Barb Cherry’s Love of Horses

By Mona Malacane

“Humans tend to get stuck in their heads. It’s a human thing, but then particularly if you’re a scholar who works alone a lot and in your head. One of the reasons I like dressage and Livingston so much is that he gets me out of just being in my head. I cannot ride well unless I’m fully integrated; mind, body, emotions, everything has to be in sync in the moment. I can’t be worried about yesterday, I can’t be worried about tomorrow, because if I am then the flow is not going to be there … He has taught me about how to exist in the moment … and what I have learned from him, I cannot learn from people.”

You may remember from her orientation introduction that Barb Cherry loves horses and has one of her own. This week I sat down with Barb to talk about just what it is about riding that makes it so special to her.

She has loved horses since she was young and attended summer camps to learn how to ride, but it wasn’t until she got her first horse after graduating from Harvard Law School in the 80s that she became involved in horseback riding as a sport. He was a thoroughbred named Garfield and the two of them started competing at Eventing, which has three parts: a dressage test, cross country jumping, and stadium jumping. Since then, Barb has owned a mare named Mystic and a Polish Trakehner named Dzieciol (pronounced Jen-tjo) and now focuses on dressage, where a rider and horse perform a series of athletic and dance-like movements from memory. It is sometimes referred to as horse ballet and has an interesting history .

Barb's horse, Livingston.

Barb’s horse, Livingston.

She has owned her current horse, Livingston, since 2002 and he is definitely the most beloved of all the horses she has owned so far. Their coupling was something like serendipity, “I had just lost my mare and the only reason Livingston was for sale was because his owner had just died from cancer … The widow was in the process of moving back to France and the last thing she was going to do before she left the States was to sell [Livingston]. So it was perfect timing. It was almost like it was meant to be, I had lost my horse to death and he had lost his owner, I felt like we were mutual orphans who found each other.”

Livingston is a “papered” (meaning, he is registered as a purebred) German Hanoverian, a horse that is bred to be light and refined – perfect for dressage. He also happens to have a rather impressive family tree, something Barb was not aware of until after buying him. “I didn’t find out until I owned him … that his sire [his male parent] was the number one improvement sire for the Hanoverian breed in Germany … So [Livingston] has tremendous bloodlines. I knew he was a papered Hanoverian but I didn’t discover how exquisite his bloodlines were until I moved to Virginia and started training with a dressage trainer there who is also an international judge. When she found out who my horse’s sire was her jaw nearly hit the floor.” His sire, Lauries Crusador, has a history that I feel woefully undereducated to recount here, but he is famous enough to Google or YouTube if you’re interested!

Barb 3Barb only trains Livingston with the very best. In fact, the pair has spent quite a few summers down in Florida because the state has become a hub for high-level international trainers who travel to the warmer climate during the cold European winters. But while training with the best can improve both the rider and horse’s technical skills, there are some parts unique to horseback riding, and dressage in particular, that just can’t be taught. “My view of dressage is that it’s a sport, it’s an art form at the same time, but most importantly it’s a partnership,” Barb explained. “It’s an interspecies partnership because you are performing and communicating through your bodies. And the way I communicate with Livingston is a way that I cannot communicate with a human. I have learned more about myself and my own body and how to integrate my mind and my body from him. He’s my biggest teacher.”

Aside from being the offspring of an eminent stallion and inheriting excellent genes along with it, Livingston also has a wonderful personality that Barb loves. The two of them, as you may have felt from the quote at the beginning of this post, are a perfect match together, especially for dressage. “He has an exquisite temperament, exquisite talent, everything you could ask for,” Barb said while smiling. He even gives kisses! [insert pic] She can’t imagine owning another horse as perfect as Livingston because he is “one in a million.”

Livingston sneaking kisses.

Livingston sneaking kisses.

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