A Thoroughbred who once moved so oddly that his trot had the jerky up-down motion of a sewing needle, held his own against many naturally gifted sport horses last weekend, placing at the top of his 4th Level Dressage test at the fabled Devon Horse Show.
Kaytee Mountain and his owner/rider Sue Gallagher cinched third place Sept. 27 in a field of 15 horse/rider teams, none of them Thoroughbreds, most of them professional.
Following a classically poor dress rehearsal—they got lost en route to the show grounds, and performed a harried practice session in a driving rain the night before— the pair cantered up the centerline of the show ring like conquering heroes returning from battle.
“He cantered in with such confidence that I don’t think I’ve ever felt him move like that before!” says Gallagher, who notes that from that point on, the off-track Thoroughbred she pulled out of a field in 2007 turned in a near flawless performance.
“We had a minor blip when he saw a photographer crouched near the crowd, but it was very, very minor. Otherwise, he was a true professional, answering every aid, and staying with me for the entire ride.”
So ably did the pair perform that judges freely awarded them 8s for several factors, including their halt, tempe changes, walking pirouettes, and in their Collective Marks, which included an 8 for the harmony between horse and rider!
“To get an 8 on the harmony between horse and rider, I think that sums up everything,” Gallagher says. “There were a total of 30 horses and riders in our division, split into two teams, and he was the only Thoroughbred, and we rode in there on a snaffle.”
Stunned to score in the top 10, much less third place, the beautifully turned out team made look easy what came after years of hard work. From the moment the Australia native adopted Kaytee in 2007 and decided to train the unsuitably built Thoroughbred for dressage, the journey was an uphill battle. The racehorse was stiff, tense, possessed a weak topline, and had a flighty nature. But what he lacked in build and training he made up in temperament, being an animal who brought a feeling of joy in Gallagher. (Please see an earlier story in Off-Track Thoroughbreds).
With a list of accomplishments under their belts hard won after years of dogged work, they now claim among them the title of USDF Silver Medalists. A place where few Thoroughbreds showed at all last weekend, much less at the top levels of Dressage, Kaytee proved that when the starting bell rang, and it was time to get serious, he was a horse who could get it done.
“When we first arrived at the show ring, we were cantering along the outside, and he was a little spooky. He spooked at the judges tents a couple of times, and I thought oh no,” she says. “But when that bell rang, and I put him into the canter, he flipped a switch in his brain, and he was suddenly and completely with me, more than I have ever felt before.” ♦