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! Here, a Region 1 competitor shares the horse whose practically perfect attitude has made him an influential teacher for numerous riders.
By Jennifer Bateman
It has been my experience that those bitten by the horse bug love all horses indiscriminately, though occasionally, a horse comes along that is so special it transcends the obsession and becomes a piece of your soul.
Cygaro, known as Tigger to his legions of devotees, is one of those special horses. Tigger is a 20-year-old Practically Perfect Polish Warmblood. He was born April 6, 2002, and I like to imagine that he was born on that early spring day in a softly bedded stable nestled in the verdant hills of rural Poland while Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring played softly in the background. Ridiculous scenario I know, but if you knew Tigger, you would understand.
Practically Perfect Tigger would never inconvenience anyone, therefore, I am certain he was born at a very civilized hour. He would have immediately started gathering admirers with his flashy knee-high socks, beautiful chestnut coat, and his adorable blaze that accentuates his soft, expressive chocolate brown eyes. If he were a musician, he would go by the initials E.L.T. (Everyone Loves Tigger). He casts his spell over all species – equine, canine, feline, porcine, human; even my peacocks are obsessed with Tigger. I have yet to encounter anyone that is immune to Tigger’s charm. Reading this, one might think I am prone to hyperbole (and you would not be wrong), but Tigger is truly a special creature. My farrier refers to him as the “fourth quarter quarterback”. This analogy was lost on me, as my knowledge of football is limited to “deflate-gate” and everyone hates the Cowboys. Once he explained, it is true. Tigger always rises to the occasion, swoops in, and wins the game. Need to fix your pinching knees? Get on Tigger. Horse pull up lame at show? Catch ride on Tigger. Having trouble learning flying changes? Tigger will sort you out. Have anxiety about riding? Get on Tigger. Have a young horse that needs a babysitter? Uncle Tigger is available. Tigger is just exceptional. So much so that he is responsible for three USDF Silver Medals, and four Bronzes, as well as earning Performance Certificates at Fourth Level and Prix St. Georges, and three-quarters of a Silver Freestyle Bar.
He was imported to Canada in his youth, and from what we have been told, started a successful career in dressage. He was even the Canadian National Second Level Champion (supposedly) before he was imported to the United States where he found my eventing pal, Linnet, ready for her first “proper” dressage horse. According to Linnet, she was so fortunate to find Tigger as a Third Level horse in 2012, when she was transitioning her business from eventing to dressage. As she progressed through the training process from Third Level to FEI, he helped her to truly understand how to ride off her seat and to find true connection. She is so proud that he has since become such a generous teacher.
Tigger, having been recognized as the super star that he is, was passed along to Christine. According to Christine, Tigger is the gift that keeps on giving. Truly the epitome of a generously hearted schoolmaster. Kind and patient, and always tries his hardest for his rider, at every skill level. She believes she was beyond fortunate to be his next partner from 2016-2018, earning both her Bronze and Silver Medals, together. Confidence in the ring on this saint has been invaluable to her personal journey. There will forever be a huge place in her heart for this amazing horse. It has been a privilege for her to be a part of and to follow his path. It warms her heart to see this gem educate his current partner in his forever home.
Tigger then returned to Linnet and started helping her students become more effective dressage riders. He even converted a hunter trainer into a dressage rider, and helped her earn her USDF Bronze Medal before coming to his forever home, my farm.
I started riding Tigger at Linnet’s farm because I was having difficulty riding my one mare. She was battling Lyme, and I really needed a horse that I could ride consistently. I remember going to try him and I didn’t even need to get on before I knew he was the right horse. He helped me through years of TBI recovery (not horse-related), kept my husband sane during COVID lockdown, and taught me so much that I earned my Bronze and Silver Medals in less than 9 months of showing dressage. Thanks to the foundation provided to me by Tigger, I just rode in my first small tour CDI less than fifteen months after my first Prix St. Georges ride on Tigger.
Tigger truly is a spectacular creature that has given so much to so many. He deserves to be celebrated, not only for his competitive achievements, but more so for his ability to positively affect all those in his presence. He is more than a “heart horse” or a “unicorn” to those of us privileged enough to know him. He is our Practically Perfect Tigger and we are all truly grateful for the opportunity to know, appreciate, and adore him.