Miracles and horses

11 Dec


Issa El Santo


Isabell Werth and El Santo have just had a triumph at the CDI5* in Salzburg. So many people had written this horse off

But if one has a dream to succeed in dressage– and nowhere does it require more belief in oneself  and maybe even more so, the horse—then miracles can and do happen.

Because only in dressage is each stride, each moment, measured against an ideal. It is not enough to bend the horse and get from one side to the other—no. There is the bend. There is Rhythm.Balance.Suppleness. Fluency. Expression. As well as precision and geometry and  of course no mistakes.


It is not enough to perform 15 one-tempis—they must be uphill, have power and spring, cover ground, begin and end in the same rhythm and size and effortlessly flow into the next movement with no loss of connection or contact.


And then there is the piaffe…El Santo’s talent both to move uphill and to sit was early visible—and it proved not much later to be his undoing,as he simply could not balance all that load/power and keep the forward energy that piaffe requires.

(Nearly everything to do with horse sport is a matter of opposites. In the wild, horses piaffe when very excited; in the arena, they are to do it under control, only when asked, and glide in and out of this burst of energy as though attending a tea party.)

What a long,strange trip it has been and continues to be.

Ernie (El Santo’s stable name)   somehow licked the bars of his stall /drank some backwashed water from the neighboring stall and came away with the grains of cimetidine fed to his  convalescent neighbor, Warum Nicht. Cimetidine is  a prohibited substance under German equine medication rules, and a small amount was found in Ernie’s drug test from a CDN last June.Of course, in most of the known world, cimetidine is used freely as an anti-acid to control stomach ulcers in horse and human alike. Isabell firmly stated she would contest any suspension, and is currently doing just that. Meanwhile, as no decision has yet been finalized,she competes, and with incredible confidence and success.

And so here is Salzburg,

What has been the key? Oh, sure, Issa changed stuff, played with different ideas. But I believe it is down to her inner confidence. She has maybe her best horse ever in the Bellissimo x  Cacir AA mare, Bella Rose; this may well be the fairytale package.

When a rider can paint on a perfect canvas, and  inspiration flows from the fingertips, it often carried over to the other canvases…Whatever obstacles have been placed in Werth’s path, she seems to be so ‘in the zone’ , her joy and confidence have entered into her horses and the resulting performance.

Here is the freestyle from Salzburg:




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