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Genoka Thomassy, cont.

Belle is my 5 year old Andalusian mare. She’s of Veiga (bullfighting) lines which are often slow to physically mature. When Michael started with her last year, she was somewhat delicate in appearance and particularly narrow in front. We got off to a rocky start when some trailering issues caused intermittent "off-ness" but Michael was great in diagnosing what was wrong and pointing me to great people to resolve the problem. By mid-December, Belle was going well enough to head off to training with Eclipse. Michael worked her in hand and lunging for about a month to build up her body before starting her under saddle. I had climbed on to walk and trot her a very few times nearly a year prior but then I had surgery and you can guess how rarely she’d been even lunged since. She took to Michael and her training immediately and loved it so much that I left her with him until the end of March. Belle’s progress has been remarkable. Her body has changed dramatically. Her topline is muscled, there is twice as much space between her front legs and she has muscle on both chest and hindquarters. My baby looks like a grown up mare! Belle moves with lift in the front and cadence. She’s relaxed—and Veiga blood is pretty hot—you don’t want to face a bull on a dull horse--and willing and very happy to work. She is far from dull but her reactions are controlled. Ground birds flushed near us on her first trail ride recently and she stayed perfectly responsive to leg and rein and just barely startled in place. After less than 3 months under saddle, she came home quietly cantering and doing basic lateral work.

Michael riding Belle

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Michael is not rigid in his approach—she was ready so that’s what they did even though he did mention that with most horses you wouldn’t demand lateral work and canter so soon. I think the key is that he didn’t demand. He saw she was ready, asked and got it. Belle's been home 10 days and I’ve already taken her on a trail ride at a busy park, cantered her in the unfenced arena while my husband was at work and frankly found her even more steady than the horses I’ve ridden for years. That’s remarkable when you consider that our other horses are essentially packers who will tote novices down trails. It tells me that my money was well spent. I could have "started" Belle myself but I believe the results not only at this stage but years down the road would never have been quite as good as what I’m seeing now.

I would describe our horses as pleasure horses. They’re part of the family and we "play" together. That might mean foxhunting but more often somewhat aggressive trail riding with lot of speed and popping logs. At home I (sorta) practice some lower level dressage with a goal towards keeping the horses and me fit rather than aiming for a show. And I love the jumping now that I have a horse that knows how and good instruction to help me improve. But we also do tricks and team sorting and run some barrels or poles or whatever else comes up that seems fun at the time.

Michael is one of the few professional horsemen I’ve met who rides a bigger game than he talks. He doesn’t need to tell you the many impressive things he’s done. He gets on the horse that you’re having trouble with and shows you what he can do by quietly and effectively resolving the problem. Then he puts you back up and, now that both you and the horse have been shown rather than merely told what to do, the problem is generally on its way to fixed. Seeing this at the first clinic is why I wanted him to work with my horses.  
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