Swanson and Dantzer Finally in Sync
Leigh Swanson has always believed in bringing horses along slowly. But a leggy bay Hanoverian named Dantzer was testing her patience ... until last weekend.
Some 18 years after Swanson purchased the German-bred gelding, Dantzer rewarded her with a win in an FEI Prix St. George class at last weekend’s Dressage in the Sandhills show at the Pinehurst Harness Track.
Dantzer, now 21, last competed at Prix St. George in 2000, before a sore back forced him to the sidelines. Swanson too was having health problems, hence the duo’s spotty show record of the past 10 years.
“His back became an issue after I had a saddle restuffed,” Swanson said. “I had to withdraw him at a CDI because he was so sore. It seemed like whenever he was feeling good, I wasn’t. We weren’t in sync.”
Last fall, a colonoscopy revealed the cause of Swanson’s chronic fatigue. She was diagnosed with a precancerous polyp and underwent surgery to remove seven inches of her colon and appendix.
“For years, I’ve felt drained, but since the surgery, I’ve had more energy than I’ve had in 10 years,” said Swanson, who is also a painter recognized by the American Academy of Equine Arts. “I’m back to training and giving lessons. I want to be out working with the horses.”
Swanson brought Dantzer back into work in February. They competed in the March Magic show in Williamston and scored well, despite the fact that Dantzer had to miss two weeks of training when he came up lame.
“He was totally sound before the show, but I still think I gave him a tentative ride,” Swanson said.
Dantzer also scored respectably at a show in Tryon two weeks before Pinehurst, despite a smattering of dermatitis that appeared on his back. Swanson had planned on riding the gelding in two Prix St. George classes at Pinehurst but opted to scratch out of one because of the sweltering heat.
“He is not an easy horse to ride,” Swanson said. “He’s not quiet and docile. His attitude is like a 5-year-old’s attitude.”
Swanson, who moved to Southern Pines from Colorado 15 years ago, attributes Dantzer’s longevity, in part, to a hoof trimming technique known as the Strausser method and sometimes referred to as “barefoot shoeing.”
“I had seen a TV program about a farrier in the West who had studied wild horses,” Swanson said. “He came up with a way of trimming their feet that is much more conducive to keeping them sound. All of my horses are barefoot now.”
Swanson’s farrier uses a modified version of the Strausser method.
“Dantzer had terribly contracted heels in front from the time I got him and kind of a bump on his shoulder blade right below the withers,” Swanson said. “We could never figure out what the bump was from.”
Swanson took Dantzer to a Strausser clinic, and within 15 minutes of being trimmed, she says, the bump had disappeared.
“As it was explained to me, a horse has a tendon that runs down the back of their leg, and if their heels are too high the shoulder muscles take up the slack of that tendon and contract,” she said. “It was amazing to watch it just disappear.”
Swanson plans to continue showing Dantzer for as long as they both are able.
“For him to come back after so much time off and be competitive at the FEI level is really something,” she said. “The past 10 years have been a rollercoaster for us, but now he’s better than he’s ever been.”
Full results can be found at www.carolinadressage.com.
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