In the very beginning of his dressage career, Serr Maariner struggled with an irregularity in his gait, shortly after arriving at Princeton Arabians. Gail's husband, Major Hector Carmona, an Olympic medalist in the Modern Pentathlon for Chile, a former dressage competitor and dressage coach for the USET, felt that Serr Maariner’s lameness was not a serious medical condition and could be solved through slow, correct training. Hector and Gail suspected that the horse had never been started under saddle properly. With slow, patient and kind training, Serr Maariner's lameness improved and quickly ceased to be a problem for him. He prospered under Gail’s care. “In training, Serr Maariner showed intelligence, talent and a strong desire to do whatever was asked of him,” Gail remembers. With Serr Maariner already schooling second level movements, Gail wanted to believe that Serr Maariner had enough talent to go far in the sport. However, she was hesitant to invest the time and work into him because she wasn’t sure that he was capable. Major Hector Carmona knew well the desire and determination of his wife, who wanted to train an Arabian horse all the way to Grand Prix. Even though Serr Maariner was already 10 years old and had sired approximately 26 foals; because of his intelligence, conformation, trainability and strong movements, Major Carmona encouraged his wife to see how far she could take Serr Maariner, not only in Arabian competition but also in the open USDF divisions as well. One can learn many things about their horse during training and Gail, encouraged by her husband to give Serr Maariner a chance, finally learned that she had found the Arabian horse that she dreamed of training. His work ethic, his focus on the task at hand was amazing. He loved the work. Some people who knew both Gail and Serr Maariner said that he loved Gail and as a result, would do anything she asked of him. It only took five years, to take Serr Maariner rapidly up through the levels, all the way to Grand Prix, earning the coveted USDF gold medal in Prix St George. Again, I need to remind you that Arabian Dressage horses were exceedingly rare in the open divisions and the Egyptian Arabian horse that he was, possessing the hallmarks that very obviously identified which breed he belonged to, was enough to for some, to not take him seriously but Serr worked so hard and was so successful, that he was also honored as an AHSA/Insilco Horse of the Year, as well as a USDF Horse of the year six times (and the first Arabian horse to compete at FEI levels), in addition to American Arabian National Championships in Second, Third and Fourth Level, as well as twice Reserve Champion and a Top Ten. He was also the Eastern States Dressage Champion in second and third levels.
I lived within driving distance from the Los Alamos Dressage Center and I had the opportunity to visit, with more regularity. While I was interested in Dressage and becoming a stronger rider; it really was more about the Egyptian Arabian horses and the opportunity to be closer to them. Looking back, I don’t really think I understood the incredible opportunity that I enjoyed in this time. One of my favorite memories was watching Gail work Serr through one tempi changes, which he executed effortlessly and smoothly, while Gail smiled radiantly through the whole sequence. It looked like a dance; the only thing missing was the orchestra music. I was in awe, watching this amazing horse work. Serr Maariner had an expressive head conveying a remarkable degree of intellectual curiosity. There was a light in his eyes, a sparkle, and an inner confidence that made him even more attractive than he already was. His body, as a result of his dressage training, was dramatically different than what his physique looked like prior to his training. With all of his muscles, he really took your breath away. I am reminded of a passage from My Horses, My Teachers, written by Alois Podhajsky, "Correct work had made him more beautiful, his muscles had developed, and he moved cheerfully and powerfully in balance and harmony. He was convincing proof that systematic and methodical work will result in the increasing beauty of the horse."
As Serr Maariner’s fame grew, many organizations expressed interest in having Serr perform in long lines at their event. One of the most amazing experiences highlighting Serr Maariner’s extreme intelligence occurred at an exhibition in New England, when Major Hector Carmona was still alive. The performance was choreographed to music and during one of the warm-ups, Gail felt that maybe, instead of having him perform the piaffe within a particular segment; she would have him canter instead. She spoke with Hector about it over dinner that night and both agreed that a change to the canter would enhance the overall performance. During warm-ups the next day, when it came time to execute the piaffe, Hector asked Serr to canter instead and Serr hesitated and started to collect himself for the piaffe. So, Hector asked again and this time, Serr turned his head around to look at Hector with a very puzzled expression. He seemed to say with his eyes, “My friend, you have forgotten the sequence. This is not correct! This part is for piaffe, not the canter!” Later that day, Hector and Gail shared laughs over Serr’s amazing ability to think within the scope of his work. Serr Maariner was a true partner in this endeavor and knew the choreography, as well as his trainers did!
Serr Maariner lived a long life and was a very athletic, willing, and focused dressage horse, right up to the very end of his life. When he retired from the show ring and from regular work, he was not happy with a slower pace of life and wasted little time in letting everyone know of his discontent. Gail had no choice but return him to a regular work schedule, where he was ridden daily. Busy with a successful dressage teaching business, Gail was also in demand as a clinician and short-on-time. One of her working students expressed interest in taking Serr Maariner home with her, to Canada, where she would have the time that Gail did not have and incorporate Serr Maariner in her teaching business. So, in his final years of life, Serr Maariner travelled north, to Canada, to live quietly, with the consistency of the work that he so desired.
Gail was always open and honest about Serr Maariner. As successful as he was in the sport, she was the first to say that he really was not built specifically for dressage but that he was willing and able to use his body and brains in ways that made him successful and a joy to not only share a part of her life with, but also, for people like me, to watch him perform and shatter all of the myths that people held about Arabian horses as riding horses. He remains one of the most talked about Arabians of our times; truly, a beautiful horse inside and out. Now, more than a decade since he died, Serr Maariner remains a unique Arabian Horse who possessed an abundant level of charisma and appealed to a wide variety of people who never believed that Arabian Horses had the talent and the ability to not only be competitive in the discipline of dressage but also, to work at an advanced level, in the collected frame of a classically-trained high school horse, while leaving hoof prints upon the hearts of many people who recognized his worth, long before he discovered the world of dressage.