Horse Trades Police Beat for Broadway Tunes

ReutersKorelova riding Balagur in Beijing.
HONG KONG -- For years, Russian rider Alexandra Korelova quietly observed a particular police horse that lived at her riding club's stables and decided that he was a champion.

Balagur, a grey stallion so pale that he appears to have been daubed pink in places, made such an impression on Korelova between his shifts with the local police that she decided to speak to her trainer about the horse.

"I saw him for a long time, for years, and I spoke with my trainer, who said 'take him now quickly and come to me,'" said the 31-year-old from Nizhny Novgorod.

"[My trainer] saw in this horse a personality and character, and made a sportsman out of him."

Korelova rode Balagur to sixth place in the final of the individual dressage grand prix on Tuesday with a score of 72.625 percent.

In Hong Kong's Olympic arena under floodlights and a bright moon, Balagur arched his thick, short neck and piaffed and pirouetted his way to Broadway musical themes.

"When he sees such a big public and such a big stadium he likes to be the best and [do] a little bit more than anyone else," said Korelova. "I like this music and my horse likes it too."

The razzle-dazzle of freestyle dressage, where riders choreograph balletic movements for their horses to music, is a far cry from Balagur's previous drudgery in his work with the Russian police.

"First, he's very clever, and second, he doesn't want to go back to the police. He understands his life is better and more interesting now," Korelova said.