The college student and her Morab earn second-level wins in Iowa.
When Morgan Williams purchased Sahara’s Starr 11 years ago, she was really looking for a Quarter Horse for trail riding. She didn’t have a high opinion of Arabians, but she was still persuaded to go look at a 2-year-old filly out of a mostly Arabian dam.
“She was the sweetest of all the horses I tried. I really got her for her personality,” said Williams, 25.
At the time Williams had no idea she’d ever end up in a dressage ring. She sampled a bit of everything with “Starr” before focusing on dressage and taking her biggest win yet at the Great American/ USDF Region 4 Championships and Midwest Championships in Mason City, Iowa, Sept. 4-7.
“We started in western pleasure, then did some hunt seat, and then I switched over to dressage six years ago,” she said. “I still do some hunter stuff too.”
Williams has found that she experiences the least breed prejudice in the dressage arena, where she earned the Region 4 and Midwest second level, adult amateur, championships with scores of 67.97 and 66.19 percent.
“Either I get judges who will accept Arabs or ones who think they don’t have the gaits,” she said. “But the judges I had this weekend [Natalie Lamping, Debbie Riehl-Rodriguez and Janet Brown Foy], I’ve had them before and they’ve always scored [Starr] well. She wins with accuracy, not her gaits. We got 8s on our simple changes, the halt and free walk.
“Dressage is very organized in how it’s scored,” she added. “Gaits should only be a couple of scores. I like dressage judging way better than anything else I’ve done.”
The pair won the first level championship two years ago, but Williams was more pleased with her rides this year. Now she hopes to earn her U.S. Dressage Federation bronze medal.
“She’s getting older, and I don’t know how much further she can move up,” Williams said of her mare. “I hope to breed her, maybe to a warmblood.”
Williams wasn’t sure how she’d do at the championships, since she spent the summer away from her horse, grooming for other people at horse shows and doing odd jobs.
“I didn’t get to ride all summer, but I came back to school a month early,” she said. “I didn’t know if she was ready, but she was really on [at the show].”
The trip to Mason City, Iowa, took a little longer than Williams had expected, since her truck broke down on the way there.
She’d broken down on an on-ramp to the highway, near Des Moines, Iowa, and since they couldn’t get the rig backed up straight with the tow truck, they had to drive an hour down the highway and back to the garage.
She finally arrived in Mason City around midnight, missing the opportunity to school on the showgrounds the day before her classes.
Although she’s never had a full-time trainer, Williams has taken clinics whenever she can and is mostly self-taught. She now works with Karen Pautz at William Woods University (Mo.), where she’s a senior majoring in equine science, with a minor in art. After graduation, Williams hopes to get her masters in equine nutrition at Colorado State University. But first she’d like to spend a few years gaining experience in dressage stables.
“I’d like to get more experience with upper-level horses,” she said.
Two years ago, Sahara’s Starr (by the Morgan Incredible Hawk) was inducted into the Morab Hall Of Fame based on points she’d earned in dressage competitions. But there’s more to the 15-hand chestnut mare than her collection of awards.
“She does tricks—she bows, shakes hands, does the Spanish walk, will touch her back toe, says yes or no and gives hugs,” said Williams. “We used to do trick demos at fairs. She does everything; she’s the perfect horse.
“You can ride her completely with your seat. She’s so responsive with your body weight; you can do an extended canter and just collect her with your seat,” she added.
Williams also finished third in the regional training level championship for adult amateurs, aboard Sahara’s Raja, a 6-year-old gelding out of Sahara’s Starr. The result of an “accident” (a Morgan got loose), his score of 67.80 percent placed him third out of 18 in the GAIG/USDF class, and he was fifth on a score of 66.00 percent in the Midwest class.