From California, Oregon and Arizona to New Jersey, South Carolina and Texas, competitors traveled from far and wide to attend the MSEDA Dressage Show and the USEF/Markel Young Horse Finals in Lexington, KY. One newlywed couple, having traveled from Montana on a honeymoon trip with an equine theme, stood out in the crowd.
Flamboyantly attired in a cowboy hat, hand-tooled boots and a scarf around his neck, and sporting a waxed moustache, Kip Fladland stood out like a paint pony in a herd of warmbloods, adding his Western flair to the staid dressage atmosphere at the Horse Park.
Kip, from Montana, met Missy Ellison from Nebraska at a Natural Horsemanship clinic with Buck Brannaman, for whom he was working at the time. Despite their different equine forte’s, the cowboy and the dressage rider found that they had much in common and stayed in contact for the next two years.
“We corresponded with post cards and kept meeting at clinics,” said Missy. But it was on Missy’s birthday, at a dressage clinic with Walter Zettl – the first time Kip saw dressage – that he proposed to her, having driven nineteen hours to watch her ride.
“I hadn’t seen her in that environment -- and they are two drastically different environments – but to her they operate similarly because of the style of horsemanship,” he said. “Where I come from there’s not as much pomp and circumstance. Without question there are some highly bred and trained horses here. [Back on the ranch] a horse has to pay the bills – I see horses differently, meaning how they move and perform their job. But this weekend I have met some nice people and I saw some beautiful horses.”
As for his long trek to follow the woman of his dreams, the cowboy commented, “When a fella’s gonna ask someone to marry him he’s gotta make a commitment. She’s young and vivacious and quite attractive, so I thought I’d better put some effort into pursuing her.”
32-year-old Missy, who has been riding since age 21, is enjoying life in Gardner, Montana on a remote cattle ranch, though she is looking for sponsorship for her riding; when she left Omaha, she also had to leave her day job of 13 years as an accountant at a custom cabinet shop behind.
“I hope to ride in the Olympics someday,” she said. Back on the ranch she teaches riding lessons, rides several horses and helps with ranch work. Kip starts the young horses on the ranch – mostly cow ponies but a few are hunter/jumpers that are sent to the East Coast to show.
Riding her American Warmblood gelding C Ventura, (Kabaret – Miss Mac Favor by Gallat L.B.), Missy won the Midwest Finals for Five-year-old horses at Lamplight Equestrian Center this summer, her horse’s third horse show. Kentucky was his fourth show and Missy’s first championship competition. Now the couple and the horse are headed for Devon and one of the biggest dressage shows in the United States.
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