When it came to training Wallace G, a 9-year-old Georgian Grande, for success in the dressage arena, Taylor Lindsten had a secret weapon: working equitation. The Scottsdale, Arizona, trainer credits cross-training the stallion, owned by Susan Skripac, for his recent progress leading up to the U.S. Dressage Finals in Lexington, Kentucky.
On Friday evening under the lights of the Alltech Arena, the flashy Friesian-Saddlebred cross took first in the Intermediaire I open championship. “Wallace” (Sas Van Thorrehof—Yabba Dabba Dallas) was also the only horse in the class to crack 70%. In an encore on Saturday, he claimed second place in the Intermediaire I open freestyle championship.
“This is only our second time breaking 70% in the FEI levels,” Lindsten said following Friday’s win. “He showed up because he knew it was important.”
Lindsten believes that adding working equitation into their training—where horses navigate obstacles like bridges, barrels and gates—helped the stallion to make sense of how she was asking him to move in dressage. Under guidance from trainer Miguel Undabarrena, Lindsten found that the practical elements of the discipline seemed to resonate with Wallace.
“At [that] point, we didn’t have lead changes yet. We could barely do a walk-to-canter transition,” she said, reflecting on their starting point. “The obstacles flipped a switch for Wallace, because now the barrel—if I’m asking for inside bend—there’s a barrel that makes the bend seem necessary. In changing direction going around poles, the lead change seems necessary.”
Lindsten has been working with the stallion since he was sent to her by his breeder, George Geter, as a 5-year-old. She says that for all the many advantages of his breed, it took some time for him to figure out how to use his naturally rounded neck under saddle.
“Both Friesians and Saddlebreds typically have a higher neck set,” Lindsten said. “That can look beautiful in the upper levels, but you have to spend all that time at the lower levels, getting them to engage their back and kind of lift through their ribcage and swing.”
It took consistency and outside-the-box thinking for Lindsten to teach Wallace how to properly engage, but now that things have “clicked,” he’ll continue to showcase his skills in both rings. She plans to continue showing him in working equitation, where he competed at masters level this year, as he continues his rise through the dressage levels. The goal is to debut Wallace in Grand Prix this spring.
Wallace’s splashy pinto coloring and top ribbons are winning him attention at Finals, but Lindsten says that, back home in Scottsdale, he’s already somewhat of a local celebrity.
“When I trail ride him, people will pull up in their cars because the kids love him,” she said with a laugh. “He’ll put his head into people’s vehicles.”
At her training barn, Taylor Made Sporthorses, Wallace’s lifestyle defies all the stallion stereotypes. He lives with his best friend, a miniature mule mare named Tinkerbell, and he’s as gentle with her as he is with Lindsten’s students. The working stallion, who currently has four foals on the ground, is regularly used with kids in her lessons program.
“He’s the most gentle horse I’ve ever had, and that he’s a stallion is shocking,” she said. “He’s saintly. He’s so saintly.”
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The Chronicle will be on site at the U.S. Dressage Finals, bringing you gorgeous photos, interviews and more. Make sure to follow along at www.coth.com and on Facebook, and Instagram @Chronofhorse. For full analysis and coverage from the horse show be sure to check out the Dec. 18 issue of the magazine.