As a rider, trainer, clinician, instructor and judge, Jules Anderson who runs her own Teamwork Dressage out of Jupiter, FL, has a full plate but she’s embarked on a special project for 2012 with a young man named Kelby Burrancos and a trotter named Emma’s Pearl. Kelby’s mother, Monica Burrancos, works the gates as a show official at the CDI's at the Jim Branden Equestrian Center and the Palm Beach Derby shows at White Fences, Loxahatchee, often assisted by Kelby. “Thanks to show managers, Noreen O'Sullivan and John Flannigan, who started letting Kelby work alongside me at all the shows. He has matured so much, it’s obvious how much he loves being around the horses and riders,” says Monica.
“Working security at "The Masters," we got to watch the horses from Europe before and after the show. This was such a great experience for both of us!” Kelby has cerebral palsy and at birth the right side of his brain wasn’t developed likely due to a stroke in the womb. Before Kelby rode horses at age four, he couldn’t walk, speak or communicate. Now he is a well-adjusted 15-year-old who loves to ride his bike, enjoys being outside and is deeply passionate about horses.
Losing a Princess and Finding a Pearl
Kelby learned to talk when he was introduced to horses, he really relates to horses and loves them dearly. Monica clearly saw the transformative power that horses had on her son. When the barn refused to credit a lesson when Kelby was sick, Monica took action.
“Before Kelby started therapeutic riding. I knew nothing about horses and bought the first one I saw,” she admits. She ended up spending $1,000 to get an aged, half-blind, underweight 14.2 hand mare with serious dental and foot problems healthy. “This mare was treated like a ‘princess,’ which became her name, Princess!” said Monica, who lives frugally in a 550 square foot house in Boynton Beach. Within a few months, Monica had a barn bigger than her house built in their backyard.
“Princess was a bit skittish at first but always gentle around Kelby. They developed a very special bond.” Princess helped Kelby learn to ride a bicycle as he balanced beside her when she was walking in the yard. Time in the saddle also made it possible for him to control his balance until he could a ride his bike on his own. Kelby always helped with stall cleaning chores, feeding and filling up the water buckets. Over ten years together, Kelby and Princess grew to compete in horse shows, equitation and fun, costume classes winning over 100 ribbons and 17 trophies. “Horses became his passion,” Monica said.
In July 2011, Monica and Kelby came home to find Princess on the ground unable to get up. She was put down outside Kelby’s bedroom window, estimated at age 35. Kelby was devastated to lose his best friend. Finding a new horse proved difficult as Kelby showed “little or no interest” in those they saw until Princess’ farrier, Joe White, introduced them to Luanna Beeson and Emma’s Pearl.
Emma’s Pearl had a rough entry into the world as well. The filly was born a “dummy foal,” her brain had been oxygen deprived. She needed help to nurse and had to be carried to the paddock for several days. She also had a club foot and anhidrosis, the inability to sweat. Despite her underdog odds, Emma made it into training and reached the races, scoring several victories for her owner, trainer and driver, Luanna Beeson, before a bone chip ended her track career.
“Joe called us while were at the Dressage Show in Devon, PA last fall. As soon as Kelby saw Emma, I knew this was the horse for him,” Monica said. “Kelby walked up to the stall, grinning from ear to ear. Kelby’s not very vocal but this time he was. Emma won his heart from the minute he saw her.” Emma’s right club hoof even mirrored Kelby who limps on his right foot. Now that Kelby is 15, Emma’s 16.2 hand size is a great fit for him. However, Monica hesitated as Emma, a five-year-old Standardbred, had never been ridden but Beeson offered to come to their house to start her.
A lifelong horsewoman, Luanna calls Emma “the love of my life,” a kind, personable horse that loved snacking on bites of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and deserved to be loved. “She always tried,” says Beeson about overcoming her many physical obstacles. Not wanting to risk injury to Emma after discovering the bone chip in her ankle, she believed the horse could acclimate easily to a backyard setting due to the breed’s calm temperament and track training.
“These horses see everything at the track, machinery, crowds, racing under lights and they get lots of handling. They are doted on and very people-oriented,” Beeson says. Hardy, calm and athletic, many make good trail mounts and matches for children. “People don’t realize Standardbreds can do much more than race,” she says, noting Emma’s lower step gives her a natural extended trot. Beeson has seen her former horses succeed in Western pleasure, English equitation and a barrel racer who can beat Quarter Horse rivals. “Okay, the barrel racer surprised me,” she laughs.
Second Chances: A Trotter’s Dressage Debut
In January 2012, Monica arranged to send the coming six-year-old trotter to Libby and Jules Anderson for dressage training. “Getting to know all the riders, I looked for someone fun who would have the personality to work with Kelby and would be here all year,” she says. Jules Anderson has developed Grand Prix horses from scratch, coached Olympic 3-day riders, won national titles with young horses and was long-listed for the 2000 Sydney Olympics for her native country Australia. Currently, she trains client horses along with her own prospects and will be actively judging as part of the USEF “R” dressage program.
The goal is for Kelby to start riding Emma and show in the Into test at the June GCDA schooling show and for Jules to demonstrate that a trotting horse can do dressage. At the GCDA March schooling show, Emma amazed everyone. She is the first standardbred ever to be entered at the Gold Coast Dressage Show and she scored a 75+% at Intro B, the high score of the show. Emma's racing owner Luanna and friends took a break from the racetrack to cheer Emma on at her dressage debut, not to mention the GCDA show staff and friends. Everyone at Pompano Harness is following Emma and Kelby’s story, since dressage opens another career avenue for Standardbreds to find homes after retiring from the track.
The U.S. Trotting Association (USTA) participates in USDF’s All-Breeds Awards program. Emma took Luanne to the winner’s circle and she hopes she will do the same for Kelby. For more information: U.S. Trotting Horse Assoc. www.ustrotting.com The USTA sponsors first and second place at all levels in: Adult Amateur, Musical Freestyle, Open for registered Standardbreds that participate in sanctioned USDF shows and obtain enough qualifying scores to be eligible for the awards. U.S. Dressage Federation All Breeds Program www.usdf.org/awards/allbreeds/