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Lake County Mustang truly a maverick
By Russell Lissau | Daily Herald Staff

Patti Gruber is a manager/trainer at Wayfarer Farm, Wauconda, where her horse lives.


Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Patti Gruber with Padré, a wild Mustang stallion adopted through the Bureau of Land Management.


Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Gruber and Padré will compete for the first time next weekend.


Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Patti Gruber rides her horse, Padré, although during the competition she will actually be walking him.


Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Inside the stable, Gruber saddles Padré for the day's ride.


Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

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Published: 9/17/2010 11:28 AM

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Recognized by Congress as living symbols of the spirit of the American West, Mustang horses have a proud history in the United States.

The free-roaming, feral horses - which descend from horses brought to America by the Spanish - are not, however, known as show animals.

That makes Padré, a 10-year-old Mustang owned by Wauconda-area resident Patti Gruber, even more remarkable.

Gruber has entered Padré in Dressage at Devon, an international equestrian competition in Devon, Pa., scheduled to begin Sept. 28. More than 700 horses are expected to compete before some 35,000 spectators, according to the event's website.

"It's the opportunity of a lifetime," Gruber said.

Lake County's interest in dressage generally focuses on the Tempel Lippizans, stallions at Tempel Farms in Old Mill Creek that are bred for dressage performance and competition.

Then there's Padré.

Gruber has owned the horse for about three years. She adopted him through the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the agency tasked with protecting and controlling wild horses.

Gruber has trained Padré to perform in dressage events and has ridden him in competitions. She recognized his ability for dressage years ago, before she acquired him.

"He had a really good walk," Gruber said. "He had good, fluid movement."

Gruber moved from Vernon Hills to Wayfarer Farm in the Wauconda area more than a year ago so she could live with Padré. She works at the farm, teaching dressage to riders.

Lori Kaminski, president and CEO of Dressage at Devon, can't recall ever seeing a Mustang perform in dressage, either at her show or the eight or nine others she attends each year.

"They're not built for the sport," Kaminski said.

The only Mustang Kaminski has known belonged to a neighbor, and it was "flighty," she said.

"I really don't know much about the breed," she said.

Gruber isn't deterred. Entering Padré in dressage competitions is a way to show people Mustangs can do more than perform in Western shows, she said.

Padré is set to compete in Dressage at Devon's breed show, Kaminski said. Horses in this category walk and trot while someone leads them on foot, rather than with a rider.

Gruber will lead Padré.

"I think he is going to get out there and show off everything he has. He has a presence you can't ignore," she said. "I just hope to God I don't trip in the sand."

To defray the costs of the competition, which Gruber estimated at $5,000, Wayfarer Farm is holding a fundraiser Sunday. A silent auction and musical performance are scheduled, and attendees can meet Padré.

The event will run from noon to 6 p.m. at the farm, 23815 W. Milton Road, Wauconda. A donation of $10 per person is suggested.