Paso Fino Horses Participate in The Spirit of the Horse: Live Theater for a Cause by Lindsay Campbell
I was thrown from my mare, Lluvia de La Pluma (Lu), in late 2021 on an endurance ride. She violently spooked at an unknown horse eating monster. My pelvis broke for the second time in two years.
During the long four months spent healing and attending physical therapy I thought perhaps I would give up distance riding altogether. However, in March 2022 I decided to try again at a 25 mile ride held near my home. We completed successfully. No spooks this time, but keeping that potential in mind and with hot weather fast approaching I decided to spend spring and summer building a better relationship with Lu rather than competing in endurance. Cross training never hurts physical condition either.
A friend told me about The Oaks Equestrian Center, a few miles from me, where she was taking dressage lessons with KYB Dressage on her Andalusian and Lusitano horses. I visited and met the trainer and KYB owner, Yvonne Barteau. Ms. Barteau was Principal Trainer and Director of Entertainment at Arabian Nights Dinner Theater in Kissimmee, Florida before it’s closure. Prior to that she trained and competed internationally at the highest levels of dressage. In addition to running KYB Dressage, Ms. Barteau founded and continues to run a rescue facility, Horses Without Humans Rescue Organization in Bell, Florida.
After discussing my experience with Lu and my tentative goals for us, Ms. Barteau and I began round pen liberty work with Lu in the spring. When a young liberty trainer from Lexington, Kentucky, Ariana Sakaris, arrived for a couple of months Lu and I also worked with her. We learned a lot. And it was fun. All my goals were met but one (the lie down), but there is always summer 2023.
After Ariana left Lu and I did some basic dressage work under saddle. We learned a lot there, too: Lateral flexion, changes in speed within gait, shoulder and hip control, half-halts, getting true poll release and so on. The latter is still very much a work in progress and will be for some time. My partner, Ed Casillas, also took some riding lessons on his stallion, Marco del Padre.
In late summer Ms. Barteau asked us if we would like to participate with our Pasos in the 13th production of The Spirit of the Horse at the World Equestrian Center (WEC) in Ocala in December. All after cost proceeds would go to Horses Without Humans. Not knowing exactly what we were getting into we said yes. How could we not when given such a great opportunity to showcase our Pasos at a topnotch facility and within a truly professional, well-known and beloved holiday show including internationally known riders and horses.
Practice for the three shows to be held in December commenced in mid-October. We practiced twice a week and it was really fascinating to see our “ballroom” scene (the last scene in the show) start to come together. There were nine horse and rider pairs in the scene and we had ten minutes of riding patterns to perform. I had done some drill team riding years ago, but that was nothing compared to this. At times I think we all despaired of ever accomplishing the desired flow and precision needed to come even close to a professional event. It was not easy to rein in two gaited distance horses used to going straight down the trail at a good clip. Trying to match the trot speed of the other horses (usually slower than our gait) was a challenge. Everything Ed and I learned in lessons was brought to bear and then some.
It wasn’t just riding. It was also finding and/or designing costumes for both horse and rider. Ed and I were in the fourth (street) scene on our own feet and had to dress in Charles Dickenson era clothes. The ballroom scene demanded as much glitter and glam as possible for both horse and rider. We had a ton of fun shopping for the street scene in second hand and costume places for hats, cloaks and canes among other things. I was lucky to get on loan a fifty-year old costume to wear to the ‘ball” by a friend and well-known Paso Fino breeder, Mrs. Barbara Preiss. Her daughter, Carol Preiss, wore it to the opening of The Oaks Mall in Gainesville, Florida in 1978. Prior to that it had been commissioned and worn by another Paso Fino owner and breeder, Mrs. Betty Klein. My friend Penny Mann Bollhorst, also a Paso owner, found me some gold thread shot off-white lace to cover my head which I fastened down with a gold headband. Ed still had his tuxedo shirts, jacket and pants from the few shows he went to years ago. Horse glam was found at the Dollar Tree, Walmart, on-line and in my old jewelry box. And we even “shopped” at the onsite costume room set up by another performer to find a bonnet and colorful wool scarf for me to wear on the street just prior to the first show. Very professional to have this available.
We trailered to WEC two days prior to the first show. Friend Penny arrived a day earlier to set up her sewing area so she could do last minute alterations and make a few additions to horse costumes. She graciously agreed to put shavings in our horses’ stalls and to decorate our tack stall so we didn’t have quite so much to set up upon arrival.
We practiced three more times prior to the first show. The second time was dress rehearsal. That was a lesson in timing. We had to hurry back from the street scene, change into our royal looking costumes and get to the warm up arena to prepare for the ballroom scene. The skirt of my costume was made of heavy velvet, so heavy that I could not mount or dismount with it on. So, Penny to the rescue again. I climbed aboard Lu and she threw the skirt across Lu’s rump like a blanket, then hooked the top part of the costume to the skirt. Each night, to save time later at costume change, we left Lu and Marco saddled in their stalls, tied to the wall munching their special treat of alfalfa or peanut hay while we hustled to the street scene and back.
All three shows went well and the audiences seemed to love the magic the horses wrought dancing in the colorful lights. Each night, after the conclusion of the ballroom scene and the show, we turned our horses to the rail and invited the audience down to see the horses up close and to speak with us. Our two Pasos garnered a lot of attention due to their smooth gait and overall demeaner. Many had no idea what a Paso Fino is and we did quite a bit of educating. Many of our Paso owning friends attended and we were happy to bring people in to support the most worthy cause of horse rescue.
Ed and I really enjoyed the two plus months we prepared for the event. We didn’t always like it at the time, but we persevered and got it done. We are grateful for the experience and honored to have been asked to participate. We learned a bit about real entertaining in show business. And we are very happy to have been able to show everyone how versatile our gaited “ponies” are.
To learn more about Horses Without Humans Rescue Organization look on Facebook or on the web https//horseswithouthumansrescue.org.