September 2018 - Equine Sports Cars

Allison Mathy offers Lusitanos whose good looks wrap a complete sporthorse package.

by Kim F. Miller

Kristin Evanson is not one for flash in a horse. “I’m not into stuff like that,” says the 60-year-old amateur dressage rider. But she couldn’t disagree when her friends teased her about her new “Barbi horse,” Déjà Vu. Kristin’s 11 year old Prix St. Georges-trained Lusitano is a palimino with lovely, indeed “flashy,” looks and gaits and temperament to match.


A Minnesota resident, Kristin looked far and wide for the right next horse. She’d been a fan of Iberian horses thanks to a good experience with her Andalusian/Thoroughbred cross. Intrigued by an ad for Déjà Vu placed by Allison Mathy of Lyric Dressage, Kristin made a trip to Northern California to meet the handsome steed.

Allison Mathy and her Lusitano stallion Xerifino. Photo: © J Mraz Photography

Encanto do Arête, Lusitano stallion for sale at Lyric Dressage

With her Lyric Dressage, Allison has a long history of show ring success with various breeds. She continues her dressage training, coaching and competing but has zeroed in on developing a Lusitano sales business, in partnership with established Lusitano breeder, trainer and judge André Ganc of Brazil. Often described as the “sports car model” of sporthorses, Lusitanos are enjoying increasing popularity in the United States. As such, Allison recognized the need for a sales program rooted in experience, knowledge and integrity. Five years ago, they began bringing Lusitanos to the States for those seeking well-trained, talented, safe and reliable horses from a trustworthy source.

Allison Mathy and her Lusitano stallion Vaquarius CD

André Ganc of Vale do Arête

“We are trainers first and foremost, so we select horses from that perspective,” Allison explains. She and André insist on knowing the provenance of each horse Allison brings to the States for sale. If not from André’s own breeding program, the horses come from a breeder the team knows and trusts. The horses’ early handling and training is equally important to make the most of the Lusitano’s naturally intelligent, kind and confident temperament. Lusitanos were bred specifically to be riding horses, so a classical dressage foundation is another “must have” for the horses they represent.

André Ganc

“I’m not a broker,” Allison notes. “I buy them. We’ve tried them out, done thorough pre-purchase exams and assume all the risks and responsibilities of bringing them to the States.” Upon arrival in Petaluma, Allison gets them fit after their travel and lays on whatever fine-tuning is needed to prepare them for potential clients.  
    
Good Experience In New Territory

Kristin didn’t know Allison when she saw the ad for Déjà vu. A friend gave the trainer a strong referral and Kristin made the first of what turned out to be three trips to California to test him out. At 60, the rider felt this might be her “last horse” and she wanted to be extra sure. She bought him in May of this year and quickly concluded that he is everything she dreamed of and more.

Susie Meyer-Beck and El Negro

Her report echoes a list of attributes that Allison seeks in her sales horses: “Super sweet, confident, intelligent, willing, bold, brave and intent on doing his job.” Kristin alternates between keeping Déjà Vu at a nearby training program and at her own home stable. “He is easy to have at home,” she says. “I don’t have to be under a trainer’s supervision to ride him. I still take lessons because I need to learn to ride him better, but he allows me more independence. As long as you are kind and not forceful, he’s very forgiving. He has confidence in himself and I adore that.”

Kristin has competed seriously over the years, but is currently focusing on and enjoying simply “getting to know my new horse better.”

Her only regret is that she hadn’t found him sooner. A petite rider who doesn’t want to become a gym rat just to be able to ride effectively, Kristin uses another car analogy to describe the experience of riding her new horse. “If you are driving a lot in the city, you don’t want a big pick-up truck.” It’s not just about size, it’s about handling and enjoying the ride. “It’s a little bit like a sports car,” she continues.

Imperio do Castanheiro owned by Tania Radda

“They can be very fancy, they’re not hard on your hand or super strong, even though they are physically strong.”

Her complete satisfaction with and enjoyment of Déjà Vu also reflects Allison’s work. “You can tell he was not trained under a lot of pressure,” Kristin concludes. “When I get on him, he’s calm, not worried. He doesn’t get all pumped up: he’s in the moment.”

“Your Wingman”

Kristin is one of several happy clients to corroborate what Allison has long known about her favorite breed: “The Lusitano is truly your partner, they’re your wingman.”

Carisma do Arête, FEI Lusitano stallion

In short, the perfect package: “athleticism, temperament, easily handled and brave. That’s what I expect of the horses I bring to the States and what I confidently offer.”

