A local equestrian with Olympic dreams has found a new mount she hopes will get her to that goal.
Bismarck native Mimi Stanley competed in her first dressage test when she was 6 years old. Since then, she has been working toward her goal to compete internationally and on the U.S. Olympic team.
Now she has a horse she says she feels will take her closer to that goal.
Stanley lost her champion competition horse, EA Cygnus, when the 23-year-old U.S. Grand Prix Arabian dressage horse died during colic surgery in 2013. Her new ride, Abraxa, is a 3-year-old Westphalian mare from Germany.
Stanley said she started her horse search about a year ago. A friend had purchased a horse through the Westphalian auction in Germany. Westphalians are breed of horse named after their home region in northwest Germany.
Stanley said the German auction system puts in a lot of work to find high-level horses then vetted by invitation only. Videos, trainer and vetting information for the horses are available to potential buyers.
“So you really know what you’re getting into,” Stanley said.
Abraxa is the first horse she’s purchased internationally.
Stanley will start to train Abraxa to ride under saddle this spring. It takes a minimum of six to 10 years for a dressage horse to reach peak performance levels, she said.
“Dressage” is a French term meaning “training.” According to the U.S. Dressage Federation, its purpose is to develop the horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to work, making him calm, supple and attentive to his rider.
Stanley has a 9-year-old mare she competes on at the Prix St. George level, which is two levels below the top Grand Prix level. She said the horse competes well nationally but Abraxa will likely give her a better chance in the international arena.
“I’m used to riding the underdog,” she said, and she will take her 9-year-old as far as she can in the standings while also starting to develop Abraxa’s career.
What Stanley said she loves most about the sport is developing a relationship with her mount. She hopes to compete on Abraxa in the 4-year-old Fédération Equestre Internationale National Championship, one of many steps along the path to the top.
Along with a new horse, Stanley also received her first international sponsorship, Schleese Saddlery, which specializes in custom and semi-custom saddles to improve performance.
Stanley said she’s lucky to have a family and fiance involved in the horse industry and supportive of her. Her mother is a long-time horse trainer and helps her with her training.
Stanley said she hasn’t taken the traditional route, choosing instead to stay in North Dakota rather than moving to areas of the country where dressage is more common. But that has forced her to really make a commitment to the sport.