Cobra, a "Three Strikes Mustang" Turned Horse of the Year, World Champion, and Breyer Model!

"Sometimes life gives you a second chance, or even two! Not always, but sometimes. It's what you do with those second chances that counts."
– Dave Wilson

Marsha Hartford-Sapp and Cobra, dressage champions.

Marsha Hartford-Sapp and Cobra, dressage champions.

For the past five years I have been involved with my friend, Marsha Hartford-Sapp, and her Mustang gelding, Cobra. Cobra was passed over three times for adoption, making him a "three strikes" mustang, but Marsha adopted him for the 2010 Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover, and in 2013 they started competing in United States Dressage Federation (USDF) shows.

Cobra is a sharply intelligent, deeply intuitive horse. Cobra is fairly big for a Mustang and quite balanced. He likes to work and once he is warmed up he is full of energy and ready to go. Marsha has trained and competed him successfully in dressage through the Prix St. Georges level and Western Dressage. He has won numerous year-end awards and world championships. Here is a video of him competing in Western Dressage, earning a great score of 78%!


Marsha has competed in many Extreme Mustang Makeovers. She won the competition in 2016 with her mare Freedom, and this year with a beautiful palomino mare named Chason's Dream.

You can watch this USA Today interview with Marsha on training Mustangs.


Cobra is particularly talented in his canter work and has learned tempi changes and canter pirouettes, as well as other upper level movements. In the following video it shows him learning two-tempi changes only 2 years out of the wild! That is incredible! I am honored to have played a part in his dressage training, introducing him to the one-tempi changes this past winter in Florida. Over the course of a few months Cobra was able to learn how to do a one-tempi and progressed to four clean one-tempis in a row! 

Click on the image to go to cobra's facebook page or click here

Click on the image to go to cobra's facebook page or click here

Meet Cobra at BreyerFest

Don't miss your chance to meet Cobra and Marsha Sapp at BreyerFest. They will be performing daily and "signing" autographs. I will also be there to help answer questions for Cobra's raving fans. And don't forget to buy your very own Cobra Breyer model to take home with you. Isn't he beautiful!

Cobra's New Logo Design

In preparation for BreyerFest I was asked to create a logo for Cobra. My good friend, and professional photographer Kimberly Chason put together the logo idea and added the text to my art design. If you are interested in a custom logo design for your horse or business visit my online gallery...click here.

BreyerFest 2016's Celebration of Horses - "Moments to Remember"

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman

BreyerFest 2016's Celebration of Horses evening entertainment celebrated the tradition, athleticism, and grace of the horse with an all-star cast of performers who demonstrated daring feats of horsemanship including Roman riding, liberty, and other stunts. The event was expanded to two sold-out evenings in the Alltech Arena.  

In addition to performing five feature acts, Yvonne Barteau (of KYB Connected) produced the 2016 show, organizing the acts of some of this country’s finest horse trainers and exhibitionists, including Sylvia Zerbini, Dan James, and many others.

Watch and be amazed by the highlight reel:


Are you ready for BreyerFest 2017?

I will be attending BreyerFest this year to help my close friend Marsha Sapp. Her mustang gelding Cobra is one of the Limited Edition Breyer Models this year and she is also performing with Gitano, a gorgeous Gypsy gelding. I have helped train Cobra over the years when I stay at Marsha's barn, Southern Oaks Equestrian Center in Tallahassee, FL. It is amazing to see the transformation from his first year under saddle to becoming a Breyer model. Come see me at BreyerFest and meet Cobra! He will be performing daily and "signing" autographs.

Now in its 28th year and host to more than 10,000 guests annually, BreyerFest is the place to have fun with horses and model horses! Whether you have horse experience or not, BreyerFest has plenty of activities for you to enjoy. So, join us at BreyerFest for a family vacation that you will never forget!

Visit the BreyerFest website for more information. Click here.

Can't make it to BreyerFest during the day but don't want to miss out on the evening Celebration of Horses? Evening event tickets are only $15!

Don't miss an inside look at one of Breyer's newest inductees, Cobra, a "three strikes" mustang turned U.S. Equestrian Federation Horse of the Year, USDF Horse of the Year, and Western Dressage World Champion: Coming next week!

