The powerful Lusitano! We are celebrating them as our February Breed of the Month on #YourDressage!
Dressage riders who choose Lusitanos as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards program, as the US Lusitano Association Inc and the International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association are both participating organizations.
Here, a Region 8 rider shares how a ‘spicy marshmallow’ Lusitano, as she calls him, helped her aspiring judge dreams as she worked to become eligible for the USDF L Education Program.
By Karry Brothers
Once upon a time, I had a goal. I still have a goal, lots of them in fact, but this is a story about a very specific goal and the spicy marshmallow that got me there.
That particular goal was to graduate from the USDF L Education Program.
I have always wanted to judge dressage. I wanted to be the judge that had a huge smile (thanks so much for the braces, Mom and Dad!) when a rider came down centerline to help allay their show nerves a little bit, just to let them know that they were welcome in the sandbox with their equine partner. And to get there, I had to start at the beginning.
Step 1 was to qualify for the USDF L Education Program. To attend the “L Program” as we call it for short, a participant must have two scores of 65% or higher at the highest test of Second Level and one score of 62% or higher at Third Level or above. So, I started showing.
If you have a horse that can collect, it’s not so difficult. I had Gus. Gus is built a little differently – think of a Warmblood that looks like an overgrown Quarter Horse with a rather lackadaisical attitude. His show name is Caesar Augustus and if you want a laugh, you can see all our ALMOST rides at Second Level on USDFScores.com. We spent tons of money on entry fees but no matter how hard we tried, we never could achieve true collection and thus, no scores.
Enter Craigslist. I was scrolling through the horse classifieds looking for something appropriate for a student and I saw “Upper-Level Schoolmaster for Lease.” I clicked on it. The ad was for Troll VO, a 15-year-old Lusitano that had previously gotten someone their USDF Bronze Medal. His sire was Dragao. I wonder if he’s related to a character in the book The Hobbit. I can’t think of another reason someone would name him Troll. In any case, I didn’t hesitate. I contacted Maria Mitchell-Quartuccio and set up a time to go see him.
At the time, I was riding with Paige Strait and her advice was, “If he doesn’t try to kill you, bring him home.” I went down to Maria’s little farm, and I rode him up and down her driveway on a blustery November day. He fortunately did NOT try to kill me! I felt a little silly riding a 15.2 horse as I’m very tall, but he took up a fair amount of my leg. So Maria agreed that he looked comfortable with me, and I brought him home.
We spent the winter getting to know each other. I don’t have an indoor arena so we trail rode the entire winter for fitness and trucked out to friends’ farms to take lessons with Paige. I loved riding tempi, he was like riding a little Ferrari – zero to Medium in 3 seconds. You want a half pass? Tilt your hips slightly and you were on the other side of the arena. His downward transitions were to die for; what he lacked in expression he made up for in precision and control. Our transition scores were always higher than the actual medium paces. It was just so effortless to ask and then bring back, I think I spent all of our schooling time just playing. It never felt like work.
Don’t get me wrong, we had challenges – if there was a puddle, we scratched. He would not and still will not get his feet wet. He will gladly roll in the mud; it’s just water he doesn’t like.
If he didn’t feel like doing a lead change, he would evade with a piaffe. Fun, but definitely not required at Third Level. Canter down the centerline in 4-1? Nah, that was boring, let’s do tempi changes! Extended trot? Hah – hang on to your molars. And heaven forbid he got tense at the walk, he could probably win a cha-cha contest more easily than produce a 4-beat walk. But I love this goober, and he got me to where I needed to be.
My Second Level scores were achieved in two weekends in 2015. I remember them well. The first was at Mystic Valley and the second was at Dressage at Saratoga the last year it was held. Second Level wasn’t really his forte, but the next show we went to at Stockade Polo Club in Schenectady, NY, we bumped up to Third Level and got to do our half passes and changes. Boom – Bronze Medal status!
After that, we played around with Fourth Level for a few tries, and he pulled off two scores for half my Silver Medal. It was around that time that he started telling me, in no uncertain terms, he didn’t want to show any more. At our last show, we bucked down the entire centerline in front of Lois Yukins. Little did she know that was not the last she would see of me! We withdrew and went home to see if we could sort out what was up.
We never did put a finger on what exactly is uncomfortable. It could be neck, back, fetlocks, hocks, his many melanomas, etc., but the spicy marshmallow is now the size of a house living his best life on 24/7 turnout. His new job is playing grooming model for our young aspiring equestrians at Little Gems Therapeutic Riding at Emerald Glen in Stephentown, NY. He does have the world’s best ground manners so many a child has learned to pick hooves, curry a fuzzy coat, braid his fluffy mane, and get lots of love in return.
And on good days, he occasionally will provide a little one with a very special fancy pony ride.
As for me? I’m currently the Judge Education Manager for the New England Dressage Association and work closely with USDF helping organize and provide opportunities for people who want to enter the education programs for future judges. So, yes, it was not the last Lois Yukins saw of me, and hopefully will not be for a very long time.