Every woman’s beginning in horseback riding, be it casual riding or competition, comes from a long-lived love of horses. Patience Prine-Carr is no different. She recalls being around horses for most of her life, and she has an extensive background in riding and competing.
At two years old, she started riding at her uncle’s ranch in Wyoming. When she was five years old, she began taking formal riding lessons at Pebble Beach. She got her first horse, a palomino Quarter Horse, at age seven, but her mother decided to sell the palomino and buy an unbroke three-year-old Arab/Welsh pony.
“She thought it would be good for us to learn how to train it ourselves,” Prine-Carr said. “We had no clue, but we had a lot of good horsemen friends to help us out. She was my little hunter pony, and we won both our classes at my first horse show.”
Unfortunately, a stormy night led to the pony getting out, being hit by a car and having to be put down.
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Later on, Prine-Carr’s family found a beautiful Thoroughbred mare, but couldn’t pick her up for a couple months. In the meantime, her mother’s boss, Ed Hubbert, the owner of Ben Rabba, found a Half-Arabian mare, and Prine-Carr fell in love. Little did Hubbert know this would mark the beginning of Prine-Carr’s showing in Arab shows and saddle seat riding. The Arab was National Champion in 1972.
Fast-forward to 1991, and Prine-Carr got a job at Pebble Beach Equestrian Center for Bea and Derek DiGrazia, two top event riders and coaches.
“I had a big National Show Horse (NSH) that I had started jumping,” Prine-Carr said. “We loved the cross country, but for eventing, I had to do that 'darn dressage.' It was hard, and we didn't care for it in the beginning, but the more we worked at it, the better my jumping got. My rail classes at the Arab shows improved. I started taking more dressage lessons from other coaches and clinics, and in 1998, I got the courage to call Heidi Gaian and ask for lessons with my three-year-old NSH. We learned so much. At our very first show at Scottsdale, we won seven out of nine dressage tests! I was hooked. Since then, I have earned my Bronze, Silver and Gold medals, Silver and Gold Bars for Musical Freestyle and over 40 National Championships in every level of dressage from training level to Grand Prix.”
To be a champion in dressage requires a great level of discipline, skill and dedication. To excel at dressage is to demonstrate a bona fide level of closeness in the relationship between horse and rider. As author Elizabeth Letts said, “Great dressage demands more than skill; it engages a rider’s inner wisdom and his ability to communicate with a mount in the silent language of horsemanship.” Being able to establish this kind of smooth and comprehensible wordless communication is extremely difficult. As with other people, sometimes horses misunderstand, or the rider does not clearly communicate what he or she wants the horse to do. These kinds of mistakes are small, but in the dressage world, they can come at a great cost.
“I think the most challenging part of dressage is body control and learning to use your body to influence the horse correctly,” Prine-Carr said. “The most rewarding part is when everything clicks. When the horse gets it and you get it, then you feel it as one.”
So, what is next for Prine-Carr?
“I just got done showing at the Arabian Sport Horse Nationals in Crete, Ill. with three horses,” Prine-Carr said. “I was very happy with them and their placings in tough competition. WP Aulsovain++++// was top ten in the Third level and top ten (third) in the under saddle. OKW Radar+/ was top ten (third) in the Fourth level and top ten (fifth) in the Prix St George. OKW Suspense++/ was Reserve National Champion in the Intermediate 1. I am excited about my show team for next year with the three above plus Reverberation, a talented five-year-old stallion, and my own stallion, Encandescent.”
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Prine-Carr advises those who are new to dressage or who are still learning to not get discouraged, since everyone has bad days and the sport is far from easy. Learning to not put pressure on oneself and enjoy the journey will help amateurs focus on fixing their mistakes and practicing so they are prepared for future competitions.
“Dressage is a wonderful sport for any breed and rider to help improve the partnership and quality of riding for both horse and rider,” Prine-Carr said. “My breed of choice is the Arabian because they fit me and give so much, but any breed can do dressage. New riders should not be discouraged. Just give it a go and enjoy the ride.”