An unlikely match proves auspicious for both horse and rider
By Diane Redlich
When my Dutch Warmblood/Toroughbred “horse of a lifetime,” Redson, sustained an injury in turnout, I found myself learning more about veterinary care than dressage. My wonderful training and showing days were fast becoming a distant memory.
Then came the words that changed everything.
“I have the perfect horse for you, ” Yvonne Barteau said.
Years before, when I lived in the Chicago area, Yvonne and her husband, Kim Barteau, had been my trainers, and I had bought Redson from them. When I decided to start looking for another horse, I contacted Yvonne.
Picasso FRF, a then eight-year-old Andalusian gelding, would be perfect for me, Yvonne said. Yvonne is an expert on matching riders to horses (she is the author of the book Ride the Right Horse), and she knows me well, so back to Chicago from my home in Ohio I went to try him. I had seen and admired Iberian horses before—during a dressage-training vacation to Portugal years ago, I fell in love with the two horses I was privileged to ride and learn on—but as a dressage rider, I knew mostly about warmbloods.
What I found was a fat, goofy, likeable kid who was very green for his age. Picasso didn’t seem to know much, but he was broke, safe, and kind—a great starting point. He didn’t understand circles, and he had never been taught to lunge. I wasn’t sure how good a job I did riding him, but I had him vetted. He passed, and I still wasn’t sure he was the right horse for me, but I bought him anyway. I didn’t want my next horse to be similar to Redson; didn’t want to find myself comparing them and feeling disappointed. Plus, I had heard that Andalusians are very “user friendly”—and they sure are pretty!
I spent the first winter riding Picasso in a cold and lonely indoor arena near my house. Every day, we worked on basics—connection basics, go-forward basics, pay-attention basics. In the spring I got to bring him home to my outdoor arena, and Picasso never put a foot wrong. He has the greatest ears—very animated, and they flick back on me all the time. I laugh and imagine that we are having conversations all through our rides.
At our first outings to schooling shows last year, Picasso handled himself beautifully, keeping his attention on me and even attracting a steady stream of admirers along the way. We moved up to some bigger shows, and each time we showed the mistakes got fewer and the scores increased. By the end of the season, Picasso had become the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association’s Adequan/USDF All-Breeds open and amateur training Level champion, and was third at First Level amateur!
My current trainer, Brittany McCarthy, says of Picasso: “He is so fun. I wish they were all like him!” We are progressing to the “harder stuff” in dressage, and Picasso is enjoying learning. He is happy, sleek, and muscled, gradually turning whiter but still with his “painted” rose-gray coloring. And I keep laughing and pinching myself that I have been lucky enough to find two “horses of a lifetime.”
Diane Redlich, Amelia, OH, began riding at the age of eight while her Air Force family was stationed in England. At this year’s Great American/USDF Region 2 Championships, she and Picasso placed in the top half of their Third Level Amateur championship class. She earned her USDF bronze medal this year, as well, and Picasso is the 2014 USDF All-Breeds International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association Third Level Amateur champion.