Captivating Performance by Sylvia Zerbini and Her Amazing Horses

 "Keep the circus going inside you, keep it going,
don't take anything too seriously,
it'll all work out in the end."

-David Niven


In the video below, Sylvia Zerbini, former star of the acclaimed Cavalia, orchestrates the movements of eight gorgeous horses, a truly memorable and mesmerizing theatrical performance. A ninth generation performer, Sylvia Zerbini has captivated audiences across the globe since the age of five. Her father, a wild animal trainer, and her mother, a famous trapeze artist, allowed Sylvia to ultimately nurture her true passion, working with her family's horses.

Prepare to be captivated by the talented Sylvia and her beautiful horses:
 

Hip Performance from Sydney CDI 2017 GP Musical Freestyle Winners- Brett Parbery and DP Weltmieser ("Rabbit")

"When it's your time, it is your time." -Bruno Mars

Brett Parbery (of Parbery Performance Horses, New South Wales) and DP Weltmieser (14-year-old Hanoverian gelding, aka "Rabbit") win the Equestrian New South Wales FEI Grand Prix Musical Freestyle at the Sydney CDI 2017- Sydney, Australia's Premier Dressage Event. The pair scored a solid 74.570%. I particularly liked the use of vocals for the entrance and the piaffe which was spot-on with the music.

Watch, as this dynamic duo dances across the arena to the hip music of Bruno Mars and Maroon 5!


Cool New App- “Spectator Judging”!

Organizers of the 2017 Sydney CDI came out with a new app allowing spectators to score competitors. While spectator scores don’t influence the official results, the focus of the app is stronger fan involvement and more engagement with the sport of dressage. Spectator judges, at the event whose scores are closest to the official results, receive a prize.

You can join in judging the World Cup Dressage Final in Omaha, Nebraska, USA which will be live streamed!

The app is available for free from the App-Store (Apple) or the Google-Play-Store: Just type “Spectator Judging” in the AppStore / Google Play and install the app.

Create Your Own Training Level Musical Freestyle! Sample Videos of Good Choreography & Music Selection

Have you always wanted to ride a musical freestyle? Getting started at Training Level is a great way to get your feet wet and learn how the entire process works. 

In this post, I have shared some examples of Training Level musical freestyles and reasons why they are good, from a judge's perspective (I am a USDF "L" Graduate and a freestyle designer). 

If you need extra help creating your freestyle, you will find pre-choreographed routines and tips for finding music in my Training Level eBook.  

Watch these videos for freestyle inspiration!
If you would like your freestyle featured in this blog post and added to my YouTube playlist, send an email to: beginthedance@gmail.com


Video #1: Music Suitable to the Type & Character of the Horse
This is a snazzy freestyle showing smart choreography and music choice.

  • Jazz music matches the smooth gaits and handsome physique of the horse.
  • Music seamlessly matches choreography and tempo of horse's gaits.
  • Balanced use of arena space.
  • Good use of short diagonals on the first and final centerline.

Well done!  

Video #2: Patterns Accomplished with Ease and Graceful Choreography and Music

This is a beautiful freestyle showing ease of accomplishing choreographic patterns.

  • Recognizable music matches the rhythm and tempo of the horse's stride- it also sounded like they edited the music to speed up and slow down the beats to match the horse.
  • Choreography flows well with the transitions. 
  • Music matches the horse's floating gaits, particularly the free walk.
  • Balanced use of patterns. 

This pair work well together!

Video #3: Obvious Trust and Synchrony Between Horse and Rider

This team showcased a positive connection throughout this sweet freestyle. PLEASE NOTE that this freestyle was ridden in 2014 before the freestyle tests were updated by USDF. 

  • Music is upbeat and punchy and reflects this young horse/rider's personality.
  • Choreography matches music and  transitions.
  • An obvious sense of unity and contentment between horse and rider.
  • Good use of the space and nicely designed patterns.

Wonderful job!

Video #4: Recognizable Music that Matches Horse's Character

This pair performed a well-designed routine to cute, recognizable music.

