Tag Archives: horsemanship

Cowboys, Indians and Queens, Oh My!

Relationships between royals and commoners don’t happen very often. In 1936 England’s King Edward VIII’s affiliation with a commoner forced him to lose the crown when he wanted to marry the famously divorced American, Wallis Simpson. Since his time, things have loosened up a bit. Prince Charles married the late Diana Spencer and is now married to Camilla Parker Bowles. England’s beloved Prince William married Kate. All of these relationships, perhaps aside from Charles and Diana, sprung from shared passions. As I wrote in my last article about Queen Elizabeth, “The Queen’s Private Passion” (https://karibovee.com/2016/08/04/the-queens-private-passion/), we all know about QEII’s passion for all things equine, particularly the horse itself. This passion has led Her Majesty, too, to engage in an on-going, unlikely relationship with a commoner—who is also an American.

An avid thoroughbred racehorse breeder, the Queen wants only the best for her four-legged friends. In the late 1970’s, the longest reigning monarch of all time reached out to a cowboy from California who had fostered the reputation of being “the man who listens to horses.”

Like his fellow horseman Pat Parelli—also a cowboy from California whose had an audience with the Queen, Monty Roberts decided as a young man that violent means for training performance animals was not the answer. Roberts studied horses in the wild and learned how they communicated with one another. He noted their body language, how they set boundaries, showed fear and expressed annoyance, relaxation or affection, and then developed gestures to mimic those behaviors. Robert’s method came to be known as “Join Up.” Impressed with his philosophy and training methods, the Queen hired him to help train her racehorses.

Roberts Shows Her Majesty a copy of "The Man Who Listens to Horses". www.horsecollaborative.com (wikipedia)
Roberts Shows Her Majesty a copy of “The Man Who Listens to Horses”. www.horsecollaborative.com (wikipedia)

Robert’s relationship with the Queen has remained steadfast since the 1980’s. With the Queen’s encouragement, he wrote a book entitled, “The Man Who Listens to Horses.” Published in 1996, the book became a phenomenon. Documentaries were made and more books were published. In 1998 he became one of several natural horsemen who served as inspirations for the movie “The Horse Whisperer” starring Robert Redford.

In 2011, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed Roberts with an honorary Membership of the Royal Victorian Order—an order of people who have served Her Royal Majesty in a personal way—for his contributions to the racing establishment. He has served the Queen and her horses for a quarter of a century.

The relationship between the QEII and Roberts was much more widely accepted in the late twentieth century than the relationship held between her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, and one of her Indian servants. In fact, Victoria’s friendship with 24-year-old Abdul Karim, who was 42 years her junior, was viewed as more akin to a scandal.

After the death of her beloved husband Prince Albert, Victoria missed the companionship of a man. Albert provided support, ideas, and indispensable advice to the Queen from the time they courted, until his death. Queen Victoria later found solace in John Brown, a servant she also had a deep and lasting platonic relationship with after Albert’s death. In Karim, Queen Victoria was once again able to find the same comfort after John died.

Queen Victoria at her desk, assisted by her servant Abdul Karim, the 'Munshi'. Date: c. 1885 (www.dailymail.co.uk)
Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim, the ‘Munshi’. Date: c. 1885 (www.dailymail.co.uk)

Brought to England in 1887 as a personal servant to Queen Victoria for the Golden Jubilee, Karim immediately endeared himself to Her Magesty with his gentle nature and advanced intellect. She gave him the title of “ Munshi”, the Urdu word for “clerk” or “teacher”.  Within one year, he had become one of her most trusted confidants and she promoted him to a status well beyond servant.

Although the Queen benefited intellectually and spiritually from Karim’s advice and companionship, the rest of the royal household did not see his value. Many of Victoria’s other staff and servants thought him well beneath them and resented the closeness between Karim and the Queen. The fact that she showered him with gifts, honors, and a large land grant in India didn’t help matters.


