Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Dancer is a 9 year old black gelding owned by Suzanna Hanson, of Draper, UT. We are not entirely sure of his breeding, but, by the looks of his mane & tail, and eyes, and general way of going and conformation, we feel strongly he is half Friesian, half Thoroughbred. Suzanna has owned him for over a year, but has spent most of this time rehabbing him from a diagnosis of Navicular Syndrome, as well as, a broken jaw. Prior to Suzanna's ownership, as far as we know, he was mostly a backyard pet, with little regular riding, much less training. Suzanna decided, upon getting Dancer well, that she'd like to pursue Dressage with him. She chose me to send him to for the winter, to get her out of the snow several weekends a month. So, on January 30th, she dropped him off in St. George at Lava Bluffs, having never met me in person, and we had our first lesson with him on February 1st. From there, I determined that due to the physical challenges Dancer had faced, he was greatly imbalanced in his musculature, one side being far less developed than the other, and he also had a head tilt. He had difficulty taking the canter as well, due to the lack of muscling. I warned Suzanna this may only go so well, but I did not yet realize how truly eager to please this horse was. He did not know much, and had a few harmless tricks up his sleeve that had possibly worked in the past to convince a rider he was not going to do something. But, overall, he is kind, willing, has a very attractive way of going, lovely articulation of both front & hind leg, beautiful head & features, and the coveted jet black coloring. With patient, slow, careful work, I spent the first thirty days just getting Dancer used to a routine, developing his work ethic, and building muscle. For the remaining two months of work, I introduced higher & higher expectations in his transitions between gaits, his committment to the bridle, and the strength of his topline. By the end of the second month, I was able to sit on his back more and more in the trot, as he developed the necessary strength to carry me. By the beginning of the third month, it was apparent I had a real over-achiever on my hands, and Suzanna felt it would be wise to finish the training I'd started with a schooling show, so we made plans to enter him in the Cooper Ranch Schooling Show held May 2, 2009. By the time the schooling show came around, I'd had time to introduce Dancer to changes of lead through trot, leg yield, and lengthening of stride in trot and canter. He will need to continue on this path of strength building with Suzanna, as she takes him home and begins to work with Jan Lawrence of Millbrook Farms regularly. Dancer had a very respectable debut, at his very first show. We earned a 61.579 on Training Level test 1, and a 55.7 on Training Level test 2. A few minor disobediences that harkened to our first 30 days popped up under the pressure of a show situation at only 90 days of training, but, those will go away with continued good work. The important thing is, he has a fabulous temperament for a show horse, and Suzanna will have the pleasure of going to shows with him and not having to worry about a horse that is fearful, spooky, or high strung. She can focus on the movements and learn the discipline, on a really good guy. We all need a really good guy in our lives! Here is a link to video I've posted on Youtube of one of the rides.