Khosmic Wind was already a champion in the world of cutting horses when Judy Urban first saw the 15-hand, 9-year-old, purebred Arabian stallion and decided to see if he would make a dressage horse. Seven years later Judy has won her U.S. Dressage Federation (USDF) silver medal riding "Mickey" and is now working toward her gold. The pair competed successfully at Intermediaire I and Urban has her eyes set on riding Grand Prix.
"I'm not aware of any other cutting horse of his caliber who is also an upper-level dressage horse," says Urban, who explains that Mickey's intelligence along with his calm, willing temperament made the transition possible. "The two disciplines require very different kinds of work," she says. "In cutting, the movements are very fast, very quick. A cutting horse slides into the stop. He spins and pivots with one leg planted firmly in place. By contrast, dressage requires relaxation. In a canter pirouette, for example, all the legs must be kept moving."
Urban found that one of the hardest movements to change was the halt. Mickey had been taught to back up quickly after halting, as is typical of cutting horses, and it was hard for him to learn to halt in a forward way.
Another big difference is contact with the bit. "In cutting, the cow is chosen out of the herd, and the rider sets the reins down so they are very loose," Urban says. "If you touch the reins at all you get points counted off. The horse is supposed to do the job. Whereas, in dressage, ideally, the horse and rider become one as they work together."
Mickey's owner, Rita Pearson, has allowed Urban to compete Mickey and is equally excited about his accomplishments. Urban is setting her sights on a USDF gold medal. Of her versatile mount, Urban says, "He has a real big heart and wants to try."
This article first appeared in the November 1999 issue of Dressage Today magazine.