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Team #597 Diane Little and Slogan

Photo by Lisa Michelle Dean Photography

Team #597: Diane Little and Slogan
From: Springfield, Ohio
Ages: 80 & 23
Combined Age: 103
Test: Third Level Test 1
Date: October 16, 2022

I was born into a non-horsey family, a child with the “horse lover” gene and little opportunity to ride. My young adult years were busy with college, marriage, a child, and working to help my husband complete his medical training and military obligations.

At age 37, I could finally quit work and be a stay-at-home mom. I was bored. One evening I bet my husband that Carolina would beat Duke in a basketball game. I won the bet, and he bought me a $500 Quarter Horse. I rode Pine around the farm with 4-H kids for a couple of years and then decided that I wanted to take a few riding lessons at a hunter barn. Shortly after that, I bought Zane, an off-the-track Thoroughbred. I was in a barn with several high school kids and felt like I was too old to be riding.

My love of dressage stems from a trip to Portugal with a friend. We went to a riding school to ride the Lipizzaner stallions. We took morning and afternoon lessons for a week with a sightseeing break in the middle of the day. The first thing I was told was to drop my stirrups. While there, I experienced riding with a full bridle and felt a piaffe for the first time. Up until then, I had barely cantered a horse. I was blown away and wanted to learn more. Unfortunately, there weren’t many people in our area that taught dressage, so finding videos, books, and instructors was very difficult. I mostly learned from clinicians and once-a-month lessons with Bill Fields from Kentucky during warm weather.

On our 30th wedding anniversary, my husband gave me a brown paper bag. In it was a black bridle. He told me to go buy myself a good horse to fit the bridle. Little did he know that I would go to Germany to look for that “good” horse. I know our budget was limited, nevertheless, I gathered a group of friends including my riding instructor, a vet, and an animal communicator, and we traveled to the Verden Fall Hanoverian auction. We chose my next riding partner by committee. Wolfgang Amadeus (Wulfi) was the last horse I tried because he was one of the largest horses in the auction that year. I feared I wouldn’t be able to get on him without a ladder! He was three years old, and I owned him his entire life until he was 27.

Some older clinicians made a lasting impression on me. During a trip to Germany, I joined a friend in Mechtersen to take lessons for a week with Col. K.A. von Ziegner. He was in his 80s and walked with a limp. When he demonstrated some movements on his stallion, he looked like a 30-year-old rider. His position was perfection! I also remember H.L.M. Van Schaik. He was still teaching when he was 90. At lunch, he was reading his foreign equestrian magazines and when asked about them, he said, “You know there is always something new to learn.”

In 2019, after Wulfi passed, Bill Fields called and in typical Bill Fields fashion declared, “Diane, I have the horse for you!” I was very skeptical as I hadn’t planned on another horse for myself. However, he was free to a good home, and after meeting Slogan, I thought Bill just might be right. Slogan was imported from the Netherlands when he was 11 and went to a dressage barn in Florida where he was bought by a young rider. He was then sold into Alabama as a 14-year-old Fourth Level schoolmaster. For the next few years, he was lightly ridden but wasn’t shown. He had been retired for about two and a half years when Bill contacted me. I was given 30 days to try him, and it quickly became obvious that he knew far more than me. As he taught me, he started building more muscle. Soon he started looking and moving like a younger horse. This summer, when I learned we could do a Century Club ride, I decided to try showing him. It has been a dream come true to earn some scores at Second and Third Level toward a USDF bronze medal.

I will be forever grateful to Mimi Barnes and the late Bill Fields for introducing me to Slogan. Every rider should have a horse like him at some point in their riding years. He is sweet, brave, patient, and obedient, and I’m so happy that we found each other at this point in our lives. I would also like to encourage younger riders to not let their age, or the age of their horse, define their goals.

I want to thank my family for their enthusiastic and constant support of my passion through the years, Christina Bingham for her help preparing for my ride, and all of my friends for their support and encouragement.