I was in the Netherlands with my friend Belinda Nairn looking at horses for two clients. We’d found what we were looking for for the first, and we had some extra time to kill, so off we went to preview horses for the second client, who was arriving the next day. One was a 7-year-old gelding—younger than I wanted for a kid with NAYC ambitions—but with a kind eye and a business-like manner. The owner rode him first and did a fine job, and while he wasn’t really lighting my hair on fire, he looked quality enough, so I hopped on.
And it was like coming home.
The horse was jumper bred, but you’d never know it from looking at him. Short coupled, upright in his neck, with a thick booty and snappy knees and hocks. And it just felt right, like putting on a well-loved pair of jeans. I tried all the things to see if I thought he was confirmed enough to teach a kid, and then in the last few minutes I picked up a stick and turned up the turbo. He responded like any of my horses would have. He felt like something I would have made.
Even more than that, he felt like Danny. And it broke my heart just a little bit.
When my kid student came to try him a day later, it just wasn’t the right match for her. But I just felt right about him, and I couldn’t get him out of my mind. When I got home from our trip I knocked on a few doors to see if anyone was interested in investing him in for me and got nowhere, and so, sadly, I wrote him off.
To say that the last 18 months have royally sucked for me, professionally, would be a massive understatement. Danny was this rockstar in the wings, just a matter of time before he took me big places, and even though I’d told Michael to stop using the “O” word and “2020,” I couldn’t help but get my hopes up. And then he got hurt, and then he had colic surgery, and it’s clear that Danny’s story with me is taking a very different turn, one of, I hope, becoming a schoolmaster for my students rather than an international horse for me.
I got Puck, who proceeded to be a right stroppy pig for quite a long time, and while he’s straightened up and become actually very wonderful, he’s taking the long road to competition success. Swagger is just a kid. Hurricane, too has taken a not-so-straightforward route to maturity with more distance to cover before he’s going to be ready to shine. And things have gone on behind the scenes that I chose not to share with you all that have just been damn hard. Every time there’d be a bit of progress, a glimmer of sunshine, a positive turn, the universe seemed determined to smack me back down.
Then Fender died. It was unexpected, and senseless, and cruel. His passing was the twist of a knife already buried deep.
I started calling around, looking for a horse to replace Fender. I called Belinda about what she might have recently seen in the Netherlands, and she reminded me of the 7-year-old I’d tried a few months before. He wouldn’t be right for my mom, but my flame for him flared again. He haunted me.
I happened to have dinner with a longtime friend, someone who’s owned event horses for various top riders over the years. We were chatting about things other than horses, and as we bid each other goodnight, she said to me, “Hey, by the way, if you ever meet a horse that you’re excited about, we should talk about a syndicate. I’ve really enjoyed being a part of this one that I’m a member of now. It’d be fun to do with you.”
I went home and wrote a prospectus. I made more appointments, with her, with others. I got enough interest to get me started, and I found a way to take out a loan for the rest. I scheduled a vetting. He passed with flying colors, probably the best vetting I’ve ever done on a horse for myself. And I went to the bank and finalized his purchase.
When I got in the car, Michael Bublé’s “I Believe In You” was on the radio. I’d dreamed of, one day, doing a Michael Bublé freestyle with Danny, and “I Believe In You” was going to be the piaffe/passage music. I’d listened to it over and over and over before his injury, because he was putting everything from the Grand Prix together, and I take a while, when I build a freestyle, to really play the tracks to death to feel out a pattern that would suit. I’d heard the song a million times, and then, after his colic surgery, I couldn’t stomach listening to it anymore because it would just rip my guts out.
But I got in my car and, in the bank parking lot, listened to the whole song from start to finish.
I believe in starting over
I can see that your heart is true
I believe in good things coming back to you
You’re the light that lifts me higher
So bright, you guide me through
I believe in you.
I’ve made my peace with Michael Bublé, and last Tuesday, I drove up to USDA in Newburgh, New York, to spring him out of quarantine, where he traveled quietly and has settled in beautifully. I have a new horse in my string, and a light back in my heart. His name is Elvis, and I’m going to take my time in getting to know him, but I’m hoping to show him Prix St. Georges this winter. Maybe he’ll be great, or maybe he’ll be a national-quality Grand Prix horse who gets sold to be someone’s professor. But he’s going to give me something to get excited about that I haven’t had since last spring. It’s nice to have that spark again!
Want to learn more about joining The Elvis Syndicate? Email Lauren.