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competitive, Barbara says she makes sure her freestyle includes the half pass. “Mibis has a couple of different ‘gears,’ which is

important for a Paralympic horse,” Missy explains. “She can be very quiet but we can also turn her up a notch when we need to.” “She’s not upset by the show ring sights and sounds,”

Barbara confirms. Mibis does have her own, sometimes strong, point of view, Barbara adds with a laugh. “She’s good when you treat her well, but she doesn’t like anybody getting mad at her,” she says. Her gaits are excellent—Barbara boasts about her

strong medium trot. In addition, she says, the mare loves to perform half passes. (On the flip side, Barbara says, Mibis sometimes struggles with her lead changes and with maintaining straightness, a struggle not uncommon for any dressage horse—or rider.) Missy agrees, saying the challenge is to find a horse with

comfortable gaits that won’t unseat their rider, pointing out para-equestrians may struggle with balance, coordination or control issues. At the same time, she adds, the successful horse must have gaits good enough to impress

international judges used to seeing top quality horses from around the world. What else does Missy look

for in a successful Paralympic- level horse? “I want to see a kind eye and get a sense that the horse will stay relaxed. I don’t want one that’s ultra sensitive,” she says. Age also matters, Missy says. “I like a horse around nine

or ten years old, one with a little mileage. I want a horse that’s ‘been around the block’ and been exposed to lots of different things.” In a related issue, she prefers horses that have been

trained to third or fourth level. She does not generally select Grand Prix horses because a slight unsteadiness on the rider’s part may lead to unexpected piaffe or passage. She feels that second level is a minimum requirement for a potential Paralympic-level horse. “In general, I like horses who’ve learned what they need to learn. Then you can put the horse and rider together so the horse can figure out the aids.” Missy points out that one of the results of Barbara’s

Barbara and her Dutch Warmblood mare pose

at the championship.

Photo by Jennifer Holley

Apert Syndrome, for example, is that she will sit slightly to one side as she rides. Mibis has learned to move steadily forward without being confused by the weight imbalance. In the end, Missy says, most of the qualities she looks

for in a horse are the same as those sought for any other adult amateur rider—a relaxed attitude combined with excellent gaits that are easy to sit. For that reason, she says, one of the Warmblood breeds is almost always the best choice. She points out that the team the United States fielded in Hong Kong included four Warmbloods and one Thoroughbred.

COMPETITIVE SUCCESS

After competing in Belgium, Barbara brought Mibis back to the United States. After the mare emerged from her CEM quarantine in Maryland, Barbara had just two and a half months to get to know her new horse to prepare for the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens. Even with such a short amount of time to train, the pair placed ninth and launched their competitive partnership. In 2006, the pair took the gold medal at the Pacific Rim

Para Equestrian Paralympic Qualifier in Vancouver and in 2007 Barbara and Mibis made the Para-Equestrian World Championship Team. The same year, Barbara was the reserve champion at the USEF National Para-Equestrian National Championship.

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