Dressage Starts Simply but Never Lets You Go
Last week, as we drove south through the hills of Escondido, en route to San Diego, I told my husband, “My old barn is around here somewhere.” We had some time to kill and a quick internet search told me we should take the very next exit, on Deer Springs Road.
Some 20-something years ago, I was introduced to dressage at the Circle P Ranch, starting off with the assistant trainer and a lesson horse named Rocky. I’d knew nothing of dressage but had grown up riding ‘English.’ When a friend had suggested we take lessons, I was game to get on a horse again. It had been several years since I’d ridden. Little did I know what I was getting into or how riding and horses would become such a focal point in my life.
Rocky turned out to be a bit of a toad, bucking me off mid-lesson. The stinky little Morgan gelding sent me flying into a perfect front roll. I was unharmed but Rocky was deemed too big a liability for the stable to continue using him as a lesson horse. I wasn’t the first rider Rocky had ejected.
I found a cute Arabian mare named Fahdzee to lease and started lessons with trainer Jane Weatherwax. (Jane is now a U.S. Equestrian Federation and Equine Canada ‘S’ Judge, as well as an ‘I’ rated Judge licensed by the FEI.) I thoroughly enjoyed Fahdzee until her owner put her on the market at a price I couldn’t afford.
Jane and I went off in search of a horse for me to purchase. We came home with Sequel, a chestnut Running Appaloosa (aka: TB cross) who had better than average movement and a gorgeous head. I loved her whole-heartedly.
Poor Sequel was, unfortunately, a girl without a lot of confidence and a short attention span. She spooked easily and soon became known for a lightning-fast turn on her beautiful haunches, dubbed “The Spin of Death.”
Fortunately, I was young and agile, with good enough balance to stay on most of the time. My lessons were extremely popular — not because I was a good rider, but because the Spin of Death was something to see. We, of course, did not wear helmets in those days.
We worked on the basics and brought home a ribbon from our first Training Level test.
I spent many a happy hour at this barn, which was run by owner Pinky Roberts.
On our recent stop at the Circle P Ranch, I meandered happily down memory lane past Sequel’s old corral and around the barns. Two women in a golf cart waved as they sped by.
We caught up with the pair by the big outdoor ring where lessons had been held. I recognized Pinky’s voice and was thrilled to see she is still running the place, now with the help of her daughter.
Pinky didn’t recognize me (it’d been over 25 years since I boarded there), but when I mentioned Sequel and the Spin of Death, her face lit up. “I remember that horse!,” she said.
Seeing Pinky and the Circle P made my day. My head spun with memories and the way dressage has worked its way into my life. One never knows which paths will dead end and which will have lasting influence. Thanks to horses, I started Flying Changes magazine, a northwest sporthorse publication, and to this day continue to ride write about horses. It’s a grand journey, which all started so simply … on a hilltop ranch in California.