Draft power!!  This month on YourDressage, we are celebrating Draft Horses and Draft Crosses of all breeds.  Dressage riders who choose Drafts as their mounts are eligible for many Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards as there are several Draft organizations on our Participating Organization list.  Here, an adult amateur in Region 8 shares her inspiring story of how getting back in the saddle with a perfect-for-her Percheron, set her on her way to losing 60lbs and regaining the confidence to re-enter the show ring!

By Hilary Ranucci

Moose came into my life when, truthfully, I couldn’t have needed him more. I found myself mid-pandemic unemployed, at my heaviest weight, and depressed. My friend recommended I start riding again, something I hadn’t done in over three years and did very much miss. However, there was no way I was getting on any average sized horse, with my then weight being well over 250lbs. So she told me to find something big enough that I would feel comfortable.

Thus began my online search. Within a week or two, someone posted on Facebook looking for a lessee for a safe dressage mount that would be good to build confidence for an adult amateur. His owner posted a video of him and I knew he was perfect! I instantly reached out and he was at my friend’s barn within a week, on a free lease. I was insecure and terrified to get on, but this 1,700lb, 17+ hand Percheron cross was certainly big enough. However, the caveat of finding a horse big enough, is then quite literally getting your big butt up there. With the kindest of encouragement from my barn family, I got on and haven’t looked back! 

Transformation from October 2020 to June 2021

Since acquiring Moose, I’ve lost over 60lbs and am still going! Moose has taken care of me at clinics with top professionals and even boosted my confidence enough to re-enter the show ring, for the first time in nearly a decade. We just got home from my first-ever recognized dressage show at HITS and it couldn’t have been a better experience. So many people stopped us to ask what breed he was, tell us we’re a great pair, and genuinely couldn’t have been more complimentary. We didn’t even get a chance to school in the Grand Prix Stadium before our one test and he took me around like he’d won a dozen classes in there before. I always hoped to compete in that ring and Moose helped me fulfill that dream, making me feel so safe and confident while doing so. While I knew it was a lofty, last minute effort to qualify for regionals in one weekend at the end of the season amongst top notch competition, we unfortunately only obtained one qualifying score.

But that’s ok, and that’s because this horse has done far more for me personally than racking up high test scores (although I’m pretty proud of our blue ribbons too). Moose has been the constant in my life this past year, amongst so much loss. Some of it good (weight loss and insecurity/fear), others quite bad (a job and the unexpected death of my beloved french bulldog of 10 years). I’m eternally grateful to Moose’s owner, Emily Wilson, for so generously sharing him with me. Her only request was that I love him like he’s my own, and that has been the easiest request ever. He may not be perfect or the fanciest dressage horse, but he has been, quite literally, the perfect horse for me the past year.

Thank you for being willing to share our story and I hope it might resonate with another who is struggling with weight issues and a love of horses.

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