PUPIL AND TEACHER: The writer and Chanelle in August 2012 (Bradley Obritsch)

A young rider learns important lessons from her schoolmaster horse

Reprinted from the February 2014 Issue of USDF Connection

By Amy L. Obritsch

In May 2007, I had just finished my sophomore year of high school. Te previous year, my Thoroughbred, Clipper, and I had had a successful show season, earning several championship titles at training and First Levels. I was looking forward to bringing Clipper out at Second Level that summer when he was in a horrific accident and had to be euthanized. My heart and my dreams were crushed.

Clipper did leave me one very special thing: insurance money to buy a new horse. Day after day, I sat in my dad’s study for hours, looking at horses on the internet. My dream was to find a schoolmaster. One day I came across a fifteen-year- old Intermediate I-level Dutch Warmblood mare, and I fell in love.

 Two things were against me from the start. First, the mare was in Boston, and I live in North Dakota. Second, she was hopelessly out of my price range. But something told me to e-mail the owner anyway. The owner replied that she could not lower her price. Dreams dashed, I continued my search. Then a few weeks later, the owner contacted me again: She needed to sell the mare as soon as possible and was willing to negotiate. The mare, Chanelle, was mine.

Given Chanelle’s training, I expected to be able to ride Prix St. Georges at our first show together. Nothing could have been further from the truth. For the first few weeks, I did not want anything to do with my “dream horse.” Chanelle had a lot of power and was definitely not a “pushbutton” schoolmaster.

One day, my dad picked me up from a riding lesson that went badly. In tears, I begged him to get rid of Chanelle so that I could get an easier horse to ride. He replied: “If we sell Chanelle, we will not buy another horse.” So for the next two years I buckled down, grew stronger, and learned how to ride my mare.

 In 2009 I graduated from high school. Soon after, my dad announced that he was selling Chanelle because I was going to college out of state, and taking my horse with me was not an option. Chanelle was sent to a trainer in Kansas, and I was heartbroken once again.

As the weeks and months went by, Chanelle did not sell. A year passed, and I was praying that no one would buy her. Many people were interested in her, but she was seventeen and had progressive age-related arthritis. At one point a lady planned to purchase Chanelle, but the pre-purchase exam did not go well and the buyer backed out. My dad decided that I could keep her after all.

Chanelle taught me the upper-level movements and how to ride correctly. Although her traveling and showing days were over, I learned so many valuable tools that i will use for the rest of my riding career.

Last September, I had to say goodbye forever to my sweet Chanelle. She will always be in my heart as the patient schoolmaster that taught me never to give up. Every time I rode tempi changes, passage, or a canter pirouette, I had bittersweet memories of Clipper, who gave me the greatest gift: Chanelle.  

Amy Obritsch earned a BA in Catholic studies from the University of St. Tomas, St. Paul, MN, in 2013. In dressage, she has earned performance certificates for Training and First Levels. She rides and trains at Harmony Stables LLC in Bismarck, ND.

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