Methodical. Meticulous. Tough. One of the best reining coaches in the country. And above all else, humble.
These are words that arise in nearly every conversation about Dan Huss ’83, Findlay alumnus and former instructor who is one of five Americans competing on the reining squad in the Fédération Equest Internationale (FEI) World Equestrian Games (WEG). WEG, held every four years in the middle of the Olympic cycle, is one of the most prestigious equestrian events in the world and the pinnacle of reining competitions. In his first appearance at WEG, to be held in Mill Spring, North Carolina, Huss will be riding 8-year-old mare Ms Dreamy as he helps the United States pursue their fifth consecutive team gold medal.
Huss and Ms Dreamy secured a place on Team USA after their performance at the U.S. qualifiers in May 2018 where they scored an outstanding 540. The road to qualifiers is hardly what one considers easy and it was precisely Huss’s disciplined approach to horse training and his choice in horse which prepared him to compete on the world stage.
“It takes a special horse to compete in an event like the World Equestrian Games. With Ms Dreamy, if you ask 110 percent from her she’s going to give it to you,” Huss shared in an interview with Horse and Rider magazine. “She has a lot of grit and is looking to do something every time she walks into an arena.”
Fredrick R. Christen, owner of Ms Dreamy, has been a customer of Huss’s long before the arrival of the now world-class mare. Christen has been riding and training with Huss for nearly two decades, and they have developed several successful show horses together. During Ms Dreamy’s derby years, Christen primarily showed her under the coaching of Huss. Her athleticism is evidenced by the great success she has enjoyed with both riders, earning just over $168,000 in National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) competitions.
Huss’s talent of being able to train a horse while developing the rider has allowed him to have an impact on countless members of the equestrian world. As an instructor at the University of Findlay, a role he stayed in for 19 years, hundreds of students trained under his tutelage. He taught the colt breaking class, a variety of disciplines such as reining and western pleasure and also worked with the freshman riding courses. Many of his former students continued on to be incredibly successful in the equestrian world, including current director of Equestrian Studies at the University of Findlay, Meri Marsh ‘02, and respected NRHA judge, Nick Baar ’02.
“When you teach someone to ride a horse, it’s hard to explain how you’re training the horse. Most of it is based on feel and feel is hard to teach,” said Baar. “His teaching was very methodical, but he explained things so thoroughly and in a way that was natural to understand.” After graduation, Baar worked with Huss for a number of years training customers’ horses with him. “He was a meticulous individual,” Baar explained. “And it was reflected in his business. He always made sure everything from the horse to the trailer to the stall was spotless.” Baar added that he currently runs his own business in a similar way, and it shows customers his pride in his product.
Marsh credits Huss as an influential force in her life that led her to her position today. “He was someone that could be hard on you as a student but he was hard on himself; that was just his demeanor,” she said. “He was never unfair or mean, he just had high expectations. As his student, I always wanted his approval because I knew that whatever it was, it would stand up in the industry as quality work.” In addition to Marsh’s role at Findlay, she still competes in the show pen. “When you are 18 years old, to be around someone with that kind of skill and dedication while remaining so humble is a very positive influence,” she said.
Huss was known as a quiet instructor but a colossal force in shaping students in life. His precision and attention to detail allowed him to evaluate both the horse and the rider to pinpoint accuracy. He utilizes that skill in both his own riding and while working with clients, and still returns to his alma mater to pass his wealth of knowledge onto the next generation of Findlay students. On occasion, Huss will return as a guest instructor, but his main interaction with current students is in the form of internships at the training business owned by his wife Wendy, and himself.
To see Dan Huss compete for Team USA in the WEG competition, tune into their live stream. Reining competitions will take place:
Wednesday, September 12 at 8:30 am, 1:30 pm, 4 pm, and 9 pm
Thursday, September 13 at 2 pm and 4:15 pm
Saturday, September 15 at 6 pm and 8:15 pm