Devon, Pa.—Sept. 27
For years it felt like Harmony’s Boitano was taking a step forward only to come up with yet another suspensory injury that would start the rehabilitation process over from scratch. He’d shown promise with Susanne Hassler in the small tour classes at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (Florida) in 2015, but once he was injured the first time, it felt like a constant battle to get him back into the show ring. Every time they thought he was close, things would backslide.
Eventually owner Leslie Malone sent him to the veterinary clinic at Colorado State University where they finally found a cause. The Dutch Warmblood (Santano—Roma Jackson, Whinny Jackson) had a back injury that was causing him to move in a manner that was leading to frequent suspensory problems.
Once they had a diagnosis, they could come up with a solution: a series of daily stretches performed twice a day for 30 minutes and bodywork to get “Tano” to carry himself in a way that wouldn’t hurt.
“It just kind of aligns him in the right why where he doesn’t take wrong steps,” said Sara Hassler, who took over the ride from her mother after Tano started back into work. “And very careful training; we don’t push him. And he’s the fittest he’s ever been in his whole life now, so I think it’s a testament to first Leslie because she invested in him to first keep him going when a lot of the vets told her to just put him out, and she was like, ‘Nope, give him to Sara, we’ll see what they can do,’ so that was really cool.”
The daughter of top dressage trainers Susanne and Scott Hassler, Sara had never competed in a CDI before getting the ride on Malone’s 13-year-old gelding. She showed him throughout the winter season in Wellington, Florida, and they finished third at the USEF Dressage Festival Of Champions (Illinois) last month. They followed up with a reserve championship from the GAIG/USDF Region 8 Dressage Championships (New York) before heading to this year’s Dressage At Devon, where they won the CDI3* Prix St. Georges on a 72.35 percent.
“I’m just over the moon,” said Sara, 23. “I’ve been dreaming of riding here since I was 4 years old, and I never made it, so this is my first year here ever—just never had a horse that could, so it was really cool to do it on him. He’s so special. He was just with me every stride, so that was really fun, because it just felt like we were totally dancing together, which is what you’re supposed to do, so it was really, really special.”
Dressage is in Sara’s blood, and while many young riders with professionals for parents might seek out help from outside of the family, Sara’s found a way to make it work.
“It is like a happy family; it works out well,” she said. “My mom and I are less training, and she more picks on me about my position and fixes what I look like, and my dad and I fix what we do performance, so it works out really, really well. We don’t fight; we don’t argue. It’s really great. I’m very much involved with the business, so it’s really exciting.”
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