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Para-equestrian Barbara Grassmyer found her competition horse Mibis under a spotlight. Not exactly the kind she’d envisioned, however.


arbara, now 37 years old, was born with a congenital condition called Apert Syndrome (see sidebar: Apert Understood), which presents

some physical challenges and can limit her mobility. Despite that, she is also a determined dressage competitor at the international level. In 2004, she realized she needed a new horse. Her previous mount was just not up to the competitive demands of the level at which she was riding. Creating even more urgency, USET Paralympic coach Missy Ransehousen adds, was the fact that Barbara had just been invited to compete in a para-equestrian competition in Belgium. Now all she needed was a horse to ride.


So Barbara, her father, and Missy set out to Europe to look for the right horse, one that would help Barbara achieve her competitive goals. “We looked at a lot of horses in a really short period of time, just hoping to find the right one,” Missy says. With such a tight schedule, they were looking at horses

until late at night; Barbara recounts that they didn’t arrive to see Mibis at her barn in Holland until midnight. The mare was not at a sale facility; instead she was being sold privately by her owner, a Dutch amateur dressage rider who had trained her to the equivalent of third and fourth levels. “When I’m shopping with a student, I prefer a horse

that hasn’t been drilled at a sale barn,” Missy explains as an aside. “When I travel to Europe, I try to go around and talk to local people. I often find great horses through ads in the local newspapers!” So at midnight, with the outdoor arena lit by a single

floodlight and supplemented by the headlights of their car, Missy quickly tried the mare and liked what she felt. She encouraged Barbara to ride her next. “It was a little crazy,” Barbara recounts. “There was a mare and foal running around in the field outside the arena but Mibis never flinched. I trusted Missy when she said I should try her and I was immediately very comfortable on Mibis. She just took care of me.” “She wasn’t fazed by all that commotion,” Missy agrees. “She just settled down and concentrated on her work, even in the dark!” “She was clearly very trainable. In addition, her

Barbara and Mibis at KYB Dressage in Illinois preparing for the National Championship.

Photo by Lindsay Donohue

personality was quiet enough to mesh well with Barbara,” Missy adds. Both Missy and Barbara were also impressed with

Mibis’s breeding. The mare, now 15, is a Dutch Warmblood by Darwin out of Ibis. Her grandsire is the famed Dutch stallion Roemer, who spent most of his career at Pennsylvania’s Iron Spring Farm. Barbara and Missy were thrilled with the mare and

felt she could be a great fit for Barbara. Mibis’ owner must have also seen the potential in the pair; Barbara was allowed to take her to Belgium for the upcoming competition and have her vetted there before purchasing her.


Mibis, says Missy, is a wonderful example of a successful horse for para-equestrian competition at the international level, both because of her training and her personality. Barbara explains that as a Grade III para-equestrian rider,

she needed a horse with Mibis’s training in order to compete successfully. (Each rider is classified according to the type and severity of his or her disability. Grade IV riders are the least disabled, while Grade I riders are the most disabled and are typically wheelchair bound.) The Grade III test is made up of walk, trot, and canter movements. Competitors may perform shoulder in, half pass, and one flying change during their freestyle. In order to be

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