Michelle Williams and her American Quarter Horse A Cash Vantage have enjoyed great success in the elegant and technical sport of dressage. They have risen up the sport’s ranks, and have become the very first to earn AQHA points at the Federation Equestre International level. Williams, of Ball Ground, Georgia, has owned her horse for 13 of his 16 years. During that time, they enjoyed competing in hunter and dressage events, as well as dabbling in AQHA shows. They began showing dressage in earnest in 2010, and have quickly risen to Prix St. Georges, the first of the international dressage levels. In March, they competed at the AQHA-approved Poplar Place Farm March Dressage show, and scored a 60.3 percent at Prix St. Georges to earn four AQHA points, the very first earned in an Upper Level class.
Dressage is an ancient discipline originally developed for military use. A horse and rider progress through nine increasingly difficult levels, from Training to Grand Prix. Horses are asked to demonstrate their strength, elasticity and training, through movements that increase in difficulty with each level. The top four levels are known as the “upper levels” and are regulated under the FEI.
In 2010, AQHA launched its dressage program, which allowed American Quarter Horses for the first time to earn AQHA points. Horses must compete at regular recognized United States Equestrian Federation/United States Dressage Federation-licensed shows that also have AQHA approval. Then dressage scores, given in percentages, are converted into AQHA points. AQHA points are recorded on the horse’s performance record, demonstrating its ability and increasing its value. Points are also a way to qualify for year-end awards with the Association, as well as earning money through the AQHA Incentive Fund.
Since the AQHA dressage program began, the number of participants has grown 34 percent and they have earned nearly 2,000 points, as well as thousands in AQHA Incentive Fund money.
Williams trains her horse herself, with the help of an instructor. The Prix St. Georges test requires a horse to demonstrate maneuvers such as collected and extended gaits, half pass, canter pirouettes and tempi changes of lead every third stride.
Since that time, the pair has continued their success at Prix St. Georges, earning their USDF rider silver medal with scores up to 64 percent. They have earned 29.5 AQHA points in dressage competition and last year finished top 10 in the race for the high-point senior dressage award.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” Williams said. “I haven’t had a really lofty goal – I just enjoyed the process. I’m thankful for every step higher we get to take; it’s a gift in my mind. He’s already so far exceeded what I ever dreamed he could have done.”
A Cash Vantage was bred in Georgia by W.W. Springer Jr. and is by the stallion Skips Vantage and out of Cool Kandie Kitty.
Read more about Williams and AQHA’s dressage program in the August issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal. If you’re a subscriber, you can also read the digital version of the Journal at www.aqha.com/journal.