Dressage Horses: A Week In Their Words

Jul 22, 2021 - 2:57 PM

TUESDAY
Elvis, 6:30 a.m.: Sigh. Another week of excellence. Lauren arrives around 6:15 every morning, gets her things organized, and then grabs me. Obviously she starts with me because she likes to start her day on a high note with the Greatest Horse in the Universe.

Today, Lauren makes me loose in my back and sharp to her leg and hand. Tuesdays I always feel a little asleep at the switch—what can I say, I like my Monday day off—and I like to pretend like I’m untrained, just to keep her on her toes.

Puck, 7:15 a.m.: Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, it’s Tuesday!! Another great week of adventure!! Mom always rides Elvis first, which is OK, because I like everyone. But then she rides ME, and it’s so great because it’s nice to feel like one of the big boys.

There was a period of time where Mom rode me last. She said it was because she had to talk herself into it. I don’t know what that means! But here we are, together, my favorite person and me. I’m pretty much the same every day, so Mom will probably do some work on bending and canter work today.

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Photo Courtesy Of Lauren Sprieser

Helio, 8 a.m.: Once again I tried hiding in the back of my stall, but no such luck; they caught me. I like to stand on crossties with a droopy lower lip like I’m exhausted, in hopes of psyching them out, but the Tall Human with the Assertive Right Leg sees right through me, unfortunately. So we do lots of things to make sure that the effort with which I move my right leg matches the effort with which she moves hers. Every day, I hope that maybe the rules will have changed overnight, but so far, no dice. I’m a little stoic, but I do actually like my job and my work, especially because there’s usually a cookie at the end for my efforts.

Eddie, noon: Well, hi! I’m very happy to see you all today. It’s OK that I’m not one of the morning horses. I’m just a kid, and I understand that. Plus, it means I get to have a morning nap, and that’s pretty great. Sometimes it’s Lauren who rides me, and sometimes it’s Karrigan, because they’re both Very Very Busy Teachers, and so while I’m not totally clear on who my mom is, Lauren always comes in and snuggles me in the morning, so she must be someone important. Every Tuesday, my little tummy and back muscles need a hot second to show up and be present, but eventually I get there.

Maddie, 12:30 p.m.: Hello, my darlings. I know the phrase is “Ladies First,” but I’m happy to share my grace and kindness with the humans anytime. Sometimes they longe me first, and sometimes they just hop on.  I’m new to it all, but I take it in stride, as is the way of all gracious deities-to-be.

It’s a pretty great system: I work for a few minutes, doing really easy things that are well within my capacity, and then they tell me how wonderful I am. I’m so lucky to be in a place where my divinity is appreciated, and I repay the humans for giving me such a great gig by being extra sweet and snuggly.

Elvis, 2 p.m.: Power walking time with one of the working students. I’m an angel, and sometimes they listen to podcasts, which makes me smarter.

Helio, 2 p.m.: Power walking time with one of the working students. Prepare to kick, little girl.

WEDNESDAY
Elvis, 6:30 a.m.: Lauren gets help from her friend Jess every other week or so (thank goodness, because someone needs to tell her to stop doing that thing she does with her left hand), and today’s the day. She comes in the afternoon, so I do my fitness walking in the morning.

Puck, 6:30 a.m.: Oh boy oh boy it’s Wednesday, and that means Auntie Jess is coming to tell Mom things, but she does so in the afternoon. So I get to watch everyone else play first! I’m a good sharer. And I’m right across the aisle from…

Helio, 6:30 a.m.: GAH.

Eddie, 7:15 a.m.: Wow, I’m one of the morning horses today! That’s so neat! Today we work on transitions, and I’m trying really hard to believe Lauren when she says that I can get into and out of canter without using my big sexy neck for leverage and using my bum instead, but . . .  man, it’s super hard. She seems pretty convinced, though, so I’m going to keep trying.

