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The Heart of the Lusitano By Heather Bender

M

y first experiences with Warmbloods started in the late 1970’s. Riding has been my life and I have been blessed to ride many different breeds. In my youngest years I worked with mainly Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds but in my early teens my passion became jumping and dressage. It soon became clear that the Warmblood was the horse we all dreamed of having for these disciplines. As a rider inspired to become a profes- sional trainer, it was a must for me to own and work with these magnificent horses.

Later I was fortunate to spend sever- al years training in Germany and England while working with German, Dutch and Swedish horses. I vividly remember sitting in the living room with Dr. Reiner Klimke (the famous German Olympian and train- er in dressage) having a long discus- sion on how impressed he was with the Spanish and Portuguese horses. He was amazed with what their breeders were producing and remarked that in my lifetime I would see Iberian horses providing stiff com- petition for the German horses and ultimately at the top of the dressage leader board. These horses would, he said, give the Warmbloods a run for their money, thanks to their natural engagement and evolving breeding programs focusing on bigger gaits.

I will never forget our conversation that day and I hope if Dr. Klimke could see the direction my life has taken he would be proud. His ability to look in a crystal ball is amazing especially since this trend is happen- ing even sooner than he predicted. Personally I have already seen Lusitanos and PRE (Purebred Spanish Horse or in Spanish Pura Raza Espanola) horses that move as well as any Warmblood. However, at that time I did not have any con- nections with these dressage and

With my crazy background of trick riding, trick horses, show jumping and dressage, I was well prepared to work with stallions. As a result, I greatly enjoyed working at Signature Farms in Moorpark, California before I moved to Florida. Signature Farms has beautiful and tal- ented Holsteiner breeding stallions for dressage and show jumping. I worked as a trainer and showed several of their stallions for them.

Heather riding one of Signature Farms’ Holsteiners.

My riding connection with Iberian horses started with a few PRE stal- lions, which were and are still very popular in my home state of Cali- fornia. I found these stallions had an amazing heart and really wanted to work with their riders. They were able to focus and spent less time working against you and playing around. They interested me but at the time I felt these particular horses were not truly bred for competition dressage.

"[Reiner Klimke]

remarked that in my lifetime I would see Iberian horses provid- ing stiff competition for the German horses and ultimately at the top of the dressage leader board."

sport type Iberians so I came back to America and contin- ued working with my first love – the Warmblood.

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Seven years ago, however, a fellow professional and stu- dent had a client who was looking for a Lusitano and they had found a farm in Brazil named Interagro. My friends bought two young stallions from Interagro at that time. While traveling to their farm to conduct clinics regularly, I began to fall in love with these two stallions. I found both Lusitanos beautiful and surprisingly well suited for competition dressage. Little did I know that the experience of working with these two stunning animals would change my life.

Never working with Lusitanos before, I was extremely impressed with these two Brazilian stallions from Interagro. I was so amazed at their willing atti- tudes and their sheer aptitude for the sport of dressage. It may sound strange but when some of these horses look at you, you feel as though they are looking into your soul! I was swept off my feet and was intrigued to learn more about

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