I found this relationship so interesting that I have infused it into my second Annie Oakley mystery novel. Like the unusual relationship between QEII and Monty Roberts and Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim respectively, Annie Oakley found herself in an unlikely friendship with royalty of another kind. Chief Sitting Bull, the famous Sioux Chief and warrior, who was also a principal player in Buffalo Bills Wild West Show, became smitten with Miss Oakley, when he first saw her perform in 1884. The great Sioux Chief felt that Annie was “gifted” by a supernatural force that enabled her to shootequally accurate with both hands. Because of this, and their close rapport, the Chief symbolically “adopted” her and named her Watanya Cecilia, the Sioux name for “Little Sure Shot” – a moniker that stuck with her throughout her career.

"Little Sure Shot" (www.ohiohistoryhost.org)
“Little Sure Shot” (www.ohiohistoryhost.org)

I think that unlikely relationships are always the most interesting to read and write about. The single factor in each one that bonds each of the people in them together is a profound respect that crosses social, racial, and religious boundaries. It is truly remarkable and heartwarming for Her Royal Majesty QEII to reach out to a cowboy fromCalifornia; for Queen Victoria to take in an Indian servant as a confidant, and a for a famed Indian warrior to be so touched by a young white girl’s special talent, that he wants to make her his daughter. It reminds us that no matter what a person’s title or status in society, we are all human beings who have a desire to share our passions and interests. I think it is a good lesson for all of us.

Olympic Spotlight: Parade of Nations Features Equestrians as Flag-bearers

It is a shame that Olympic Equestrians do not get as much attention as the other athletes at the Summer Games. As I mentioned in my previous article, “Equestrianism in the Olympics”, (https://karibovee.com/2016/08/11/equestrianism-at-the-olympics/) these athletes have much more to contend with than the other athletes because they also have to take into consideration the care and well-being of their equine partner—a partner who really has no choice or say as to whether they are to compete or not.

It was especially moving when Dutch dressage rider Adelinde Cornelissen, a previous Olympic medalist, gave up her Rio Olympic dream of winning the gold because she felt her partner Parzival, a chestnut gelding, was not up to the task. It was determined that Parzival had suffered an insect bite, which caused a fever and swelling in his jaw. Once he had been cleared by the vet, Adelinde was ready to perform, but ended up retiring mid-test, because she knew her horse was suffering. That is the act of a true champion.

While the Equestrian events are not given prime-time television and press coverage, their efforts and talents are appreciated by many viewers and fans.

I was pleased to see that four equestrians, all show Jumpers, were given the spotlight during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics Parade of Nations when they were honored and chosen by their countrymen and women to serve as flag-bearers. The country’s Olympic committee, the country, or the Olympic athletes themselves choose each flag-bearer–a truly special honor because only one person per country can receive this unique opportunity.

The four equestrian flag-bearers at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics are as follows:


Al Thani Photo: Arnd Bronkhorst/www.arnd.nl
Al Thani Photo: Arnd Bronkhorst/www.arnd.nl

Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani represents his country, Qatar, and its Show Jumping Equestrian Team, which makes its first appearance at the Olympic games this year. The 34-year-old athlete competed at Rio as the team’s anchor. To make their goal of competing in the Olympics, the Qatar Equestrian team began training with Jan Tops of The Netherlands in 2012. With one of the world’s best-known show Jumping trainers to push them, they made their goal and the country of Qatar named Sheik Al Thani their flag-bearer. Sheikh Al Thani leads his team with experience as a two-time rider in the World Equestrian Games, and a three-time rider at the World Cup Final.


Longines Global Championships www.globalchampionstour.com
Ouaddar: Longines Global Championships

Abdelkebir Ouaddar from Morocco is among one of the oldest athletes to compete in the Olympics at age 54. Raised as one of their own by the Moroccan Royal Family, Ouaddar rides several of the King’s horses for training and in competition. King Mohammed VI makes sure that Ouaddar and his horses travel with the finest of everything at their disposal. Ouaddar started competing at age 14. He was the first Moroccan to qualify for the World Championships in 2013, and the first to compete at the World Championships in Normandy in 2014. This is Ouaddar’s first Olympic Games.


