Capturing My Heart

Bandera Tiger Moth

The gorgeous Gypsy Horse! We are celebrating them as our September Breed of the Month on YourDressage!

Dressage riders who choose Gypsy Horses as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards program, as both Gypsy Horse Registry of America (GHRA) & The Gypsy Vanner Horse Society are participating organizations.

Here, a Junior Rider in Region 9 shares about falling in love with this majestic breed, and how being introduced to dressage through western dressage has now led to an exciting pursuit of a USDF Bronze Medal.

By Sage Smith

RHRGV Crickets Song

My love for horses has been a lifelong passion, but it was only recently that I embarked on a remarkable journey into the world of Gypsy Horses. The past year has been a whirlwind of excitement, learning, and success, as I delved into the world of competitive riding and, surprisingly, won a world and reserve world western dressage title, year-end high point, and several national and reserve national titles. Now, I am dedicated to earning my USDF Bronze Medal in classical dressage before I transition out of the youth division.

My fascination with Gypsy Horses began with my search for a new horse, after my Haflinger passed away due to old age. I found some pictures of Gypsies online, and with their strikingly beautiful and distinctive appearance, it was love at first sight. Their long, flowing manes and feathered legs immediately captured my heart. Upon further investigation, I was drawn to their temperament, personality, and quiet nature. Little did I know that this fascination would lead me to a unique path in the world of dressage.

After over a year of searching, my Gypsy journey began with the acquisition of my first Gypsy horse, a two-year-old mare named RHRGV Crickets Song. After owning her for a few months, I decided to start showing these magnificent horses. A year and a half later, I was able to add Bandera Tiger Moth to my show string. Along the way, we also acquired a few broodmares and young show prospects. The Gypsies’ gentle nature and willingness to learn quickly made them perfect partners in and out of the arena. My whole family enjoys riding, driving, and working with these horses. We often take them on trail rides, exposing them to different terrains, where they remain sure footed, calm, and quiet.

As I started showing at breed shows, classical and western dressage were offered at a few competitions during the year, and I was interested in learning more about it. My introduction to the world of competitive dressage came through the western dressage category. The unique combination of western riding styles and dressage principles was a perfect fit for Gypsy horses. I began our training in earnest, learning the intricacies of this discipline under the guidance of a dedicated trainer. We haul our show horses four hours, every other weekend, to spend three days at our trainers for lessons. Then, during the week at home, I practice and apply what I have learned.

Gypsies are typically broke to ride when they are three years old. Last year, Cricket was three and in her first year of showing. After a friend mentioned going to the World Western Dressage Association Competition, we decided to go for the experience. While there, Cricket and I were able to win a world and reserve world title. This sparked my interest in trying to earn my USDF Bronze Medal in classical dressage.

Tiger Moth had been away from showing for six years when I started riding him. We needed to get him back into shape and treated him for EPM.  He was ataxic in his rear legs, and they would not always follow his front end. He is doing much better now, and I have started competing him in classical dressage, driving, western dressage, and breed shows.

Competing in dressage with Gypsy Horses presented its own set of challenges. These horses, known for their strength and build, are not the traditional choice for dressage competitions, which typically see more warmblood-type horses. However, I am determined to prove that Gypsy Horses can excel in this discipline.

As we progressed in our training, the  innate grace and poise of both Cricket and Tiger began to shine through. The flowing mane and feathered legs, which had initially drawn me to the breed, added a touch of elegance to our performances. Together, we perfected movements and transitions that showcased their natural talent.

The Gypsy Horse’s versatility and adaptability proved to be invaluable as we progressed in our training. Their willingness to learn and their unwavering trust in me allowed us to progress rapidly. Together, we worked tirelessly on perfecting our collected and extended gaits, flying lead changes, and other skills.

My experience with Gypsy Horses in dressage has not only taught me the importance of perseverance and dedication, but has also reinforced the extraordinary bond that can exist between a rider and their horse. It is a journey that I will forever cherish, and I eagerly anticipate the adventures that lie ahead as we continue to pursue our shared passion for dressage and work towards our bronze medal.

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