In his first year at second level the handsome black Dutch Warmblood Unico G (Nico) showed talent and confidence under his 19-year-old dressage rider, Anna Marek at the Waterloo Spring Dressage competition in Michigan.
Scoring a whopping 74%, the pair moved confidently in the arena in their second season together in competition, and no one was more proud and moved than his owner, Amy Awerbuch. That is because the first time she laid eyes on him was at David and Tari Larkin's sale barn in Florida, he was in a standing martingale ("because he threw his head so badly") and she had heard from confidants he had a reputation as a "naughty horse".
But she saw moments of brilliance in the young roguish KWPN, by Negro out of Kleora by Animo, and decided to take a chance and buy him. After a summer in Michigan, he went back to Florida for two seasons, and Awerbuck gives credit to Florida Dressage trainer Pat Eidel-Schmoll who got him back to the basics, and helped restore his confidence.
Another friend of Nico's was Gary Smith, the dressage cowboy who can often be seen at Florida Dressage shows in the warm up mounted on various horses, all identified only as "Fred". That is because the anonymous creatures under his vice grip legs, yet soft and gentle hands and easy going manner, would make huge headway in the often busy and chaotic show atmosphere many a nervous young horse was not used to.
Smith has calmed many a feisty investment saving riders and owners a season's worth of show time for the Florida season, rarely able to get any credit lest spectators would know whose horse he was schooling at the time. But Smith and Schmoll are well known and well respected year-round south Florida trainers who provide an important and trusted service in the training process of some of America's finest bred dressage horses.
PhelpsPhoto: Gary Smith and "Fred"
"Pat and Gary did a terrific job gaining his trust and giving him confidence in himself. Nico would rear, run out of the rings, move against the leg...and those were just a few of the problems we had to overcome!" said Amy. "Gary and I basically created a horse with a future out of a horse who was practically a throwaway." Schmoll told DressageDaily. "I think that the importance is taking small steps and finding the first good steps. Good basics, staying with one program, and having confidence in your trainer is what is good for a horse. We are proud of the job we did with Nico, and helped him to be the horse he is today."
It was a young and talented rider a neighbor of Awerbuch's from West Bloomfield, who inherited the ride, and brought Unico G to newer heights over the past 2 years. "Anna is an incredible rider who is blessed with a great feel." Awerbuch had first seen her at Nancy and Larry Murphy's barn in Clarkston, Michigan. "I was always in awe of her abilities."
Although Anna did not have the resources most young riders have to buy a top horse for the FEI Young Rider competition, she made a name for herself in her region by working hard and building on a natural talent. She then spent time in Pennsylvania riding young horses and training with Belinda Nairn. "Anna is an extremely enthusiastic learner." Belinda told DressageDaily. "When she feels something for the first time, she lights up like a Christmas tree, and she remembers the feel for the next time. She also has a lot of talent, and combined with her feel and intuition, I think she can become a very influential rider in the future. I think Anna gained quite a bit of experience here, as there were a lot of firsts for her, and a variety of horses for her to ride at a various levels. This type of experience can be invaluable for someone starting out on their own, and knowing Anna, she won't forget!"
The time and investment in the wayward Warmblood began to pay off after he aced all of his classes at Dressage by The Bay 2007 in Travers City Michigan earning a 77% in a first level class. He continued to get scores in the 70% at the USDF Regional Championships, and is now well into 2008 at second level maintaining high averages.
"Anna is now working hard at confirming his changes, hoping to show and qualify at third level later this summer" said Nico's proud owner.
"Nico is a very special horse who needed someone to love him and believe in him. I really think he would have become a throw-away horse, going from barn to barn, if I wouldn't have bought him when I did. I owe so much to Gary and Pat for their dedication and hard work to get him correctly on track, and "trainable," so Anna could step in where she did and bring him up the levels.
And we love showing at Waterloo. It was my first time and I'll definitely be back in August! Everything was great.... well organized. well-managed, professional, clean, a wonderful place to show . Kevin Bradbury does a super job as show manager. We even got a corner stall, as requested!
DressageDaily and PhelpsPhotos are looking forward to returning to Michigan August 20 -24 for Dressage at Waterloo Summer Finale I & II.