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.

Improve Your Ride with a Positive Attitude! 6 Tips to Help You Focus & Relax

Horse are incredibly sensitive creatures, they rely on their instincts for their overall safety. If they sense an uncomfortable situation their "fight or flight" mentality comes into play.  Horses will teach you the incredible power of your emotions and how to harness your personal energy. If you arrive at the barn in a negative mood, frustrated or tired, the horse will sense that as weakness and feel uneasy. If you approach their stall in a great mood, confident, and looking forward to your ride then they will be more interested in their work. Put yourself in your horse's shoes...if your owner/rider was tense and frustrated you wouldn't be that excited to go trot and canter circles over and over again would you? It took me many years for this to really sink in. I spent so many rides in frustration at my inability to improve. I am a type-A, goal oriented person and learning to train a horse doesn't exactly go according to plan. I broke down in tears more times than I care to remember. I tried too hard and let myself think negatively about my skills. This blocked my ability to relax and really feel my horse. Timing comes when the rider can truly be "in the moment" with their horse. You must focus and read the horse's body language to react quickly and correctly. If you are constantly thinking negative thoughts such as, "I am never going to get this." "The other riders look good, why can't I do it?" "This is too hard, why won't my horse just do it!" "He always spooks in that corner." "I always get tight in the flying changes."

What you think about materializes into reality so be careful! If you constantly repeat any negative thoughts they will continue to be a problem in your riding. You must learn to take a negative thought and turn it into a positive one. For example: "I am never going to get this!" can turn into "This is hard but I am going to master it!" You are recognizing the difficulty but encouraging yourself to push on and believe that you can do it. We can only accomplish what we truly believe is possible.

3 Tips to Help You Focus:

  • Surround you and your horse in an imaginary bubble. Imagine that you and your horse are enclosed in a quiet, safe place. Almost like an invisible force field that protects you from outside, negative energy. I try to feel that my aura is merging with my horse's aura, creating a highly positive force field.
  • Close your eyes.  Don't allow your eyes to wander towards the on-lookers or the other riders if they intimidate you or make you feel inferior. That will only make you self-concious and your ride bad, the opposite result that you actually want! Try closing your eyes for a few strides, feel the horse moving with you, or focus on the horse's ears, notice if his attention is on you. The better you can filter out the unnecessary thoughts and distractions, the more sensitive you will be to the finer details of riding your horse.
  • Ride a pattern. Pick a dressage test that you and your horse are familiar with and ride through it. This gives you something to focus on and relays confidence to your horse because you are certain where you are going. Often times riders wander around the arena aimlessly and never really know if their horse is truly on the aids.

3 Tips to Help You Relax:

  • Have NO Expectations. I have found over the years that I ride better when I have NO expectations of how my ride will go. I am not focusing on a specific test for scores for an upcoming show...I am simply riding my horse, working on weaknesses and enjoying our strengths. Horses do not have an agenda and they certainly do not always agree with the rider every day. Try to be aware of how your horse is feeling and tailor your ride accordingly.
  • Take your time in warm-up.  Rushing your warm-up is a key to disaster! Your warm-up should be based on rhythm and relaxation. I always start with a free walk on a long rein to allow the horse and myself to warm up together. I like to feel my hips open, my legs relax and then feel the back of the horse swinging with a relaxed topline. Make sure your basics are intact, the energy is good, the swing through the back is there, and your horse is supple before you attempt the harder movements.
  • Smile! The simple act of smiling can also change your attitude. If you are becoming negative and over-focusing on a problem I suggest taking a walk break (very important for the horse as well if he is frustrated). Try to find something in your mind, in another horse/rider, or in your surroundings that you think is positive. Recognize it and smile, appreciate the positive and then pick up your reins and go back to your ride. This is also a great opportunity to breathe deeply and release tension in your back and shoulders.

I hope these suggestions help you Begin the Dance with your horse. If you have any other tips to help riders develop a positive attitude please leave a comment below! Or you can email me with any comments or questions at beginthedance@gmail.com.