Arabians for Dressage - American Horseman, Shirley Warren

American Horseman March 1974
Arabians For Dressage
Shirley Warren

Chuck Grant is one of the best in the nation. Bright Meadows is also one of the best in the nation. Put them together, and the combination is no less than great.

Chuck Grant is one of the few top-notch dressage trainers in the United States. At his home in Brighton, Michigan, he owns and manages one of the largest commercial dressage training stables in the country, having housed up to 33 dressage hopefuls at one time. It was here that he and Bright Meadows teamed up.

In a field in which European breeds have excelled for centuries, Bright, a registered Arabian, could have been out of his element. Though boasting a bloodline filled with supreme, national and world champions at halter and performance, dressage competence was not part of his birthright.

Bright Meadows, No. 21019, is a son of Bright Diamond, of Lady Wentworth's Crabbet Arabian Stud. He traces back twice to the famed stallion Skowronek, and no less than 28 times to Mesaoud, an earlier notable sire. Bright Diamond, sired by Bright Shadow and out of Silver Diamond, also traces to Raswan and Naseem, Lady Wentworth's "ideal type of perfect Arabian."

The Arabian is noted for his intelligence and gentility, but being a desert-bred horse, his stamina and endurance were of prime importance. Thus he was not usually considered for the artistry of dressage and was passed over in favor of many European breeds.

Now, however, there is a growing dressage revolution in the ranks of Arabian enthusiasts, and Bright Meadows is going to help show the world that the Arabian indeed can do it. An I l-year-old stallion, Bright's grace in motion is breathtaking, and his response to imperceptible cues is faultless. Never out of the money in American dressage competition, he is now at the Prix St. George level and is well on his way to a possible Olympic berth.

He beat five Olympic competitors at the Chicagoland Dressage Horse Show in 1969, taking a first in second-level competition. Some of his other victories include another first in second level at the Centaur Farm Stables Show in 1969; a third in the 1969 Bloomfield Open Hunt Kingsley Inn Cup at second level; a first in Prix St. George at the 1972 Northern Ohio Dressage Association Show; first in Prix St. George in the 1972 Bloomfield Open Hunt and a second at the combination test at the Colonel I. L. Kitts Memorial in the Detroit Horse Show in 1972.

"I'm convinced that Bright is the best Arabian dressage horse in America today," says Chuck Grant. "He's quick, he's willing, and I think he can go all the way."

Though Grant's professional status will keep him from riding in the Montreal competition, his highest hopes rest with the flashy gray stallion. Bright's owners, James and Virginia Perry of Jonesville, Michigan, arc also very hopeful. The Perrys have been raising Arabians for only six years, and as luck would have it. Bright Meadows was

actual training. The rest of the time he is used in breeding, but he always manages to come back with his mind on his work. He picks everything up quickly and enjoys it, so I push him a little; then we go back and smooth over the rough spots. The system works with Bright."

Though willing horses like Bright Meadows make training a joy for Grant, he says it still takes a life time of devotion to excel in dressage. "You really have to love this kind of work to do it well. I became interested in dressage back in 1934 when I was in the Army. I worked with horses then and became interested in training them. At that time, these precision movements were only taught in the service, and in 1939 their horse divisions were being disbanded. 1 kept studying the art anyway, and decided to go into business on my own."

A native of Iron Mountain, Michigan, Grant had intended to go to college and take up marine engineering after his stint, but the horse bug sidetracked him, and he's glad it did. "I've never been sorry for a day I've put into this work," he maintains. "I love it now, and after all these years I'm not going to change." Though he starts many of his own horses at two, Grant says he expects the average outside horse to be three years old before he starts training. "It takes only about a month to find out whether or not the animal belongs in high schooling. Just about any horse can go through the basic levels but it takes extraordinary intelligence for an animal to make it further. Then, too, the horse must have the right mental attitude. The dressage horse must be more obedient than any other animal.

For many horses that don't fall down in aptitude, the next pitfall is appearance. "In dressage, appearance is everything," said Grant. The horse must look elegant, he must be graceful in every move. Strides must be long and even, and his body must flow as one beautiful unit. He must perform 135 movements, and they have to be done with integration and unity."

Though Grant has never had any trouble with stallions, he prefers mares for dressage training. "It's true," he says, "that stallions have that certain spark that makes them just a bit flasher, but mares are vain. They love to get out before an audience and really 'turn on,' so to speak. For this reason, they make excellent show candidates. They really enjoy their work."

Once Chuck has the right horse to work with, "I find that my biggest problem is that the animals, after a time, get too excited. If they're worked past the point where they get excited, they begin to make mistakes. If done for the right period of time, with the right mount, the training isn't too difficult. Rewarding the horse with affection is a must, and he learns to look forward to the pat on the neck and the 'well done' from the trainer. I never bribe a horse-he doesn't understand that-but he does understand approval."

Bright Meadows seems to understand Chuck Grant. His ribbons and trophies testify to his ability and spirit, and Chuck will swear by his disposition. With a little bit of luck, and a lot of that Arabian stamina, he may just make it to Montreal.

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