When you’re looking for a horse, how do you know you’ve found the right one? What are you looking for?
When I’m trying a horse, I think about a lot of different things: What type of rider is this horse for? What are the expectations for the horse? Does the horse have the necessary experience level for the new owner? Is the horse appropriately priced?
When I first get on a new horse, I never really ask them for very much at the start. I like the horses to trust me; that I’m not going to immediately try to make them go a certain way. I like to give them a chance to take a breath and be relaxed. Next, I gently begin to ask them basic questions: transitions, steering, circles, etc. I like to feel how they respond to my aids and whether they’re accepting of my riding technique. Then, I do a few jumps to see how they perform and, depending on the level I was looking for, do some bigger fences and definitely a combination of some sort. After I’m finished riding, I make sure to see the horse without the tack and boots to check for any conformational discrepancies. A good temperament is important to me, as well. That, and a good look in their eye.
I rely a great deal on my feeling to know if it’s the right horse or not. If I think it could be suitable for a client, then I’ll have the client get on after me. Knowing the horse’s history is also a good indicator if it could be the right match. Though a horse can have a stellar record, it doesn’t always mean it will be the exact fit. That’s why the feeling part is so important to me. I know what I feel when I ride the horse, and I make sure to keep an open line of communication with my clients in terms of what they’re feeling as well. It has to be a horse that either myself and/or the client feels good on and is confident riding. After all, purchasing a horse is a huge commitment, and you want to be able to enjoy the journey of developing a relationship together.
How many horses will you be riding at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) this year? Which ones do you plan to show with for hunters? For jumpers? What makes each horse special?
I’ll be showing around seven horses consistently this season at WEF. Qui Vive des Songes Z is a 14-year-old that I’ve had since he was 6 years old. I’ll be showing him in the grand prix. I’ll also be bringing along two 9-year-old horses, Marie vd Mespel Z and Marciano MVF (both owned by Stephanie Bulger). My plan is to introduce them into the bigger classes and being in FEI. I will continue to develop Celtic Hero BZ, who will be 8 years old this season. I would love for him to get some solid 1.40m classes under his belt. KBS Ronnin is an Irish-bred horse that I show from 1.30-40. He’s very brave and competitive, and I enjoy practicing tight turns and doing speed classes on him. I’ll also have a 5-year-old, Mr. Taylor B, who will be learning the ropes in the young jumper classes. I’m looking forward to seeing what he blossoms into.
On the hunter side of the sport, I’ll have Quickborn 7 in the derbies and A La Carte, a baby green hunter in the 3- and 4-year-olds. Sometimes I’ll show my mom’s Paint mare, United Colors, as well. I have big plans for all of these horses, but I also know how quickly everything can change. I’ll be ready with backup plans and listening to what my horses are saying week to week and adjusting the schedules based on their confidence and level of success.