  • Plucky, fun music from the Shrek soundtrack that matches the horse's tempo of gaits.
  • Transitions in music are obvious and match the choreography.
  • Nicely designed patterns that are accomplished with ease.
  • Horse and rider team demonstrated trust and confidence.

Great performance!

Video #5: Have some Fun with a little Rock N' Roll!

This pair performed a freestyle with a good degree of difficulty. 

  • Energetic music that changed with the gaits.
  • Transitions in music are obvious and match the choreography.
  • Smooth serpentine lines and difficult canter transitions. 
  • Music was edited well for the beginning and final halts.

If you need help developing your freestyle take a peek at sample pages from my eBook, the link is below. The book includes 10 pre-choreographed tests that you can choose from and add your own music to! You will find everything you need to create your own Training Level musical freestyle in the eBook.

 Please leave a comment below or send any questions to beginthedance@gmail.com.

Have fun creating!

Talented Friesian Team Performs Chinese Act during the 2017 Friesian Proms

"If people are of one heart, even the yellow earth can become gold."
-Chinese Proverb

Prepare to be delighted by this entertaining performance from the Friesian horses of the Subtop Team during the Friesian Proms, 2017. There is even a troupe of Chinese dancers (Wudao) performing a skillful Dragon Dance in the center of the arena, and an accompaniment from Chinese soprano, Xiaolan Ji (along with a live orchestra). Large quadrilles are impressive and exciting, and the contrast between the gold and red costumes and accessories and the black Friesians enhances the dramatic effect! Enjoy!

Performance begins at 1:10.


Live Painting Demo to Benefit Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation Ranch

Rovandio and I performed a live painting demo at the "Have a Heart" fundraiser to benefit the Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation Ranch (Triple R) of Tallahassee, FL. All money raised from the auctioned painting went to the Triple R organization. Triple R is a 100% volunteer organization that rescues abused, neglected, troubled, and abandoned equines and rehabs, retrains, and re-homes (or retires) them "in an environment of well-being and trust".

To learn more about my journey into art on horseback with Rovandio, check out this page on my website: http://beginthedance.com/art-on-horseback/

In the zen of the moment, living, breathing art, brush stroke upon brush stroke, hoofbeat upon hoofbeat. The horse forms the artist, the artist forms the horse, flowing, living, breathing art.
— Bethanne Ragaglia

For more information about Triple R, you can visit their website at: 
http://triplerhorserescue.org/wordpress/about/

Arghh! Sandra and Rovandio Perform Together as Pirates!

"Not all treasure is silver and gold, Mate."

-Captain Jack Sparrow

The video below is of Rovandio and I debuting our latest routine, "Pirates", at Elysium Sport Ponies in Atkinson, ME. I had an idea for Rovy to perform the Spanish walk to Captain Jack Sparrow's drunken sailor music from the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the rest of the routine developed from there. I definitely wanted to include Rovy saying pirate lines, so that is where you see him perform the "Argh!". At the end of our performance, I handed out "gold doubloons" for the kids in the audience and Rovy adored the pats and attention! Enjoy!

Falcyyr TV Series - Now Available on Vimeo!

Actress Sinari Diliiza rides Douwe as Sandra cues him for the rear.

Actress Sinari Diliiza rides Douwe as Sandra cues him for the rear.

For the past two years I have been involved with a film project called Falcyyr, which is directed by Ahura Diliiza. I play Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, and Douwe is the special steed for the main actress Sinai Diliiza.

My character, Artemis, teaches the Falcyyr how to ride a horse in Episode #6, click here to watch. Both Douwe and Rovandio are used for this scene. It was fun to utilize my teaching skills and the horses behaved very well for the different actresses. 

You will also see the herd of horses from Isaac Royal Farm where the scenes were filmed. Many of the horses are Lipizzan or Andalusian crosses.

You can watch each separate episode of Falcyyr for $1 on Vimeo. You can also rent them all for $8 or download them for $12.


