U Equine Center hosts Minnesota Olympian

Olympian equine competitor Becky Holder and horse Courageous Comet perform their Olympic routine Saturday afternoon at Leatherdale Equine Center. Holder is a Minnesota native and gave a talk about her Olympic experience.

Jules Ameel

Olympian equine competitor Becky Holder and horse Courageous Comet perform their Olympic routine Saturday afternoon at Leatherdale Equine Center. Holder is a Minnesota native and gave a talk about her Olympic experience.

Although the University of Minnesota Leatherdale Equine Center opened a year ago, itâÄôs still trying to raise $7.3 million, and Olympian Becky Holder and her horse Courageous Comet were able to help out Saturday. Holder and Comet performed their award-winning dressage test at the St. Paul campusâÄô Barenscheer Arena to an audience of about 100. In Beijing, Holder rode as part of a five-person team, where she and Comet competed in three disciplines: dressage, cross country and show jumping. She and Comet contributed to the United StatesâÄô third-place team finish. In the individual dressage, Holder placed fifth. Holder, who has lived in Mendota Heights, Minn. since 2000, performed one of three âÄúphasesâÄù from her Olympic routine during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. During a dressage test, Holder rides and directs Comet to showcase discipline through a variety of walks and trots. Holder said equestrianism is a âÄúone horse-and-rider sport,âÄù meaning a single person rides with the same horse every time, not with a few different horses. Comet, a 12-year-old grey gelding, was a race horse for five years. Holder and Comet have been partners since 2001. A dressage test is scored on 27 different categories, each on a scale from zero to 10. Holder said like golf, the score is converted to penalty points, so the lowest score is the best. She said dressage tests were originally used to train horses for battle in the military. Holder made it clear that the recent Olympic performance wasnâÄôt the end for her and Comet. âÄúWeâÄôre competing in the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky in 2012,âÄù she said, âÄúand we have our sights set on the London Olympics in 2012.âÄù Holder doesnâÄôt care for Comet directly. Aubrey Dunkerton , CometâÄôs caretaker, said she keeps Comet happy with regular grooming, carrots and âÄúhorse treats.âÄù The Equine Center was constructed last year due in part to the increasing amount of horses being treated by the College of Veterinary Medicine . In addition to Holder and CometâÄôs performance, event organizers showcased the Equine CenterâÄôs mascot, Hercules, a horse nearly twice as large as Comet. Hercules is the Equine CenterâÄôs universal blood donor, providing vital blood transfusions for sick horses. âÄúHorses have sixty blood types, as opposed to our four,âÄù said Lisa Borgia , a veterinary medicine graduate student. âÄúSo you can see why a universal donor like Hercules is so great. WeâÄôre happy to be able to support the Equine Center and improve horsesâÄô lives.âÄù Plans are also underway to build a new, large animal hospital near the Equine Center.