DT’s man­ag­ing ed­i­tor shares her ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the un­wa­ver­ing support of her fam­ily.

Dressage Today - - Content - By Lind­say Paulsen

A Daugh­ter’s Grat­i­tude

It still re­mains a mys­tery as to how my mother, Margaret, an artsy, cre­ative, in­doorsy type, and my fa­ther, Bill, the or­gan-play­ing sci­en­tist, ever pro­duced me: a rider. There is not a sin­gle trace­able drop of eques­trian blood in my lin­eage and no one in my fam­ily had an in­ter­est in horses un­til I came along. Now I think they know far more about eques­trian life than they ever cared to.

My mom might still flinch when my mare stomps her foot at the flies and she still re­li­giously ap­plies hand san­i­tizer after leav­ing the barn, but when I look back at ev­ery­thing, it’s clear to me how much ef­fort she’s put into learn­ing more about this weird thing called dres­sage. She’s come a long way from ask­ing ques­tions about “that thing that holds the sad­dle on” or won­der­ing if it hurts when horses get shoes nailed on. She’s learned how to pro­nounce words like “pas­sage” and “pi­affe.” She’s also be­come pretty good at ex­plain­ing to peo­ple how dres­sage is, in fact, a very com­plex sport.

My dad, the soft-spo­ken in­tel­lec­tual type, has also qui­etly been ab­sorb­ing in­for­ma­tion about dres­sage and horses for the past 20 or so years. At one com­bined-train­ing show where I com­peted when I was 16, I came out of the sta­dium arena after my round look­ing for my par­ents. I dis­cov­ered my dad stand­ing at the side of the dres­sage ring un­der the blis­ter­ing Sa­van­nah, Ge­or­gia, sun, lit­er­ally en­grossed in an In­tro­duc­tory Level dres­sage test.

“Dad, did you see my jump round?” I asked. “No sweetie, did you al­ready go?” he replied, sound­ing sur­prised. “Yeah, I just thought you might have wanted to watch that since jump­ing tends to be a lit­tle more of a spec­ta­tor sport,” I said. “I re­ally like to watch dres­sage,” he said ex­cit­edly. “You do?” I asked, shocked. “I just think it’s so neat,” he said. “Like the way you salute and ev­ery­thing. It all looks so grace­ful.”

I re­al­ized then what an in­cred­i­bly special per­son it takes to not only ap­pre­ci­ate dres­sage but to ap­pre­ci­ate dres­sage in its most ba­sic form—with­out any of the glam­our and ex­cite­ment of the ad­vanced move­ments. And, hon­estly, it some­times takes a very special per­son to see the grace and beauty of a walk–trot test.

I have to give both of my par­ents so much credit for em­brac­ing this pas­sion along be­side me, es­pe­cially for two peo­ple who started off with­out any in­nate in­ter­est in horses. They didn’t choose this. I did. But from my very first lessons as a lit­tle kid, they’ve been on board since day one. And I can­not thank them enough.

I am thank­ful to my mom, who mended the holes in my breeches and let me wash hairy, sweaty sad­dle pads in our wash­ing ma­chine at home. She packed me snacks and drove me to my rid­ing lessons and got up early to take me to the barn for clin­ics and com­pe­ti­tions. She ironed my show shirts and took my coat to the dry clean­ers. When I was in el­e­men­tary school, she took hours to care­fully paint my name on my turquoise groom­ing tote, and

I felt like the coolest kid in the barn. She vol­un­teered count­less times as the ring stew­ard for our school­ing shows, proudly declar­ing her­self the “dres­sage queen” for the day. And she put on her best smile to deal with all of the ac­tual dres­sage queens who snapped at her for re­mind­ing them when they were due in the ring.

I’m thank­ful to my mom for al­ways be­ing sup­port­ive with­out be­ing over­bear­ing and for let­ting horses be “my thing”; for let­ting me fig­ure things out around the barn on my own, even when I know she se­cretly wanted to help solve prob­lems for me. I’m thank­ful to her for putting her own fears of pow­er­ful 1,200-pound an­i­mals aside and trust­ing my horse to take care of me. I’m thank­ful to her for lov­ing my horses in the best way she knows how.

While my dad doesn’t know how to mend holes in breeches, he is the soft, com­fort­ing voice on the other end of the phone after I’ve had a bad ride. He is also the first per­son I call when I have a good ride.

My dad is the one-in-a-mil­lion per­son who has sat on a horse only once or twice in his life, but un­der­stands ex­actly what I mean when I say that a cer­tain horse wasn’t a good fit or that my test didn’t flow right. He has been my sound­ing board for nearly ev­ery major rid­ing de­ci­sion I have made, and his ad­vice car­ries just as much weight as that of my trainer.

My dad is the busiest per­son I know, but with­out hes­i­ta­tion, he makes time to share the ups and downs of my rid­ing jour­ney with me. He is the guy who was strong enough to give me end­less leg-ups at shows and pa­tient enough to swat bugs away from my horse’s face as we waited to en­ter the ring. If you lis­tened care­fully enough, you could hear him whis­per­ing into my mare’s ears, which flicked back and forth as he told her we were go­ing to do great things that day. And to this day, I’m pretty sure my mare likes him more than she likes me.

Some­times I won­der how I was lucky enough to have the sup­port­ive par­ents I do—but I know it wasn’t an ac­ci­dent. They are the way they are be­cause of their own par­ents, my grand­par­ents, who have joined us along this ride.

After all, it was my grandpa, Al, who first sat me on his lap when I was 5 years old, clutch­ing my beloved Breyer horses in my arms as he told me

he was start­ing a sav­ings ac­count to buy me my first horse. When I was 16, his prom­ise be­came a re­al­ity when a lit­tle bay mare named Kat stepped off the trailer at my trainer’s farm. She was mine.

It so hap­pened that on the day that Kat ar­rived, my grandpa was hos­pi­tal­ized due to a major health con­cern. When he be­came con­scious after the in­ci­dent, “Did Lind­say get her horse?” were the first words out of his mouth.

This month will mark the 10th year of my part­ner­ship with Kat, and she will be turn­ing 25 in Jan­uary. Al­though our re­la­tion­ship is ever-evolv­ing, she has been my con­stant muse and the light of my life ev­ery day I have owned her. And I’m lucky enough to still share sto­ries of Kat with my grandpa over the phone.

Maybe this all sounds fa­mil­iar to you or strikes a chord in some way. If you are lucky enough to have had a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence with th­ese kinds of peo­ple in your life, whether they are par­ents, grand­par­ents, best friends or sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers, hug them ex­tra tight to­day.

If you haven’t had the same kind of support sys­tem that I have, I only wish that I could send some of that love and support your way.

And if ever there comes a day that I am lucky enough to have chil­dren of my own—whether they choose to be rid­ers or soc­cer play­ers or book­worms—it will be my goal to fuel their fires for that pas­sion in the same way my fam­ily has done for me.

Ap­par­ently nei­ther Kat nor the 16-year-old ver­sion of my­self got the memo to smile for this photo, but this is typ­i­cal of my par­ents, Bill and Margaret Paulsen, who put on their best faces to cheer me on at yet an­other school­ing show.

Al­though my grandpa, Al, and grandma, Ar­lene, were never horsepeo­ple them­selves, their gen­er­ous spir­its made it pos­si­ble for me to even­tu­ally have a horse of my own.

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