Upper-level dressage horse pedigrees don’t typically include names like Dreamboat Annie and Texas Tea, but Rose Goetsch’s versatile gelding Zip Two Dust is anything but typical.
The 18-year-old red roan with distinctive blanket spots covering his hindquarters was purchased, sight unseen, through an online ad in 2016. Goetsch, from Fort Worth, Texas, met the shipper in a Motel 6 parking lot, greeting the horse for the first time after he’d spent over 1,500 miles on the road from British Columbia.
Since then, “Zippy” has helped a couple of riders earn their U.S. Dressage Federation bronze medals and scores toward their silver medals. He even went down centerline in his first Intermediaire I in January with Goetsch’s trainer Pati Pierucci.
And lest there be any doubt about the origin of his spots, he’s unmistakably an Appaloosa, registered with the Appaloosa Horse Club of Canada (Tea For Two—Joker’s Shy Zip, Imperial’s Joker).
“He’s got a little fan club at the shows,” said Goetsch. “People greet him by name even though they don’t know my name. I think the first or second test I rode with him, the judge wrote, ‘Lovely spotted horse!’ ”
Goetsch, 51, wasn’t looking for an FEI prospect when she purchased Zippy. She’d returned to riding in her 40s after a few decades away, but an experience with a challenging horse affected her confidence. She began searching for a new horse online, only to have Pierucci veto one after another.
“I really loved Appaloosas from when I was a kid, so I kept looking at Appaloosas,” said Goetsch. “I got to where I would just google ‘Appaloosa—for sale—dressage’ every once in a while, and this website I had never been to before and never seen since popped up with his ad.”
Zippy’s way of moving looked promising in the video, but Pierucci wanted more information. ”I am really, really cautious,” said Pierucci, who’s based in Willow Park, Texas. “I don’t like people buying horses off of videos, so I asked her to have the sellers walk the horse toward the camera, show us his feet, his full conformation, all these things.”
Pierucci, who’d previously brought an Appaloosa up the levels and wasn’t biased against the breed, decided Zippy had enough potential to take a gamble.
“When we finally went through the whole thing and realized, because he was in British Columbia, it was going to cost more than what he would cost to fly there and then ship him to Texas, I said, ‘OK Rose, at the very least, if he doesn’t work out, I know we can sell him, so go ahead,’ ” she said.
Goetsch, who was focused on acquiring a horse with a steady temperament, recalled the first good sign came when she met the shipper in a parking lot in Kansas, since scheduling didn’t allow the company to drive the final leg to Texas.
“I suggested we find somewhere that was fenced [to transfer the horse] for safety, and he said, ‘He’s not going to be a problem. Don’t worry!’ So we met in a Motel 6 parking lot!” Goetsch said with a laugh. “He also said, ‘If you don’t want him, I’ll take him right now,’ but I said, ‘Nope, I want him!’ ”
The shipper’s assessment of Zippy’s attitude proved accurate. “It turned out to be the most amazing [decision],” said Pierucci. “He arrived and we were like, ‘This horse is awesome!’ ”
Zippy and his new owner, who had never entered a dressage show, began a back-to-basics training program together and rapidly progressed.
“I started my showing at training level [a month after Zippy arrived]. We qualified for regional championships that year,” Goetsch said. “In 2017, I got all my scores for my bronze medal on him. We showed a lot, and we had a blast. He’s awesome at shows, totally no different from when you’re at home.”
Pierucci is also quick to credit the good-natured gelding, along with the detailed and accurate information provided by his previous owner. “I’ve been doing this for 41 years, and he was well represented,” she said. “He had good basics.”
She added, “Rose was more than willing to take her time and go back. We did it very systematically, and he just got stronger and stronger. She did everything that I asked her to do in terms of his feeding program, and it all paid off.”
While Zippy is an easy keeper, some features of his typey breeding have required extra attention throughout his training.
“He has a long back. It took a long time to get him strong enough to do some movements,” said Goetsch. “It’s been a three-year process to get him able to work on upper-level stuff. He’s not exactly uphill, but he compensates for that. He’s strong enough now that the pirouettes are getting really good. He can really rock back.”
As she and Zippy moved up the levels—they debuted at Prix St. Georges earlier this year, although she admits, “We won the warm-up, and then I kind of blew it in the arena,”—Goetsch has generously offered Zippy to other riders. He’s been particularly helpful for those facing anxiety.
“I let a girl use him to do her first horse show because she also had no confidence and was struggling,” said Goetsch. “She also was one of Pati’s students, so I let her show him in Houston, and she had a great show with Zip, then went on and was able to show her own horse.”
In 2019, Zippy helped another new competitor learn the ropes when Trina Gilchrist, who owns the facility where Pierucci primarily trains, decided to enter a show.
“Trina had never been down centerline, ever. She owned some really fancy horses, but they were a little hot,” explained Pierucci. “Rose suggested Zippy, so Trina got him five days before her very first show.”
That outing was successful, so they kept going. “Every month I said, ‘Let’s do first level. Let’s do second level. Let’s do third level,’ ” said Pierucci. “Within 104 days from the very first time she ever sat on that horse, she had her bronze medal. That’s what that horse did.”
Goetsch, who grooms for Gilchrist when she’s not riding herself, was thrilled to see her friend do so well on her horse.
“We have a really close-knit group that shows, and part of the fun was seeing her face when she came out of the ring and celebrating that,” Goetsch said. “It ended up that he helped her so much, she was able to get her last score on her own horse.”
Occasionally, Zippy does weigh in with an editorial comment when he objects to a particular request—but even when he has a moment, it’s easy to handle.
“His version of a little tantrum is he hops up in the front end,” said Goetsch. “We joke that he thinks he’s rearing like the Black Stallion, but he’s really just getting about six inches off the ground, and then he goes and does whatever you’re asking him to do!”
Since Zippy stayed at Gilchrist’s barn while they trained together, it seemed natural for Pierucci to see what she could do with him in competition.
“Pati had never shown him,” said Goetsch, “So I left him there, and she would ride, and then I would get on after, and he felt fantastic! We did that through the first half of 2020, and then they showed I1 [at Haras Midsummer Dressage I & II in July in Texas], and she got a 62 and a 63, so now I have an I1 Appaloosa!”
For Pierucci, who has her USDF gold medal and is known for training horses of all breeds to the FEI levels, bringing the Appaloosa out at Intermediaire was a validation of correct training.
“I have been very fortunate. My trainers were the best of the best, Robert Dover, Kathy Connelly, I have really had a wonderful career,” Pierucci said. “One of the highlights of my entire life was bringing that sweet little spotted man down centerline.”
She continued, “Any breed can do this if you take your time and do it right. Zippy’s an OK mover; he’s not a great mover. What Zippy’s great in is who he is as a horse, his personality. He wasn’t bred to be an I1 horse, you know what I mean? Yet here he is.”
Goetsch loves that Zippy has not only been a fantastic teacher for her, but that others have also benefitted from his kind temperament and honest work ethic.
“I get such joy seeing him help somebody else,” Goetsch said, adding that she’s looking forward to Gilchrist’s and Pierucci’s grandchildren riding Zippy someday.
“Our motto is: ‘Everybody needs a Zippy,’ ” Goetsch said. “He’s easy to have in the barn, he’s easy to take places, he’s a nice mover, and he’s a cute Appy! You can’t really beat it.”