The Dream of a Horse of a Different Color and Breeding…The Story of Irish Sport Horse Brigantine

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Brigantine at 6 years old. Photo by Whispering Hope Ridge Photography

The mighty Irish Draught Horse! We are celebrating them as our January Breed of the Month on YourDressage!

Dressage riders who choose Irish Draughts as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards program, as the Irish Draught Horse Society of North America is a participating organization. 

Here, a rider shares about choosing her future horse, through careful research on breeding, and how the resulting Irish Sport Horse foal has been her dream come true.

By Cynthia Ann Rubel-Cianciotto

To explain the story of my horse Brigantine (aka Billie), I must start at the very beginning. My riding career took off when I was thirteen with a little Appaloosa named Mr. Mojoe. We (my trainer Mette Larsen and I) worked hard to show off this little engine that could. However, his small stature and limited movement stalled when we debuted at Second Level, and the judges could not look past the medium trots that lacked luster. Mojoe, at 15 hands, was extremely well-trained and technically correct, even schooling half-pass zig zags, canter pirouettes, and baby piaffe. It unfortunately was not meant to be; he passed away in a field in January of 2003 in his retirement years. I vowed my next horse would be another Appaloosa but one of mixed breed. Now being an adult and no longer a junior rider, I needed size and movement, and in his honor, would aim for my USDF Bronze Medal.

In 2007, a stallion named Wapuzzan by Waps Spotted, at the time owned by Ashley and Kelly Smart of Rugby Creek Sport Horses in Virginia, was throwing 100% color on solid based mares. I was not settling for just any dam for my dream foal. They had a beautiful Trakehner mare I really liked, but she was retired from their breeding program. I had frozen semen and no mare; fortunately for me, my breeder stuck it out with me for 7-8 years because they loved my clear vision of what I wanted.

In 2014, they acquired “the mare” of mares, this gorgeous powerhouse blonde chestnut named Dandelion’s Atlantic Lass (Poppet). She was a purebred Class 1 RID Irish Draught mare  out of Opium Poppy and by Huntingfield’s Proud Tim, and she had it all: conformation, movement, and disposition. She was the one! Everything had fallen into place after a long wait. My dream foal was about to come to fruition and on May 24, 2015, my little Billie was born. My 50% Irish Draught and 50% foundation Appaloosa had a huge gorgeous white blaze, cutest blanketed butt, two hind bootie socks, in a smokey grey/black base coat, with one half blue eye and the other eye with blue flecks! She was exquisite. Her name was a special consideration: I was a huge fan of the Grand Prix dressage horse Brentina, ridden by Debbie McDonald. I admit that I prayed my mare would have that “something special” factor that Brentina had, so I found the name Brigantine while in Atlantic City, NJ, and said that is the name for my filly (Atlantic is in her dam’s name too) and it was meant to be. My dream came true, and she was finally here, she was beautiful, substantial, and special.

Four months old, at Dressage At Devon 2015, breeders Ashley and Kelly Smart of Rugby Creek Sport Horses

Over the years, we showed at Dressage at Devon, starting in the Breeding Division as a foal in 2015. She did not place in the open division but gained attention from spectators and exhibitors. Her handler in 2015, Bruce Griffin, had said to me, “She will have staying power, longevity, and is built beautifully.”  We came back to Dressage at Devon in 2017, and she was handled by Brian Ohnmeiss, who immediately fell in love with her and appreciated her tremendously. He saw the beauty of her. She was frightened by the sights, sounds, and flags, but Brian was able to get her to focus, and she placed ninth in the open division for 2-year-olds with a 69% and fourth in the IBC (independent breed class) with a very respectable 74.7%. My uniquely bred sport horse held her own, and again gained even more attention from people inquiring about her breeding.

One year old

It has been a couple of years, and I chose to allow her to grow up in the mountain terrain of Virginia with my breeders to let her be a baby and to grow up, let her bones mend, muscles mature, and feet get strong. That’s not the only thing she did–she kept changing color! Every year, she develops new spots and varnishing. What her Irish registration papers look like and what she looks like today is a horse of a totally different color.

Originally bred to be registered as an Appaloosa sport horse, the registry folded in 2014 (I believe). I did research and found the Irish Draught Horse Society of North America. They welcomed Billie into their registry. In the future, I do plan to get her inspected as well as breed her to a purebred Irish Draught. Prior to meeting my baby’s dam, Poppet, I never met or knew of any other Irish Draught/Irish Sport Horses. This remarkable breed is often overlooked and not appreciated for their versatility from working in the fields, going out on a hunt, then cleaning up to pull a carriage and going to Sunday church. They are known for their great temperament, level-headedness, solid bones, feet, and bravery. Sadly, this breed is on the list to watch for extinction. This is incredibly sad.

I am grateful to have this remarkable Irish girl. She has begun her training with Elizabeth Roten in Virginia and will be ongoing until she comes home for good. I had some family health issues as well as a relocation from Long Island, New York to Port Orange, Florida with my family. She will come home to Innovation Arabian, the farm that I teach out of. We will also be back in training with our long-time trainer of 30+ years, Mette Larsen of High Performance Farm in Ocala, Florida. Her methods are amazing. She started my career with my Appaloosa, Mr. Mojoe, and is taking me back under her wing, and will bring me and my spotted Irish Sport Horse, Brigantine, along under her watchful eye. I know my Billie will be able to accomplish what my first schoolmaster could not do. She is going to be the one to develop my skills on a higher level and will be that safe mount to horse show with, and eventually one day will become my son’s safe mount. It may be a year before I bring her home but once she is here, all systems are a go! My hopes and dreams with my spotted Irish Sport Horse are to be successful in the sport of dressage and to promote the Irish Draught breed. My dream come true, of my Irish horse of a different color, has yet to disappoint. Look out for Brigantine in the near future!

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