Last year, at the end of dressage show season, I made a decision. I didn't start riding until I was middle-aged, so the journey has been one filled with challenges. Basically, I've had to train my entire body to perform differently when I sit on my horse, Aramis. So, I am currently showing third level. However, Aramis is a very talented horse, and I didn't want to hold back his training. The decision I made was to have my trainer show him this year at the FEI levels. For non-horsey people, that's the top levels of dressage, really starting at fourth level and going through Prix St. Georges, Intermediaire I and II and Grand Prix (which is shown in the Olympics.) Each level is more difficult to ride. I'm just not there yet, but my trainer, Pam Wangenheim Hawkins, shows Grand Prix.
This meant a lot of hard work for both of them. He already had fourth level down, so during the off-season they trained for Prix Saint Georges. Soon they started showing at that level very successfully. And, in the meantime, I showed third level with him whenever they weren't showing Prix St. George. They went to championships and ended up in the top five. But the problem has always been that he is a Friesian. There's nothing wrong with that. They are the most beautiful, loving, kind breed, but dressage judges and enthusiasts don't really consider them equal to the warmblood breed they prefer for dressage. The simple fact that Aramis can put in an amazing FEI test doesn't make a difference. Many judges consider Friesian conformation not suited for dressage.
Despite all his successes, Pam and I wanted to put him on a level playing field. Since he was qualified, we entered him into the International Friesian Show Horse Championships to see how he would stack up against his own breed in dressage. I knew in my heart that he is a grand champion, and I wanted to prove it!
We went to the championship on September 30, 2015, and he competed with the world's finest. And... wait for it ... my horse Aramis is the World Friesian Grand Champion at Prix St. George! I couldn't be prouder of both Aramis and Pam.
What's my point? Am I just bragging? Well, maybe a little. But sincerely, when you love someone, whether they be human or animal, sometimes you have to step back, put your own goals on hold and let them shine. Believe it or not, Aramis is an overachiever, and he wants to shine. You can see it in his face whether he's training or showing. And believe me, that's a face to love. When you love another, you should do so unconditionally. Don't you think?
As a side note: this experience gave Pam, my trainer, and my daughter, Stephanie, a chance to catch up after many years. It felt so good to see them having such a good time together. Two more faces for me to love!