French dressage taught Batman to cool his jets

Batman (JC: Babe's Mantel) used to be fast and strong and unbalanced before he learned to cool his jets with French dressage work.

Batman (JC: Babe’s Mantel) used to be fast and strong and unbalanced before he learned to cool his jets with French dressage work.

Batman flew around the ring like he was chasing the bad guys.

Heavy on his forehand, he’d dig in and pull, then with a burst of speed, would leap into the air carrying his young rider Christine Brubaker on turbocharged rides that could barely be contained.

During six months of lessons, Brubaker, only 14 years old at the time, tried several different bits to rein in the fiery son of Eclipse Award Champion Turkoman, until finally, she and her riding coach decided to take a Zen approach to the speedster.

Babe’s Mantel
Barn name: Batman
Sire: Turkoman
Dam: Swift Response
Foal date: May 17, 1990
“His biggest challenge was that he was so out of balance and heavy on his front end that he’d run faster and faster, like he was trying to outrun his balance issues,” she says. “He seemed to get stronger every week, so we finally decided to put him into classical French dressage training to correct his balance problems, and teach him how to use his hind end.”

So six months after adopting the adorable bay gelding from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, Brubaker hung up her saddle, and took out the lunge line to work him from the ground. Months of patient and deliberate work would follow.

“The whole idea was to get him to rebalance himself without using gadgets,” she says. “So we focused on working together as a pair, from the ground.”

In the early days, Christine and Batman work on the ground.

In the early days, Christine and Batman work on the ground.

Day after day, Brubaker and her coach taught Batman to move over or sidestep in ways that taught him to understand how to move his feet, she says. One exercise involved having him stand with his front legs still, and move his hind end. “Eventually he got to the point where he was sidestepping and keeping his head down in a proper frame. This is a far cry from how he was at the beginning, when he’d throw his head up because he didn’t know how to move his body.”

At the end, Batman cooled his jets and became a pretty terrific riding companion. “It took us a long time to get balanced, especially with the canter. But when we finally did, and I got back on him about six months later, he was a totally different horse,” she says. “He’s an older man now, but I rode him until 2011, taking regular lessons and going to 4H with him.”

Now that they’re both older, Brubaker is spending more time concentrating on a budding nursing career, and Batman spends his days mooning over an Arab/Quarter Horse mare, who isn’t all that nice to him, but for whom Batman has fallen, head over heels. “He’s really, really attached to that mare, so I’d never move him,” she says. “We’re happy to have him live out his days with us, taking occasional rides and enjoying life as a retired gentleman.”

4 responses to “French dressage taught Batman to cool his jets”

  1. Suzanne Alderton

    What a wonderful young girl to have the patience to train this gorgeous horse and I am sure she had beautiful times with him. It is great she is keeping him in retirement for the rest of his life. Hope her nursing career goes well. Love your stories.

  2. cheri

    Ahh, yet again a wonderful story of the right people in the right place at the right time in an equine athlete’s life! Bravo!

  3. Kyle Rothfus

    Great article and story. I am a firm believer that a solid foundation of ground work always leads to a much more delightful experience under saddle. It’s always nice to see I’m not the only one with that idea 🙂

  4. Arlene Aquino

    Lovely story. In the photo it appears that the owner is wearing flip-flops! Ouch if you get stepped on.

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