Small But Mighty: Calabash

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Stephanie and Calabash

Arabians are our YourDressage Breed of the Month for July!  One of the oldest horse breeds on earth, and the influence for many other breeds, these elegant horses are easily recognizable with their delicate faces and high tail carriage.  They excel in many sports, particularly endurance riding.

Dressage enthusiasts who ride Arabians have the opportunity to earn special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards as Arabian Horse Association, North American Shagya-Arabian Society, and Performance Shagya-Arabian Registry are all Participating Organizations.

We recently asked our social media followers to share stories about what makes these horses so special.  Here, a Region 3 rider shares about her rescue Arabian, Calabash.

By Stephanie Blaylock

I had been horseless for almost a year. I teach beginner riding lessons at a local equestrian center in North Carolina. My little Arabian had passed away the year before, at the age of 31, and I wasn’t quite ready to fill that hole in my heart yet with a new horse.

One day at work, our program director, Cathy, mentioned an online sales ad for a small chestnut Arabian gelding the next county over. She was sure the ad had been shared with me many times, but it had not. He was young, unregistered, a rescue, and in training with a dressage trainer. Something really pulled at my heartstrings. He had one white front leg just like my Cory. I loved that he had been pulled from a rescue and that someone thought he was special enough to save. I talked my daughter into a trial ride, and when I saw his lovely trot movement and sweet eyes I bought him that day.

Affectionately named Shrimp due to his size, I learned later his growth had been stunted by malnutrition. He was a 3-year-old ungelded colt when he was pulled from a rescue in Louisiana by fellow horse lover Anne Desbon. She brought him to North Carolina and got him healthy and on the right track with some farrier work. She had him gelded and saw the importance of having some training put on him. At a mere 13.1 hands he was small and underdeveloped. I named him Calabash, a small type of shrimp found off the North Carolina coast and contacted the Arabian Horse Association about a DNA test to see if it would be possible to register him, as I suspected he may be purebred. Some internet sleuthing through rescue Facebook pages led me to find the breeder and confirm my suspicions that he was purebred. He is 75% Polish and 25% Egyptian with lines to Bask. I also registered him with the International Rescue Horse Registry. I appreciate that they recognize dressage accomplishments.

I stayed in lessons with Lindsay Riddell who initially started him under saddle. We worked on basics and lots of suppling exercises for strength and muscle building. I hadn’t ridden other than trail riding and mounted archery in years, and now I was in my mid-fifties with a young green Arabian trying dressage. My daughter, Emily Grimstead, had her own rescue dressage pony and competed locally and at the National Dressage Pony Cup. She was helpful and even rode Calabash in a few shows. I didn’t think I would have an interest in competing myself. I am a very nervous shower and it had been over 14 years since I had stepped into a show ring.

Then Covid hit.  I immersed myself in lessons as my work shut down and the world went silent. We built strength and confidence together. I rode 5 to 6 days a week and we built a relationship. I lost 40 pounds and started a goal for myself of attending a schooling show. I bought white breeches. In May of 2021, I took my little Arab on our first trip into the sandbox together. We not only won our class, but won with a 70.2% in Intro B! Since then we’ve managed nice scores in Intro C and are pressing forward towards Training Level.

My Calabash has become a gorgeous, balanced boy. I couldn’t be more proud of him. I’ve even had a judge stop me at the end of my ride to inquire what breed he is.

This put me on a track of wanting to learn more. My goals are changing and who knows, maybe a rated show is in the near future. I love the idea of competing openly against all breeds. My favorite thing about dressage is that it is truly a sport for all horses, ponies, and even a little Shrimp.

Related Links:

Information about the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards

Dynamic Duo

“I’m Your Huckleberry”

Why I Love the US Dressage Finals Nora Batchelder & Faro SQF – Region 3

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