Sep 25, 2014 - 9:18 AM
Michael and Ellegria's chemistry is earning them big ribbons in international Grand Prix competition, and they're looking for help in staying together. Photo by Susan J. Stickle.

I am grateful for Ella every day. I learned so, SO much from owning and training her from her young horse days up to her first Grand Prix. I am an infinitely more skilled rider for it, and she is such a tremendously good girl that she let me make all sorts of mistakes, and then fix them, without ever trying to eat me.

But all that aside, Ella was never Mine. Yes, I owned her. All her paperwork is in my name, and I write the checks to pay all her bills. And I loved her. I still do. But she wasn’t Mine, not in the way that Midgey or Billy are. And so as much as putting her up for sale was a financial decision, it was also one based on the fact that horse-rider chemistry is such a tremendously huge part of the equation of success, and that Ella and I, in spite of being a good horse and a good rider, didn’t have that magic.

What none of us ever saw coming was the chemistry between Ella and Michael Barisone.

Michael likes his horses tall, leggy and obstinate. Ella is petite (only 16.1), built like a battleship, and endlessly willing. Michael likes the Dutch horses; Ella is as German as they come. Michael likes bay geldings; Ella is a chestnut mare. Michael likes the hot ones, the ones that breathe fire and pick fights; Ella is a diesel engine, a bit slow to warm up but will go all day long, unfazed by the weather and the environment, and doesn’t know the word “no.”

And it started as just business, Michael’s vast experience making international Grand Prix horses the far better choice to get as much money for Ella as possible. But at some point along the way, Michael fell in love.

And their love has yielded results. Ella has consistently been in the top ribbons at CDI Grand Prix competition (including a win at last week’s CDI Saugerties (N.Y.), and a third in this weekend’s CDI Devon) with better and better marks. She qualified for the selection trials for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games this year, in her first year at CDI competition. She’s sound, healthy and on the rise.

But she has to be sold. So we had to come up with a new plan. 

Enter: The Ellegria Syndicate.

Michael helped Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton, two of the country’s top event riders, before the 2012 Olympics. Many of the horses in their programs are owned by syndicates, and it’s a model of ownership that’s worked well for others in eventing as well. It splits the costs of owning and maintaining an elite horse amongst a larger group. Who doesn’t like that?

The challenge is two-fold. First, timing. I can’t bear the costs of her forever, and so I’ve told Michael he has to get half the shares sold by the end of the year, or she’ll need to be sold outright. And second, numbers. There seem to be more people interested in owning event horses than dressage horses, and as this model of ownership is so new, drumming up interest could be a challenge.

Through all this, if the right buyer comes along, I have no choice but to let her go. But we’re all hoping that enough people will want to see a good horse stay in this country—because the reality is that the market for horses of her caliber almost exclusively comes from Europe and Asia—with a rider who loves her, believes in her and totally gets her.

And it’s a great story. Little red horse makes good, and team comes together to keep her with the trainer who loves her, plus help the owner who made her afford the next group of Grand Prix horses to make. Supporting two riders at once, if you will.

If you’d like to know more about supporting this love story, email Amber Heinzberger or Michael himself. And come join this special pair in seeing just how far they can go. The sky’s the limit!


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