Today, as I write this, Abe Pugh and Alice Drayer’s Trakehner stallion Elfenperfekt placed fifth in the nation at the USEF Festival of Champions in the Grand Prix division, the highest championship division we offer in the United States.
I don’t know exactly how Abe and I met – I think we just said “hi, how are you” at enough horse shows until one day, voila, we were friends. But I do remember watching him ride Elfenperfekt – Pistol to his friends – at a show, noting that no one was there coaching him. I then remembered that, years before, a guy I barely knew named Michael Barisone came up to me and, politely, said that I looked like I needed a coach, and offered help.
So I put on my big girl pants, marched over to Abe, and said that if he wanted, I’d be happy to help him, with the exact same promise that Michael had made to me years before: I’d be there when Abe needed me, I’d be nice to his clients, and I’d never, ever try and take his horse away from him.
That was almost six years ago. Since then, Abe and Pistol have won a World Cup Qualifier, countless regional championships, and many year end titles, as well as top placing at CDIs and USDF Finals. I’ve taught Abe to be more diligent, to take it all a bit more seriously, and about throughness. Abe’s taught me about courage, about balance, and about fighting for your dreams. I make Abe tuck his shirt in, and fuss at him about his rogue elbows; he tells me to ask my horses for more, and to be brave when my baby horses feel wicked. I tell him to wrap better; he tells me to try and chill out when I go on vacation. And I offer to drive and fly all over for him, just as he offers to help me fix the floors in my basement. I don’t have a big brother, but I imagine this is what it’s like.
And then there’s that tremendous horse, Pistol, my goodness. What does one say about such a creature, one who gives his whole heart, every day? Pistol has given us all the incredible gift of his wisdom, his trainability, his kindness. My top Grand Prix horse, Elvis, knows how to piaffe because Pistol showed me what was possible. Every horse that both Abe and I will ever have will be better for having known Pistol.
Thank you, Alice, for making that amazing horse, and for letting all of us go all the places we’ve gone together. Thank you, Pistol, for showing us all what is possible on the back of a great horse. A MASSIVE thank you to Ali Brock for pinch hitting for me on Freestyle day – I had to fly home after the first two days of the Championships to coach one of my international level eventer students AND then show myself, along with some clients, at a local show here – as well as to everyone at Virginia Equine Imaging for all they’ve done for all of us to keep that tremendous beast performing his best.
Lastly, to Abe, my friend, my big brother, thank you for letting me help you. It’s been a remarkable ride! (Now get back to work on those elbows.)