Writers of Equestrian Fiction
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Monday, November 5, 2012
Better than the Dream
Since I just got back from 4 days of coaching at the Galway International Horse Trials and since some of the photos I wanted to share have not yet arrived, this blog post will be a brief first installment on the promised update on my Dressage horse Uiver. As some of you might remember, I bought Uiver, my now 11 year old Dutch Warmblood, about 16 months ago. When I bought Uiver I knew that he came with the "baggage" and that he and his previous owner had not been a good match but the details of just how unhappy he was was not shared with me until recently.
As we all know finding that right match of a horse can be somewhat like the search for the holy grail and that when a horse is unhappy in a prior situation it does not mean that anyone has necessarily done anything wrong. As far as Uiver, I was not concerned with his past behavior, which I have now come to learn was pretty undesirable at times, because #1) we had clicked from the beginning and #2) I knew that in order to find the quality of horse that I wanted within my price range, that I was going to have to accept some flaws. And given the choice, I would rather those flaws be behavioral rather than physical.
What I have found rather amusing over the past year+, is the large number of high level dressage riders and trainers who knew Uiver before that have expressed their amazement at the changes in him and how far and how quickly his career has progressed.
When I bought Uiver he was under consignment/training with David Blake and clearly David got along very well with the horse and had made major improvements before I ever laid eyes on him. Uiver and I continued to train with David after the purchase was complete, traveling back to Arroyo for weekly lessons at a minimum and additional coaching at shows. This has been essential because even though I am a professional trainer as well, most of my competitve experience prior was from 3-day eventing and I was relatively green to upper level dressage. On the occasion when I have had to be away for any extended period I take Uiver back to Arroyo for the some additional "Uncle David" time. What neither David or I knew when I purchased Uiver was exactly how bad the horse's behavior had been before.
Over the past year no fewer than 10 people has told be that "I guess all that Uiver needed was a Mom." and then have shared stories of his brash and bullyish temperament. All of this just amazes me since other than giving people a grumpy face when he stands in the cross ties or in his stall at shows, I find the horse to be incredibly loving, kind and affectionate. The most recent story was shared with me this past weekend when I ran into an old acquaintance, Nicole, who knew Uiver when she worked at a top Dressage facility in Ranch Santa Fe where Sue Blinks, Christine Traurig and Guenther Seidel train. All former Olympians. Nicole told me that she saw Uiver and I at a show this past September in Del Mar and she said that she could hardly believe how well mannered he was and how happy he was in his work. She then proceeded to tell me that Uiver used to stand on his hind legs and walk across and/or out of the dressage rings all the time. She asked me if he had ever reared, bucked or bolted with me and I said that he had reared once when he felt overly pressured but that David and I had backed off and approached the exercise from a different way and that he can be spooky at times and gives little bolts but they are generally short lived. Nicole just stood there in amazement and said again, "I guess he just needed the right person to love him."
Well love him I do, with all my heart and I consider myself lucky and privileged to have been blessed with a horse of his heart and talent. If love is all the cure he needed then I would assume that his problems are cured because he will never be leaving my care. Both Sue Blinks and Christine Traurig have told David and I that they are equally impressed and amazed at what we have been able to accomplish with Uiver and Christine made a point of telling me that it brought her "great joy" when she saw Uiver and I together. She sat with David and I at a recent show and said that she always thought that Uiver had ability but was not sure if his movement could be organized and molded enough to turn him into an upper level dressage horse let alone get to the FEI levels.
I have endless respect and admiration for both of these ladies and their kind words and encouragement mean more than I think they will ever realize. Uiver has already exceeded my greatest expectations and our future looks as bright as ever, but even if we went no further I would be content in what we have already accomplished competitively and in knowing that more importantly I have made the horse happy. Isn't that what it is really all about??
In the time I have had Uiver, he has gone from 3rd level to being a proven Prix St. George competitor and we will making our debut at Intermediare at our next show in a few weeks. Uiver was just learning single changes and extended trot 16 months ago and today he does 2 tempis and is learning piaffe.
The first week of October, just last month, Uiver and I competed in the USDF Region 7 Prix ST, George Open Championships and I will let you know how we did in my next post. (How is that for a tease!!) All I will say is that all of it, the good days and the bad, the reality of it is even better than the dream.