In just five months, her calm presence and comforting giggle turned a traumatized trail horse nicknamed Simon into the top-scoring dressage horse at the Lake Erie College Winter Dressage Classic earlier this month.
Simon`s owner, Jenny Lance, said most competitors ride expensive European or American warmblood horses, which are much larger and showier than Simon, an American paint horse.
But judges were apparently impressed with the sheer joy Simon obviously felt – his head high, and his trotting precise and powerful. Simon, who also goes by the name Splash of Blue Gin, won two first-place ribbons.
Tyner, a dressage trainer who runs New Gotton Farm on Butternut Ridge Road, said she specializes in problem horses.
“They`re all horses people have deemed â€˜not very good` and passed up on,” she said.
At the competition, Tyner earned the reserve champion ribbon and two first-place ribbons riding her own horse, Senza Tempo, who once commanded a purchase price in the six figures.
She said Senza Tempo “cracked” under pressure with his prior owner and was biting and kicking stable staff, but has calmed down since Tyner purchased him several years ago for less than $20,000.
Now Senza Tempo seems to enjoy competing again at the age of 15.
While race horses retire early, dressage is good for horses` bodies, and they can compete much longer, Tyner said.
Like fine athletes exercising their bodies, horses enjoy the workout, she said.
“It`s inner rhythm or relaxation,” she said. “You do that by getting them in harmony with their movements.”
“It becomes the reward in itself – like in yoga, they`re relaxing their bodies,” she said. “We teach them life is good, and they go out and stretch their back muscles, and their fronts come up and that`s where they develop beautiful form – they`re not being forced by the bit in their mouths.”
Tyner said she has been working with Israeli dressage expert Carel Eijkenaar, who has helped her broaden her knowledge of dressage – a French term meaning “training.”
As for Simon, Tyner said he “is small in stature, but he`s got big presence.”
Lance, Simon`s owner, wants Simon to become the highest-scoring dressage horse in the paint breed in the United States in 2008.
The owner, also a horse trainer from Penfield Township, said there`s more to riding horses than sitting on a saddle. It takes a lot of strength and control, she said.
“I tell Michelle she`s my weight-loss program,” Lance said.