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horse. Slowly he regained his strength and weight. This “comeback” horse was finally coming back again. More training, more expense. Times were tough and their farm Starbrite felt the

pinch. Hay was $325 a ton, almost double what they had paid two years before and they were feeding over fifty horses. They knew they had to sell some horses or go under. Even if they sold half their herd it would still be tight. Picking the horses they would sell and pricing their Friesians at what they thought was a fair price brought no offers in the depressed market. Pippa finally demanded that they sell whichever horses the buyer wanted and meet their price—no matter what horse it turned out to be. Shortly after a perspective buyer came to the ranch and looked over the complete herd. Pippa watched closely from the house while Ray showed the buyers their stock. When Ray walked into the house, Pippa spied a strange look on his face. He had a difficult time saying it. “They want Hans.” Pippa couldn’t help herself. She shouted, “No. No, not my horse. Not Hans!!” Ray walked back outside and convinced the buyers to buy another stallion—this time Ray’s. Training continued as

Hans and Pippa Ariss: First Place, Dressage Show Hack.

Pippa and Hans became more and more as one. On one of my frequent visits to watch them school this magnificent horse, while standing next to Hans, it occurred to me just how gigantic he really was. How with one move of his pie- plate sized hooves he could crush my foot into pieces that could never be rejoined. My horses looked like dwarfs compared to him. Clearly, I was intimidated. Then, I looked into his gentle black eyes that seemed to have no bottom, no anger, just softness. I knew he would never intentionally hurt me. As best I could, I understood Pippa’s obsession with him. I did witness his incredible strength once when watching Pippa and Ray train with him. Hans unhorsed both of them, consecutively and in a matter of minutes; Ray taking an unplanned flight over the neighbor’s fence landing upside down in a group of plants.

60 March/April 2010

IT’S SHOWTIME

Finally, they felt they were as ready as they were going to get. Hans and his sister Herra were entered in the FHANA 25th Annual Convention. At the show, doubts started to creep into their optimism. Hans had no show experience. He was not accustomed to crowds, announcers, grand-stands, loud music, people shouting and moving or an announcer over a loud and harsh speaker system. How would he react? Would he blow? And, he was up against seasoned show horses with seasoned professional riders. With all this assailing him, he was still being asked to perform like a champion. As Pippa sat erect on Hans

big back awaiting her cue to go on she thought, “What the hell am I doing here? These people are pros. Where’s Ray?” She gazed down at the nearly seventeen-hand giant, on whom she sat, the last son of her beloved Pyt. She placed her hand on his big neck. Then, she smiled. Suddenly she was calm and relaxed. And so was Hans. Pippa knew they were exactly where they were supposed to be, doing exactly what God intended them both to do and doing it together. The next minutes are but

vague memories and visions to Pippa as she and Hans negotiated the requirements in the class. When the judges asked for a canter, Pippa strangely felt there was something else there in the arena with her and Hans. To this day, she doesn’t know

what she felt exactly. An energy? A presence? It was something she had never experienced before. The blue ribbon was presented to Hans. And as she rode off the field, through the tears, she thought, just for a moment, she saw him. Misty. Gossamer. Prancing and dancing, proud, beautiful, magnificent as he always was. Pyt was there too.

[The Ariss team took four first place ribbons and two

second place ribbons that weekend. One second place being won by the youngest competitor in her event, the Junior Walk Trot Novice Open. At thirteen, Amelia Dumbroski competed against a field of sixteen, many adults and some professionals. She was riding Herra, Hans’ sister.]

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