From charity case to champ
DETROIT LAKES - A young horse, barely a year old, was originally a charity case for Detroit Lakes hairdresser (and horse enthusiast) Jonathan Danielson, but after some nourishment and serious grooming, Elsa became the 2008 Pinto World Champion in Tulsa, Okla., at the end of June.
Elsa, whose formal name is "Lights, Camera, Action," after Danielson's daughter, Ashley, who is going to school for photography, was the Minnesota Futurity Champion last year as a "weanling," at only three months old.
The "Futurity" competition is to show off the up-and-coming show horses in various breeds.
When Elsa won that, she qualified for the world competition in Tulsa from June 10-21. Her category was for "2 and under saddle-bred mares."
She's only a year old, but Danielson said she already has a spunky, "glam-girl" personality.
"She's a bit of a diva; oh my gosh, she is a hoot," he said.
After selling his three-year-old horse last year, Danielson bought Elsa in Kentucky from a woman "who was desperate for money for feed" for her other horses.
"She was a little underweight when I got her," Danielson said, "and I didn't need another horse. But I got her for a third of the price of what she's worth. She's my rescue horse."
And although after her big win in Oklahoma she might be worth even more, Danielson said he'll hold on to her for a few more years.
"This horse is my future project," he said. " I spend nearly every weekend showing horses, much to the disappointment of some of my (salon) clients."
But horses, he said, have always and will always be in his life.
Danielson grew up on a farm with 10 brothers and sisters, and his father bought them horses, "probably to keep us out of trouble." They had 14 at one time.
"As kids, I think of it now, we rode bareback with a piece of twine, and we raced them like that," Danielson remembered. "That's scary."
He also was involved in 4-H, showing horses.
"Winston Churchill once said, 'The back of a horse is good for a man's soul,' and it's true," Danielson said. "I just let it all go away."
Showing horses instead of riding them, however, is something he got more into as he got older.
Elsa, a saddle-bred, is also a pinto, a clarification based on coloring. Therefore, some pintos are miniature ponies or bigger horses as well.
Judges look for 50-50 coloring in a pinto, and Elsa "is pretty close."
Other criteria for judging include her movements, how she carries herself at a walk and a trot, her posing and behavior, whether she listens to commands, and others.
At the world show in Oklahoma, Elsa was one of 4,000 horses, and one of 28 in her class.
"For being just a baby, she did fabulous," Danielson said. "She knows her job. It's like being a beauty queen."
Elsa is currently living on the few acres that the Danielsons own, because during show season she can't get scuffed up with running around too much, but when she's training, she travels to a stable in Buffalo, Minn., outside of the Twin Cities.
Danielson said the next steps for her are to expose her to different situations and continue the socializing process. He said eventually he'll train her to be a park horse or a driving horse.
But, he said after he sells Elsa, he may not get another horse.
"I love horses and will always have them in my life, but I've won so many awards, it's important for me to spend time with my wife," he said.
He and his wife also have two children, a daughter and a son, who are both in college.
Plus, with his salon on Washington Avenue, and being on the P.E.O Garden Tour at the end of July, this guy has got plenty on his plate.
"I get up and train at 5 (a.m.), be at work from 7 until 6 or 7 at night, train again, work on the garden," he said as he listed off his schedule. "I sleep well at night."
While he's busy, though, he said he's simply doing "what I enjoy."
"We all need that something in our lives that makes us happy," he said. "This, it's like bragging about your kids."