Prix St. Georges at Morven Park in 2021

We are celebrating Splash of Color month on YourDressage!  Whether your horse is a registered Paint, Appaloosa, Knabstrupper, or Gypsy Horse, sports a patched or spotted coat, or wears lots of chrome, this month is for you!

Dressage enthusiasts who ride colorful horses have the opportunity to earn special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards such as the American Paint Horse AssociationAppaloosa Horse Club, Knabstrupperforeningen for Danmark (KNN), Gypsy Horse Registry Of America, Westfalen Verband of North America, and Gypsy Vanner Horse Society, which are all Participating Organizations.

We recently asked our social media followers to share photos of their loudly colored horses, and let us know what makes these horses so special. Here, a trainer shares how a super sharp cross country mare turned into his star dressage horse.

By Edward Ewbank

Hackamore hack day

Sushi was bred by Lauren Deerlove and her business partner Denise Williams in Lovettsville, Virginia, by Sempatico and out of a Master 850 mare named Ariel. Lauren had broken her back and not been able to do anything with Sushi after she was backed, and had Katie Davilli Steele on her several times at home before I tried her as a four-year-old. I felt she wasn’t the right fit for my clients, however I could feel her talent for jumping.

Then, as a very green freshly turned five-year-old, Lauren told me she’s dropping her off as she knows she’s the horse for me, and I just need to have her in the barn to come to my senses. Three days later, my owner Leslie Wallington agreed to buy her. I’m so thankful for Leslie’s ongoing support and friendship. Back then, the goal was for me to train her up and compete her in eventing so that when Leslie’s daughter Samantha was ready, I could hand over the reins for her to do Young Riders.

However, Sam also showed talent in acting and decided to pursue her dreams in New York, and therefore I got to keep the ride on Sushi. In her five-year-old year, she started competing in novice horse trials, and as a six-year-old, she did her first CCI 1* (now 2*) and finished the season winning the CCI 1* at Lexington, Virginia. She came back the following year as a very good intermediate horse and contested the newly formatted CCI 3*.

The part I love the most about Sushi is her ability and hunger to fight for you. I had always had an agreement with her that the day her shivers played up after cross country to the point that she seemed in pain, I’d retire her from eventing. No matter how successful or whatever level she was at, I knew I’d know when she was done. It was about the six minute mark on cross country, and she just wasn’t taking me with the enthusiasm she normally would and felt tighter than normal on the galloping side of the fences. So I slowed up our pace to see if it was just a touch of fatigue, and after three more fences and her not feeling like her, I pulled up and the minute I got off I saw her hind leg was struggling, and at that moment I knew what she was telling me.

Intermediate HT at Morven Park in 2018

Sushi is a super sharp mare with very heightened senses; in the absolute early days she spooked on the side of a hill while hacking out and fell on top of me and fractured my knee. Then two weeks before her last 3*, she was spooked by a road cyclist and bolted under a tree, wiping me off and tearing the right side of my hip down to my knee, causing issues I still struggle with today. Yet it’s this sharpness that makes her good. And now, in dressage land, it’s this sharpness I’m realizing that holds the key to the upper levels of collection.

Schooling angles at home in 2018

I always thought she didn’t like dressage in her eventing days due to her constant distractions and extra flying changes when they weren’t required! But now, as she’s starting to learn her passage/piaffe and one tempis, I’m realizing she just likes to give 100% even when all I’m asking for is 20%. She’s still not the biggest fan of going on the bit however – I think she doesn’t see the point in that nonsense.

We started our dressage career two years ago, and as an eventer from New Zealand, I realized very quickly how little I know about dressage. Advanced eventing is about Third Level, and just getting that one flying change was stressful enough… now I have a bunch in a straight line, and Sushi thinks that’s super fun.

Fourth level at Beverly Dressage show in 2019

I’m very thankful that I had Wanja Gerlach train us for the first year and a bit, and now I’m training with Chantal Wigan, who has been a huge part of teaching me patience, and for trying to fix the habits Sushi and I formed over her younger years. She’s been a massive help to Sushi and I, and I’m thankful for her ongoing support and training.

We did our first season at Prix St Georges and Intermediate 1 in 2021, and I cannot wait for 2022 with Sushi. As she’s starting to learn parts of the Grand Prix, I may have to learn to count past 10. I’m so very fortunate to have such amazing owners and clients, and I really can’t thank them enough. To Lauren for breeding such incredible horses (I also have Sushi’s baby sister Damsel BFF who is super talented too), Shannon and Jim Davis for owning the property I’m based at and for supporting my training and for providing the best base possible for my business to run out of, my amazing team who help run and manage the barn, Sophie Stremple, Lauren Endersbee, John Devon Stremple, Samantha Stilley Potts, Amber Duncan, Javier, and so many others.

I want to thank Sushi for forgiving me while we learn together in this new world without jumps. As for her shivers, it hasn’t held her back with her upper level dressage work yet but, as with the eventing, I’ll be listening and if she tells me she’s had enough, I’ll listen and do what’s right for her. Bring on 2022! 

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