The Run Seen 'Round the World
The Run Seen ’Round the World
By Tara Matsler, AQHA digital media team
It was to be her last run: The final performance in a string of 2018 successes, the end to a decorated five-year, six-figure career. Everything escalated to here.
The crescendo began at the Team USA trials in Tryon, North Carolina. The May competition saw Ms Dreamy and trainer Dan Huss tie with Jordan Larson on ARC Gunnabeabigstar to win the qualifier, earning a berth to represent the United States reining team at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games. Fast-forward to September and a return to Tryon – Dan and the 2010 sorrel mare pushed Team USA to gold and the individual silver medal.
Dan and owner Frederick “Rick” Christen fixed their eyes on one last milestone for Ms Dreamy: an AQHA world championship. She already won the amateur reining world championship with Dee Dee Boeckman in 2014, but before she hung up her sliders and retired to a life of leisure and motherhood, Dan and Rick knew Ms Dreamy deserved another world title.
Going for Gold
In the senior reining prelims at the 2018 AQHA World Championship Show, Dan played it safe, garnering a 220.5 and qualifying mid-pack for the following night’s finals. But Dan’s wife, Wendy, reminded him: “This is it. You need to go for it.”
So much thought had gone into Ms Dreamy’s athletic career: twice-a-week rides, thrice-a-week swims, twice-a-week rests. Countless schooling runs, wisdom shared from top trainers Bob Avila and Andrea Fappani, a perfected training program. There was endless care taken by everyone, especially Wendy in Tryon, where the heat and humidity could swallow up a horse. It all built up to November 10 and Ms Dreamy’s ultimate run, transitioning her from star athlete to hopeful matriarch.
Dan and Ms Dreamy charged into the Jim Norick Arena Saturday night, perhaps running a little longer and stopping a little further than per the norm. It was all part of Dan’s plan: Like a pilot preparing for final approach, the horseman wanted to be sure Ms Dreamy was with him. The lengthy run-in didn’t bother Ms Dreamy – when Dan said “Whoa,” she sat on her tail, pedaled up front. The sliding stop sent onlookers into a tizzy. Ms Dreamy had the crowd on the frog of her hoof.
Dan let the mare settle a tad before backing to the center. Next, Pattern 12 called for four spins to the right. Ms Dreamy powered through, finishing with a crisp shut-off.
We all have our ticks – a hair flip, a cough, clearing the throat. Ms Dreamy is no different.
“Usually, she rubs one side of her face on her leg and sticks her head up. It relaxes her,” Dan says. “This time, she rubbed both sides.”
Finished with her habit, Ms Dreamy followed Dan into four and a quarter spins to the left. As the pair prepared to lope off, the damage was done.
“When she rubbed her head, I think that’s when she rubbed the bridle apart,” Dan says. “It stayed in her mouth until about the third lope stride. Then it fell out.”
|After Ms Dreamy rubbed her headstall between her right and left spins, the bridle came apart as she and Dan departed into a large, fast circle.|
On the Fly
Finding himself in a large, fast circle and on a horse without a bit, Dan’s mind raced. He moved his rein hand forward to take the slack up and position the careening bridle from the mare’s churning front legs. But it wasn’t enough. Dan, backed into a corner, gathered up the excess rein with his free hand, then reached for the headstall – knowing that the use of his free hand would disqualify them. Yet now Ms Dreamy was safe, Dan packed the broken equipment safely in hand and they were a circle-and-a-half into their pattern.
“When I two-handed her, that was a split-second decision,” Dan says.
Because of how Ms Dreamy ran in and waited on Dan, because of all the hours spent training her off the neck rein, Dan knew it wasn’t much of a gamble to continue the pattern bridleless.
“Then I thought, ‘You know what – this is her last run, I’ll keep going so everybody can see what a nice horse she is.’ She deserved that,” he says.
What happened next left the crowd hoarse. Ms Dreamy’s large circles were fast, slow-downs stylish, small circles collected, lead changes easy, rundowns confident, stops powerful and rollbacks electric. Through it all, Ms Dreamy kept her ears perked, the picture of happiness.
Even after Dan touched the rein with his free hand, resulting in the disqualification, the judges continued to score. They marked the team a scorching 227.5. It was a score that could’ve earned them the world title.
|By the second set of circles, Dan was determined to show the world what Ms Dreamy could do the show pen – with or without a bridle.|
On the AQHA Facebook page alone, views of Dan and Ms Dreamy’s run total more 3.2 million. The video has been watched for 4.1 million minutes. Interactions with the post surpass 301,400. Fans worldwide are in awe.
“When your training surpasses your need for equipment, you know you have reached that magical point in your relationship with that animal. Beautiful,” wrote Anna Abney.
“This beautiful mare rubbed her bridle loose and from that moment forward, her balance, attitude and performance should be what the event strives for,” added Brenda Pieper Armstrong. “Spectacular mare and lovely training, Dan.”
For Dan, the equipment malfunction is still hard to swallow.
“I’m disappointed in myself for letting her rub her leg so much and rub the bridle apart, but I’m happy people got to see her and they enjoyed it,” Dan says. “You read all the comments – people say they watch it with a lump in their throat and tears in their eyes. They watch the run maybe 20 times.”
Just days after the run went viral, Dan heard from horse enthusiasts all over the world, including a 14-year-old boy from Italy who sent a video of his own bridleless ride. His message? “I want to be like Dan.”
“The video does something for you,” Dan says. “You don’t have to be a trainer, you don’t have to be a showman – if you just love horses, you can watch that run and it’s going to affect your emotions.”
Ms Dreamy's Legacy
Ms Dreamy is a thinker, her trainer says. She comes up with games, like juggling a rubber feed pan up and down her hind legs, and the personable mare prefers to hang her head out her stall, watching all the action. Dan sees these traits in the mare’s 2-year-old and yearling daughters he works with back home in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Ms Dreamy, bred by Jana Simons of Aubrey, Texas, is by NRHA $5 million sire Magnum Chic Dream and out of A Gal With A Gun by NRHA $10 million sire Colonels Smoking Gun, better known as “Gunner.” Ms Dreamy has already passed her genetics on a few times with crosses on Spooks Gotta Whiz, Whizkey N Diamonds, A Sparkling Vintage, SG Frozen Enterprise and Shiners Voodoo Dr. The oldest of her five foals is a 4-year-old and the youngest are yearlings.
Ms Dreamy transitions to full-time broodmare status with $173,936 in performance earnings. While Dan would’ve appreciated one more world championship for Ms Dreamy, he’s happy she finished her athletic career in a fashion all her own.
“Even though she didn’t technically win it, she went out on top.”
Ms Dreamy’s bridleless run isn’t one the world will soon forget.
|Ms Dreamy retires from the show pen with $173,936 in lifetime earnings.|
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