My Beautiful Golden Boy

Photo by Erin Johnson Photography

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 rider & breeder in Region 4 shares about the special golden Lusitano stallion who joined her barn, and their magical journey through the dressage ranks and to the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® together.

By Kate Phillips

“Do you think that’s him? He’s beautiful! No way…”

Those were my first words to my husband Noel and fellow MVF trainer, Sam Martinson, when I saw the Lusitano stallion RL Dardo, the most amazingly golden buckskin I had ever seen. After driving for 23 hours, nonstop, from my Mississippi View Farm in Minnesota to Shreveport, Louisiana, in January, staying barely ahead of an ice storm that shut down all travel for days, we were meeting my friend Peter van Borst, long-time agent for Interagro Lusitanos to bring Dardo to his new home.

Photo by Erin Johnson Photography

As the largest Lipizzan breeder in the US, owning this beautiful Lusitano stallion hadn’t been on my radar. However, both Peter and I teach clinics at Tyra Vernon’s BREC Equestrian in Ocala, working with her lovely Lusitanos, where Peter came to me with his story. He was the culmination of the breeding program he had started with William Robinson of Robinson Lusitanos. Unfortunately, due to his owner’s illness, the 12-year-old stallion had only been a trail horse, and Peter was adamant that his outstanding genetics should be carried forward. Peter knew that MVF stood a number of stallions, with our own lab for collecting, testing and shipping with the Lipizzans. I appreciated good stallions and established genetics, so Dardo moved to Minnesota to join his new (white and Austrian) Iberian family.

Dardo spent his first year learning to be a breeding stallion and basic dressage. However, we all realized, as a second winter in Minnesota was coming to a close, that we needed to take him to a show to be seen (and get photographic evidence of his looks, talent, and character). His first few foals delivered were outstanding, and we knew he was fertile and shippable. So, in June, we decided to take him out to a quiet show grounds in northern Wisconsin, having never been off the property other than trail rides in the bayous of Louisiana. That is where our real story begins.

I showed him in four classes, and earned qualifying scores for the Great American/USDF Regional Championships in three of the four, at both Training and First Level. He had no idea why we were doing this silly trail ride in a white fence, but he never put a foot wrong for me. Another show, and we got qualified. In the middle of breeding season, he was a complete gem and I realized what Peter meant when he said, “This horse needs to be out there. He’s something special.”

All smiles at the US Dressage Finals. Photo by Sarah Hollander

Now, those of us in the north of Region 4 have a qualifying season from mid-May to the first weekend of August because of, yes, snow. Sam (who is also the genius behind Rhythm & Blues Freestyles) put together a freestyle to Carlos Santana with two shows left in our qualifying season, and my beautiful golden friend found his magic. He was amazing to ride to music, and at his third and fourth horse shows, he won his classes and qualified for the Great American/USDF Regional CHampionships. He stood happily in the stall at every show grounds and ate up the attention and treats from the people that saw him compete.

But it got better. After another twelve hour trip to St. Louis, he competed in a huge class to become the Great American/USDF Region 4 First Level Musical Freestyle Champion. He stood completely quiet in the crowded awards ceremony, and no one knew that this gentleman had collected on Wednesday before we left, nor that this was only his fifth dressage show. He may be beautiful, but his character was genuinely kind.

Photo by Katie Lewis

His sixth horse show was the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, and once again he was my steady date in that hectic environment. He won his warm-up class, and brought me home a beautiful 7th place purple ribbon to finish his first year as a dressage horse. That fall, he was also inscribed as a breeding stallion by inspection by the United States Lusitano Association (USLA) and was named the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds First Level Freestyle Champion, with the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association (IALHA).

Photo by Katie Lewis

I was never the tall, willowy trainer that often characterizes this sport, and am 61 years old and in need of a new left hip. Thank you, my kind, sensitive and beautiful Golden Boy, you are everything that a Lusitano is supposed to be. I feel so privileged to have had him become my friend, and tell everyone that “it’s like going to the prom on the arm of the Homecoming King”.

Kate Phillips is owner of Mississippi View Farm in Minnesota, FEI trainer and clinician, “R” dressage judge, and, obviously breeder of Lipizzans and one special Lusitano.

Leave a Reply