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Team #568 Janet Tisch and Gidget's Gadget

Team #568: Janet Tisch and Gidget's Gadget
From: East Lansing, Michigan
Ages: 76 & 24
Combined Age: 100
Test: Western Dressage Introductory Level Test 4
Date: June 11, 2022

My first exposure to horses was at five years old when my oldest sister acquired her first horse, an American Saddlebred gelding. I sat in her saddle on the fence, pretending to ride, and like many little girls with great imaginations, I was brave, fearless, and rode like the wind.

When I turned 16, my parents purchased a lovely Arabian gelding for me, and so began my life passion for horses and riding. Years passed and a few other horses came and went through my life. I was a dedicated trail rider but always rode in an old Stubben dressage saddle, as I had become enamored with dressage when the Spanish Riding School Lipizzaners came from Austria.  I saw them perform in Detroit under the direction of Colonel Alois Podhajsky. I began to read books on dressage and attended every dressage show I could. To this day, I can watch for hours, regardless of the level being ridden; Training Level or Grand Prix, it makes no difference to me.

I moved to Florida in 1980 and for health reasons and at the urging of my family, I moved back to Michigan in December 2018. I brought my 18-year-old Warmblood/Arab cross mare, Promises Kept, with me. Promises had enjoyed a good start in dressage and was doing nice Second Level work. Through a series of events, I was fortunate to end up at Stapleton Farm in Leslie, Michigan, owned by Ruth Hill-Schorsch. For the first time in my life, I was going to have the opportunity to take lessons from an accomplished professional like Ruth (USDF gold medalist). Ruth made me feel so welcome, and she agreed to continue training Promises and eventually show her. However, fate intervened. Both Promises and I developed medical issues that required me to move to an Assisted Care Facility. Promises' health continued to decline and after two years of dedicated care by Ruth, a skilled veterinarian, and other medical experts, she was humanely euthanized. My heart was broken.

Ruth had a school horse, a Thoroughbred cross mare named GG, who had just been retired from giving lessons and taking younger riders to dressage shows. She had an idea to keep GG working enough to keep her healthy and a way to keep me a part of the world I love so much. GG became my “therapy” horse. With some modifications to the mounting block and help from a barnful of loving boarders, GG and I became the best “walkers” on the farm. I was eventually able to jog GG a little, which she took to immediately. Trading her dressage tack for western tack, she graciously carried me around the ring. So of course, I began to study and learn about Western dressage. After a few months, Ruth and I discussed a Century Club ride. At Ruth’s urging, I thought, “I can do this, it’s now or never.”  Ruth worked with me a few days a week for a year until I was strong enough to ride an Introductory Test.  

We entered a schooling show in June 2022, Western Dressage Introductory Level 4. It required no canter which I am not strong enough to do, but to me, it was as exciting as anything I have ever done. When GG heard the bell ring, she gathered up, and I could feel her take charge.

I was thrilled to win the class with a 70.25%, but more importantly, receive a wonderful comment from the Judge, “Lovely horse who knows just how she should travel to be a great partner.”  Ruth and GG gave me something I will hold in my heart forever. A real partnership, and at 76 years old, a dressage test I will never forget.