Michael Barisone Debuts Urbanus in 1st Ever Show, at Grand Prix
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Feb. 2–Michael Barisone has been training Urbanus T for the past eight years and never entered a competition arena until Saturday when he rode the 12-year-old KWPN gelding in the show ring for the first time to win a national Grand Prix at the Wellington World Cup event.
“It’s a start,” Michael said after Urbanus (Hemmingway x Jelse x Amethist) received a score of 72.660 per cent from U.S. judge Mike Osinski of Olympia, Washington. “We had to get to the ring and get the job done.”
Michael’s student, Lauren Spreiser, on Victorious were second on 66.489 per cent.
Urbanus was just 3 1/2 years old when he arrived at Michael’s training center in Long Valley, New Jersey from Paul Hendrix in the Netherlands, related by family through Michael’s wife, Vera Kessels.
The bay was one of several horses shipped from Stal Hendrix to Michael and Vera over the years with no set agenda, but to train them to see how they develop with some sold along the way.
Urbanus was a back burner project to the flamboyant moving Timeless, a black KWPN gelding (Jazz x Fanoek x Able Albert) for which Michael had high hopes of becoming a United States team horse. But he has been sidelined by a series of injuries and, like Urbanus, has not been in a competition arena.
“He’s a terrific guy,” Michael said of Urbanus. “He went to the ring exactly as he does every day. He performs exactly the same wherever he is. You know the saying, ‘You can win with a horse who’s less than brilliant but cannot win with a horse that is inconistent.’
“You put this guy on the trailer,” he said of taking Urbanus to different show grounds to experience the atmosphere, “you take him out and he acts the same.”
Michael has enjoyed international success over many years–with Comanche he was a member of the first American team to ever win a Nations Cup, at Hickstead, England in 1997; finishing sixth on Safir in the final selection trials for the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and reserve for the U.S. team on Neruda at the Beijing Games in 2008.
His experience has given him a fresh perspective on competition and the future of American dressage.
He is convinced it belongs to a new generation of riders that he says includes Silva Martin, wife of the eventer Boyd Martin, an Aussie turned American; Caroline Roffman who was the FEI “Rising Star” in 2010 and Alison Brock who returned home after almost two years training with Kyra Kyrklund in England.
“If we keep going with these younger riders and several new horses,” he said of the gap between the top dressage nations and the United States, “we’ll catch up.”
As to Urbanus, he has been working with Michael Poulin who travels from his farm to central Florida to Michael’s South Florida barn in Loxahatchee.
The week before the horse’s first show, former U.S. team coach Klaus Balkenhol, visiting Florida, gave him a lesson on Urbanus.
“Some of the things he told me I used in the ring,” he said.
“I told Klaus that if things go right I may come over to Europe for a couple of months.”
Before that, though, he wants to compete Urbanus in several more shows before entering a CDI.
He did, however, fulfill a joking command from Paul Hendrix when told he was going to compete Urbanus in his first show, “I expect a score over 70 per cent and a blue ribbon.”
The goal for now is the next global championship, the World Equestrian Games in Normandy in 2014.
Why wait so long before going into the show ring?
“I don’t really care about getting another ribbon at 4th level,” he said.
“For me, I want to get out and do better than I have in the past.”
That means better than the Grad Prix results that placed him among America’s elite riders.