There was a recent online poll to identify the “best Dressage horse in history”. I was disappointed in the narrow list they chose, going only as far back as Granat and Ahlerich. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the winner was a horse from a time before the sport went off the rails – Kyra Kyrklund’s mount from the early 90’s, Matador. Was Matador the greatest Dressage horse? Not very likely – it’s a sport with a very long history. However, the pair were an admirable example of what the sport can and should be, as illustrated in their 1991 World Cup ride seen below.
A year or two after that ride, Kyra came to the US for I believe the first time. She was a co-presenter at a symposium, with her long-time mentor Major Anders Lindgren. I scraped up the dollars to attend, and I was not disappointed! Her skill and her manner with the horses embodied everything I’d come to love about Dressage. Even as others were chatting, shopping, or sight seeing, I was glued to my seat taking in every minute. I was an instant fan!
Unfortunately, as always seems to happen, idols disappoint. I was admittedly very disappointed, a couple of years ago, when Kyra came out very publicly in support of a rider who was disqualified from a top competition due to blood on her horse’s sides. It was noticed by a judge during the test, and confirmed by a steward at the conclusion of the ride. Kyra’s argument for why it was unfair was that it takes such an investment of time and money to get horses to that level, that it was not fair to the rider, trainer and owner. The Kyra I remember from nearly twenty years ago would have (and did) take the horse’s side!
I have also seen evidence that she is training in the over-rounded modern fashion, rather than the very classical manner she rode Matador. I understand that it is a business, and it is far easier to “go with the times” if you need to make money – but I cannot hide my disappointment. Still, none of that takes away from the lovely partnership she created with Matador. So, enjoy this beautiful example of how it should be done.
Be good to your horses!