A Roman-nosed racehorse once thought to be a bit of an ugly duckling has so thoroughly transformed himself into a creature of beauty and talent in the Dressage ring, that his longtime rider swears she is forever sold on Thoroughbreds to do for her what her Dutch Warmblood never could.
Kelly Vineyard of Gainesville, Fla. says she owes everything to her short, narrow-necked OTTB.
Her aptly named gelding The Roman Knows helped pluck her from relative obscurity in Level 2 Dressage—where she was marooned for years struggling on her Dutch Warmblood— to the highest levels of a rarified sport.
Together, the pair moved swiftly up the ranks, earning USDF Bronze and Silver, and competing strongly in the Prix St. Georges.
The Roman Knows
Dam: Miss Crystal W.
Foal date: May 10, 1994With awards too numerous to count, but which Vineyard keeps tucked in a three-ring binder for posterity, the greatest achievement was that an equine few would look twice at rose to become the horse of a lifetime; achieving High Point wins at every level, a first-place in Prix St. George in 2006, and the USDF all-breed win in 2008.
“Before I bought Roman in 2008, I sat on many Warmbloods searching for the perfect dressage horse,” she says. “I tried tons of horses by the time I tried him. And I remember thinking that he wasn’t very impressive looking. He wasn’t the type of horse you’d look at in the paddock and say, wow! But, he had straight legs, and he was balanced, so I decided to try him.”
He had her at the first ride.
“I knew instantly that he was right for me,” she says. “He was so light and easy for me, so forward and so sensitive. I knew when I got on him there was something very special about him.”
By this point in Roman’s life, he was already a schoolmaster who had already earned his 2006 Prix St. George first place, but he was by no means a push-button pony all takers could ride. “A couple of others had tried him as well and he ran backwards with them,” she says. “So the people involved in his sale knew that the fact I was able to walk and trot him” was a very good sign.
As Roman eases toward retirement at 21, he presides over a barn and paddock as an accomplished athlete and a family member who agreeably teaches Vineyard’s 4-year-old to ride. A schoolmaster loved beyond measure, whose 15.3 hand frame moved flawlessly into a level she never would have imagined, was nearly overlooked as the ugly duckling when she first met him in 2008.
“I still remember when I first looked at him and thought, ewww, you want me to ride him? But after our life accomplishments together … I’m never going back to another breed. His gaits might not be quite as fancy as the others, but he had a consistency that was unmatched,” she says. “It got to the point that every time we went into the ring I knew I was going to get a ribbon.
“And because of Roman, the next horse I get will be an off-track Thoroughbred.”