Saturday, May. 25, 2024

Ringside Chat: Münter’s Back In The AGDF Ring With Two Future Stars

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Mikala Münter has been riding in the international Grand Prix ring for nearly two decades, but she’s perhaps best known for her partnership with Janne Rumbough’s My Lady.

Riding for her native Denmark, Münter and My Lady competed at the 2015 FEI European Dressage Championships (Germany), two FEI World Cup Finals (2014 and 2015) and the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (France), in addition to their numerous wins at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida.

Since My Lady retired in 2017, Münter, 53, has been working away at her Bell Tower Farm in Wellington with several young horses in hopes of finding her successor.

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Mikala Münter and Salsa Hit at the AGDF CDI5*. Lindsay Berreth Photo

In 2021, she debuted Salsa Hit, a 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Samba Hit III—Venice Lady V, Riverman ISF) she owns with Paul Bint, at international Grand Prix and competed her own Skyfall, a 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Zardin Firfod—Sound Of Seduction, Calzone) at Intermediaire II.

Both horses are competing at Grand Prix this season as Münter continues to work on their education and get them experience in the ring. Salsa Hit most recently competed in the CDI5* at AGDF 7, while Skyfall is entered in this week’s CDI4*.

We caught up with Münter to find out more about her horses and her plans for the future.

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Mikala Münter and My Lady were crowd favorites during their freestyles. Lindsay Berreth Photo

What have you been up to since My Lady retired?

Since My Lady retired in 2017, I didn’t have a horse ready right after her. You never know what you have and what’s coming up. I was already riding Skyfall and Salsa Hit.

Salsa was not exactly the one we expected to be doing the freestyle on Friday night because he was very spicy. I spent a lot of time at the lower levels trying to keep him somehow sane in the ring and then quietly and slowly brought him up.

Skyfall is more level-headed, so I kept him at home and trained him a lot at home and didn’t come out until he was ready to do small tour. Now they’re both ready, but we need some mileage. It’s one thing to make a Grand Prix horse, but to get the mileage, you really need to get them the experience in the ring to be able to ride the way you ride at home. That takes a little bit of time.

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Mikala Münter and Skyfall. SusanJStickle.com Photo

Tell me about Skyfall.

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Skyfall I bought off a video in Denmark. He’s beautiful; my friend said to me, “I think this is the horse for you.” His grandsire, Calzone, was the first Grand Prix horse I ever made. He only bred one season so had very few offspring.

It turned out I had trained Skyfall’s mother and also owned his half brother, but I didn’t know when I bought him.

He looked so pretty, and he wasn’t too expensive. He was a little bit older without knowing anything. He was already almost 9 and still had to learn the changes. I bought him as a sales horse, and then he came over, and I saw him and was like, “Oh my gosh, this is my horse,” and didn’t want to sell him. He was so lovely.

He’s a little slow-thinking, like his grandsire was. He’s the type of horse that he takes a long time to learn something, but once he learns it, he does it. He’s super reliable in the ring. He’s very much the same horse at home that you take to the ring. He trusts me so much. He’s nervous, but he holds it inside, whereas [with] Salsa it comes out like an explosion.

He’s more of a mama’s boy. He’ll do well because he wants to do well for his rider.

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Mikala Münter and Salsa Hit at the 2021 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions. Lindsay Berreth Photo

Tell me about Salsa Hit.

He came to me for a client who bought him, but he was way too much horse for her. He’s little and cute and easy to ride at home, but when you take him to the show he turns into a little dragon. He just gets so excited, and he can’t control himself.

I just took over that ride. Recently my boyfriend Paul [Bint] bought into him, so now we own him together.

He’s definitely more of a showman.

Two years ago he dumped me in the indoor here at Global. Most of the riders who are here in the summer know him from the local shows and have seen me fly all over the horse show with him. I’d always have to longe him before I got on. Even at 12 years old last year. This year I haven’t had to longe him before a show. He would buck and squeal and scream. He just thinks it’s really fun and one big playground.

He’s getting more mature and getting more in the connection between the hand and the leg, so he’s easier for me to control.

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He needs a lot of mileage. He’s a superstar at home and doesn’t put a foot wrong. But it’s also fun to have a horse with so much energy. He wants to go. It’s finding the balance.

You had such a great partnership with My Lady. Did you think you’d ever find another horse like her?

It’s so hard to compare horses. Those three are so different. She was definitely one of a kind, and she was such a big, powerful mare. She went down the centerline, and she wanted to do well. She did not want to make mistakes. She tried to do well and wanted to perform. She would stand in front of the mirror at home and look at herself!

Where I think the boys tend to be a little bit more insecure. Even though Salsa’s a showman, he still has that nervousness to him. He tries to be good in the ring, but he’s still electric.

Skyfall is more of a “correct” horse. Once he’s finished he’ll be a really solid horse that will do everything very correctly and very much by the book, and he’s a beautiful animal. Does he have that X-factor? We don’t know. We didn’t know about My Lady until later on and we had to go in the big ring.

The biggest and best experience I ever had with a horse in general was My Lady when we were in Las Vegas for the World Cup Finals, and we had to go down this tunnel into the arena. The crowd was sitting so close to us, and it was so loud in there ,and they were clapping. I had two people ready to catch her in case she was going to spin around and run back, and she did the opposite. She almost trotted into the arena. She wanted to go. And I think, what else can you wish for in a show horse? She wanted to go in and do that.

My hope is that these horses will be the same way. You hope they’ll have good experiences, and they’ll feel that people love them. They sense these things. I hope they’ll develop into something. She was definitely something.

You’ve lived in the United States since 2004 and became a U.S. citizen in 2018. What’s it been like to ride under the U.S. flag?

The support I’ve had from the U.S. riders all these years did not make that very difficult for me to decide. Denmark is close to my heart, and we had fun when we rode on the team together, but I don’t work with that group of riders other than when I come over, so it was always a lot of pressure. I would ride a season here and do well and then come to Europe, and it felt like I had to prove myself one more time. A team manager or team trainer who hadn’t seen me—you had to prove everything in such a short window, and that was always too much stress.

When I showed in Aachen [Germany] under the Danish flag, the U.S. riders would always be there to support me and be there if things went well or not well. I just always felt so welcome and so much at home here. I feel like it was a good decision.

If it would ever be possible for me [to ride on a team] that would always be my goal. I’m a competitive rider. Do [Skyfall and Salsa Hit] have the quality to make it to the team? Who knows? We’ll need a little more mileage before we know that.

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