Laura Hermanson is playing her part in a real-life Cinderella story, but her four white horses just so happen to be mules. Hermanson is making history by competing in high-level dressage championships with mules—one of which, Heart B Dyna, is the subject of an upcoming documentary film about her acceptance into the U.S. Dressage Federation (USDF) Finals in Lexington, Ky.
Dressage, a French term for “training,” is a highly competitive and expressive form of riding and one of the few Olympic sports involving animals. Sometimes referred to as “ballet for equines,” dressage is considered by some to be the ultimate athletic collaboration between humans and animals.
Typically performed with European “warmblood” horses (middle-weight breeds used primarily for equestrian sport), dressage is a rather esoteric endeavor. At its most competitive levels, dressage is done with horses that can cost half a million dollars.
“When I first started showing [mules] in dressage, they were not well-received,” Hermanson, who grew up doing dressage, told The Sheet. “Most horses are imported from Europe, and most horses I compete against are $100,000-plus. So when an American-bred mule showed up” heads certainly turned.
Mules were officially allowed to compete in dressage by the United States Equestrian Federation beginning in 2004, but none of them had made it into the upper echelons of the sport, until Hermanson get involved. Currently, she shows four of the eight mules competing on the USDF level—Heart B. Dyna, Behold the Desert, BB Magee, and Moxie. The latter two, owned by Susan Magee (BB) and John Magee (Moxie) of Washington, D.C., competed in dressage at this year’s Mule Days in Bishop. The caramel-colored BB recently took third place in First Level Freestyle Dressage at the USDF National Championships in October of last year. The 17-hand-high Moxie won last year’s Mule Days English Rail Class and Dressage. “He’s the fanciest of them all,” said Hermanson of Moxie. “His nickname is ‘Liberace’ because he’s so dramatic.”