If there is one thing Margie Engle’s Dicas believes in wholeheartedly, it is the saying, “The world is your playground.” That ribbon on the stall door is like a kite—at least if you grab it with your teeth and shake your head. That shavings bag your human is struggling with opens up all the fun confetti when you grab hold and help out. And that backpack with grooming supplies is just something with a fun zipping apparatus housing more goodies. Anything and everything can be amusing if you just believe.
When the 9-year-old Rhinelander gelding by Diarado entered Engle’s barn in May of 2017, you would have thought Engle had two requirements for horses: big stature to complement her small frame and an even bigger personality. And if that is Engle’s type, Dicas fits that to a T. He stands over 18 hands, and he rivals stablemates Royce and Indigo for the biggest personality in the barn.
“He’s like a dog, I swear. You know those moments when your dog gets something in their mouth, and you go and kind of open their mouth? That’s exactly what it’s like with him,” said Engle’s groom Taylor Roney. “He’s got the most personality. I mean Royce has a ton of personality—actually we have a lot of horses with a lot of personality. He’s my favorite. He’s my favorite horse ever.
“I think they all realize that they are a big deal, and then they get a little cocky, but in a good way,” continued Roney about Engle’s house of clowns. “Both Royce and Dicas are so easy, but they have so much personality.”
But Dicas knows when to put the fun and games aside. This year he traveled over to Europe with Engle and took top prize at the CSI***** Knokke (Belgium) and in the SAP-Prize class in CHIO***** Aachen (Germany). Then stateside he earned back-to-back wins at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (Michigan) in the $35,000 East Wind Farms CSI*** Welcome Stake and then in the $100,000 Grand Traverse Grand Prix CSI***. He followed that with a win in the CSI***** $35,000 HITS Jumper Classic and a second place in $35,000 Trelawny Farm Welcome Stake CSI**** at the American Gold Cup (New York).
He’s definitely earned his spot as Engle’s most exciting up-and-comer. Learn more about this goofball behind his stall door.
• He comes with a warning: Don’t wear white. At HITS-On-The-Hudson VIII (New York), I opened my phone to find a text from Roney: “Dicas salivates excessively and usually in a shade of green.”
As I arrive at FEI stabling in all black, Roney reiterates: “He slobbers a lot—like, nonstop. I wear white a lot, I don’t know why, and every single day, by like 8 o’clock in the morning, I’m green.”
• While many children learn to master the art of tying shoelaces, Dicas has crafted another skill.
“With shoelaces, he loves to untie them,” said Roney. “He’s really good at it. He’s, like, not normal. If I’m standing up on the stool braiding his mane down—Margie likes their mane to stay on the right side—if I’m doing that he’ll reach over and start untying my shoelaces, and he’ll untie both of them.”
This handiness just goes with his overall brand. Dicas’ being is like an overgrown child—always loving attention and anything in reach can and will go in his mouth.
“He’s super mouthy—but he’s weird,” said Roney. “He’ll do things kind of like a dog. Like you can hug his whole head and like lean on him, move around and do whatever. He’ll do things like he’ll kind of play bite your ankle.”
And just like a child, he gets a shade grumpy when an adult says the fun is over—like when Roney pushes him back so all hooves are behind the threshold.
“Then he gets grumpy—like, ‘I want to do what I want,’ ” said Roney. “Not actually grumpy, but he’ll make a face, and then he’s happy two seconds later.”
• He doesn’t mind anyone being in his stall—he’ll just keep going about his business whether that means munching or snoozing.
“I was braiding him in Aachen [Germany], and he was eating his grain, so I didn’t have him tied up or a halter or anything,” remembered Roney. “So I’m standing on a stool braiding him down, and when he finished his grain, he turns in a circle—and I’m standing on the stool high up in the stall—he turns in a circle, and then he lays down. And I’m standing on the stool, so I sat down in the stall with him and kept braiding it, and he just fell asleep.”
• Most horses jerk away from a twitch when it’s needed, but not Dicas.
“I’ve never seen another horse do it—he loves putting pressure on his gums. Like, a lip chain is his favorite thing,” said Roney. “If you go to put a lip chain on most horses [they] freak out. Him, he leans into it. He’ll put his upper lip on top of the bar here and then just lean in. It’s like endorphins get released or something because he just loves it. It’s the strangest thing. And then he’ll drool all at the same time.”
• I’ll take my hay steamed, thank you! While Dicas’ personality doesn’t classify him as high maintenance, there are certain things he can’t help. He’s allergy prone, and pine, horse flies and grass are all danger, danger. But Engle accommodates it all, whether it’s having him stand only on straw or reseeding her paddocks with a specific species of grass.
“Right now his coat’s really long because of all the bugs here,” said Roney. “So now he’s actually quite protected, but normally I have him in a fly sheet 24/7 even when he’s in a stall. And we always try to make sure there’s a fan on and tons of fly spray. And then for the hay, to keep the dust out, he uses the HayGain steamer. So he only eats hay that’s been steamed. He’s a lot of maintenance, but it’s so worth it.
“He now has a special paddock that has the type of grass that he’s not allergic to in Florida,” continued Roney. “We had already reseeded all the paddocks, and then we did the allergy testing and saw that he couldn’t have that. So he has his own special paddock.”
• He’s well aware of his height, but don’t worry, he will help you out.
“You’re never reaching up to do anything with him,” said Roney. “He drops his head almost too much. So when I put the bridle on, I’m literally squatting. It’s actually kind of annoying, but he’s just trying to be helpful.”
• While Dicas is an easygoing guy on the ground and under saddle, he does have one, sometimes two, places where he always misbehaves slightly and plays.
“So he’s perfect all the time. Never does anything when you’re on him—doesn’t buck, doesn’t do anything like that,” said Roney. “But in the jog, he will trot up, and almost every time on the way back he leaps and bucks.
“When we’re first walking out to the barns—like in the jogs—he does this thing where he leaps and bucks,” she continued. “But it doesn’t do anything bad. He just plays.”
• Engle’s barn might as well be a frat house because Dicas has a strong bond to his fellow FEI bros Royce and Indigo. And when they leave, he expresses his wistfulness in a throaty neigh; he had a surgery on the flap in his vocal cords, giving his talkativeness a unique sound.
“He’s obsessed with his two brothers, Royce and Indigo,” said Roney. “Like, [he] loves them. He starts doing the things that they do too—takes on their personalities. I think that’s why he’s a little bit destructive, because Royce is like the most destructive. If he can destroy anything, he will. Indigo puts up with him. Royce really likes him. Indigo doesn’t really love any other horses because he just does his own thing. But he doesn’t hate him. But Dicas is a lover not a fighter.”