Dubbeldam: http://www.dagjewegblog.nl
Dubbeldam: http://www.dagjewegblog.nl

Jeroen Dubbeldam carries the flag of the Netherlands in this year’s Parade of Nations. At age 41, Dubbledam is one of the most experienced and well-respected members of the Netherlands team. He claimed an Olympic gold in 2000 at Sydney, and also the world champion gold at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, as well as the team gold in 2006 and 2014. The Netherlands has a large presence at the 2016 games, with 239 athletes in 27 sports. To be chosen to carry the flag among all those amazing athletes gives credence to Dubbledam’s reputation as a superior sportsman.




Wong: www.Zimbio.Com
Wong: www.Zimbio.Com

Isheau Wong of Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) does her country a great honor by being the first athlete in the country’s history to compete in the Equestrian portion of the Olympic games. At 27 years old, Wong won the spot to compete at the Olympics against her friend and long-time trainer, Samantha McIntosh of New Zealand. Wong tells Horsetalk.co.nz that it was tough to be McIntosh’s rival in that competition, but she put her reservations aside and just rode as fast as she could. She beat McIntosh’s time by three seconds.

I have hope that equestrian sports will be better recognized in the Olympics in the future. After all, four flag-bearers from the sport were chosen to represent their countries in the opening Parade of Nations and during the closing ceremonies for the Parade of Athletes. Despite rumors that equestrian sports would be eliminated from the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, the Executive Board (EB) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to keep equestrian sports alive in the Olympics.

I encourage you to do what you can to further support Olympic equestrian sports, so that we may continue to be inspired by these horse and human champions who compete in perfect partnership. Enjoy the closing ceremonies—and look for our proud equestrian friends from Qatar, Morocco, The Netherlands, and Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) during the Parade of Athletes.

Equestrianism At The Olympics

As a horse enthusiast I find it interesting that many people do not know that equestrianism is actually an Olympic sport. I also find it interesting that people do not realize that dressage is part of the Olympic Equestrian family. Actually, it is amazing to me that many people do not know much about dressage at all. In my humble opinion, it is one of the most beautiful and poetic of disciplines, and it requires an absolutely rock solid relationship between horse and rider to be successful.

Dressage has its history in the military, going way back to the first documented accounts of the discipline in the writings of the Greek Xenophon. The horses chosen for this military discipline had to be obedient and maneuverable, and required a rigorous system of training. “The system of training was built upon throughout the ages, with many well-known riding masters, military and civilian, writing books expounding their methods.” (Source: United States Dressage Federation – www.usdf.org)

Campionato Provinciale S.O. www.fiseprovincia.it
Early Olympic Dressage Photo Campionato Provinciale S.O. www.fiseprovincia.it

Equestrianism in general, and dressage in particular, did not make its debut in the Olympic games until the 1900 Summer Olympics, and then only as a military discipline. Commissioned military officers and “gentlemen” were the only people permitted to compete in the Olympic equestrian disciplines. The military test included obedience and maneuverability (or what would become dressage) and the ability to jump obstacles.

After the US Cavalry was disbanded in 1948, the focus for dressage shifted from military to civilian competition, and it quickly gained momentum. Women as well as men ventured into the sport and in the 1952 Summer Games, women made their first equestrian appearance in dressage. It wasn’t until 1956 and 1964 respectively, that women could compete in jumping and eventing.

Equestrianism is one of the few Olympic sports in history where women and men are allowed to complete against one another. In team competition, teams may have any blend of male and female competitors, and are not required to have minimum numbers of either gender; countries are free to choose the best riders, regardless of their gender.

Dressage has changed dramatically since its early appearance at the Summer Olympics. Jumping is no longer required, but the tests on the flat are now more difficult and include more challenging movements such as the piaffe and the passage. Today’s dressage horses are specifically bred for the discipline and their movement is much more refined and dramatic than in past years.

Lis Hartel from Denmark was the first woman to win a silver medal for Individual Dressage in 1952, and she was also the Danish champion that same year. Hartel had the heart and drive required to be so successful. Despite contracting polio in 1944 at the age of 23, which paralyzed her legs and affected her arms and hands, Hartel was determined to continue her equestrian career. Against medical advice, she went on to finish second at the Scandinavian championships, despite the fact that she needed help to get on her horse every time she rode.

