Our focus for the past few years, has been on competitive dressage. Earning USDF rider medals, collecting scores for all breed awards, traveling to regional championships, and participating in the USDF and USEF judging program. This year, we decided to return to our roots in exhibition performance starting with the March 2015 Pennsylvania Horse World Exhibition in Harrisburg, PA. Matt was hired as a featured performer for the Theater Equus variety show, provided dressage seminars at the exhibition, and had a booth in the vendor’s area. As our last exhibition was in 2011, there was quite a frenzy locating, updating and dusting off our exhibition equipment! Our Andalusian stallion Pecos and American Saddlebred Confetti, who were happily torturing dressage students, were somewhat shocked to have to revisit their rusty high school training. Our Lusitano, Versatil Imagem, joined the crew for his first out of state venue as the dressage seminar demonstration horse. The trip to Harrisburg went smoothly, although Heather’s lower lip did stick out more and more as we headed north, gradually transitioning from a gorgeous 80 degrees to a snow and ice covered low of 7 degrees. A nice reminder of how lucky we are to live in Florida! Thankfully the barn and exhibition area were heated, so once we were settled in, the horses were quite comfortable.
Pecos delivered his usual spectacular performance as the fiery Spanish bullfighting stallion in his La Garrocha act. Although a bit nervous at first, Versatil quickly adapted to the demonstration rhythm of work for a bit then stand around and chat. The highlight at the exhibition was our newest acquisition, Confetti. While Confetti was a veteran exhibition horse as a former solo horse at the Arabian Nights Dinner Theater in Florida, this was his first time at an exhibition with Matt. Matt had worked with Confetti at the Theater and was accustomed to Confetti’s bomb-proof, solid work as a FEI school horse on the farm. However, Confetti was supposed to take Coral’s place in the exhibition. Coral’s high energy, powerful passage and amazing presence was a tough act to follow and Confetti’s gentle demeanor and low energy that were so excellent for our students did not fit into that image. While all the tricks and movements were there, we just could not imagine Confetti electrifying the audience like Coral. Resigned to a lesser impression, Matt entered the arena the first night of Theater Equus and was caught completely off guard as Confetti transformed into an exhibition Super Star once he entered the spotlights! Described later by Matt as ‘finding three gears I never knew were there’, Confetti burst out of the gate with energy, engagement and reach we never knew he was capable of producing. Clearly enjoying himself, his ground covering half passes, athletic turns and vertical rears were so far above and beyond what we practiced at home, Matt could not keep the smile off his face for hours after the flamboyant, crowd pleasing performance.
As with most things, we have been so focused on the serious business of competition and building our business in Florida, that the concepts of fun, play and the sheer beauty of the partnership between man and horse go unacknowledged. This exhibition has allowed us to revel in those concepts and renewed our love for what we do. We are looking forward to our next venue at the April 2015 Mid-West Horse Fair in Columbus, Wisconsin.