The USDF Gold, Silver and Bronze medal dressage trainer describes them as an “intellectual” versus “physical” ride. “Of course, you have to be fit, balanced in the saddle and have the basics, but they are so athletic and willing and such quick studies that you ride them more with your brain than with force or muscle.”

Allison Mathy and Saltando do Norte

Versatility is another Lusitano trait, as evidenced by their popularity in the equestrian sport of working equitation. Huge in Europe and South America, this mutli-faceted discipline is rapidly gaining enthusiasts in the United States. The sport is all about rideability, agility and speed, exhibited in a three- or four-phase competition.

Bob and Barbara Lawson are grateful to Allison for introducing them to both Lusitanos and working equitation. Prior to meeting her, the couple had ridden an Arabian and a Quarter Horse. Bob appreciated Allison’s open attitude toward helping him with his Quarter Horse when they first began working together, yet has no regrets about he and Barbara’s conversion to new horses and new ways of enjoying them through working equitation.

Young Lusitano Stallion for sale at Vale do Arête

Bob bought the couple’s first Lusitano as a gift for Barbara, and they’ve since bought two more from Allison. Bob bought his own horse, Burladero, three years ago as a 9-year-old, and Barbara’s Christmas horse is the 10 year old Dom do Nico. Bob has a little more mileage in working equitation competition and Barbara’s horse arrived with a bit less training and experience, but “now I have a hard time beating them!” he reports.

The Lawsons love their trainer as much as the horses they’ve bought from her. They live in Ukiah, a 90-minute drive from Allison, yet make the trek to ride with her two to three days a week. “She knows everything, she’s an excellent teacher and super positive,” Bob says. In his several years of owning horses, “I’ve never met anyone who is as qualified and talented as she is.”

Young Lusitano stallion for sale at Valle do Arête

Allison loves it when students buy her Lusitanos, but she’s equally dedicated to those who have the horses in training with other professionals and to those professionals. “I want the horse to have a successful life and career,” she explains. “André and I know these horses really well and I have candid, detailed, ongoing conversations with their new owners and trainers.” The same goes for buyers who work with the horses on their own. “It’s a continuous post-buying experience.”
    
Bred To Ride

From a big picture perspective, Lusitanos have benefited from growing acceptance of the Iberian breeds, horses from the Iberian Peninsula. When the Spanish team won Olympic dressage silver in Athens in 2000 with three Andalusians, it was a game changer for the horse owning public’s perception of the Iberian breeds’ suitability for dressage at the highest level. Yet there’s a double-edged sword in that because many perceive all Iberian or “Baroque” breeds to be the same and they are not, Allison stresses. Andalusians, from Spain, and Lusitanos, from Portugal and Brazil, are both considered Iberian, yet they are very different.

The Lusitanos’ origins are its most important characteristic, the trainer asserts. “They’ve always been bred for sport, to be a good partner, with a good mind and great work ethic.” Parades and beauty pageants were never their breeders’ intent. “People are getting wise to this,” Allison explains of the breed’s growing presence in the U.S. “These are superior sporthorses with a temperament that can’t be beat.”

Vaquarius CD

As has been the case with many breeds’ acceptance and popularity in the States, it comes with an influx of less-than-knowledgeable and sometimes unscrupulous representatives. That reality catalyzed Allison’s desire to partner with André in bringing Lusitanos to the States the right way.

“As a trainer, it’s heartbreaking to see some quality horses that had not been treated fairly,” she reflects. Having re-trained several horses who met that fate before coming to her, “I wondered what it would be like to get these horses before they acquired that baggage.”

Encanto do Arête

Allison got to know André because he exported her stallion, Vaquarius CD’s, sire, Quarteto do Top. “I always loved that horse and I wanted to know who found and trained him before he came to the United States.” They stayed in regular touch, with André coming to her training barn to give clinics and helping her on horse shopping visits to Brazil. “As professional horsemen, we have the same mindset and ethics about the way we treat the horse, how they should be cared for and trained,” Allison says of the common ground that triggered their partnership.    

From the get-go, the business model has been to bring in horses trained solidly to at least Third or Fourth Level dressage and that embody the breed’s highest standards in conformation, soundness and temperament. Buyers “were off and running” right away rather than having to “take three steps backwards” with their new horse, she says. The ripple effect of those stories circulating in the horse world has created ever-growing demand. “People are seeking us out for horses trained by responsible, conventional people using a respectable system,” Allison says. Their “very discriminating” approach to selecting horses keeps the breed standard at its highest as popularity here grows, for the good of the buyer and, most importantly, the horse.   

For more information, visit www.lyricdressage.com.