Dressage star Krack's a smile

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:21 AM ET

As an Olympic and world champion, she can barely walk the streets of her native Holland -- let alone ride a horse -- without being praised by her people.

Now Anky van Grunsven is gaining similar notoriety among equestrian fans at Spruce Meadows because of her command of horses.

The personable Dutch woman is a superstar in dressage, the art of training four-legged athletes in obedience and in precision of movement.

"I'm honoured to come here because it's a great show, but it's too bad they only have me doing exhibitions and not competing," said van Grunsven with a smile.

"Maybe dressage competitions should be their new goal here."

It's her third visit to the show-jumping venue -- this time bringing 14-year-old stallion Krack to the International Ring.

"I've rode him since 1999, and he fits me well," van Grunsven said. "He's fast in the brain, sensitive and really willing to work -- and he's pretty and he's sweet and he's got a good colour."

Fans got a taste of how well they work together yesterday as van Grunsven commanded Krack to high-step, turn and dance in time to a familiar score from the opera Carmen.

"It's fun to perform because there's no pressure like in competitions, and it's good exercise and you can use it as a training to try some things," van Grunsven said. "But you still want to do it well because you want to be on top of things."

It's that kind of commitment to the sport that makes her such an attraction, said Spruce Meadows spokesman Ian Allison.

"Anky is not only an incredible horse woman, but she has an incredible sense of humour and she's charismatic, knowledgeable and entertaining -- and she has the resume to go with it," Allison said.


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