By MIKE McCOY/Special to the Express
Well, the third time is a charm, they say. After having competed in two past Dressage Regional Adult Amateur Championships that proved less than successful, last week, Janice Koch and her horse Dahlwhinnie’s Sandman cantered away with a blue ribbon.
Periodically, in the days of the competition, Janice had to remind herself that she was competing in this show voluntarily — nobody was forcing her. The sacrifices made by the competitors in time, money, stress and ultimate exhaustion would only be made by those with an addiction to horses and to the sport.
Fortunately, her rides were in the morning whereas some of the competitors faced a test of their and their horses’ training, concentration, harmony, skills and exertion alone in front of a judge in 109-degree heat.
Janice believes that she and Sandman were meant to be. In the 40s, her grandad had a Thoroughbred ranch in southern California. He raced his horses all along the West Coast from Caliente to Santa Anita to Bay Meadows. His best stallion, Texas Sandman won races and came in second in the Santa Anita Handicap in 1945.
Her grandad died when she was 3 years old, but Janice inherited some of his loving cups and a love for horses. A painting of Texas Sandman hangs in a room in her house.
When she saw an ad for a dressage horse named Sandman and saw a sales video, she was enthralled. When she went to meet and ride him, at first she could hardly get him into a trot. And when he cantered, he shied at something outside the arena and almost dumped her. However, with a bit of coaching, she felt him fly and took him home for a trial.
Sandman turned out to be a horse she could trust with her grandchildren on his back and who would accept correction without anger. Their challenge has only been to produce in him the energy required at the higher levels of dressage.
Janice hopes that both she and Sandman will remain sound enough to ride next year at the level of Prix St. George — the first of the “international levels.” All it takes is patience, persistence, perseverance, hard work, commitment and passion, combined with a big helping of luck.