I would hope that, once in their lives, every rider could have a horse like Fling. I have been riding dressage for many years as an amateur, and have had many good horses – Fling’s mom, Sonnys Mona Lisa+/ was nicknamed ‘the Equine Saint” for her unflappable nature, the way anyone could ride her, but she was a competitive show horse, and just never, ever put a foot wrong. Faeryn and Faxx both have their strengths – and Faxx is undeniably the most impressive horse I own.
And there have been others through the years. But as a horse to seriously train on, and move up the levels, day-to-day, none can compare to Fling. It is not that she is an Olympic hopeful, a “10” mover, or is unbeatable in competition. Although we have had our share of success in the show ring, it is at home, in my arena, that I am most grateful to have her in my life. She loves dressage as much, or maybe even more than I do. In that we are equal partners. I am not ‘making’ her do something – she is doing something she loves to do.
When I come around a corner and half halt before doing a medium trot or canter, it is like I am winding the spring in one of those old-fashioned toys. Fling knows what is coming – and instead of thinking it’s a lot of work – she can’t wait to release that power from her ‘engine’ and kick it into overdrive. And as boldly as she goes forward – she comes right back, perfectly on my seat and aids. Judges have often described her mediums as “bold.” No one expects that much power from an almost-pony sized pinto! I call her my little sports car! She is not ‘hot’ or spooky – but has a tremendous amount of energy – she is like a coiled spring, always, just waiting for someone to release her vast reserve of forward energy. It is a feeling like no other and I feel a little sorry for anyone who has not experienced it.
In fact, that’s what sets her apart — she is absolutely joyous in her work. My other horses are obedient and very trainable – but neither has that “Yipee, isn’t this fun!!??” attitude that Fling possesses. She oozes enthusiasm for being ridden, and even working really hard. It is tough to be a dressage horse. Most horses learn their task in a year or so, and then they are never really asked to work any harder for the rest of their lives.
Dressage horses are ALWAYS being asked to work harder. Just when they think they’ve “got it” and have mastered one thing –they’re asked to work EVEN harder. “You can do a good 20 meter circle? Great – now let’s do a 10 meter circle……You’ve got those single flying changes down pat, now? Great, now let’s do two in a row.. ….” And so it goes as they move up the levels. A lot of horses would resent what they might view as you constantly changing the ‘rules of the game’ on them. Fling is so smart (scary smart, actually) that if she were not always learning new things, she would be bored. And a bored Fling is not a good thing! She really needs a job to keep her mind as busy as her body – and dressage is the perfect job for that.
Fling has a short back which makes it harder to bend through the ribs and she doesn’t have nearly the suspension in her gaits that Faxx has. She is not as supple as Faeryn is. But we continuously work on her flexibility – to the point that a recent clinician told me she thought Fling was quite supple!
But what she lacks in athletic ability, she makes up for in mental ability. Fling is the kind of horse who can be taught something brand new – give her a few days off, get back on her, and she’s even better than before. I swear she ‘practices’ in her mind – because how else could she ‘get’ it so quickly? When I was trying to teach her to do flying changes – having never even done one myself on a horse trained to do them – she caught on much more quickly than I did! She knew exactly what I wanted – and got so excited about showing off her new-found skill – even when I didn’t ask for it!
“No” is not a word in Fling’s vocabulary. The old western guys would say she had a lot of ‘try’ and she does. I sometimes call her my ‘war mare’ – those treasured mares the nomadic tribes trusted with their lives when they went into battle. She is the one I would choose when my very life depended on having a brave and honest mount. One local trainer dubbed her my “littler overachiever.’ She is just simply a blast to ride.
My arena is surrounded by our 10 acres of pasture, and even when Fling’s herd-mates absolutely bomb around, bucking – Fling never gets distracted from the task at hand.
The comment that appears most frequently in the judges’ comments in our tests is “very obedient horse.” What the judges don’t know is that Fling is not actually being obedient. She is just having fun.
Every night Fling gets a peppermint and a kiss on the nose, and a heartfelt thanks to her mother and for the karma that brought her into my life.