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Briana Caylen Graves, age: 9
San Antonio, Texas
Pazazz - Appendix Quarter HorseMichael and Briana with Laura
Gidget - Welsh/Quarter pony
Larkspur Lad - Throughbred
Hunter, Dressage, Jumper

Briana, my nine year old daughter, and I came to Retama Equestrian Center in search of a trainer. We thought we'd found what we were looking for, but soon realized that Briana would need a world class trainer if she were to ride to her potential. So the search was on...

We'd heard whisperings about a wonderful Dutch trainer that frequented Retama but were warned that he would not train children and we shouldn't dare ask him to train Briana. So this was our catalyst! Briana hung around the indoor arena as much as I would let her, hoping to introduce herself to what she called "the Flying Dutchman"! She eventually got her wish and asked if he would train her. His response is much laughed about now, "I can only train people with their own horses, so when you get a little pony, come and ask me again!" Ha!, Briana said, "Well, I have four horses, is that o.k.?" As they say, the rest is history...

Now, sometimes people have a tendency to get jealous, and while we heard that Michael is a great Dressage/Jumper trainer, would he be able to instruct a pupil in what some call the American Forward way of riding, a.k.a. Hunter's? He reassured us that all great riding was based on the fundamentals and we'd be just fine.

Briana Briana Briana

Briana was riding a 16.2 hand Appendix, named Pazazz. He had been there, done that but not kindly so. He had a tendency to run if you attempted to pull and the prior trainer had placed him in a double twisted bit (ugh) and a standing martingale in the hopes that this would assist Briana, who weighs in at 52 lbs soaking wet, in stopping him. Michael immediately took off all "extra" equipment and started training Briana and Pazazz from the ground up. At Michael's urging we took the whole horse into consideration not just his problems but his pluses too. We included massage, consistent treatment and lots of love. Michael has a way of "talking" to horses (he denies this!) but we've seen it - total communication! It took us 4 months but in the end we now have a school master that we wish were 10 years old again!

In 2007, Briana and Pazazz won almost every class they were in. Thanks to Michael, they consistently brought home Grand Champion points in Hunter U/S and Equitation. At TSSA in central Texas, they went on to win:Briana

Grand Champion
Hunter U/S CrossRail Division
CrossRail, Jr. Equitation Division
2' Equitation Division
And best of all, Jr. High Point Rider of the Year!

Briana is now riding another "I don't know if he can do this" horse who is 17.1 hds and off the track too! But that's another story....

Photos courtesy Heaven's Horse

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