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Jumping to Dressage

the Latvian Warmblood Mr. Boombastic

“To me, it’s about finding those horses with an extra quality. They may be hidden in another discipline…Don’t be afraid to look outside the box!”

Johnny Robb says Mr. Boombastic is her horse of a lifetime. The big Latvian Warmblood was not a horse she intended to purchase. As an aspiring amateur dressage rider, buying a former open jumper – and a stallion to boot – did not match her mental list of what she needed in a horse. In fact, she says with a laugh, he jumped out of the round pen during his pre-purchase veterinary exam. One of the first things she did with her new horse was arrange to have him gelded.

Still, she says, something told her this was the horse for her, despite his jumping ability and his tendency to spook at almost everything. Listening to that inner voice paid off for her as Mr. Boombastic, named for an old reggae song and known around the barn as Boomer, turned out to be horse that would help her learn the art and sport of dressage.

“It’s funny, because I would never have considered a horse that was changing careers, not moving into a whole new realm like this,” she says. “Now it seems like a really viable way to look for a horse and I always keep my eye on the jumper ring.”

After seeing Boomer during a professional visit to a sale barn for an article she was writing, Johnny was encouraged to ride him – in her street clothes. Drawn to the horse, she

went back the next day to ride him again. She was definite- ly impressed. Despite his lack of dressage training, she saw a horse with nice gaits and a willingness to work hard.

“This is a horse that can ‘sit’ whenever he wants to, which made pirouettes very easy for him,” she says. “He is able to lift his shoulders, drop his haunches, and move forward. It is also very easy for him to move laterally. Training Level, how- ever, was difficult because it was not easy for him to stretch out and relax.”

As they moved up the levels together, this amateur rider based in Loxahatchee, Florida and Boomer won the USDF regional championships in USDF Region 3 for several years in a row, winning at First, Second, Third, and Fourth levels. Johnny says while his gaits were certainly not the best, his innate athletic ability helped them win again and again. In addition, she says, he was fresh to the sport of dressage.

“He is big and hot and snorty, so people thought he was difficult to ride. In reality, he made it easy. Because I was just learning about dressage, I had a false sense of my depth of understanding of the sport – he gave me so much, even if I didn’t ask quite correctly. He just gave it away for free!”

“To me, it’s about finding those horses with an extra quality. They may be hidden in another discipline. You just have to find them. Don’t be afraid to look outside the box! If I’d focused on my list of what I had to have in a horse, I would never have found Boomer. And he is truly my partner.”

Eventing to Dressage

the Irish Sport Horse Felix

That first time I got on him and showed him the aids, he just clicked. He enjoyed it so much he was almost showing off!”

Dressage trainer Silva Martin says she knew the first time she rode an event horse named Felix, she felt his potential as a dressage horse. “The minute I got on this horse, I knew this was meant to be his job.” If a horse doesn’t like the discipline he’s working in, she continues, he may per- form adequately but he will never excel. “But when it fits, that’s when riding gives you goosebumps!”

Johnny Robb and Boombastic competing in Wellington.

“As a trainer, you can feel early on if this is meant to be the horse’s job. If you keep trying and trying without success, you should be able to feel that this is not what the horse wants to do,” she explains. “It’s important to listen to what your horse is telling you.”

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