Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Rare Phenom: Donut effect in dressage

Blessi and Pam show a healthy dose of good-old-fashioned joy
I recently struck up an email conversation with Pam, the owner of the Icelandic horse Blessi I featured a few months ago. They're pictured right in the most delightful photo I've seen in a  long time. Pam had a great story that I cannot resist sharing, called...

The Donut Effect... A new dressage phenom
 Yesterday, my instructor Dannelle rode Blessi in his first dressage show of this year.  Some friends and I attended with our non-traditional “dressage” horses—two Paints and an Icelandic.  Since this was an all-day event, we brought items to share for lunch.  I supplied iced tea, bottled water, and donuts.
The first class--Training Level 1--was won by a very talented Hungarian warm blood mare. Blessi and Dannelle and another warmblood both scored 63.333, which was a tie for second place.  Actual ranking during a tie is decided by some quirky dressage rule and Blessi and Dannelle ended up with third place—not bad at all. 
 METHODOLOGY: Administer  sugar and carbs
We left to check for scores.  The horses were tied at the trailer and somebody was supposed to keep an eye on them.  We returned to find that an animal had gotten into the donuts and eaten the ten that remained.  No harm done.  Except just a few minutes later we found out that the “animal” was Blessi.  He had untied himself from the trailer and eaten the donuts and the three apples that my friend had brought as post show treats for the horses.  My friend’s husband found Blessi cleaning up the icing in the box and re-tied him to the trailer.  Blessi ate the bear claws, the pink iced donuts with sprinkles, the cream filled donuts, the chocolate iced donuts, and the plain cake donuts.  Blessi has never met a donut—or cookie, carrot, or peppermint-- that he doesn’t like.
Not a dressage show, but a great picture of Blessi's blonde awesomeness!
RESULTS: Behavioral changes noted
Blessi looked a little uncomfortable but did not seem to be suffering otherwise so Dannelle rode him in his second test.  Well overall the scores were not good.  It must have been like trying to run a marathon right after eating Thanksgiving dinner.  I did notice some distinctive differences in the scores between test 1 and test 2—something I am labeling the Donut Effect.
A sugar high does create animation.  During the second test, Blessi managed to achieve an 8 on his free walk.  Normally he scores a 6 on this movement.  Judges usually  note that he is relaxed but “lacks impulsion.”  He also upped his final movement “Down centerline, halt, salute” to a 7, which goes to prove that it takes impulsion to get a good halt.  However, any movement involving a canter dropped from a 6 to a 4 or 5.  Dannelle has been working to develop more of a 3-beat canter with Blessi but Blessi’s sugar high turned his canter back into a 4-beat, rushed affair. 
So my challenge is to determine how many donuts we need to feed Blessi to animate his free walk yet not impact his canter.  Obviously this is less than ten but more than one (Note: this is a joke—I don’t advocate more that a small bite of a donut for a horse).   
I wasn’t able to capture any video of Blessi’s escape and self-indulgence.  However, somebody threw the donut box in my truck when we packed up and I was able to re-stage the event (with box but no donuts) back at the home stable.  Check out the following video:


  1. WOW - I needed that kind of laugh today! I'm sitting at my desk - with my afternoon coffee...reading this entry and almost spit the coffee onto the computer screen I was trying so hard to NOT laugh. This story is absolutely hilarious:) Thank you for sharing. Blessi is just adorable!

  2. haha, awesome photo- and great presentation of her story! Love the scientific analysis (though of course I'm worried for that pony's health!). Bottom line: I'm in the mood for donuts. :)

    (p.s. I have a particular affection for all that blonde glory! jealous! )

  3. LOVE it!!!! May I forward this story to friends that don't read this blog?

  4. Sounds like something Mad Max would do. Too funny :o)

  5. Must be careful with the chocolate doughnuts. Not only can the chocolate be bad for horses, but it might trigger a positive for caffeine on a drug test!

    Still laughing at the image of the raid on the food, though. *G*

  6. Very funny story - I loved it! Blessi sounds like a wonderful horse and quite a character!


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