Dressage of a Different Color
When Jesse Fayer went shopping for a horse for her husband Ron, she went to see one who was advertised as 15.2 hands and appropriate for a man. Instead, the unbroken seven-year-old turned out to be a 14.2 dun mustang pony. The Kiger mustang had come from Oregon, where his descendants traced back to ancient Spanish breeds.
It didn’t matter to Jesse that the pony was not at all what he was advertised to be. She fell in love instantly and knew she had to have him. She knew that if he didn’t come home with her, she wouldn’t be able to sleep at night: she couldn’t spend the rest of her life knowing that someone else had “her” horse. And he was so handsome! Jesse just could not resist his good looks.
Jesse and her husband mainly ride western, and train their horses through natural horsemanship. Although Fox was the first horse Jesse had ever started from “scratch” he proved to be a model student. In fact, he was so easy and so smart, her husband was able to get on him the first day they worked with him.
Jesse says Fox is “perfect. He’s smart and cautious, and likes to give a lot of feedback. He’s very intuitive: you don’t need to tell him things, he figures out your game plan. And he’s a love, he just loves to be with you!”
Fox learned to do “a little bit of everything. He went trail riding, worked at liberty, and did team penning.” Everything Jesse asked him to do, he did willingly. However, his athletic ability appeared to be limited, and Jesse wondered if dressage might help. She enlisted the help of trainer Corinna Scheller-Fleming of Lost Island Farm in Falls Village, Connecticut.
During their first lesson, Corinna asked Jesse if she might like to show Fox at some point. Jesse answered “Someday.” Little did she know that three weeks later they would be attending their first show! Meanwhile, she took her dressage lessons riding in her western head stall with split reins
Dressage has already helped Jesse and Fox focus on precision and body position. Jesse says, “It has helped him use himself better; he seems to be lighter footed. In the long run I hope to see Fox gain strength in his top line and hind end.”
Fox came along so quickly and easily that Corinna was very impressed. She says, “I love working with Jesse. She’s very easy going and has a lot of knowledge. I think the horse is the cutest thing and I think he’s got some talent. It’s really fun working with them.”
Coming from the western background, Jesse is unfamiliar with dressage terms. Corinna finds that works out well for her. “I have to explain the terms to her. It’s good, it keeps me thinking.”
Due to the ability Fox has to pick things up quickly, and Jesse’s general knowledge, the pair came along so fast that “someday” was but a mere three weeks. Jesse competed in her first show at Our Folly Farm in Morris, Connecticut, riding in western boots, with no jacket, no English attire. It didn’t matter to the judge. Jesse and Fox took two seconds. Jesse says both classes “went well. He was good: he didn’t let me down.”
Next they attended a show at Weatogue Stables in Salisbury, Connecticut, where they took two firsts. Performing Training Level Tests 1 and 2, they got two scores in the sixties, with the highest being a 64. Jesse wasn’t clear on dressage scoring, but was immediately reassured that that was a very good place to be, especially for a team so young to the sport.
Fox loved the experience. Jesse says, “His whole personality is about how good he looks,” so being in the limelight suited him just fine. “He never got rattled, and liked it because it was easy work.” A horse that wasn’t who he was supposed to be turned out to be just what Jesse was looking for. “Fox is sure he’s the best horse in the world. I think so, too.”