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“My bum is quite far from my brain, so sometimes thoughts get lost between the two,” says eager Eddie, who never loses track of a cookie. KTB Creative Group Photo

Maddie, 7:45 a.m.:  Namaste, my lovelies. The earth has continued its glorious path around the sun anew, and so shall I make my glorious path around the arena. (I prefer turning left myself, but as in all things, I must learn all the ways of being, and not just limit myself to one.) I try very hard and bring my best to each day, because that is how all great beings live their lives, but then also I get to get back to my stall and be radiant there the rest of the day, including possibly taking a radiant nap.

Elvis, 1 p.m.: Jess is super smart about piaffe and passage, so we usually focus on that, and on the little things that Lauren does to screw up my performance, like doing that dumb thing she does with the left rein, and not giving me enough reminders that I have to carry my own head on the first centerline. I am also always screamingly better in my body on Wednesdays, which is a reward for Lauren tolerating me on Tuesdays.

Puck, 1:30 p.m.: Oh BOY it’s my turn! Mom has been doing a super good job making me trot and piaffe and passage like a big boy, and it’s been suuuuuper fun, and . . . unfortunately Auntie Jess reminded us that there’s cantering in our tests, too. Phooey. So we’ve been spending time on canter, which is good, because I think cantering should involve a lot of heaving myself around with my Big Fancy Rocket Ship Hind Legs, but apparently it’s supposed to involve sitting and lifting and stuff. Bummer, but OK! As long as I can keep grunting in the changes, that’s cool.

THURSDAY
Elvis, 6:30 a.m.: I know that, pretty soon, I’m going to start power walking five days a week, but right now it’s still four, so today is the day I don’t power walk. It’s also the day where Lauren is really motivated from her coaching, but I’m also still super fresh in my body, and so I have to tell you: Today we’re amazing. (I mean, I’m amazing every day. But today’s the day where we are amazing.) We do pieces of tests; we do transitions; we’re even getting pretty handy at making the piaffe adjustable, with lots of options: the one with the neck down, the one with the neck up, the one a little right, the one a little left. Pretty slick.

Puck, 7:15 a.m.: YAY it’s Thursday! I’m pretty much the same every day, but sometimes after a hard day I’m a little stiff the next day, so sometimes Mom alternates days where she really picks me up and lets me be super fancy with days where she lets me lope around on my head. And I’m happy to try really hard at whatever she wants, but we’ve learned to communicate, my Mom and I, because my mom is so smart: If I do the thing where I stretch a hind leg out behind me and drop my back about 10 feet when she gets on, she knows it’s a loping day. Isn’t she clever, to have figured out what I’m asking for? She’s a genius. I love her. I also love loping.

Helio, 8 a.m.: Mercifully, the Tall Human with the Assertive Right Leg rides the brown ones first, so I get to sleep in. I’m mastering the one tempis and also figuring out how to really stay through in the passage for more than a handful of steps at a time, so Tall Human tends to alternate between focusing on those things. Right now, because it’s so scandalously hot outside, those are good things to work on for short bursts of time, plus I don’t have any more shows on my dance card for the foreseeable future, so we work smarter, not harder. I mean, I think it’s all hard. But it’s at least less hard. She’s really quite demanding, the Tall Human. There’s cookies at the end, but still.

Eddie, 9:30 a.m.. Big and gangly dear thing that I am, Lauren takes pity on me and lets me hack around with one of the working students on Thursday. It’s pretty great! Isn’t that sweet of them? I’m so lucky to be so loved.

Maddie, 12:30 p.m.: Good day, beloveds. While one day I will reach my full potential, right now my humans feel it is important that I work only four days a week, to give my gorgeous body time to mature. So today I will rest, so that tomorrow I shall be fully present with both my glorious body and mind. Love and light to you all!

FRIDAY
Elvis, 6:30 a.m.: Me again, only now I’m starting to get a little blah in my body. That’s OK; because I am so beautifully educated and trained (and magnificently talented and handsome), I don’t actually need to do the Grand Prix things every day. Lauren usually takes this day to remind me that I am to respond to the lightest aid in basic work, lots of basic transitions, transitions within lateral work (like walk transitions mid-half pass, or canter pirouette to walk pirouette to canter pirouette). This is clearly beneath me, but I suppose I’ll allow it. She can be so demanding.

