The year 2018 had been a fairytale year for Dan Huss and Ms Dreamy, as the duo had already claimed a gold and silver medal the 2018 World Equestrian Games where they represented the United States. And it was coming to an end as they ran into the Jim Norick Arena for the last time in the senior reining finals at the AQHA World Show. Huss knew it was going to be a finals he would never forget, but he had no idea just how memorable it would actually be.
By now you’re probably one of the hundreds of thousands of people who have seen Huss’ run in the finals; nearly minutes after he completed his pattern, his video spread like wildfire through social media as people from all disciplines watched in awe with the way the team came together and continued showing (as if nothing happened) after a mishap left them bridleless in the first part of their pattern. What many people didn’t know about this iconic run, is that this would be Ms Dreamy’s final run before heading into retirement.
The Scratch That Made History
Horses, just like people, have different habits in the show pen. As Huss was preparing for the World Equestrian Games earlier in the year, he noticed Ms Dreamy was more relaxed when she had the chance to scratch her legs between spins. Eventually, this scratch became part of her routine, and if you look back at her runs at the World Equestrian Games, you’ll see it in action.
“Normally she only scratched one side of her face for about 10 seconds,” Huss shared. “She wanted to scratch her face a little longer at the world show, and since it was the last time we were going to show, I let her.”
The second set of spins were business as usual, but as Huss loped off on the left lead to start the first set of large circles, he noticed the mare elevate her head—something she normally wouldn’t do. In that moment, the quick-release headstall came apart (due to the head scratching), leaving Huss with only seconds to decide if he would continue on with his ride or pull up.
Nobody plans for something like that to happen—especially during the finals at a major event. But in that very moment, Huss was brought back to a reining class in the early 80s.
“I immediately remembered the time Rusty Dare was showing in a reining class and had just gone from a large, fast circle to a small, slow circle when he dropped a bridle rein. He looped the rein around his horn, picked up the other rein with his rein hand and finished the pattern and won,” shared Huss. “That’s when I knew I had to finish this pattern and get a score.”
So in the middle of his circle, Huss gathered up the bridle and continued on with a pattern that would go down as one of the best runs in world show history.
“She was very relaxed through the whole thing,” Huss shared. “She wasn’t anticipating anything, she waited for every cue I gave her, and she stayed locked in that circle even has I was leaning down to grab the headstall.”
It was even more important that Huss focused on his body position, to ensure Ms Dreamy knew exactly what he was asking at every step of the ride.
“I knew I had to be extremely solid in my cues since and look where I want to go,” he shared. “She started to get a little ahead of me during the second set of fast circles—not enough to where you could see it on camera, but something I could feel—so I focused more on my seat and leg cues to get her hooked back on to what I was asking her to do and she came right back to me.”
If you’re familiar with reining, you know that some of the most exciting parts of a pattern happen when it comes time to ask for a stop. This run was no different. As Huss prepared for the finals stops in his pattern, he realized with every stop she felt better than the last and asked a little more out of her.
“As we went around the end, she was extremely relaxed, so I built her up a little faster going into the first stop—but also didn’t leave it wide open so she could misread my cues,” he shared. “Her stop and rollback felt good, and as we came around the end of the arena to stop again, she felt even better.”
In fact, as Huss completed his second rollback and headed into his last stop, he noticed Ms Dreamy slowed down so much it almost felt like she was going to half-halt. He knew with her being so relaxed he could get even more out of her going into her final stop.
“As I completed the second rollback, I felt like I was sitting pretty good—besides having lost my bridle—and I wanted to finish strong,” he said. “This was all going through my head before I come around to go into my last stop, and I was thinking about how this would be the last time I’ll ever stop this mare, so I asked her to run harder. She stopped even better that time.”
You could tell Ms Dreamy was loving the attention as much as the audience was loving the performance. As she completed her stop, she lifted her head, ears forward and licking her lips, and looked at the crowd as the duo received a standing ovation.
Retiring a Legend
It wasn’t the way Huss wanted to end his career riding this once-in-a-lifetime horse, and as he left the arena, he was quite sad knowing a gold trophy was out a reach due to a tack malfunction, but he soon realized that this ride meant far more than any gold trophy. This ride would go down in history.
“At the time I was pretty upset; I knew I had enough horse to potentially win the class and it was the last time I’d get to show her,” he shared. “I had no idea this ride would become such a big deal at the time, but the minute I left the arena my phone started blowing up from calls and texts with people telling me how amazing that ride was.”
Since then, Huss has heard from some of the judges who were in that arena that night, including Jody Brainard who let Huss know that he marked him a 77.5—the highest he had ever scored a horse in a reining event.
In the end, Huss may have not claimed the golden globe he was aiming for with this run, but his accidental bridleless run will be remembered for years from horse lovers of all riding disciplines.