Left to his own devises, your horse would have a day of walking, eating, drinking and sleeping with the possibility of a gallop if danger appears. When we ask them to go to work and use their muscles for jumping, dressage or any other discipline, it is not a natural state and care must be taken to train them as an athlete to avoid injury and obtain the best result. Think of your riding as sessions in the gym with a personal trainer. You warm-up, work out, and cool down. You do repetitions with different exercises, using different muscles and taking small breaks between sets. You are careful not to overly fatigue muscles with a single exercise, but focus on building muscle and overall strength with a variety of movements targeting both sides of the body equally. If something needs additional work, you alternate the exercise with others to avoid injury. You also plan to work out a few times a week with one or two days off to rest. Applying this philosophy to your riding will help you structure your time and bring out the best in your horse athlete.
August 3rd, 2014 was a heartbreaking day at Matt McLaughlin Dressage as we said a final farewell to our 29 year old Andalusian, Coral II. Known and loved by spectators all over North America, Coral was Matt’s exhibition partner and friend for 22 years.
Although our favorite opinionated grouch at the barn, Coral’s colorful past rivaled the popular tales of Black Beauty and War Horse. He entered the world as a feisty young horse with a sore temper. He was gelded and sold to the Royal Lipizzaner Stallion Show. Coral had contentious relationships with several trainers, introducing all to the wickedly fast punishment of his right hind foot which claimed several broken human bones along the way. In 1993, Matt took Coral on and began to re-integrate him into the show. With the help of the Head Trainer, Coral taught Matt the intricacies of timing, patience and earning a horse’s respect. The two began to shine as the favorite solo act with the show. Coral’s flamboyant performance of haute ecole and Olympic level dressage movements in perfect rhythm with the music made him a favorite with audiences. Coral performed in exhibitions all over the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia and Europe.
After Matt left the Lipizzaner Stallion show, the company sold Coral to a woman in Colorado. Several trainers deemed Coral dangerous, based on his favorite trick – a vertical rear, so the woman put Coral out to pasture. In 2001, the woman contacted Lori, who recognized Coral instantly, and arranged to have him shipped back to Florida. Reunited, Matt and Coral continued to wow audiences with their high energy performances.
In 2007, Matt’s attempt to retire Coral was immediately rejected through hunger strikes and farm demolition. This lead to the compromise of semi-retirement, which seemed to agree with Coral who continued to light up in the spotlights and perform with the energy of a horse half his age until 2011. He then became a favorite for our working students who learned dressage, haute ecole and long-lining skills through his exacting instruction. Coral’s teaching method of ‘do it right or I’ll do whatever I want’ was an excellent experience for students and great entertainment for the rest of us. Finally agreeing to full retirement in the summer of 2013, he spent the last year of his life bossing around his pasture mate and making sure the barn feeding schedule was strictly maintained.
Coral was an amazing horse. We were lucky to have him in our lives and are grateful for everything he taught us about horsemanship. He will be missed.
See Coral’s last performance in Del Mar, CA at the 2011 Annual Del Mar National Horse Show’s Night of the Horse on Youtube.
After posting this on Facebook, we received an incredible response from Coral’s friends. As of August 6th, 19,552 people saw the post and 221 comments were made. A true reminder that Coral touched many lives. See below for a few of the unedited comments:
- “Matt I had the privilege of seeing you perform at Night of the Horse in Brooksville. You were my inspiration to pursue dressage. I have a video of this performance and was watching it last night. I’m so sorry for your loss what an amazing partner and partnership….”
- “ I saw you perform at horse world expo in PA. Coral gave me the passion to never give up on tough horses, just to understand what they are telling me”
- “A true hearted Andalusian ! Fire in his heart and passion in his blood. No point telling him to rest easy. He wouldn’t like that. He’s probably shadow boxing clouds.”
- “So sorry for your loss! Coral was a lucky horse to live out his life with Matt. I’m so glad I was able to see them perform together many times! “
- “I feel honored to have seen him showed. Chris Cox had Matt at his clinic. They even traded horses for a while.”
- “So sorry to hear of his passing…I’ll never forget the show you guys put on in Windsor, Nova Scotia…RIP Coral”
- “What a remarkable character he was! Two weeks ago, we laughed as he snorted and called to Frankie–obviously forgetting that he was a gelding. Hugs to all of you and cheers to Coral.”
- “ I’m so sorry. I still have so many pictures from when I rode him and he was the first horse I have ever learned to rear and bow on. Corral will always have a special place in my heart. He was an absolutely amazing horse “
- “So very sorry – I remember meeting him in person – he was vibrant and such a character.. I remember watching Matt ride in a solo performance – truly breath taking. RIP Coral II – you will be missed!”
- “ I’m sorry for you guys. He was so much fun, and I learned a lot from him and his do it right or I’ll make you lessons. Hugs to you all, miss all of you and will miss Coral II forever!”
- “I was a lucky person to meet and ride this amazing horse. I saw many performances of him and Matt. Rip Coral. You were an amazing horse and I’m sad to hear this news. I’m sorry for your loss Matt. He was loved by many of his adoring fans.”
- “Fabulous horse. Grateful to have made his acquaintance. Will never forget the day he allowed my daughter the privilege of riding him. She got to feel all of his fabulous moves piaffe, passage, and much to my concern levade. He knew exactly what he was doing and I will never forget her smile when she asked for it and he so kindly, and honestly obliged. Matt and Lori please know how sorry we are for your loss and how grateful were were to enjoy him.”
- “The Horse World Expo will forever miss you Coral. May you have all the mares you want and the alfalfa you can eat. (( hugs)).”
- “So sorry for your loss Matt. Coral was indeed an awesome horse. Matt and Coral had a wonderful connection as performers. They WOWED many audiences. A few years ago I had the opportunity to go to Fla. and train under Matt for a few days, and some of my instruction was on Coral. What a honor it was to ride this great horse. Thank You Matt.”
- “Farewell to a legend. See you on the other side Coral! This horse and Matt performed together all over the world. They always stole the show!“
- “Tissues please! Matt McLaughlin is amazing person and Coral was an incredible horse. I was blessed and honored to see them both perform several times. My deepest condolences to Matt and the entire team at Matt McLaughlin Dressage. Rest in peace Coral. May God rest your soul.”