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 1 rider shares how her Arabian mare inspired her to find that horse-life balance every equestrian strives for.
By Elizabeth Ball
I remember that day very well. The little voices started creeping into my head telling me that “you cannot have kids and horses,” and “you cannot have kids and a career.” How in the heck did I think I could have it all, a successful career, marriage, and kids, with horses?
My husband was, for the first time, insisting that I not ride during my pregnancy. It was good advice, but horses had always been where I could decompress and cope with the stresses of navigating my way up the ladder of a computer programmer, manager, and director for an international computer company. His ask was warranted because we had just been through the emotional roller coaster of two miscarriages and a baby taken before birth because its heart just stopped beating. This horse that I was going to have to put on hold was special because she represented everything I had worked hard for up until this point. She was the first horse I had purchased on my own and was young, vibrant, and had only 90 days of basic training. Finally, a horse that I could imprint and finish, and did not have a lot of dents in her.
Why was this important? You see, I was that little girl that asked Santa every year to bring me a horse, with hopes that one day my wish would be granted. For many summer days, I worked a deal and traded my new Tennessee orange Schwinn 10 speed bike for a horse that belonged to a friend a mile down the road. Both parents were unaware and it worked for a while, until my friend wrecked the bike and I carried her, with a concussion, home on the back of her horse. I rode horses that broke out of their pasture and settled on our neighborhood lawn. The owner retrieved them a few days later and was shocked that I rode three of them through the neighborhood with a rope halter I made. These horses had not been broke to ride but I had bonded with them, and I was too young to know that horses had to go through a training process to be ridden. I rode horses at local barns that owners could not ride themselves, but it was difficult because I would get attached and of course they would sell them and get out of horses all together. While I was in college, I worked for a trainer in a show barn. While waiting for her championship ride one evening, we were sitting on the back of a tailgate and she said something that changed my life as a freshman in college. She said, “don’t quit school and become a horse trainer.” She said “go back to school and earn a degree so that you can get a great job and have your horses the way you want to have them.” She told me the harsh reality of a trainer’s life that night. She explained how horse and stable owners would push her to show horses that needed rest due to joint fatigue or serious health conditions. The trainer’s opinion or position as to what was best for the horse did not matter to the owners because they wanted to show the horse that weekend well enough to be sold. It was a defining moment in my life, and it changed my path to where I am today.
So Serena’s shoes were removed for the nine months that I was pregnant and she got to enjoy the life of a pasture ornament. Once my daughter was born, I was back in the saddle as often as I could, for my sanity and for pleasure, but there were often six month stretches when I just could not get back on. My dressage instructor, Kayrn Becerra, was the key to my success and gave me the support and encouragement that I would one day make it back to the show arena. She never let me feel guilty for the time spent raising my kids. She let me take a lesson when I could, but never shamed me because I could not be a regular due to my international travel for my company. She is the exception and not the rule in the industry, and her gift of patience and encouragement is why Serena, now age 24, is finally showing. As my daughter, now sixteen years old, got interested in horses and showing dressage at the age of twelve, Karyn took her on as a working student. My daughter’s equestrian skills increased exponentially each summer with Karyn, which gave me the opportunity to concentrate on my own horse. Riding consistently, and taking weekly lessons over the last two years, helped Serena to progress tremendously. This year was my first showing at a dressage show in 21 years and Serena scored a 68. And the proudest moment this season is having my daughter ride her in the NC State 4-H Horse Show scoring a 74, which launched her into the 4-H Southern Regional Championships to be held at the end of July.
I realize how blessed I am to have a daughter to share my interest, but the remarkable gift of the health and energy of this mare, even at this mature age, says a great deal about the longevity and athletic ability of the Arabian breed. To all my friends and horse enthusiast’s unknown, never give up. Don’t let those little voices creep into your head and tell you that you can’t do it. Don’t ever give up.
Information about the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards