From Amish Plow Horse to Third Level Dressage: How A Draft Cross Defies Dressage Standards

Youth Team

By Gabriella Escobar

The inspirational Rescue Horse! We are celebrating them as our April Breed of the Month on #YourDressage!

Dressage riders who choose Rescue Horses as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards program, as the International Rescue Horse Registry is a participating organization.

Here, a junior speaks about her experience of finding her heart horse, a draft cross that was saved minutes before stepping on a slaughter truck, and how they’ve now transformed into stars in the show ring!

In November 2018, at twelve years of age, I had no idea that my life was going to change and a horse was going to steal my heart.  After I outgrew my Welsh pony, my parents and I were on the hunt for a new mount that could take up my long legs.  When friend of the family April Trimmer posted one of her horses for lease, we jumped at the opportunity.  We knew little about this horse, but quickly fell in love with her and her story.  At the time of our first ride, Redeemed Lace had been standing in a field, eating hay, and appeared to look as if she would drop a foal at any moment.  She was timid, especially when working near her face.  However, I fell in love with her immediately.

At the kill pen

Redeemed Lace’s story began as an Amish plow horse who refused to work after her partner passed away, ultimately being sent to a kill pen in Pennsylvania. Emaciated and with wounds all over her body, especially near her right eye, April saw her picture and it tugged at her heart strings.  Needless to say, Redeemed Lace was rescued minutes before stepping on a Virginia-bound slaughter truck.  April broke her to ride and went on to show her at the Col. Bengt Ljungquist Memorial Championships (CBLM) a mere six months later.  An article was actually written about this remarkable moment!  As April’s training load increased, Redeemed Lace was put out to pasture until I came to try her and fell in love.

For the first four to six months, Redeemed Lace (Lacey) and I worked on building trust and developing a true, three-beat canter, using lunging and ground poles.  During our first few rides, she felt as though she was bunny hopping with both back legs at the same time, so it was a work in progress.  Eventually, we both began to trust each other and I was over the moon when she allowed me to touch her face for the first time!  We began training full time, and within six months of our introduction, we were showing at our first USEF-licensed USDF-recognized show together at Training Level, with scores in the mid-60s!  It was at this show that I knew Lacey was my heart horse.  While attending our second licensed show, just a month later, April officially ended our lease and gave Lacey to me, seeing the unimaginable bond that had been formed.

Over the next few years, we trained four to six days a week, teaching each other to understand collection and perform lateral movements.  Lacey and I rode harmoniously together, and she gave me everything she could during each ride.  However, Lacey can be stubborn and express her opinions, but she has always been solid and steady.  She is a mare, after all!  Together, we qualified for the Great American/USDF Regional Dressage Championships each year as we moved up the levels and always placed in the ribbons.  We love our victory laps and showing others that uncommon dressage horses can succeed… with the right motivation and training!

Lacey is not your average dressage horse.  First, she began life as a plow horse.  Secondly, she is a draft cross and not your typical Warmblood.  Finally, she is a paint and distinctly stands out in the field of bays and chestnuts!  However, this never deterred us from showing and enjoying every minute of our rides together.  In fact, I love challenges and showing that kill pen rescues and atypical horses can be contenders down the centerline. 

Third Level

Because of this, I registered Lacey with the International Rescue Horse Registry (IRHR) and became their youth ambassador.  I love to highlight the “underdogs” and their accomplishments.  IRHR is a wonderful organization and is an Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards Participating Organization.  In fact, Lacey was the IRHR First Level Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Champion a few years ago. We have a Facebook page for those who are interested in following not only our journey, but those of other special rescue horses.  By riding an underdog, cheering on others, and volunteering my time within the community, I was honored to receive the USDF Youth Sportsmanship Nomination in 2022 and being named a USEF top finalist.

I am proud to look back and see just how far Lacey and I have come!  Most notably, Lacey and I received the USDF Regional Schooling Show Champion at Third Level in 2022, utilizing scores that ultimately helped me earn my USDF Bronze Medal! She is my equitation horse and has placed me in the top standings at every USEF/USDF Dressage Seat Medal Class, including the USDF Semi-Finals… even scoring 84% in one class! Although our training has not always been unicorns and rainbows, and having had our fair share of “discussions” and disagreements over the past five years, these challenges have only strengthened our relationship!  She trusts me with her whole soul and will stand quietly as I attempt to mount her bareback from the ground.  She will come when I call her name in the field, and whinny just for me. We love to gallop bareback across the fields and just enjoy each other and have fun. There is no mistaking that this once timid rescue horse has learned to trust humans again.  She loves everyone and although her nose is still a questionable touch zone, she loves having her head scratched! As I am currently riding another horse in the FEI Junior Classes in hopes to attend the FEI North American Youth Championships, there is no mistaking that we trained each other, and I would not be at this point in my riding career without her.  Lacey made me into the rider that I am today, and I will be forever grateful and hold a special place in my heart just for her!

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