Tonk’s Guy Crush

By Terry Golson

On Sunday we trailered an hour and a half to the Beland Dressage Show. Tonk and I have moved up to USDF recognized shows where the competition is stiffer and the judges are more exacting than the schooling shows that we attended last year. About 80% of the horses at these competitions are big-moving, big-bodied warmbloods. These horses are usually in muted, elegant colors of bay, black and brown. Tonk was the only Paint. Except for a couple of Morgans, he was the smallest horse there.

Our first ride was at 8:14 am, the second horse of the day to go, which means that when we arrived, we had the warmup field to ourselves. Tonk hollered once to announce his presence and to see if anyone that he knows was there. There was no response and he settled right in. Compared to the other horses at these recognized dressage shows, Tonka doesn’t have a whole lot of natural talent, but he has the perfect temperament.




Soon others arrived. Tonk ignored them.



Much of his good behavior is due to the sort of training that I do. I reward him generously for paying attention and trying. Even at a show I stop the action when he’s done something right and give a cookie.



This makes for a happy horse, even at a venue where there’s tension and new things to be wary of.



Warming up, we were the only competitor to do a relaxed canter around the field. This was not the frame that he would be in while in the ring – that would be more condensed and pushing from the rear. But it wouldn’t help to drill that collected work into him. After a long trailer ride he needed to stretch and get the kinks out.



We can’t compete against the fancy warmbloods on movement, but we can on flow, correctness and attitude. This square halt earned us an 8 on a scale of 0 to 10. (See this post about teaching the square halt with R+)



In our two classes we came in second and third. Our training level one test score was the second highest of any horse of the entire day! In this photo, taken when the test was over, doesn’t it looks like Tonk is satisfied with himself?



But Tonk didn’t care about ribbons. He had a guy crush.



There was another colorful horse on the premises! Tonka couldn’t take his eyes off of him.



This draft horse’s trailer was parked near us so we got to watch him walk by and get saddled up. I don’t know if Tonk saw the coloring and it reminded him of the Paint horses that he grew up with on the ranch in Texas, or whether he simply loved this massive horse’s gentle head. Whatever, while I fussed with Tonk, and while he grazed, my horse kept one eye on this big guy.



Tonk watched this horse with the sort of eager face that a toddler has when he’s about to be let loose on a playground. But, being thousand pound horses at a show, these two didn’t get to play. Crushes can be like that. Wistful, but wonderful just the same.


11 thoughts on “Tonk’s Guy Crush

  • Jan

    Congratulations, I knew you and Tonk would do well. Fully deserved after all the work you put in. Tonk always looks so relaxed and seems to enjoy himself such a shame he could not say hello to the paint draft, he certainly was an impressive large guy…:)

    • Terry Golson Post author

      There’s always a danger of injury when two horses meet. And at shows you have the increased risk of spreading disease. Looking is enough at these venues 🙂

  • Tracy

    Terry, congratulations! Those are some wonderful placements and single scores for Tonka’s level of experience. Says so much about how you have helped him. And hey, who wouldn’t have a crush on a big, handsome draft? (I confess, I am slightly draft obsessed. Something about their honesty combined with that working earnestness. Add a handsome head and a kind eye and I swoon, too.)

  • Chicken Carol

    Loved this post. Lovely photos and lovely story. Tonk is so handsome but, oh my, so is that huge horse too. No wonder Tonker had a bit of a crush! Well done for your scores.

  • Christine

    Do not feel out of place on Tonk at a USDF recognized show!!!! Last year I rode the Prix St. George test on my very loudly colored Paint mare at Beland in September for the very first time ever. Trained her myself and she lives in my backyard – true story! Scored over 60% and then did it again a few weeks later at Mystic Valley Hunt Club in CT to finish my USDF silver medal. Just because our horses don’t blend into the crowd does not mean that they aren’t ‘dressage’ horses. Show those Warmbloods how it’s done!

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Wow! Congratulations to you both. The silver medal is quite the accomplishment. Are you showing this summer? We should meet up.

      • Christine

        If I can get her ready for the Intermediare I test, maybe Beland fall in September. It’s really close to home for us. We’re really training up for the Grand Prix (gives me goosebumps to even say that) so I may stay home this year and then show a bit next year. Gold medal??? Perhaps. All that said – she’s a natural, normal horse. Lives in my backyard with 4 goats to keep her company. I train in my open fields. People can’t believe I don’t practice in a “proper” ring. Happy horses do well!!!

        • Terry Golson Post author

          I’m sure that wiithout an indoor that you give her plenty of breaks for bad weather. No daily drilling of exercises. Excellent! And I’m sure those goats impart a sense of humor to her days 🙂

  • Durbin Goodwin

    As always, a wonderful Tonk and Terry adventure to share. Tonk is a handsome horse. Personally, I like the look of Tonk better than the draft horse. But what I like best is the bonding the two of you have with each other. Congratulations on such a successful showing and I am sure there are many more to come.

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