The Dancing Grandpa

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Renowned for its floating trot, the Trakehner is one of the lightest & most refined warmbloods. We are celebrating this breed as our March Breed of the Month on YourDressage! Join us all month long as we celebrate Trakehners with photo galleries and exclusive stories!

Dressage riders who choose Trakehners as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All Breeds Awards program – the American Trakehner Association and the Trakehner Association of North America (TANA) are both participating organizations.

We recently asked our social media followers to share stories about what makes these horses so special.  Here, a Region 4 rider shares about getting back into horses as an adult, and the one-of-a-kind Trakehner that came into her life dubbed the “Dancing Grandpa.”

By Ruth Rensink

My road to owning my Trakehner, Mitras, started a long time ago… back when I was a kid growing up in rural Iowa.  Although I probably couldn’t have even spelled the words “dressage” or “Trakehner”, I always dreamed of owning and riding fine horses.  That first “fine horse” was a rotund Welsh pony, but the seed was planted.  My family owned part Arabians and eventually Quarter Horses, and I rode and showed in open and breed shows through my Youth and Young Rider years- competing in Halter, Showmanship, Western Pleasure, Hunter Under Saddle, Jumping, Trail, and English Pleasure.

Somewhere along the line, I stumbled across the concept of dressage. Now dressage instructors and dressage horses were pretty scarce in my neck of the woods.  Rodeo, reining, and cutting resources, yes.  Dressage, not so much.

As luck would have it, I connected with someone who would be my first mentor – Polly Thompson. Polly and family moved from the east coast, making a major life change by purchasing a farm.  Along with Polly came her group of fox hunter and jumper Thoroughbreds.  Polly had a strong background in Pony Club and being a riding instructor.  I hauled one of my Quarter Horses over to her place, with the initial purpose of gaining jumping instruction.  Polly had other ideas.  She watched me ride my horse around her ring, and then said, “Get off that horse,” and pointed over to her 17+ hand, heavy-boned, fox hunter, Classmate.  “And get on this one, we need to discuss your seat and the word dressage.” And off we went.  I will be forever grateful to Polly.

Like many of us, my career impacted my riding and my chances of settling into a continuous dressage program. Work had me traveling nationally and sometimes internationally, but I managed to find dressage instructors with lesson horses in several of the cities that I frequented regularly. Whenever possible, I would schedule lessons as my work schedule allowed. Finally, career and family responsibilities caught up with me, and I went 18 years without riding or owning a horse. During that time, I often wondered if I would ever ride again, or continue my goal of riding dressage.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity for an early retirement, and jumped back into horses.  I had the opportunity to start instruction with Heather Salden Kurtz, and in 2013, we went shopping for my first warmblood and dressage horse.

Once again, luck intervened and Heather and I ended up at Redinger Dressage, owned by Gail Redinger. I purchased a Holsteiner named PT Larkin, who eventually became my USDF Bronze Medal horse.  But while I was there, I got my first introduction to Mitras – Gail’s Grand Prix Trakehner gelding.  Gail graciously showed and rode Mitras for us, and I remember thinking – I would love to own that horse someday.

I stayed in contact with Gail, and we developed a strong friendship over the years.  And in 2015, that “someday” became a reality.  I had the chance to purchase Mitras.  I like to say when Gail and I shook hands, I felt like I was getting the opportunity of a lifetime, and Mitras has never caused me to regret it.

Photo taken the day I purchased Mitras from Gail Redinger. That’s me on the left, Gail on the right and of course, Mitras in the middle.

Mitras *Pg* is a 2001, bay 17.1 hand gelding, by Butow *E* out of Moet by Martini *Pg E*, bred by Vernon Parker.  Purchased as a 3-year-old by Gail Redinger, they had a remarkable show career, including 4 years at Grand Prix. He and Gail earned many Grand and Reserve championships in Region 6 over the years, and many Adequan®/USDF All-Breed Awards through the American Trakehner Association (ATA) including:

2011 ATA Reserve Champion Intermediate 2 and Reserve champion Grand Prix

2011 ATA Merit Award/Trakehner Verband Award

2013 ATA Merit Award/Trakehner Verband Award

2014 ATA Horse of the Year Grand Prix/Co-Champion

2014 ATA Merit Award/Trakehner Verband Award

Mitas helped me earn my USDF Silver Medal, and has been a remarkable “professor” in my education towards my Gold Medal. He typifies so many strengths of the breed – intelligence, resilience, athleticism, a strong work ethic, and with a kind and loving personality. He has made me a strong advocate for this remarkable breed. He is indeed my “heart horse”, and I can only hope there will be more Trakehners in my future.  Mitras is also now registered with the Trakehner Association of North America (TANA), and proudly bears the honor of being one of the very first horses in the registry.

I like to call this photo Golden Moment. That’s Sarah Travis in the saddle, the moment she and Mitras realized they had their final score for her Gold Medal.

In 2021, Mitras and my trainer, Sarah Travis of Sarah Travis Dressage, worked together and provided Sarah with her final two scores at the Grand Prix Level for her USDF Gold Medal.  Although Mitras had continued to school all Grand Prix movements in his work with Sarah, he had not shown Grand Prix in 6 years, and had recently celebrated his 20th birthday. Watching this team working in the home arena, he was given his nickname of Dancing Grandpa, by Chelsea Kang.  When Sarah started to practice pieces of the test, it was apparent that Mitras not only remembered the test, but was extremely happy and excited to be back doing his real job.  Dancing Grandpa truly danced his heart out for Sarah, and the duo earned their Gold Medal scores in 5 rides down centerline. Thank you, Mitras, for giving a horse crazy kid the chance of fulfilling a lifelong dream. Keep on dancing.

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