I can't remember when I didn't love animals. They have always been
such an important part of my life. When I was very young I saw the
movie, Florian. At the time I didn't know what dressage was, but
I knew that those horses were doing things that I had never seen horses
do and I never forgot it. They were so beautiful. This is a movie
about the Spanish Riding School in Vienna right after WWI.
I started riding lessons when I was a very young child from an instructor
who was trained in the Cavalry. If we did any dressage, I didn't
know it. I was only about 6 years old, so it wouldn't have done any
good anyway. From my very early riding years until I was in my 20's
I rode many different horses. My riding and my love of horses continued
and I had my own horse when I started high school. This was a Tennessee
Walker, and not very well trained or mannered, but like most teenagers
I loved him and thought he was wonderful. The fact that I was the
only one who generally was able to stay on him really impressed me.
He would buck when most people rode him. I didn't realize at the
time that he was poorly trained and certainly had no manners. That
horse eventually hurt me pretty bad.
When I was about 20 years old I bought a 20 month old TW. This
horse, even though he was a very loose gaited horse, learned all of the
Grand Prix work, including piaffe and passage, which he did beautifully
with beautiful timing. I boarded him at Walter and Carol Chapman's
(Chappy's) Arabian training stable in San Antonio.. Chappy did all the
training for the Donaghue Arabian Farm (where Cass Ole, of the movie, The
Black Stallion, was bred). By the way, for those of you who think
that round-pen training is a new innovation, Chappy was using a round-pen
way back in the ‘40s.
When I wasn't working my horse, I was helping with their Arabians.
I was the early rider of the very famous Arabian stallion, Surf, from the
Gleanloch Farm, and I rode the Donaghue mare, Taslia, at the International
in Harrisburg, Pa. She was high-point Arabian mare of that year.
It was at Chappy's that my introduction and lifelong study of dressage
commenced and has continued to this day, going on 50 years. I believe
I have read almost every book on classical dressage that has been written.
I have not read them just once, but just about memorized them. And I would
study the home movies of the work that I was doing with my own horse and
any of the Arabians that I rode that we made movies of, running the movies
forwards and backwards many times in order to catch every move.
During the interim years since then I have trained many horses of different
breeds, including thoroughbreds, quarterhorses, Tennessee Walkers, Foxtrotters
and Saddlebreds. I have been training horses for 50 years now
and instructing riders for about 40 years. I always use dressage
to develop nice pleasure and reining horses, with an occasional Spanish
Walk thrown in.