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“Looking back, Wendel taught me

that a horse’s willingness can overcome some lack of innate ability. Since

nothing came easy for him, he taught me patience in my training.”

the 62–65% range for most of the season. I was able to realize a personal goal for Wendel at the USDF Region 3 Championships in Camden, South Carolina. We were able to put in a solid test in the Grand Prix final and wound up winning the championship. That meant that between 1999 and 2002 Wendel was Champion at Fourth Level through Grand Prix (open division). He also performed well at Dressage at Devon and placed third at Grand Prix in the American Hanoverian Society Breed Awards. At the end of the 2002 show season I felt a little adrift

Wendel performing the half-pass at Dressage at Devon. Photo by Phelps Photos

THE CLIMB TO GRAND PRIX 2001 proved to be another successful year in training and competition. Wendel’s scores at Intermediare II climbed to 68% and the marks at Grand Prix steadily improved as he gained strength at piaffe and passage. The competition season concluded with a USDF Region 3 Championship at Intermediare II. National year-end awards included American Hanoverian Society Breed Champion at Inter- mediare II and Reserve Champion at Grand Prix behind Brentina. The USDF Horse of the Year All Breeds Awards placed Wendel third in the country at Intermediare II. A musical performance at the Alabama Horse Fair’s

“Saturday Night Spectacular” kicked off 2002 in a big way. Wendel could get nervous at chaotic events in unfamiliar surroundings but our performance to the music from Shrek brought the house down. I’ve never been so proud of my boy. I introduced us to the Grand Prix Special during the

competition season and Wendel earned his USDF Grand Prix Performance Certificate for ten scores above 60% in May. His comfort at Grand Prix grew and we stayed in

22 May/June 2011

regarding training goals for Wendel. He had won all he could at the USDF regional level and our CDI experiences affirmed that he wasn’t going to beat the international horses even on his best day. I had to make a choice. Every professional trainer knows you can “cash in” if you sell a horse at his prime. Several riders expressed interest in Wendel but I just couldn’t bring myself to part with him. My husband was supportive of keeping him and asked, “How many riders have a sound Grand Prix horse to train with no competitive pressures?” So I decided to relax (not so easy for me) and follow Karl Mikolka’s advice for horses and riders. I was going to “change my way of thinking” about training upper level horses. I was going to change Wendel’s “way of thinking” about dressage too.

STRENGTHENING OUR RELATIONSHIP The USDF “L” program took a lot of my time in 2003 but it proved enlightening. Many of the training sessions conflicted with competitions so I decided that showing wasn’t a focus for the year. The results of that decision had a huge impact on my relationship with Wendel. We started having more fun than ever before! Without a concern for how something might affect him in the show ring, I went back to square one and started trying to improve upon the basics and address every weakness Wendel had. This was done in a slow, patient and playfully experimental way. There was very little tension in our schooling sessions and we both enjoyed the work more. Looking back I think that was one of the most

enjoyable times I ever spent training a horse. We made one stop on the show circuit at the Raleigh CDI. Eighth place in the Grand Prix CDI and third in the Grand Prix Special were respectable results but the work at home was far more rewarding. His piaffe became more elevated and correct. His passage had more cadence and even his pirouettes began to improve. It was a great opportunity

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