dressage, natalie perry dressage, Tina Steward

The Quiet Inspiration of Mary & Dante

Soft-spoken and small in size, Mary Cuevas is one of those riders you might overlook as you stride through the barn, busy with the demands of your own life. Mary quietly goes about the business of setting goals and working to achieve them without calling attention to herself. Should you compliment her on a show score or well-executed movement, she’ll break into a smile and most likely credit her horse and trainer with each success.

Mary & Dante’s 16-year partnership ended far too soon

I was aware that Mary was working her way up the levels with her horse, Dante, but like most people, I only knew parts of the story. I learned a bit more when we attended Adult Rider Camp together. But what solidified our relationship was when we began working together on a Pas De Deux. Our hours in the saddle turned into a true friendship.

And so, I was honored when Mary confided that she’d finally written up the story of her journey with her beloved Dante. Dante’s loss had been so painful, it had taken Mary a year to put pen to paper. What resulted was a six-page, account that Mary handwrote in a single sitting.

“Would you consider publishing it in your blog?” Mary asked. “If it’s good enough?”

“Of course, I would,” I said. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into … but had a sense that it would be worthwhile.

I took Mary’s story home, read, it, and found myself in tears. Mary’s love for her horse came through loud and clear and her dedication to her goals was impressive.

“This is definitely worth publishing,” I told Mary. “But I want it to reach a larger audience than my blog. I’m going to see if Flying Changes magazine will publish it.”

“Really?” Mary said. She was thrilled.

I emailed Kim Curzi, the magazine’s owner, and gave her a brief synopsis of the story. I felt sure the story, with its Northwest focus, would be a good fit.

“I’d be happy to look at it,” Kim said.

Now came the hard part: I was tasked with editing Mary’s 2,600 words down to something closer to 1,200 words — a standard length for most magazines. I had to shorten the story while preserving Mary’s tone and intention — not an easy task. With each edit, I’d find myself in tears over Mary’s loss — which, while draining, told me that the story had what it took to touch hearts.

To round out the story, I asked Mary’s trainer, Natalie Perry of Alliance Equestrian Center and clinician Tina Steward DVM to sum up their impressions of Mary and Dante. Their words were perfect. And, although the story exceeded or goal of 1,200 words, Kim included the quotes in their entirety. She also used my favorite suggestion for a title, “In it for the Long Haul,” which came to me at the last minute and really summed up Mary’s commitment.

Mary has inspired me to raise my expectations of what I can do with my riding. For a bit of quiet inspiration, please read Mary and Dante’s story in the April issue of Flying Changes magazine. I think you’ll appreciate the journey.