In 1992, Hartel was inducted into Denmark’s Hall of Fame, and in 2005 she was named one of Denmark’s top 10 athletes of all time. An empowered woman, Hartel paved the way for other empowered and dedicated women in the sport.

That type of drive and dedication brings to mind other empowered women and Olympic athletes who will be competing at the Rio 2016 Paralympics such as Canadian Paralympian Lauren Barwick. Her story is especially moving to me because Lauren is also a practitioner of natural horsemanship and is a Parelli 4-Star Instructor and Horse Development Specialist. Lauren became paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 22 when a 100 pound bale of hay fell from 10 feet above onto her spine. When she left the hospital, Lauren said she would never ride again, but it was her relationship with her mare, Peanut, whom she now calls her “heart horse”, that gave her the inspiration and courage to ride again. To date, Lauren has earned gold and silver medals in the Beijing Paralympic Games 2008, as well as bronze and silver medals at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. Most of us have no room to whine or complain that horsemanship is hard and often frustrating. To overcome such a tremendous hurdle takes an inner strength that most of us can hardly imagine.

Liselott Linsenhoff , a German equestrian and an Olympic champion, became the first woman to receive an Individual Dressage gold medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics. In the 1968 Summer Olympics she took home a team gold with the West German team. Lisenhoff won many world championships and her daughter, Ann-Katherine, also became an Olympic champion in equestrian arena.

It’s funny how a passion can run through families. Equestrian Olympic athlete Zara Phillips Tindall, the second eldest grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II and daughter of Princess Anne, says her love of horses came from her grandmother. (https://karibovee.com/2016/08/04/the-queens-private-passion/) Her mother, Anne, participated in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal as a member of the British team riding the Queen’s horse, Goodwill. Zara, as a member of the Great Britain Eventing Team, won a Silver Medal at the London 2012 Olympics. Sadly, Zara did not make the team this year and will not be competing at Rio de Janeiro – but there is always the next Summer Olympics four years from now.

The latest female equestrian to win the Olympic gold medal in Dressage is another Brit—Charlotte Dujardin with her power horse, Valegro, in 2012. Dujardin is said to be the most successful British dressage rider in the history of the sport and the winner of all major titles and world records. She has been described as the most dominant dressage rider of her era. With Valegro, Dujardin currently holds the complete set of the available individual elite dressage titles; the Individual Olympic Freestyle, World Freestyle and Grand Prix Special, World Cup Individual Dressage and European Freestyle and Grand Prix Special titles. Dujardin is the first and to date the only rider to hold this complete set of titles at the same time.

Dujardin and Valegro are competing in this year’s Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but this year will be Valegro’s last. Dujardin is retiring her partner after an amazing career. “Dujardin says she will not let the pressure of being an Olympic champion affect her. ‘I just take it all on board. I try not to let that all bother me. Riding Valegro always makes you smile, so I enjoy it.’” (Source: BBC.com article”Charlotte Dujardin: Valegro to retire after 2016 Rio Olympics,” published November 16, 2015 – http://www.bbc.com/sport/equestrian/34832755)

(Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcDLLxgWa_YCharlotte Dujardin’s World Record Breaking Freestyle test at London Olympia, FEI, Published December 18, 2014)

This year, the United States has four stellar Equestrians on its Dressage team: Allison Brock from Loxahatchee, FL with her partner Rosevelt, a 2002 Hanoverian stallion; Laura Graves from Geneva, FL and her own KWPN gelding, Verdades; Kasey Perry-Glass from Orangevale, CA with her partner Dublet, a 2003 Danish Warmblood Gelding; and the well-know Steffen Peters from San Diego, CA with his partner Legolas 92, a 2002 Westphalian gelding.

While all of the equestrian athletes, both horse and human, are to be greatly admired and respected, I always like to root for the home team. Best of luck to the four riders and their partners on the US Dressage team, and best of luck to Canadian Paralympian Lauren Barwick. I’m on the edge of my seat!

