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“Some day I will own a horse just like you.” Are the words I said to Dazzle when I saw him at his first horse show. I was getting him ready for my boss, and I fell in love immediately. His confirmation was impeccable, and he was beautiful inside and out. Those five minutes were all I needed with him for my eyes to light up. Although I never imagined I would actually buy Dazzle. In fact, I never imagined I would buy a young horse till later in my career.

At the time before I bought Dazzle a 5 year old Oldenburg gelding I was barely hanging on. It all started after I failed to make the team on a horse I bought impulsively after my horse went lame due to arthritis. The thought of owning a young horse was terrifying for me because I was riding 10 young Warmbloods daily and some of them were super hot and not easy to train. My biggest fear is to mess up a young horse. I didn’t know if I was really ready to produce my own FEI horse but before I knew it I was on an adventure for a young horse not for success, but for a connection. I was debating going to Germany but my dream horse was already in the barn! Although he was not for sale… So after a lot of debating my trainer allowed me to ride him. His lateral work was a little tricky for me because I’m 5’3 and he is 17.3 Hh. Although after the second ride I was hooked, and in love. I knew dazzle would be the perfect horse for me to train. Of course my trainer (Anartz) still didn’t really want to sell him. Although he knew dazzle would be a wonderful horse for me to train and could help me achieve my goals. He eventually gave in and sold dazzle to me.

On top of riding numerous horses a day and being a working student I took lessons 3x a week on dazzle and rode him myself on the other days of the week. Our first horse show was a thrill. We showed 1st Level Test 3 and Second Level Test 3. Dazzle is more of an upper level horse. Every level he goes up he gets better. We scored 58% and 59% in our first level. Then we scored 65% in our second level and won our class. After the show I started to train him flying changes, half passes, etc. He was learning so easily I told my trainer I wanted to try to make the FEI Junior Team for NAYC that year. She said “okay we can try” so I took Dazzle to his first CDI scorings 63% and 64% qualifying scores and for our first CDI I was happy. we continued show all season long scoring 68% and 66%+. Although Dazzle ran out of the arena in our second to last qualifying show. So I was eliminated. So I went to our last qualifier so we could get our 3rd score for our team test. Sadly I used a string as a throat latch and was eliminated 🤦🏼‍♀️ so there was my second year of not making the team.

Fast forward dazzle is now 7 and I went on a new adventure to Florida. I became an assistant/apprentice for Erin Brinkman. Dazzle had a lot of issues with spooking and felt overwhelmed easily. He was bolting in our tests and in the arena. I was even FALLING OFF at horse shows!! We took a step back to work on a lot of Natural Horsemanship. Dazzle and I strived again for the FEI Junior Team; thus, competing in numerous CDI in Wellington scoring 66% and 68%. Behind the scenes I felt way over my head. Everyday in Wellington I would have to ride Dazzle in the stadium at 6 am – do an hour of ground work after – then ride my test. There was maybe only one test that entire show season without a bolt. I was getting use to seeing zeros on the test sheet. I remember crying after my ride because I felt Dazzle didn’t love and trust me. It was never about the score but about our connection while we danced. Our scores for the FEI Junior Team averaged out to a 66% and we were qualified for the team that year!

Leading up to the competition I was ready to take it easy on my 7 year old and play around with some new tricks. Dazzle loves to be kept occupied and learn more. Horses get burnt out from the same test just like we do! So I took Dazzle out to Prix St George and we got qualifying scores ( 64%) both days! I was content with the score considering all the mistakes. We had a month and a half till juniors and started to drill down with lessons every morning. A month before juniors I was kicked, and punctured 2 parts of my lung. Thankfully I pushed through and was still able to compete at North American Youth Champions (NAYC).

NAYC experience!! Dazzle arrived to the show grounds and it was right away ground work and Erin had a way of making it really fun! We played with the jumps, banners, and made loud noises on scary objects to get his confident about everything! Our warm up day was lovely! Dazzle gave me an effortless and confident feeling. Dazzle went into the competition the first day with a relaxed test scoring a 66%. I represented Region 9 and we won the team bronze! Our team all scored 66% in our tests so it was pretty amazing to have such a strong team. The next day was the individual test and yet again Dazzle was relaxed and no spooks! We scored a 65% and ranked 9th! I was disappointed to not make the awards ceremony because I wasn’t top 8. Although after not making the team for so many years I was thankful to be there. And more thankful to have the opportunity to be on a 7 year old I trained myself. Our freestyle was a mess because Dazzle finally bolted and spooked like crazy 4x.. I never had “my test” that season. Until….

I moved to California after NAYC to be a head dressage trainer. Dazzle gave me confidence to push to my dreams. It was scary to not have any help and not have lessons everyday, but it also is what made us finally be able to dance our test. We clinic quarterly with Judy Westlake and Erin Brinkman and i learn so much every time. This year I decided to declare for the young rider team. And I finally had my test! I scored a 68% total and a 71% from one of the judges! There was not one bolt or spook. Everyday I take everything I’ve learned over the years and apply it at different times when I need it. Then I have my own style I apply. I hope you continue to follow our journey on our ultimate goal of the Under 25 Grand Prix.

By Skye Simpson Dressage Shares Insight on the Sport

Skye Simpson is an FEI Dressage & Natural Horsemanship Trainer located in Banning, California.

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