Special thanks to photographer Janet Hitchen for this interesting tale about one of her friends and an upper level dressage horse that came ever so close to performing tempi changes through the pearly gates…
Anne Hurwitz is a racehorse exercise rider turned dressage enthusiast. Because of her, an imported Dutch Warmblood can be called a miracle horse. “In 2006, Nando’s previous owner, a professional, was showing successfully at Intermediaire 1 and the horse just fell apart,” explains Anne. “It took nearly two years to figure out that Nando had Lyme Disease. The rider was pouring money into him; but he wasn’t getting better.”
That professional, who knew Anne’s trainer, Jaralyn Finn, thought that Anne might want Nando. Perhaps her husband, Jim Lewis, a veterinarian, could help the horse.
“Anne came to me a few years ago when she was doing second level,” says Jaralyn. “Anne’s a really good horseman. She’s from the racetrack. Loves horses. Works really hard. She took lessons from really good people who knew what they were doing. And her husband is a highly educated horse vet.”
A Second Chance
In August 2008, Nando moved to Anne and Jim’s farm in Poolesville, Maryland. He has some quirks that make him an interesting ride. An imposing 17.2hh, the horse’s first act, upon landing in the USA, was to spook, breaking loose from his handler; he bolted, careening around the tarmac at JFK Airport. To this day, Nando remains spooky, even at 17.
“When I got him, he couldn’t do flying changes and I thought, well, maybe I can do second level with him,” recalls Anne. “That first week, he had a horrible neurological thing – he couldn’t walk, he was trembling all over the place. I was afraid we’d have to put him down.”
Dr. Lewis galloped to the rescue. Nando’s blood titer is now normal; but he has chronic Lyme Disease and it will never go away. With careful monitoring and on-going treatment, they manage to prevent relapses. Their goal is to keep the horse as healthy as possible, given the chronic nature of his Lyme Disease. Obviously, the treatment is working great, because the horse has been unbelievably free from neurological compromise. He and his pony pal get turned out, whatever the weather and his conditioning follows as strict a routine as Anne’s.
“I puttered with him, took him to clinics,” recalls Anne. “In April (2009) I showed him 4th level test 1 and got mid to upper 60s off the bat. That year I showed him Prix St. Georges and Nando got me my USDF Silver Medal the first weekend. He was really spooky; but he has stayed sound and, except for some little normal horse things, he’s been great.”
On Their Way Up the Levels
Nando and Anne partnered to win the Region 1 Finals showing Intermediaire I in 2010. This year, they’re schooling Intermediaire 2 and Grand Prix. The horse lucked out when he ended up with Anne, a thinking, educated rider acutely aware of the physiological demands of upper level dressage.
“I’m not sure he can do it,” admits Anne. “Nando is going to tell us if it’s too hard. I think I’ll be able to go out and do some amateur mediocre Intermediaire 2 tests. We’re just putzing along, getting the piaffe a little bit, but the tempi changes – it takes quick firing neurologically in the muscles to do tempis. He will tell us.”
The horse reaps the benefits of Anne’s dedication to fitness so she can run marathons. She never misses a workout for herself and always has a program for herself and her horses.
“Anne is religious about having a program for the horse,” says Jaralyn. “I think that’s what sets her apart from a lot of amateurs. They don’t understand how horses stay fit. You need a fitness program and a gymnastics program and how it relates to each horse. You have to get horses fit and limber so that the job you ask them to do is easy and they’re willing to do it: this has helped Nando achieve success and he couldn’t have done it without Anne’s horsemanship and understanding. One day at a time: we’re constantly learning from Nando and how he feels.”
Anne feels very lucky to have Nando in her life. She says, “He’s gorgeous and, if he didn’t have Chronic Lyme Disease, he would be a very valuable horse. I feel so very fortunate to have this horse in my life and I am so grateful to his previous owner. I’m fortunate to have Jaralyn as a trainer – she listens to me about Nando.”
Anne also credits Janet Hitchen for giving her some “stick and spur” about trying dressage. “I used to think dressage was excruciatingly boring,” admits Anne with a laugh. “Years ago when I was hacking out Janet’s dressage horses and field hunters for her husband, she would say, ‘why aren’t you doing dressage?’ Maybe I thought it was boring because it’s so cerebral, but not anymore.”
Especially not with a miracle ride like Nando. If this horse could talk, he would have a lot to say about partnership and a marathon racehorse rider who won’t give up until Nando tells her that it’s time for him to halt at X and make one last bow to the judges.
-By Lauren R. Giannini