Bob, the Accidental Dressage Horse

Bob and owner/rider Jennifer Becar with their Second Level prizes at the 2014 Arabian and Half-Arabian Sport Horse National Championship in Nampa, Idaho. Photo by Terry Maupin

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 6 rider shares how she had no intentions of ever riding dressage or owning an Arabian – yet fate had other plans!

By Jennifer Becar

I was a teenager, sitting with my mom and my horse trainer, talking about the kind of horse I was interested in as we began the search for my first show horse. “I don’t really think I want an Arabian,” I said sheepishly to my trainer, who specialized in the breed. I was more confident in my next assertion; “I don’t want to do dressage – it looks boring.”

My mom and I still laugh about those comments now, nearly 15 years later. Today, I am absolutely in love with the sport of dressage, and my heart has been stolen forever by the Arabian breed – all thanks to a little red horse named Bob.

He was, quite literally, nothing that I wanted when we were horse shopping. After several unsuccessful attempts at finding me the perfect stock type hunt seat horse, my trainer turned me towards a horse in his barn – a chestnut western pleasure gelding, purebred Arabian. “He isn’t really what you’re looking for,” my trainer admitted, “but I think you’ll like him.”

OFW Ambush+_, aka Bob. Photo by Terry Maupin.

OFW Ambush+/ was his name, and I remember clearly my first impression of him – that he was the most beautiful horse I had ever seen. When I first got to ride him, my second impression was that he was the most FUN horse I had ever ridden, too. At our first schooling show together, we took home more than our fair share of the prizes. My childhood dreams of showring success were coming true in the form of schooling show flat ribbons. That would not be the last time Bob made my dreams come true, not by a long shot.

Bob and I started our partnership together in hunt seat and western classes, and my love affair with dressage began entirely on accident. At my first high school equestrian team meet, I was interested in adding another event to my schedule. With nothing else striking my fancy, I decided to enter the dressage class. Neither Bob nor I had ever done dressage before – “it looks boring,” remember? – but I figured it was worth a try.

When results were posted, I was shocked to see we had won the class – and with that, the seed had been planted. We ended the high school equestrian season as District Champions. At the State Championship, we rode a First Level test for the first time. I got to thinking maybe dressage wasn’t so boring after all.

Jennifer and Bob riding First Level at the 2014 Arabian and Half-Arabian Sport Horse National Championship in Nampa, Idaho. Photo by Terry Maupin

As Bob and I continued our show career together, we enjoyed a variety of classes at the Arabian breed shows, from hunter and western pleasure to sidesaddle and show hack, but we were always happiest together in the dressage court. I grew to love how dressage was something you could improve upon yourself, that you could see results and progress in your scores regardless of how you placed in any given class. I loved learning the new tests and movements and feeling my horse and I get more confident. Bob, smart as he is, enjoyed having new and different things to work on and think about, instead of riding laps around an arena. We joked that he liked the undivided attention, too – no sharing the dressage court with a crowd of other horses! Eventually, we stopped competing in other disciplines and pursued dressage exclusively.

As much as we enjoyed the sport, a part of me always doubted Bob and my ability to advance up the levels. After all, he had been bred for anything but the discipline we were now pursuing. Our dressage scores were average more often than not, but even when a final score or placing left me disappointed, I could find tiny victories–a half-point increase on that movement we’ve struggled with, a kind comment from the judge–and those kept me going. The pursuit of excellence was extremely satisfying, and with every ride, I felt my partnership with Bob grow.

Jennifer and Bob riding Third Level at the 2015 Oregon Dressage Society Championship in Sherwood, Oregon. Photo by Terry Maupin

As we continued to train and compete, Bob proved time and again that I was a fool to ever doubt him. With persistence and a lot of help from outstanding trainers and clinicians, we improved. We pulled a few 70%’s at Training and First Level, and later won a Top Ten at the Arabian Sport Horse Nationals in Training Level. One year, my trainer mentioned me riding Second Level the following season. Although the idea was thrilling, I was skeptical. Of course, I shouldn’t have been; Bob continued to impress me every time we went down centerline, and we added two more Sport Horse National Top Ten titles at Second Level.

It must have been around this time that I finally allowed myself to really dream about what was possible. What Bob was teaching me every time we went down centerline was that his heart and his spirit would carry him much farther in this sport than his lineage or his appearance would suggest. Any limitations in his conformation or his natural aptitude were negated by his unfaltering commitment to please. No matter the time of day or the task at hand, Bob always greets you with perfectly perked ears and bright eyes, happy just to be with you for whatever comes next. In the saddle, he may get flustered or confused at times, but he always, always tries. I owe that to his Arabian heritage, and it is the element of the breed that makes it hard for me to consider ever riding another type of horse.

It was that Arabian spirit that made possible one of my proudest moments as an equestrian. When my trainer asked if I had planned to go for my USDF Bronze Medal, I admitted that the idea had never crossed my mind; it had never felt in reach. But with just two scores standing in our way, and with the years that Bob had spent surprising me, I was ready to shoot for the stars.

As always, he exceeded all expectations. We earned our final scores for the medal at our debut show at Third Level, surrounded by family and friends who knew just what the achievement meant to me. To have earned all six of my Bronze Medal scores with Bob, my accidental dressage horse, was a dream; and like all my dreams in the saddle, Bob had made it come true.

In Bob’s golden years, he and Jenna have taken on new adventures – including competing in trail obstacle challenges at their local saddle club. Photo by Gail Renshaw, October 2020

The year after earning my Bronze Medal, Bob and I debuted Fourth Level at a couple of shows. To say we ever competed at that level still feels surreal, but it was made possible by an incredible support system of friends, family, and trainers who believed in me–and of course, by the heart and spirit of a special little red horse.

Bob, now 21 years old, is living the good life at home with me and his best buddy, Fizz, my half–Arabian gelding. His days dancing across the dressage court may be mostly over, but that hasn’t slowed him down. He enjoys galloping through the pasture, taking me for long hacks across my property, and competing in trail obstacle competitions at the local saddle club. In 2020, we even tried our first virtual horse shows, riding dressage tests in my pasture with orange cones set up as arena letters.

Bob enjoying time in the pasture at Jennifer’s home in Idaho. Photo by Jennifer Becar

As a teenager, I could have never imagined the direction my life as an equestrian would take – and looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. More valuable than any of the titles and accolades I have earned is the love of the most beautiful horse in the world. People talk about their heart horses, and Bob is absolutely mine. I am so blessed to be his person, and no matter where my journey takes me next, I will always have Bob to thank for making me the horsewoman I am today.

Related Links:

Information about the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards

Small But Mighty: Calabash

Breed of the Month – Arabians! Part 1

The Silver Lining

A Love Story


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