Wayne, Ill.—Aug. 26
He may be nearly twice as old as his rider, but In My Feelings isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
The 26-year-old gelding of unknown breeding wowed the judges in the USEF Pony Rider Dressage National Championship today at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions with Maren Elise Fouché-Hanson to take the lead on a score of 72.23%.
“My test today was the best test I could’ve gotten out of ‘Drake.’ I was so, so proud of him,” said Fouché-Hanson, 14. “He came from doing Children’s the last two years to doing Ponies, which is a move-up for him. I’m still so nervous and excited. It was a beautiful test. I think it was the first test that I was really calm during my test.”
Drake was abandoned at the farm of a friend in Aiken, South Carolina. Fouché-Hanson was doing Pony Club mounted games at the time, about three years ago, until she realized Drake might have some talent for dressage.
“We were at our first mounted games practice, and he went around the poles as if he was going to do a canter pirouette,” she said. “I just ended playing around; I did some leg yields, some shoulder-ins, and he totally knew it. So we were like, ‘He has had some training.’ He totally didn’t look it when we got him out of the field because he had been sitting for a couple years.”
Fouché-Hanson also found out that the gelding had evented, so she made a goal to compete in the U.S. Eventing Association American Eventing Championships, and the pair made it in 2019, finishing ninth in the beginner novice junior, 14 & under division—just a week after they’d competed the Festival of Champions.
Fouché-Hanson is a working student for Sandy Osborn, and she lives in Colbert, Goergia. She doesn’t plan to event Drake again because of his age, but says he seems to be forever young.
“He is just a superstar pony,” she said. “When we first got him, we weren’t sure of his age until we found out he was in his 20s. We figured it out, and he is 26 now. The vets when we first got him were like, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s probably 14.’ I mean you can barely tell. He is awesome.
“He has an amazing personality,” she continued. “He has the biggest personality of any horse I’ve ever had. He loves bananas. It is his favorite treat ever. He will start screaming if you even say the word. He is so awesome. In awards, he’ll start tossing his head, getting all feisty; he loves it. He gets so excited for it. He is really awesome. My favorite thing to do with him is riding him bareback and bridleless. The first couple times he dumped me like twice, but he loves it. He just thinks it’s fun. He is the best pony ever, and I love him so much.”
Chase Shipka picked up her second win of the week with Gladstone Zee T in the Adequan/USEF Young Adult Brentina Cup division, topping the Grand Prix 16-25 test with a 69.94%. Shipka’s been riding the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Apache—Zeester T, Jazz) for three years.
“It went really, really well,” she said. “It was clean, but I felt that he was a little tired. It is hard to do two days in the hot sun, but I was really proud. I think we nailed stuff that we didn’t nail the first day. He wanted to get a little bit heavy, but every time I asked him for a little bit more, he answered all my questions.”
Shipka competed in eventing before switching over to dressage in 2016.
“I did [event] all my life,” she said. “I kind of got tired of falling off in eventing, and I wasn’t really that brave, so I decided to make the switch, and I am so glad I did because it’s a lot more fun for me.”
She’s had Gladstone Zee T for three years. He’d been doing 7-year-old classes in Sweden and some Prix St. Georges and a little Grand Prix. She was looking for an experienced horse to teach her at the top level. She gets help from Charlotte Bredahl-Baker.
“I sat on him the first day [of a horse shopping trip], and it was just fire and electricity, and I was like, ‘I need to have this.’ It was a match I think. I am glad I purchased him and took that risk,” she said.
Dawn White O’Connor earned her second win aboard Four Winds Farm’s Hudson M in the USEF Intermediaire I Championship, scoring a 75.97% after topping the Prix St. Georges yesterday.
“It was similar to yesterday,” she said. “Everything was pretty clean, and I was really happy with the trot work. I was happy he still had so much go as hot as it was.”
She got the ride on the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Cadans M—Cilinda M, Tuschinski) a year and a half ago, right as the COVID-19 pandemic was shutting down the world. She found him in Spain with Antonio Vázquez Quintero, and got him on the plane as a travel ban to Europe was announced.
“He had had him since he was a 3-year-old, and he did an awesome job with him,” she said. “He had him his whole life until we bought him, and he just had a really nice start to his riding career and life. He was totally their family horse. The owner took him on trails, and he had a nice life, and I think that makes a huge difference. He was a really happy, confident horse.”
The extra time during lockdown was helpful to form a partnership.
“He really wants to work, and whatever you ask of him he always tries really hard,” she said. “He has a great attitude about everything. He’s the most fun horse to be around on the ground and under saddle. It’s definitely taken time, like any horse. It was really good to spend the season in Florida this winter and do that many shows.”
The Intermediaire I championship finishes up with their freestyle on Saturday.