Akiko & Matrix Success Story
Matrix is a lovely black Danish Gelding, purchased and imported by Akiko Yamazaki in the Spring of 2010. He had previously been owned by a young girl who had participated in Young Riders with him and trained him up the levels through Grand Prix, before selling him to attend college. After two visits to try him out, thinking he had all the quality and training she had hoped for…. little did Akiko know that their journey together would present such challenges!
Matrix arrived with some old scars and both missing and white hair at the top of his wither. His feet were also in very poor shape, which of course led to even more issues. Soon after his arrival, things seemed to slowly fall apart, as if the glue that held him together dissolved over the Atlantic Ocean…
After a frustrating year of Matrix going on and off work, one by one Akiko assembled a team of experts, including a Veterinarian with amazing talent for ultrasound diagnostics, two Body Workers, Hoof Trimmers, and Sebastian and Julie at Saddlery Dresch. All with the goal of rehabilitating him back into the Show Ring.
Matrix has high withers, a big sloping shoulder and wide backbone, with quite well-sprung ribs. From a Saddle fitting perspective, this describes what we at Dresch refer to as the “Modern Warmblood”. And though he is not uncommon for the horses we work with or the saddles we design, this can really prove to be a challenge for Saddlers that work with pre-made models. In order to avoid impinging on the spine and restricting the horse’s movement, it’s critical that not only the tree, but panels and gussets are designed specifically to accommodate each individual horse.
The first time we worked with Matrix we were saddened to see how agitated he became, how he braced himself and gnashed his teeth just at the sight of a saddle. He had to be girthed extremely gently and slowly and then he hobbled taking short little steps before Akiko was even on his back… it nearly broke our hearts. We knew we were facing a huge challenge just get him comfortable enough to ride, much less back in the Show Ring. But Akiko is one dedicated and determined lady and if there is a will, she has it... so it was up to all of us to help her find the way.
As Saddlers, we found our biggest challenge to be that after almost a year of going off and on, Matrix had lost most of the muscle structure that is necessary to support a Rider, much less the movements for an upper level horse. As with all horses, but even more importantly young or rehab horses, we are most effective if we can address the horse’s saddle needs where they are today, and then in stages as they progress. We accomplished this with Matrix by utilizing saddles with different tree designs, enabling him to balance Akiko’s weight in specific positions on his back as it healed. After getting him into his first Dresch, and as his Hoof Trimmers, Vet and Body Workers worked to address the layers of issues, his back began to heal and develop again. This often meant bi-monthly adjustments to keep the saddle balanced correctly. At one point early in 2013, Sebastian flew to the UK and made two similar feeling saddles for Akiko with two different trees for Matrix. In turn this enabled Akiko to switch him from one saddle to the other depending on which one gave him the most relief on any given day, and keep him comfortable as his rehabilitation progressed.
Thanks to hard work from the entire Team, after a two-year hiatus, Akiko and Matrix returned to the show arena in May 2013. Blue Ribbons in Prix St. Georges for their first two Shows helped to qualify them for Regional Championships at Rancho Murrieta in September. Successful there as well, they went on to the first US Dressage Federation National Championships held at the Kentucky Horse Park in early November 2013. Akiko became the first recipient of the Janine Westmoreland Malone Perpetual Trophy for winning the Prix St. Georges Adult Amateur Championship with a score of 67.895%.
Nothing can equate to the gratification it gives us as Saddlers to see the results of our work, demonstrated by a horse and Rider like Matrix and Akiko. We want to thank Akiko for her determination and commitment to all of her horses health and well being, and for including us in “Team Matrix” and on her journey with him. They both have truly been an inspiration and are a constant reminder of why we chose this profession…. we wish them all the best and continued success!