Judi Tintera and Dandy: An Equine Perspective
Although I rode most of my life, I got a late start in horse ownership, purchasing my dream horse, a gray Arabian mare, around my fortieth birthday. Charmer and I trail rode, never venturing into the show ring. As she got older, I trained her to drive. In her 30s, we retired her and bought a miniature horse named Dandy to keep her company. We had Charmer until she was 36 years old, and Dandy was always by her side.
We heard about something called VSE classes at driving shows. Just getting Dandy hooked to a cart was an accomplishment ... he was an out-of-the-field 5-year-old stallion (yeah, I know ....) and was so spooky I ground drove him for a year before I ever bought a cart for him. It took lots of patience to get him where he is today. Our show ring highlights include winning the American Driving Society (ADS) North American Preliminary VSE Championship in Windsor SC (2015) and the STRIDE year-end high point dressage and versatility awards (2016).
Last year, Dandy participated at a beginner’s driving clinic as a demo horse. I’ll let him tell that story in his own words.
“Mommy trailered me to a new arena with lots of people and horses, but when I got led in to the arena without my harness and cart I was confused, ‘cuz I’m not one of those halter horses that stands around and looks pretty. Then she started putting my harness on and hooking my cart. It was unusual that so many people were close to me and watching this. Mommy explained what she was doing and people asked questions. (But when do I get to DRIVE?) Then these people started taking my cart and harness off. (Did I do something wrong?) Oh wait, now they’re putting it back on. Uh-oh taking it off, and putting it on ... what’s the deal?? I found out this was called a Harnessing Demo.
After that Mommy put long reins on me. I know this job! I could hear her voice, but it didn’t feel like her hands. I tried to follow what these unfamiliar people were asking me to do. But sometimes I got confused. Mommy sorted it out. I only got scared once by a fiberglass cow outside the arena. Mommy called that a “training moment”.
After a break I got hooked to my cart and saw cones getting set up. I like cones! We demonstrated different gaits and dressage figures, and I got to go really fast in cones. I guess we did good because everyone clapped.
Usually I’m finished after cones and we go back to the trailer, but today LOTS of people lined up to take a turn. (Side note: 18 of the 24 beginner drivers drove Dandy) Mommy had them drive me in a serpentine through a row of cones, explaining how to gently get me to bend and turn. (It was really weird because not many people have driven me before.) I tried my best and got lots of pats after they were done. I enjoyed meeting all these new people. But not the cow.”
Dandy is now 16 years old and in the best condition ever. Earlier this year we won the VSE Championship at the Grand Oaks Classic Pleasure show for the second time, and had our best Preliminary dressage score ever in the Combined Test event.
That score was significant—it was the final qualifying score we needed for our ADS Lifetime Dressage medal, awarded for four scores under 48. We received our medal at the Annual Meeting a few weeks ago.
So, for people who wonder what you can do with a miniature horse, I can tell you there’s a lot of fun to be had in a small package.