BY MATT KANE
It’s a trait shared by Lexi Robinson and her 6-year-old thoroughbred, Loki.
“He was difficult, but, even on his bad days, he still loves his job,” Robinson said of Loki. “We are kind of the same.”
One can bet that string of stubbornness is a big reason horse and rider have had so much success together in their two-year partnership.
“That’s also why we can struggle sometimes,” Robinson was quick to add.
With the help of a trainer in South Carolina, Robinson and Loki have transformed their want to butt heads into a winning formula. Recently, at an awards banquet that celebrated Area IV riders and their horses, the two were named the Central States Dressage and Eventing Association (CSDEA) Preliminary Level Champion for 2017. In addition, Loki received the Reserve Champion Silks Award for overall high scoring for an off-the-track thoroughbred.
“I’m really proud of my horse and of how hard I’ve worked over the years,” Robinson said. “I’ve never had a horse take me this far and do as well as he has. I’m really proud of that.”
The preliminary level championship came after Robinson and Loki strung together a consistent season, which included four events.
The top finish for the two was second place in August at the Otter Creek Horse Trial in Wheeler, WI. Robinson and Loki finished third at three other events two in Kansas and one in Minnesota.
The only home event was the Roebke’s Run competition June 9 in Hector, MN.
“We don’t have a lot of competitions that are close around here,” she said. “We go south for the winter and there are more competitions down there.”
Because of the time and travel commitment required to seriously train Loki and compete with him, Robinson exited Delano High School after her freshman year, and enrolled at Minnesota Connections Academy, a K-12 online public school.
Robinson, who is now a 19-year-old woman, and a deans-list freshman majoring in business administration at Crown College, wishes she didn’t have to travel so far to train and compete.
“It needs to be more popular around here. We need more people to know about it and get more events up-and-running around here,” she said. “Then, I wouldn’t have to drive all the way to the East Coast as much. The sport has shifted to over there, and we have only a few around.”
The love of horses and equestrian sports was passed on to Robinson by her mother, Laura, who, herself, trained and competed in English riding and jumping, and eventually eventing, as a girl in California.
Laura Robinson moved to Minnesota in 1993, and saw her competitive riding get pushed to the back of her priority list, behind working full-time, going to college, and getting married. She is back in the saddle again, teaching riding lessons part-time. Those lessons for her daughter began early.
“I bought Lexi a pony when she was 18 months old, and she joined the United States Pony Club at age 7. Horses are either in your blood or not. She just loved it from the start,” said Laura Robinson. “It’s been wonderful having a shared interest and a love for horses with my daughter, but, if she had chosen a different sport, that would have been okay, too.”
The younger Robinson did not choose a different sport. Instead, she used what her mother taught her to become an accomplished trainer, herself.
“She’s a true horsewoman, because it’s not just about the riding for her,” Laura Robinson said. “She cares about all the details of their care, and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and do all of it herself.”
Loki isn’t the only non-human that calls Timberpond Farm, the Robinson family’s hobby farm in Independence, home. There is another horse, a pony, three chickens, three cats, a bunny, and a dog. And, oh yeah, Robinson’s two brothers, who, she said, prefer manufactured horsepower over the literal kind.
“They like snowmobiling and four-wheeling and video games boys stuff,” said Robinson. “They help out sometimes but are really not into it.”
Robinson’s brothers both attend Delano schools. Cameron, 15, is at Delano High School, and Dylan, 9, attends Mt. Olive Lutheran School.
The Robinson boys put to test the speed and agility of those gas-guzzling ATVs, much the way Lexi Robinson does with Loki during competition.
The International Equestrian Federation describes dressage as “the highest expression of horse training,” where “horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements.”
In the world of horse racing, where he first competed, Loki was tasked with running fast around an oval track. In the world of dressage and eventing, he must show off that speed and agility, and also his ability to gracefully work with Robinson.
“It’s ballet with a horse,” said Robinson of the dressage discipline, which is performed on the fist day at the three-day trials.
The second day of competition is made up of the cross country discipline, which includes galloping across an open course and jumping over natural objects that would commonly appear in the countryside. The third day of a horse trial is made up of show jumping over rails that are placed at controlled heights.
Loki’s run to success in the world of dressage and eventing comes after a less-than-impressive stint as a racehorse at Canterbury Park.
“He didn’t want to race. He’s stubborn,” Robinson said of Loki. “He’s big, too, so that made it harder.”
Even after leaving the track, Loki showed his stubbornness. It took a mind as stubborn as his own to steer Loki in the right direction.
“He raced at Canterbury, and then went to a few different homes, but nobody could get along with him. I found him and we meshed well together. So far, we’ve been successful together,” she said. “This is the first time training a horse up to this level for me, so it’s a pretty big accomplishment.”
The level of accomplishment that came to Robinson and Loki through training is the direct result of Robinson’s dedication to the sport, according to her mother.
“There is a lot of hard work involved in their care, and learning to ride well takes many years of dedication. I’m thankful for the hard work, sportsmanship, perseverance, and dedication it has taught her,” Laura Robinson said of her daughter. “She has a gift for working with a wide variety of horses, and bringing out the best in them.”
That gift worked on Loki, as it turned the stubborn, underachieving thoroughbred into a champion.