Sara Hassler was all but born on a horse.
The daughter of two top American dressage trainers, Susanne and Scott Hassler, Sara grew up in a barn and into the role of assistant trainer for the family business, Hassler Dressage.
But it wasn’t until last year, at age 23, that she made her international debut.
Aboard Harmony’s Boitano, a horse she inherited the ride on from her mother, Sara made her first ever CDI Small Tour appearance at the 2019 Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida.
The pair went on to take Reserve Champion in Intermediare I at the Festival of Champions in August. In September, they swept the CDI Small Tour at Dressage at Devon, winning Friday’s Prix St. Georges (with a 72.35%), Saturday’s CDI3* Intermediate I (70.15%) and Sunday’s CDI3* Intermediate I Freestyle (72.96%).
For a rider who spent her youth working behind the scenes on the international dressage circuit, it was a fairytale come true.
“Oh my gosh, I have dreamt of riding at Devon since I was a little girl. So, for me just to be there let alone to win all three classes was, I mean, I cried basically the whole time,” enthused Sara.
But she saves her most effusive praise for her horse.
“Boitano is a prince. He deserves to be a prince. He is incredible. He is the most loving, genuine, respectful, honest, and, um, entitled horse you will ever meet,” laughed Sara.
“Boitano is perfect, in my opinion.”
While Dressage at Devon is a career high for Sara and Boitano, the gelding’s journey to get there was one riddled with lows.
Originally purchased for Susanne and groomed by Sara, the Dutch Warmblood was sidelined from competition by a suspensory injury in 2015. Bringing him back to show form was a process fraught with setbacks.
Boitano was diagnosed with an underlying back injury by the veterinarians at Colorado State University that was causing his suspensory issues. He also suffered from severe allergies.
“He was living on skin supplements, medications. He’d be itchy all over. He’d cough a little bit. His glands would get a little swollen. His eyes would run constantly,” explained Sara.
Tasked with managing his rehabilitation, Sara treated the gelding with 30 minutes of stretching twice a day and switched Boitano exclusively to steamed hay. Haygain’s high-temperature steaming eliminates up to 99% of the breathable bacteria, mold, dust and allergens found in hay.
“Now [Boitano is] on no medication. He just lives on his steamed hay,” said Sara. “It goes with us to the shows. I think we skipped it one time because we went to a horse show and the horses at home needed it and never again. Then we purchased a small one to go with us.”
Early adopters of Haygain, the Hasslers have been using the high temperature steamers for over 10 years.
“No matter the situation, whether it’s coughing or other allergy symptoms, the horses have responded beautifully to Haygain steamed hay. There is
simply no better piece of equipment to help prevent horses from struggling with these types of issues,” said Scott.
“For Boitano, the biggest thing is we never wait for a problem, we make sure there is no problem,” continued Sara.
“They try so hard for us and do so much for us and they are our world, so why wouldn’t we do everything we can that’s so good for them?”
The show season may be on hold for Sara and Harmony’s Boitano for the moment. But she has plenty of fond memories to hold her over.
“Last year pretty much swept me off my feet,” smiled Sara.
So has Boitano it would seem.
Learn more about the health benefits of steamed hay at Haygain.com.