Check out Maine Today's article with Douwe as the featured photo:
Women rule in Maine-made fantasy ‘Falcyyr’

Fantasy Photo Shoot Contest Winner: To The Masquerade Ball & The Huntress

At the end of 2016, I offered my new Fantasy Photo Shoots eBook for Pre-Order. Those who pre-ordered the eBook were automatically entered into a drawing to win a Fantasy Photo Shoot with my Friesian gelding, Douwe!

For the Fantasy Photo Shoots, I am able to provide Douwe as the mainstay of the photographs, adding to the emotion and the depth of the photo. Douwe is also incredible at providing confidence (and the camera loves him!).

The winner of the Fantasy Photo Shoot Contest drawing was Karen Mancuso, who wanted to share the experience with her daughter, and so "To the Masquerade Ball" and "The Huntress" were born. 

Karen's 'Masquerade':

I love it when costumes magically come together! Karen walked into the dressing room with this beautiful, royal purple cape, and from there I was able to draw from my own costume closet and complete the look! 

Photo taken by Taylor Burdin

Photo taken by Taylor Burdin

I just enjoyed the entire experience, honestly; it was playful and fun.
— Karen Monusco

As an artist, it is always fun to use people as canvases! For Karen, I chose an ethereal look, with soft curls framing her face, and added a touch of smoky purple to her eyes. She is also wearing Ardell Self-Adhesive Lashes.

Behind-the-scenes tidbit: I found Karen's forehead jewel at Hobby Lobby for less than $5!


Ashley's 'Huntress':

Ashley's 'Huntress' costume was fun to create and she came onto the set looking lovely and fierce! The layers added to the texture and depth of the outfit and the drab forest colors added authenticity to the idea of her hunting in the woods.

Photo taken by Taylor Burdin.

Photo taken by Taylor Burdin.

Makeup

For Ashley's huntress makeup, we found some photos on Pinterest for inspiration and had fun finger-painting warrior markings on her face. Otherwise, we kept it fairly simple with brown tones for her eyes and a nude lip gloss.

Hair

For Ashley's hair, I used brown cord and weaved it between small braids, tying them together, and completed the look with a braided 'faux-hawk' at the top (which is created with a Dutch-style braid with the edges pulled apart to look fuller).

This fantasy photo shoot was something I never expected, but always secretly wanted.
— Ashley Mancuso
Photo taken by Taylor Burdin. 

Photo taken by Taylor Burdin. 

Tack

From performing with Douwe, I have two sets of tack, and we put them to good use! Both sets were designed and created by Lisa Oberman, of El Sueno Espanol, aka "the Tack Temptress".

Location

For the past several years, I have spent my winters in Florida at Southern Oaks Equestrian Center, owned and operated by my close friend, Marsha Hartford Sapp. Marsha's property, hidden along the farm roads of Tallahassee, is beautiful and lush. The large oak trees dripping with Spanish moss and the forested pastures provided stunning backdrops for the fantasy photo shoot.

It has been an unbelievable experience to draw out the visions inside of others and help them create their
own special experience they can look back on and say,

"Wow, dreams really do come true."

About the Photographer(s)

Taylor Burdin is a former student of mine from Isaac Royal. She currently works full time for L.L. Bean Inc., and does photography as a hobby. She uses vintage Canon and Nikon lenses on an Olympus EPL1 body. The fantasy photos were shot with an older Canon 50 mm f1.4 film camera lens, which gives the photos a softer look and a dream-like quality.

Karen is also a hobby photographer. Karen shoots with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III digital camera.


Q & A With Karen:

Q: When was the first moment that horses came into your life?

Karen: “My family had a ranch in Wyoming. We moved there full-time when I was 10. We had four horses at the time, and I would ride them every day with the cowboy that worked for us. We would fix fences, check watering holes, move the cows…I felt like I had died and gone to Heaven.”


Q: What inspired you to purchase Sandra's Fantasy Photo Shoots eBook?

Karen: I was very excited to pre-order Sandy's Fantasy Photo Shoots eBook, you see, as I needed ideas for a special shoot for my daughter. I wanted pictures of her with her beloved Retto, but I wanted them to be very special pictures; fun photos, not show photos. I wanted it to have an otherworldly feel.

