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Team #436: Mary Ann Hope and Flash

Team #436 – Mary Ann Hope and Flash
Ages 73 and 28
Combined Age 101

I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with horses. Year after year, the pony I knew would come for Christmas or my birthday never arrived. I rode anytime and everywhere I could. When a horse ran away with me when I was about seven, I felt exhilarated and wanted more!

After trading married life for life with horses, my first dream job was Senior Executive Director of Stall Hygiene at a Quarter Horse race and show barn in Indiana. Part of my job running a North Carolina boarding barn was teaching children and managing the breeding program: 1. Tie mare to wall. 2. Lead in stallion. 3. Don’t get in the way.

Teaching children and polishing saddle silver at a Georgia boarding barn was enriched by after-hours horse football and Roman riding. My seat-of-the-pants training method riding off-track Thoroughbreds at a huge sales operation in Illinois was simple: Stay on and don’t die. I stayed on and didn’t.

After retiring at 62 from driving an 18-wheeler, trucking company management, and the ballroom business, I met Flash. I was not impressed. Neither was he. Flash is a tobiano pinto pony, just under 14.2. We spent many hours trail riding in the mountainous Hoosier National Forest and grew into a partnership.

After my first riding vacation at Epona Spain, it was clear I had the Dressage Bug. I am attracted to the physical and intellectual challenges of the sport. I had confessed to my Spanish instructor my consummate knowledge of dressage was how to spell it. My first school horse, Traviata, was an elegant, highly trained Pura Raza Española mare who was a kind and patient teacher. I have returned to Epona several times and recommend it to any level dressage rider.

Flash and I began our dressage studies with trainer Shelley Kaczmarczyk of Everyday Dressage. Shelley believes dressage benefits all horses and riders and is great fun. The more we learned, the more we wanted to learn. The more we learned, the closer we became. I am certain he can read my mind. Flash replaced 30 pounds of flab with muscle. His transformation from chubby, poky trail pony to energetic, fit dressage horse was spectacular. His ancestry of TWH, Mountain Pleasure Horse, and Turkoman has given him big, athletic movement.

For many years, the goal to survive long enough to join the Century Club kept us going. As I grew weaker and sicker from lupus kidney failure, my desire to reach our goal grew stronger. Ten days after the IHC Oktoberfest Charity Show, I was in the hospital. In the first few weeks, I had a kidney transplant, vascular surgery for a blood clot, and lost my left leg below the knee. I was a hospital guest from Halloween to New Year’s Eve. Very festive.

I had to wait six months post-op to ride. Flash and I had speakerphone calls and friends brought him to my home for porch visits. When my six months was up, I could not leave the house because of Covid-19. A month later, my trainer, eventer Brittany Wilson, got me on Flash. With Brittany, two side walkers, and a gait belt, we went slowly but steadily back to independent riding.

Our Century Club 5-legged ride was a dream come true. Flash was a star. We rode Intro A at the walk and placed 8th out of 12. Of course, our trot elements were marked down, but he earned lovely scores for everything else. The Century Club ceremony at the scenic Hoosier Horse Park was a time for tears. I am so grateful for and proud of this honor. There were no spectators in the stands, but I had a personal cheering section: my trainer and caring helpers. Judge Lynne Bergh and I were photographed wearing our masks. We were all smiling, and you will just have to trust me on that. Flash declined the mask and was handsome as ever.

Mary Ann and Flash rode Introductory Level-Test A  to complete their Century Club ride on July 5, 2020.