Merlin’s Magic

Chatt Hills Dressage show. Photo by Meg McGuire

Sweet Seniors! In October on#YourDressage, we are celebrating the special horses in our lives that are ages 20 and up through photo galleries and exclusive stories.  Join us all month long as we celebrate the ‘Golden Oldies’ of the dressage community!    

By Michelle Klasing


My USDF Gold Medal story began in the fall of 2019, with a 15.3 hand Russian Warmblood gelding named Merlin. 

I was always keeping my eyes open for a Grand Prix mount that I could afford, and comfortably ride, to teach me and reach my goal of earning a coveted USDF Gold Medal. 

Merlin was advertised on Facebook, and he was relatively close for a test ride.  The drawback was his age; he was advertised as 24-years-old, but was still training at the Grand Prix Level. I was intrigued, and made an appointment to go and ride him.  He was a spunky little guy, and his Grand Prix moves were all there. Though I knew very little at this level, I had a fun time riding him and knew I had some decisions to make.  There are no guarantees with a horse of any age, but at 24 that was definitely a risk; but was it one worth taking?

Merlin came home with me to Alabama a few weeks later.  As luck would have it, Merlin got injured four days after arriving at my farm.  It was at this point, looking into his records I realized that he was, in fact, only 23!  I felt I had gained a valuable year.  It was 8 months later that I was able to start riding him for the first time. 

First Grand Prix test, show in Wellington

I always felt like I was on borrowed time, but I knew I couldn’t fast track at this level, because precision and quality are everything.  I was also moving to another trainer in another state, so I was facing many obstacles.  I did a lot of traveling and homework, and got my first two scores at Intermediate 1 in the summer of 2021.  I continued to show I1 while perfecting the Grand Prix movements at home.  In the winter of 2022 my trainer, Karen Lipp, moved her operation to Wellington, Florida for the season. Merlin is now 26-years-old, and I felt I needed to get my scores at Grand Prix or the opportunity was going to pass me by. 

Trainer Karen Lipp and me at Global Dressage
Hill Hardt owned him and trained him to Grand Prix. She came to Global Dressage to watch him go at 26.

Like most schoolmasters, Merlin knows his job and requires proper riding to execute the movements.  He was always ready to work and made it fun, with just enough of a challenge to push me to ride better.  It was in Wellington that I rode the Grand Prix tests to get my two scores to complete the quest for my gold medal. It is an incredible feeling to reach this goal, and I could not have done it without this special horse.  It was the best decision I made to purchase him despite the rocky path on the way to where we are.  Merlin is a special horse with a lot of talent, and there is a long list of people who have ridden and trained him over the past 26 years. I was surprised at some of the names on his show history.  He has shown FEI over 60 times with different riders.

It’s an honor to be able to not only have ridden him, but to retire him with me on my farm.  

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