Q: What made you want to involve your daughter in the photo shoot?

Karen: “I love doing things with Ashley; she always makes everything more fun!”


Q: What most excited you about the idea of the Fantasy Photo Shoot?

Karen: “Undoubtedly being able to sit on Douwe! He's magnificent!”


Q: You are a photographer yourself, what was it like to be on the other side of the camera?

Karen: “Normally I'm very uncomfortable in front of the camera, but this time I didn't even notice it; I was having too much fun with Sandra and Douwe.”

Q: What was it like to work with Sandra and Douwe?

Karen: “I felt like I was in very good hands. I felt completely entertained.”


Q: What were some of the thoughts going through your head as you were getting your hair and makeup done for the shoot?

Karen: “I have never worn make-up, except a little blush at my wedding, so having my hair and make-up done was very entertaining. The eyelashes were kind of scary. I just enjoyed the entire experience, honestly; it was playful and fun.”


Q: What is your advice for people who want to create/participate in a photo shoot, but have something standing in their way?

Karen: “Buy Sandy's book! I'm sure it's going to be full of helpful tips. Wardrobe is actually very important, so plan enough time to have that spot on. I struggled, but Sandra helped pull ‘The Huntress’ together. I'm in that position [creating a wardrobe] right now, actually, because I'm still planning my fantasy [photo] shoot with Ashley and her beloved Warmblood, Retto. Retto will always be her first love. He's super cool and I'm working on a cloak for that shoot. I have everything to put it together, I just need some sewing lessons first…”


Dramatic video of Clemence Faivre's new horse, Fuego; he is INCREDIBLE!

"Confidence breeds beauty."
                       - Estee Lauder

Clemence is one of my favorite performance artists. She became famous with her Portuguese stallion Gotan and now she is performing with this gorgeous buckskin named Fuego. He can perform all the same movements as Gotan due to her excellent training capabilities. Watch the spinning rear towards the end of the video, I haven't seen a horse do that before! Enjoy this beauty!

Transform Your Horse Into a Unicorn Part I: Where to Buy a Unicorn Horn

Unicorns and horses are both creatures that fuel our imaginations, showing us a different way of being in the world, allowing us to be maidens, princesses, knights, and faeries.

What do you envision for your unicorn photo shoot? Something light and ethereal? Or perhaps something a little dark and mysterious? It is unique to create a unicorn out of different colored horses, my Friesian looked amazing as a unicorn even though unicorns are not typically thought of as black.

Creative Inspiration

A few ideas for when having a unicorn would be useful:

  • Halloween costume
  • Portraits/Fantasy photos (for yourself or a client)
  • Think grandkids, birthday party photo prop, senior pictures, or social media (Instagram or Facebook!)
  • Craft project for the kids (summer camp, birthday party, after school program)

My favorite source for inspiration is definitely Pinterest.

Pinterest: I have over 14,000 followers on my Pinterest page with a variety of boards for you to get ideas from. Start with my "Unicorns & Pegasus", "Fantasy & Equine Photo Shoots", and "Costume Inspiration" boards to get started. Click here for my main Pinterest page or select the board you want to see below:

Let’s get started!

The Unicorn Horn

For the unicorn horn, you have a couple options: you can either buy one, or if you’re feeling crafty, you can make one yourself! (DIY information will be in Part:2)

There all sorts of unicorn horns available. There are fabric horns, plastic horns, glass horns, etc., and they range in length. If you have a pony, you may want to consider a shorter horn than you would use for a larger horse. Some horns even come adorned with flowers, gems, or beads. Generally, you will simply tie the horn onto your bridle/halter (either onto the brow band or onto the cheek piece and headpiece) using the ties at the base of the horn. Most horns you purchase will come with instructions.

You will also have color options. You can decide based on your horse’s coat color, mane and tail, costume, or your accessories. Personally, I like to match the horse's coat color as it looks the most natural. 

Many Etsy sellers will also work with you to create a custom piece that is unique to your needs.

Below are some of my favorite Etsy shops that sell affordable unicorn horns: 


 

Baby Birdie Boutique

Affordable fabric unicorn horns with beautiful floral accents. One size, 12". She offers two attachments including an elastic band and a large french clip. Visit store...


