathalie’s been with us a year and owned her horse for two years, virtually all of which have been spent rehabbing him from an injury he sustained in his first night of their partnership. Can you imagine that? Two YEARS. She stuck by him long past where most of us would have given up, and he’s paying it forward by being a FINE dressage horse.

Only about two thirds of the group is here, but we went out to dinner anyway (all 22 of us. OMG.), and I went around the table and talked about each rider’s story with their horses. Francine, who bred her horse and, working a full-time job as a NICU nurse (a nice cheery line of work) and raising a family, has gotten him to second level. Janell and Michael, who’ve gone from eventing and steeplechase jockey, respectively, to dressage on their off-track Thoroughbreds. My phenomenal assistant trainer, Allison, who’s begged, borrowed and stolen every ride she’s ever had and emerged tactful, clear and kind. They all have these stories, some traditional, some incredible, all here and ready to go.

I tell them all that a dressage test is a story told in six minutes. Are you the handsome and stoic gentleman rider on a handsome and stoic horse? Are you the charming little powerhouse horse and the cute rider who loves him? Go forward, ride accurately and tell your story, I tell them. But the really wonderful tales aren’t in the ring, but in all the days up until that centerline.

It’s a heckofa thing, to be a part of those stories. I’m grateful every day.


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