Kerry Johnson-Miljan and Mulberry Street (“Fancy”) won the Introductory Level C test at the 2015 National Dressage Pony Cup with a score of 69 percent.
Ifeel compelled and amazed to reflect on an extraordinary little American quarter Horse and former reiner’s journey. Einsteins Dunit Fancy or “Fancy” was in a friend of a friend’s pasture, where she had spent the first years of her life with her brother. When I met her, she was a 5-year-old, who was originally trained as a reiner and then had been used for very light trail riding for the last two years. We had first gone to the farm she was at to check out her brother, but then we noticed, Hey, that little girl moves out! My friend Kerry Johnson-Miljan was looking for a large pony at the time and we wondered how tall Fancy was. The spunky little mare trotted out to greet us. She was 14.1! So we loaded her up and brought the country quarter Horse reiner home to a big dressage barn. We wondered if she could step up and be that large pony we needed. If not, she was already the best little trail horse we had ever seen and even just that would have been OK, too.
Kerry and Andrea Schten, our trainer and Fancy’s partowner, began work by taking off the couple hundred pounds Fancy had accumulated in her two-year hiatus from work. Every day was a new adventure. Kerry would discover wonderful things about Fancy that made her smile. As I sat and watched each day while my friend connected with this terrific little mare, I remember thinking, Huh. These two are going to go far together! As Kerry and Fancy worked their way through the honeymoon period, the weight came off, the muscles developed and they learned new things about each other with every ride. When April 2015 arrived, Andrea suggested that we take Fancy to a show to see what she could do. At her very first show, Fancy never faltered. Introductory Level didn’t seem to be a problem, and she was unphased by the rain, mud and the chaos of the showgrounds. As the weeks went on, Training Level seemed to offer a much better challenge for Fancy and Kerry. Fancy’s work schedule of a few days of dressage per week was interspersed with a couple of trail rides to keep everyone’s head clear. When it came time for Fancy to compete at Traning Level, she was fantastic. Kerry and Fancy were all smiles and the decision was made for the crew to head to the 2015 National Dressage Pony Cup.
On a warm September 2 at 4 a.m., Kerry loaded up Fancy, whose show name had been changed to Mulberry Street, and headed for the National Dressage Pony Cup in Lexington, Kentucky. Our team was solid and included Kerry, trainer Andrea, the ever-ready show mom Denise Johnson and Julie Boerst, the second show mom. Fancy seemed to take everything in stride like the good-minded quarter Horse she is. Kerry, on the other hand, was suffering show nerves as the ultimate Type-A personality.
By Saturday afternoon the 100-degree heat and blistered feet had taken their toll on Kerry and the little team. In the qualifying classes the judges were tough, and Kerry and Fancy stood in the last qualifying spot going into the championships. Spirits were low. Kerry called me, anxious and upset, telling me about Fancy. “She was happy and listened to me. In my mind, she was great!” Kerry said. Then she paused and said, “I let her down as a rider! I wish I would have done better.” After a few more tears and deep breaths, she exclaimed, “But I’m not giving up!” Fancy was happy and ready to go the next morning. Kerry told me, “We are going for it. What have we got to lose?” They came out with a win in Introductory Level C, scoring 69 percent. Our former Einsteins Dunit Fancy, now Mulberry Street, was declared National Dressage Pony Cup Breed Award Champion! Through circumstances beyond her control, Fancy arrived in a dressage barn, where she stepped up to the challenge with ease, extending her trot and collecting her lope into a canter and winning a big competition after one summer of work with very caring hands on the other end of the reins. What else can Fancy and Kerry accomplish? Almost anything, I think.