Riders, horses put best foot forward for Bobcat Series

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 3, 2008

FRANKLIN FURNACE — There’s more to being a dressage competitor than simply getting your horse to make all the right moves.

There’s the dress part that’s just as important And Caleb Green, 15, of Argillite, was getting some much appreciated help from his dad, Brett, who was twisting and turning his robin’s egg blue tie into just the appropriate knot minutes before it was his turn in the ring.

Saturday morning was the Bobcat Series Dressage Show and Combined Test at the Ohio Horse Park that showcased five divisions in five dressage show tests.

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Horse vans lined the muddy drive into the park as area competitors showed up despite the rain.

Caleb, who has competed before,

was riding in two beginning divisions on 10-year-old Dandy Kid.

Candidly he admitted he’d rather be riding the faster-paced cross-country, but has studied dressage with Susie Duncan of Grayson for the past five years.

With a few butterflies in his stomach, Caleb rode serenely into the ring under the watchful eye of Duncan, his father, his mother Melissa, and sister, Rebecca.

Dressage is an ancient form of equitation where the rider’s aids of hands and legs are to be as invisible as possible to those watching. The word itself means training and is often referred to as “horse ballet” because of the graceful movements of the animal under the direction of its rider.

One of the most well known examples of the discipline comes from the exhibitions of the famed Viennese Lipizzaner horses who perform classical dressage or “airs above the ground.”

“You learn to communicate with the horse. You learn to use your whole body,” Duncan said.

Caleb was put through his paces as commands from walk to trot were given to him. He glided across the show ring at prescribed points, coming across the arena and back trying carefully to keep all movement as still as he could.

“What (the judges) are looking for is the precision of the horse,” Duncan said. “The idea is to get him to do it as quietly as possible. Some people think the horse does the work. But you

have to constantly communicate.”

As she applauded his round and watched the next competitor enter the ring Duncan called Caleb a promising student because of his strong ability to listen and his consistency.

“And he is kind to his horse,” she said.