dressage, horses

Dressage Fun Day

Dressage is such an exacting and demanding sport that few people associate it with fun.

Not so today, at Natalie Perry Dressage, where trainers Natalie Perry and Mari Valeschini organized 2015’s first Dressage Fun Day. Over a dozen Central Oregon dressage fans gathered to watch and/or join in low-key exercises over cavaletti and around cones. We took turns playing follow the leader, which is an excellent way to encourage horses to accept any order in the arena, regardless of their personal preference for leadership or bringing up the rear.

I was especially excited to join in, as I’d missed last year’s Fun Days due to travel. I had fantasies about ‘kicking ass’ with Micah, the super mellow Westfalen gelding I’m leasing, forgetting that this was not a competitive event. Still, given that I’ve had several horses that were ‘pistols’ (shorthand for ‘occasionally out of control’), going to a multi-horse event without fear of catastrophe is a great thing.

Alas, on Fun Day morning, I got a text telling me that Micah had lost a shoe. But before I could shed a tear, Natalie suggested that I ride Dante’.

Who the heck was Dante’?!

Rule of thumb: when your trainer offers you a ride on a horse, you can generally assume that they a) know you; b) know the horse; and c) think you’ll be o.k. together. She is not likely to put you on a killer.

I drove out to the barn, wondering ‘Who’s Dante’?’, putting full faith into the belief that my trainer was not going to put me on a killer.

Natalie handed me a halter and pointed to a grey horse in the furthest corner of the pasture. Generally speaking, that’s where you’ll always find the horse you want to ride. Dante’ graciously accepted a carrot and agreed to return to the barn with me. (A good start to a healthy relationship.) Dante’ turned out to be a 15 hand (as in: super short) sweetheart with good manners and great training.  The other participants in Fun Day were equally as nice.

Getting to know Dante' over cavaletti

Getting to know Dante’ over cavaletti

Riders ranged from age 10 to 50-something (after age 30, it’s not polite to ask). Some chose only to walk/trot; others took on the canter. Riders could avoid obstacles if they liked, without fear of being judged. There were no collisions, runaways, or unintentional dismounts.

Lauren & Charlie had a rompin' good time at their first Fun Day together!

Lauren & Charlie had a rompin’ good time at their first Fun Day together!

We rode to music and got off the oh-so-boring 20 meter circle. Instead of chasing perfection, we relaxed our standards, letting our horses relax as well.

What followed? Smiles. Conversation. Fun.

Happy Fun Day! It was great to be a part of this.