I hope this article helps to shed some light on the uniqueness of all equestrian endeavors and especially the role it plays in the Olympic games. The bond between horse and rider is absolutely vital to achieving greatness in equestrian sports. Most athletes must be in tune with their bodies, take care of themselves, and learn to push their limits. The equestrian athlete not only has to take care of him or herself, each one also has a 1200 lbs. partner, who needs love, attention, and understanding, to take care of as well. I sometimes think this is taken for granted. I hope that I have helped people to appreciate the enormity of an equestrian athlete’s passion for and dedication to their sport. Go USA!

Note: Some of the material in this article has been cited from Wikipedia.org., and Dressage Today article “Get to Know Canadian Dressage Paralympian Lauren Barwick” Dressagetoday.com


The Queen’s Private Passion

Photo from Daily Mail i.dailymail.co.uk
Photo from Daily Mail i.dailymail.co.uk

In light of the recent events surrounding Brexit, we’ve seen a lot of coverage of the royal family, particularly Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In April, she celebrated her 90th birthday and the photographers went wild. In July she was photographed during the annual Order of the Thistle service at St Giles’ Cathedral (The Order of the Thistle is the second-most senior order of chivalry pertaining to Scotland. The oldest order is its English equivalent, The Most Nobel Order of the Garter.)

In short, we see a lot of photographs of England’s beloved Queen, but the ones I love most are of QEII with horses. She is either sizing up their conformation with a very concentrated, stern, or discerning look on her face, or she is simply beaming. In many photos, she is reaching out to touch the nose or neck – all the while with a girlish grin on her face. I recently watched The Queen: A Passion For Horses, a documentary made by Clare Balding. In it, England’s stoic Queen actually giggled with glee while inspecting one of her newborn thoroughbred foals.

One cannot hide one’s passion, not even the Queen of England.

Horses have the ability to bring out the best in people. That is one of the aspects of horse and human relationships I like to bring out in my books. In Dead Eye Dame, the novel that my agent is currently selling, Annie Oakley has a tremendous relationship with her horse, Buck. Through Buck, Annie is better able to handle the volatile emotions that come with the stresses of performance and competition, not to mention the horrible things I do to her throughout the course of the story! Buck is her rock, her constant companion. He, like all horses that are treated well, loves her unconditionally. They have established a bond. To Buck, Annie is just a horse with two legs instead of four.

Queen Elizabeth, a woman whom many people have criticized for her lack of emotion, understands this relationship and bond extremely well. According to her cousin, Margaret Rhodes, when Elizabeth became Queen at the tender age of 25, she “had to sacrifice within herself many emotions. With horses, she is in another world.” It is a world in which she can be herself—just another human being. As natural horsemanship trainer Pat Parelli likes to say, “With horses, once you take off the halter, all you have is the truth.” I love that statement. For me, it means that horses have the ability to make you look inside yourself and see what is truly there. If they run away from you, it might be wise to do some soul searching and figure out what kind of vibe you are transmitting to them, and probably the world. On the other hand, if your horse is “in your pocket” as they say, there is a bond of trust there. And trust, for prey animals like horses, does not come easy.

Queen Riding at Ascot 1964It is said by many people closely associated with the Queen that she is unconditionally loved by her horses. She takes extreme care and caution to hire only trainers who treat her horses well, from Monty Roberts, the inspiration for the movie and book, The Horse Whisperer to Rochelle Murray, one of her stud grooms at Sandringham whose job it is to make sure that her young thoroughbreds learn to be comfortable around people from birth. Not many racehorse owners go to this effort to ensure that their horses are sound in MIND and body. Their horses are a means to an end, and that end usually involves money. While the Queen is competitive with her horses and wants them to win, what is more important is that they know they are valued. That kind of care and devotion only comes from someone who is emotionally connected to her horses.

It is true that royalty and horses go hand in hand. Just flip through the pages of history and you’ll find many paintings and photographs of royals on horseback either enjoying a leisurely ride or storming into battle on their fiery steeds. Elizabeth’s passion goes back to her childhood when her father, King George VI, gifted Elizabeth, age 4, and her younger sister, Margaret, with a Shetland pony named “Peggy.” Since then, Elizabeth’s relationship with horses has remained constant, and like many royals, she has owned countless equines throughout her life.

