By Joni Patten
I started showing as a hunter/jumper rider on a black appendix Quarter Horse, who lived to the age of 33. We did sometimes show in dressage, but we were very new at it and mostly scored in 50s. I read up on dressage and took lessons, and bought a breeding stock paint mare to show. I was still a rookie, but we did fairly well at Training Level. At the time, I wasn’t very serious about dressage so I sold her to a friend for her young daughter to ride in eventing. At the time, I had a homebred appendix Quarter Horse, Anderoo, who I’d been riding in competitive trail (ACTHA). I started getting serious with dressage and took more lessons. Anderoo was pretty good but had always been (and still is) a bit nervous.
I found Lily, a white 3-year-old Quarter Horse, online. She was in Alabama and I live in Georgia. I had a 3-year-old gelding for sale at the time, and Lily’s owner contacted me to see if we could trade horses. I loaded up my Smart Little Moose and headed to Alabama. When Lily was led out of the barn, it was love at first sight. And when I unloaded my little gelding, the same was true for Lily’s owner! We made an even swap. I worked very hard training her and taking lessons. She was always a fun, forward horse. I began showing her at rated shows at Training Level. We had a lot of successes, and won the AQHA high point at Second Level. At Third Level, we struggled a bit. She learned her lead changes but became very fussy. I believe her size and Quarter Horse build made the higher collection difficult for her. It became clear to me that my horse was unhappy in dressage during this level, so I decided to “retire” her. I still own her, and she is a fun trail horse! She is now 13.
It was time to look for my next dressage horse. After earning my USDF Bronze Medal on Lily, I knew my next horse would have big shoes to fill. One day a friend called me and asked if I would like to ride her horse because she had been injured. Her horse, “Pedro”(UF Gray Smoke), was a black 16.3 hand Quarter Horse. He was being used by another rider at that time and was being ridden western pleasure. He’d been ridden in hunter under saddle as a younger horse. I said I’d like to ride him, but I want to do dressage with him. She reluctantly agreed and brought him to me. We tacked him up and rode him right off the trailer, down to my arena, and I started schooling him. He was calm and responsive, if a bit slow. I said yes to riding him, and I rode him almost every day for a few months. It was November when I got him. He responded well to my training, and I could tell he would be a fun dressage horse. I offered to buy him and after we agreed on a price, he was mine.
I was 61 when I bought Pedro, and I continued to train him and take some lessons. We went to a schooling show and scored 65.65%! In April 2018, I took him to a rated show at Poplar Place Farm in Hamilton, Georgia. His very first score at Training Level Test 1 was 69%! So I continued training and showing him through 2018. We had mostly scores in the 60’s. For our last show in December, we drove down to Apopka, Florida. We had a great weekend there. On Sunday, it rained all day. But as I had driven that far to a show, I rode in the pouring (and I do mean pouring!) rain. We rode 3 Training Level classes that day. Our scores were 71.957%, 72.174%, and 73.654%! I guess riding through 4-6 inches of water made him a better mover. I was so proud of him, and me, for riding those tests in spite of the downpour!
I am now training him in First Level. We’ve shown twice with scores in low to mid 60’s. I am having such a great time with Pedro. He is truly the horse of my dreams! Pedro & I also enjoy trail riding, so we take a few trail days to keep him fresh, going out on the 600 acres of forested land next to where I live. I am looking forward to many more years riding Pedro. Most excitingly, we won the AQHA high point for amateur Training Level in 2018. 43 AQHA points! I will be attending the AQHA awards banquet in November in Oklahoma City!