Micaela “Mica” Mabragaña Conveys Honor to the Development of the Grand Prix Horse
Written by Betsy LaBelle - In Dressage Directory - Sunday, November 6, 2016
Continuing to climb to the top levels in the sport of dressage for Argentina, Mica Mabragaña has competed in more than 50 Grand Prix tests on different types of horses. Building on the knowledge and confidence she has acquired by rigorously competing for the last five years at the highest level, including placing fifth for Team Argentina at the 2015 Pan American Games and by formerly working for Lendon Gray during her early 20s as a working student, Mica strengthens her business at Watch Hill Farm in Bedford, New York and Wellington, Florida.
A firm believer in building a special connection to a horse, Mica emphasizes, “It’s important to me that my horses are happy, whether in the arena working, out of the arena or at a competition. I have a strong belief that horses need to be horses and that we need to understand them for them to do their best for us.”
A USDF gold, silver and bronze medalist, USDF Certified Instructor to 4th Level and a top professional, Mica is proud to help others achieve their goals while she develops a genuine attachment to every horse. “I chose this profession because of my love for the horses and what we all can do together.” Proving a successful philosophy, Mica continues to score well at competitions at all levels, including this past winter in the Grand Prix at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival and this summer in New York.
Developing Her Love for Horses
Now twenty-nine years old, Mica was born in the metropolitan city of Buenos Aires, Argentina to a very close and loving family. Her passion for horses was fostered by riding with her father on weekends at their beautiful Argentinian countryside farm called La Malena. As the youngest child of three and the only sibling enthusiastic to ride with their dad, she learned how to handle a horse as they rode the long morning trails.
At the age of 11, Mica’s parents decided to sell the farm which led her family to look for a stable in Buenos Aires for Mica to begin her journey of learning the fundamentals in equitation and the disciplines necessary for a good future with horses.
When she was 12, Mica began dressage and jumping, and playing pony games “gymkhana” in a pony riding group called Los Pampas in Club Hipico Mediterraneo that specialized in teaching youngsters about the rudiments of a horse’s movements and rider position. Her trainer at the facility, Fernanda López Santiso, taught Mica some dressage fundamentals, “She really taught the right basics, the correct aids and the correct seat. She played a huge role in my education.”
Building the Connection to Dressage
At 14, Mica moved with her coach Fernanda to Club Hípico Argentino, the most prestigious equestrian facility in all of Buenos Aires. That same year, American dressage Olympian Lendon Gray, a consummate supporter in providing training and competition opportunities to talented young riders, invited six Argentinian young riders to her Sunnyfield Farm in Bedford, New York for a couple of weeks to prepare and compete at her competition for youth riders now called Lendon’s Youth Dressage Festival.
Given the chance to ride Lendon’s own Grand Prix Connemara cross gelding Last Seen, this was where Mica’s journey in the sport of dressage truly began. “It was an eye opening experience,” Mica said, “an opportunity I will never forget.”
While preparing for the competition at Sunnyfield Farm, Mica said, “I also got to watch Courtney King-Dye work with Lendon each day. That’s where I discovered you don’t have to be a millionaire to pursue this sport, as I knew was the case in Argentina. I saw that with ambition and hard work, achieving the dream of being a great rider was possible for someone like me. ”
During the Youth Championships, Mica watched a demonstration given by Courtney King-Dye riding Idocus, a Dutch Warmblood stallion. “To me, the picture of Courtney and Idocus was almost unreal, a fairy tale. You could see the relationship she had with the horse. Everything was so graceful, it was poetry in motion. I had never seen anything like that before. It was like watching pure harmony. She made such an impression on me and she didn’t even know just how inspirational she was for me. Watching her, helped me to know what I wanted to do with my life.”
