Club brings precise routines of dressage to Grand Valley

PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON—Abigail Thiessen, 12, OF Grand Junction rides Thumbelina on Saturday at the Mesa County Fairgrounds during the September Schooling Show of the Grand Valley Dressage Society. The show will continue at 8:30 a.m. today and is free for spectators.

At first glance, it’s difficult to imagine Sandy Kay’s 17-hand-high, 1,250-pound Hanoverian horse prancing. But once Kay and her horse entered the arena Saturday during a dressage show at the Mesa County Fairgrounds, the horse and rider worked together seamlessly, the horse’s light steps appearing to float just above the floor.

“I believe dressage is totally about relationships,” the Ridgway resident said after the performance, when she and her horse were a little winded. “It’s because they’re my best friends. I believe (the horses) only do it because they want to do it.”

Dressage, which rhymes with massage, is a French term for training, according to the Grand Valley Dressage Society, which sponsors the local performances. Horses and riders will perform again today at the fairgrounds, starting at 8:30 a.m.

A fantastic dressage performance should seem like the horse and rider aren’t really working at all, “when it looks effortless,” said Tiger Adams, owner of The Horse in Sport, 215 Colorado Ave.

Horses and riders practice movements and often memorize routines in the art form that has been practiced for centuries. Dressage and competitive dressage are more popular in European countries, but the sport is practiced here, too.

“The thing about this sport is you could be witnessing it here or in Japan, the goals and objectives are the same worldwide,” Adams said.

Learning dressage with a horse can create strong bonds between a horse and rider, she said. Even young children can start learning some of the easier moves, riding horses at a slow pace, such as a walk or a trot.

Some horses take to dressage more readily than others, Adams said. Usually a horse that will excel in the sport will look symmetrical and be “built uphill” with the top of its shoulder blades higher than its back end.

Watching a stellar performance brings some horse lovers to tears, Adams said. That’s what happened to her while watching a video of Spain’s Rafael Soto perform during a championship with his horse, Invasor.

“It’s like the difference between watching a dancer walk across the floor and watching the average person walk across the floor,” she said of a good performance.


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