Puck, 7:15 a.m.: Good MORNING! I am so happy to see everyone! And I’m so happy for the lighter day I had yesterday, and I’m fresh as a daisy. Mom says we have to keep working on bending, which is suuuuper hard because I’m 17.3 hands and not very compact, but I will keep trying very hard almost all of the time!

Helio, 8 a.m.: I will also keep working on bending, and I agree with Puck, even though I’m 16 hands and very, very compact. It’s still hard. The Tall Human with the Assertive Right Leg just doesn’t appreciate how hard we’re trying—I mean, come on, isn’t doing it one time each direction enough for you, lady? Gosh.

Eddie, noon: Back to work! My bum is quite far from my brain, so sometimes thoughts get lost between the two, but I’m learning about trot lateral work, in small bursts, as well as being respectful to the leg. It’s hard but I’m trying! It’s just that… my bum. It’s quite far from the brain. And the thoughts… well.

Maddie, 12:30 p.m.: Greetings again, dear hearts. I am happy to be back to work today, and it will go about as well as every other day, because I am kind and gracious and also 17.1 hands, so progress is simply going to be what it is, and we must embrace the path.

Elvis, 2 p.m.: Day three out of four for Power Walking. I’m still mostly chipper…

Helio, 2 p.m.: …while I’m pretty close to needing to be carried.

SATURDAY
Elvis, 6:30 a.m.: I’m still here, and I’m still going to try hard, because I am a magnificent animal, but I’m definitely a little tired today. Nevertheless, I piaffe my little heart out and finish with some things like corners, centerlines and transitions, because those are never the wrong idea.

Puck, 7:15 a.m.: GOOD MORNING I am so happy to see my Mom, and even though I am a little tired, I shall do my very best today! We usually work on super fun things on Saturdays, like the tempi changes, because I am learning how to do the ones, and they’re fairly easy for me to play with. I can do six! I am suuuuuper smart!

Helio, 8 a.m.: Kiss my blonde behind, Dutch boy, because I can do 15 of them. And while I’m not super impressed with Tall Human by Saturday, I’m still game.

Eddie, noon: I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I can carry my own face for, like, five or six steps at a time in the trot and the canter. That’s pretty cool, right? Tempi schmempi.

Maddie, 12:30 p.m.: Good afternoon, darlings… friends… keepers of the treats and the pets… I love you all very much, and I want to please you, but also my butt might fall off. Can I interest anyone in a little time amongst nature, by which I mean hacking down the driveway and then a nap in my stall?

Elvis & Helio, 2 p.m.: Yes. TGIS, baby.

SUNDAY
Helio, 8 a.m.: Sundays are a more leisurely day, where we all go hacking. I’m one of the more dependable souls, so I’m often assigned to take out one of the greener girls, but I’m absolutely not interested in going in the pond, so I’m burdened with going out with the first group. Ugh. Can’t a guy sleep in from time to time? Rude.

Eddie, 8 a.m.: I’ll join the first group, too! I’m also a very solid citizen.

Puck, 9 a.m.: OH BOY, SUNDAY! Hacking Day! I’m actually also pretty well behaved, though I’m a giant, so I can be intimidating. If Mom isn’t traveling, she usually takes me out. But funnily enough no one is all that interested in finding out whether I want to swim or not … can’t imagine why!

Elvis, 10 a.m.: I, however, am part hippopotamus, and so flopping about in the pond is the only moment of indignity I allow myself. Gotta let my hair down sometime, I suppose. So I go out with the later group, to splash around in the hotter part of the day. I’m confident enough in my own skin to let Lauren share this video of me doing my thing. It’s actually quite refreshing!

MONDAY.
Our day off. Catch ya later, humans! Back to work tomorrow!


Lauren Sprieser is a USDF gold, silver and bronze medalist making horses and riders to FEI from her farm in Marshall, Virginia. She’s currently developing The Elvis Syndicate’s Guernsey Elvis and her own string of young horses with hopes of one day representing the United States in team competition. Read more about her at SprieserSporthorse.com, or follow Lauren Sprieser on Facebook and Instagram.

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