Returning to Argentina, she began riding clients’ horses to work for lessons until she could complete her studies and pursue her dream of returning to America, “During those three years, I had the help of Mara Osacar (7 time National Argentina Dressage Champion and Pan American competitor). She loaned me one of her horses to compete and I’m so grateful to her. She encouraged me to come to the US to learn and grow as a rider.”
Returning to America
During her final South American summer school break, Mica traveled to the U.S. for two winter months to be a working student/assistant trainer to Lendon Gray. After graduation, she returned to Lendon’s farm and the two worked for five more years together. “Lendon’s given me a lot of opportunities. I owe her a lot of credit for my success. Every day I appreciate what she has done for me.”
Mica also gives credit to Courtney King-Dye, Scott Hassler and Beth Baumert, “Lendon taught me to ‘make it happen.’ Courtney gave me the visual of how it’s all supposed to happen. Scott taught me so much about the horse’s mind, when it’s fair to ask a horse to do something. He’s really influenced me. And, Beth is technical and pays so much attention to details.” She continued, “Between all of them, I believe I really have a great base.”
Mica’s Horses and Riding Triumphs
Mica started working with Granada, a Swedish Warmblood gelding (Granit x Warrigal x Dorn) owned by Sam Grunkorn in 2007. The pair competed in the European World Cup for Young Riders and then Mica trained the horse up to the Grand Prix level. An unfortunate injury kept them sidelined for more than two years and although Granada recovered and the pair qualified, they did not go to the 2014 World Equestrian Games for Argentina. The pair did compete in the 2015 Pan American Games where they placed 5th with Team Argentina. Now at 20 years, Granada is retired from competition but is still ridden daily by his 80-year-old owner. Mica hopes to soon help them try for the Century Club.
Jubilant, 17-year-old Grand Prix Oldenburg Stallion owned by Anne Wood and Virginia Easley, stallion name Don Calidas (Don Schufro x Furioso II), “This has been a horse I cherish because we’ve had so many small victories to the Grand Prix level,” Mica confirmed.
Zodiaco HM, a Lusitano stallion owned by Nancy Pine and trained to Grand Prix by his owner under the watchful eyes of Mica. “His wonderful owner wanted me to show him to confirm the upper-levels and he did really well in the Intermediaire I and the small tour. We’ve already qualified for Regionals. He’s schooling all the Grand Prix.”
Tyara, 16-year-old Grand Prix Dutch Warmblood mare (Farrington x Jolimba x Bazuin) owned by Cesar Lopardo Grana, scored with Mica in the 70% range at the 2016 Adequan Global Dressage Festival. “She was a horse of a lifetime! I’m so thankful to Cesar for the opportunity to rider her in the big CDI ring.”
Wen, owned by Mica, is a 6-year-old American Warmblood by WakeUp, the pair will be competing this upcoming winter season. “He is the first horse I own myself, and I think he is going to be special."
Mica’s Training Philosophy
“I’m a big fan of turnout and the horses love it,” Mica explained. “I work outside the ring some days so the training doesn’t become tedious and the horses don’t feel over-drilled.” She elaborated, “Outside I’ll do some cavaletti work. I love galloping the horses on the track, mixing it up, with real work in between. I do a lot of cross training to improve their fitness level. I find that it’s better if the horses also has fun because it helps them feel inspired to perform.”
Continuing, she shared, “I’m also a firm believer in light aids and keeping the horse light and uphill in self-carriage. When I trained under Lendon Gray and assisted her, she taught me the importance of softness in the connection, in the horse being in front of the leg.” She continued, “I like to think outside the box when it comes to figuring out a horse, not all of them learn or understand the same way. I try not to get stuck in "MY WAY" but find the way that the horse will understand."
During a large part of the year, Mica resides in New York and runs her training business at the same stable with fellow rider, Karin Persson. Mica said, "When it comes to training horses you have to be open minded, be like a sponge, and ready to learn new tools. With both of our eyes on the ground and having those exchange of ideas, it has been a huge help for both of us.” The two learn from one another and share their knowledge, “I love being here.”
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