The Flint Journal Thursday, November 30,1995
Mary Shaw Moore HOOF BEAT
Rebel in dressage ring chipsaway at tradition
Mari Monda Zdunic is both rebel andtraditionalist. She carries on a tradition of classicalhorsemanship as old as Xenophon and rebels against the currentfashion in competitive dressage. She performs dressagedemonstrations reminiscent of the French cirque and wins UnitedStates Dressage Federation awards year after year.
How does she do it? In a recent conversation, I asked if herpublic demonstrations eroded her credibility in the competitivedressage world. She said that even though some competitors mightlike to discount her because of her public demonstrations, theycouldn't because she continues to win. She chooses to perform themore theatrical demonstrations because she sees it as a way of"turning people on to dressage".
Zdunic is outspoken in her criticism of the current fads indressage. She terms it "Bay Watch Dressage" becausethere seems to be a prerequisite that the "dressage"horse be of a certain type: big, so that when he is standingstill his haunches are lower than his withers, with his head seton high so his face drops naturally at the vertical.
"Basically, if the horse isn't as I described it, you canjust about forget it. It's like having a store and only lettingfour customers in. They're ruining the business end of dressage.I see more and more people who want to learn the movements buthave no desire to show."
Zdunic thinks the present situation in the competitive dressageworld is a result of the fact that the standards all are beingbased on fielding an Olympic Dressage Team. "You have tohave a big Euro-looking horse that moves with more knee and hockaction. Europeans are the current trend. They controlinternational dressage. That's the bottom line."
The preference for larger, heavier horses has changed theemphasis of the test, Zdunic thinks. "The requirementshaven't changed but the style in which horses are performing haschanged," she says. "Back in the 70s, the lighterhorses were like ballerinas, bouncing, light, skipping. Today wesee horses that are heavier."
Zdunic was a student of the late Chuck Grant, often referred toas The Father of American Dressage." She continues to trainand teach at Shine-A-Bit Farm in Brighton, Michigan where Granttrained until his death in 1990. She uses a combination of boththe German and the French schools in her training: "theFrench for lightness, making the horse and rider comfortable; theGerman for articulation, for accuracy and discipline. It is the acombination of art and science," she says.
Zdunic suggest that you go home and do some yoga with your horse."Yoga, yoga, yoga! Not sweat until you drop' kind of stuff.Lazy riders unite!" she urges.