During Princess Diana’s funeral, the Queen got her fair share of negative press for not showing enough emotion. As her cousin Margaret Rhodes revealed, once Elizabeth became Queen, she has had to keep her emotions to herself, by putting on a mask of stoicism for the public. Even in the presence of her great grandchildren, there is often but a hint of a smile on her face. But, I believe that underneath the quirky hats and the regal mask of a Queen, there is a deeply benevolent person lurking beneath—one whose secret passion cannot be hidden. Just look at a photo of her, looking at a horse.

Photo from The Daily Telegraph www.telegraph.co.uk
Photo from The Telegraph www.telegraph.co.uk

Famous Horse Partners in History – Alexander and Bucephalus

Sometimes people are lucky enough to have that “once in a lifetime” horse. I am one of those fortunate people. I’ve had many horses over the years, and still have several, but one of them I hold especially dear, and our relationship has surpassed any other relationship I’ve ever had with my equine friends. He is an Arabian/Quarter Horse Palmomino named Handsome and he has forever changed my life.

Photo found on Wikipedia Alexander and Bucephalus
Photo found on Wikipedia Alexander and Bucephalus

This, as well as my love of history, has prompted me to research famous horses and their partners. For the first pair in this series, I will go way back to 433 BC to Alexander the Great and his mighty steed Bucephalus.

Alexander, a boy of 13 happened to be present when a horse dealer by the name of Philonicus the Thessalian, offered a horse of the finest Thessalian stock to King Phillip II of Greece for 13 talents. A talent is an ancient unit of mass, possibly in gold, roughly the mass of the amount of water required to fill an amphora–a unit for measuring liquids or bulk goods. In Greece at that time, that amount was 26 kilograms. Those attempting to handle the horse could not control him as he thrashed about, rearing, kicking and biting anyone who came near. Seeing the behavior of this wild animal, King Phillip would not make an offer. Alexander, seeing at once the potential greatness of this amazing horse, told his father that if he could not tame the horse, he would offer the sum himself.

Alexander’s keen eye and natural horse sense allowed him to immediately recognize the cause of the horse’s distress; the sight of his own shadow. Approaching the horse cautiously, Alexander spoke to him in soothing tones, stroked his neck, and grabbing onto the bridle, turned the horse’s face to the sun, thus obliterating the offending shadow. Sensing that no harm would come to him, the horse immediately bonded with the boy and allowed Alexander to mount. The two were inseparable for the next few decades leading men into legendary battles that would result in Alexander’s conquering of the western world.

Photo found on Wikipedia The Akhal Teke
Photo found on Wikipedia
The Akhal Teke

Bucephalus breeding was “of the best Thessalian strain’ and historians believe that his breed was Akhal Teke, still in existence today. The exotic desert breed is known for its elegance, power, and athleticism as well as hardiness and endurance. They are noted for their shimmering, metallic coats, long, narrow heads and necks, with most of the length from their eyes to their muzzle, long forward set ears and hooded eyes. They come in a variety of colors but the most coveted are the Palominos and Buckskins because their coats resemble spun gold. Bucephalus was gleaming black with a white mark on his forehead and one blue eye. I found the description of the Akhal Teke conformation interesting because it is also said that Alexander named his horse Bucephalus because he was monsterous in size with a forehead that was”wide as a bull’s.” Sometimes in history, things get lost in translation, or perhaps as breeding continued throughout the ages, characteristics of the breed adapted to new uses, environments, etc. and the breed became more refined.

The Alexander Romance legends that came about after his death, presented a different story of the relationship between Bucephalus and Alexander. It was said the two were born on the same day and that Bucephalus was a mythical creature more powerful than Pegasus. The Delphic Oracle told Phillip II that whoever could tame and ride the horse would be king. Furthermore, even in his lifetime, Alexander was seen as a god.

In Alexander’s last battle, the Battle of Hydaspes, now known as Pakistan, Bucephalus was mortally wounded. Shortly after, Alexander founded a city and named it Bucephala in honor of his beloved horse.

Have you heard of the story of Alexander and Bucephalus? Do you have a “once in a lifetime horse?” I’d love to hear your comments.

Stayed tuned for more Great Horse Partners in History!