By Gloria Hammond (Keys), 2018 UDS spring scholarship recipient
My mustang and I travel from the DM ranch in the remote Nevada Desert just South of the Ruby Mountains. It is atleast a four hour drive. My mustang Dazzling Nevada “Jasper” and I make the trek to Sage Creek Equestrian where we seek knowledge about horsemanship and dressage. We do have a dressage training court set up in the middle of our sagebrush sea with a herd of mustangs just around the corner.
Dressage is becoming more harmonious for us, but every time we drive into the city, and ride in a 20m x 60m (66 feet by 132 feet) menage. This can be challenging for us mentally and physically. It’s just not the wide open spaces that you can long trot for fifteen miles to gather cows.
Jasper and I’s journey started with the Mega 100 day mustang challenge for Impact of the Horse in 2012. He was 4 yrs old, just gathered from the Goshute HMA, and gelded when he was 3 ½. We competed in the trail challenge where we had to walk by a mountain campfire, and cut cows were the most memorable obstacles. This was an experience that I will never forget. I remember that I wanted to back out of the trail challenge, but my coach Donnette Hicks encouraged me to go through with it. At the end of the challenge, in the auction, an anonymous sponsor blessed me with the funds to adopt Jasper. From then on, and for the past several years Jasper and I have sorted through blood, sweat, and tears to overcome working from a place of fear. We have been diligently working toward the goal of getting us right and into a true partnership. This year all of our hard work has blossomed into a beautiful partnership; which, is allowing us to put more emphasis on refinement. This journey from 2012 until now has been very trying at times, but one of the most rewarding journeys for me as a rider. The knowledge that I have gained by being committed to my journey with this once wild one, is priceless.
On May 6th, and 7th 2018, Jasper and I rode with Portuguese horseman, Nuno Matos from the “Pedro Torres Academy of Working Equitation” at Sage Creek Equestrian. This was our 3rd and 4th time riding in private lessons with Nuno. Working Equitation combines classical dressage, and obstacles which perfectly aligns with the direction I would like to go with my horsemanship journey along with still riding in competitive dressage. For several years I have schooled in dressage, and competed in trail challenges in the western riding discipline. The last couple of years, I have become frustrated with competing in various trail challenges. The judges do not use the same advanced criteria as a certified USDF Judge. I am excited, Working Equitation is a sport that combines both dressage, and trail with quality judges.
Since Jasper and I have been working so hard to come into our true partnership, it was nice to ride with Nuno, and focus on refining my riders position. Nuno, shared how important it is that my riders position be correct. I learned how to prepare my position to support my horse to be successful in our canter departs, along with trot and walk transitions. As I continue to develop correct riding principles, I have become aware how incorrect information can be in the horse world.
When riding with Nuno he prefers for students to come prepared with some goals in mind. My goal was flying leads changes, and my ultimate goal tempi changes! Nuno gave me some exercises to do to build my horse up to flying lead changes, and also extended trot. We also recaptured the importance of the outside rein to keep it even and balanced with the inside rein, and we learned that the outside rein is the rein that slows your horse down if needed to say hey cool it, the importance of keeping my reins even, the importance of my inside leg as the power up leg. He reiterated that I need to have my reins shorter and more even along with power up from the hind end to keep my horses poll up, and not slightly behind the vertical. I learned to trot slower with more power from my horses hind end to do better canter departs. Coming from the ranch long trotting after cows, this dressage trot seems so awkward to me, but I learned by applying this my canter departs are much better. I also learned when riding a diagonal, your outside leg is your new inside leg.
I really enjoy riding with Nuno, and we plan to ride with him again. Fortunately, he will be teaching at Sage Creek Equestrian several times a year. This year however Sage Creek will be hosting their first rated Working Equitation show in August 2018. I’m excited to try out this new sport, and combine dressage and trail challenges into one.
I love the part of our journey when we get to make the four hour drive home and I ponder our accomplishments. This year it was really fun to realize that we accomplished our first two bronze scores during our very first two rated rides down the center line in first level. As I approach the last part of our drive where I am almost home, and I’m hauling this once wild one through the Goshute area, his past wild home. My pondering fades into the vast wide open spaces of Nevada while I am greeted by the Elk, the Antelope, the Deer, the Cows, and the Mustangs as I drive across the desert to the cattle ranch that I call home.