If Wishes Were Ponies

More expensive fabric unicorn horns but they offer a wider range of colors and custom sizes. If you have a very small pony or a large draft they can customize it for you. The Natural-Look Unicorn Horn™ attaches using either non-detachable or detachable loops and the Unicorn Browband comes attached to a browband.  Visit store...


The Unicorn Corner

These horns are made out of durable, lightweight plastic and attach with ribbon or elastic cording. Three sizes available 7, 9, and 12 inch. Visit store...


Gustavos Goods

Handmade horns available in multiple sizes, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10,11 inches. They attach with ribbon or elastic cording. Comes in a wide variety of colors. Visit store...


Part 2: How to Make a Unicorn Horn
Coming Soon!

The great horn that is between his eyes signifies that he is the supreme king.
— Book of Daniel VIII

If you have any questions about choosing a unicorn horn or you sell them online and would like to be added to this post, please send me an email at beginthedance@gmail.com.

Leave a comment below and share your experience or head over to the Fantasy Photo Shoots {Equine} Facebook Group and share photos with the group. It is an amazing group of talented, creative people and you will have fun sharing your photos, getting ideas from others, and asking questions. Click here to go to join the group.

Who is Behind the Mask? Friesians Fly in Fantasia at 2011 Equine Affaire!

"Nothing is more real than the masks we make to show each other who we are." -Christopher Barzak

Every year I go to the Fantasia event at the Equine Affaire and of course I always keep an eye out for anything with Friesians. This year (2011) there was a new quadrille group called "Behind the Mask". Their costumes were very well done, especially the masks on the horses. It is very difficult to ride in a full mask,  it blocks your peripheral vision, making it harder to see the other riders, especially the rider next to you. The music was very high-energy and the horses showed some electric trot steps. Enjoy!

Let all thought leave your mind, feel your horse rhythm's time...

This beautiful saying was created by my mother-in-law Bethanne Regaglia. It has become my business motto and I love to share it with others. Riding a horse is so much more than learning physical skills. It is a mind-game, an opportunity to become one with the present moment, and a challenge to let go of our anxiety, tension, and our worries. I admit this is definitely a struggle some days...but when I finally get to that special place that's where the magic happens! 

The calligraphy design is one of my art originals. I have a collection of designs on my SandraB. Designs website including clothing, apparel, and gifts. Click here to see the entire collection of designs and sayings.

Beautiful Dancer SAILS with Andalusian Horse

"When I dance, the sun sails safely through the night;
When I dance, the future is formed by my feet;
When I dance, the stars move through the heavens;
When I dance, Venus shimmers the desert;
When I dance, dust becomes silver, stones are made of gold!"
Cosi Fabian
 

This video was shot back in 2013. I am riding Rovandio (Andalusian/Lipizzan gelding) bitless with my good friend, and dancer, Lydia Rose Spencer. The footage is from Isaac Royal Farm in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, a picturesque setting. The video was created by Alan Dillingham, the director I worked with on the indie film Essential Realism, Frost Bite and a short film called Invasion. It was a COLD and WINDY day but Rovandio was excellent. I was planning to ride Douwe but he wasn't quite himself so Rovy filled in and was superb. Only one day to practice with Lydia dancing and he figured it out in a snap. Make sure you see the part where Lydia defies gravity in her split leaps at the 2 minute mark! Enjoy!

Find the RIGHT Photographer for a Fantasy Photo Shoot with your Horse - Download the Resource Guide

It can be challenging to find a photographer that understands horses and also has a creative spirit. I created this resource guide to help you find a creative photographer near you. This guide will be updated regularly, just check back periodically for a fresh download. It includes multiple pages with photographers from the USA, Europe, UK, and Australia. If you are a photographer and would like to be added to the guide please email me at beginthedance@gmail.com. 

Click here to DOWNLOAD the .PDF Guide

The image below is just a screenshot of the guide, please CLICK on it to go to the actual .PDF where you can
download it for your own use or click on the links to learn more about the photographers.