Bacardi has been turning heads since he first burst onto the hunter scene five years ago with professional rider Havens Schatt. He was champion his very first time showing in the baby greens at the Winter Equestrian Festival in 2011, and over the next four years he accrued no fewer than 46 championship titles (we counted).
Capital Challenge (Md.), the Devon Horse Show (Pa.), WEF (Fla.), the Pennsylvania National—against the best competition in the country, Bacardi notched win after win with both Schatt and his amateur owner, Caroline Moran.
Bacardi is as quirky as he is brilliant—when he’s on, he’ll easily pull scores in the 90s with his form, and when he’s spooky, he’s exiting stage left, thank you very much. He’s required a lot of patience and a special ride from Schatt and Moran over the years.
“If he started to look at something, and you told him, ‘Oh no you’re not looking, you’re going,’ you were toast,” Schatt said. “He was going to spook or dart out to the side. But if you just took a breath and let him take one more stride, he’d jump it perfect. It was almost like you had to add [a stride].”
Now 10 years old, the Dutch warmblood gelding (Casco—Varilla R, Voltaire) had to sit out the 2016 show season with a soft tissue injury. He’s back in work now, and Schatt plans to have him ready to rock the show ring mid-February 2017.
Bacardi and his groom, Daniel Gomez.
“I think everybody that’s watched Bacardi’s career loves to watch him. Even [the other day] at the horse show [in Florida], I had someone come up to me and say, ‘Where is that gray horse Bacardi? I love watching him jump, I could watch him jump all day,’ ” Schatt said. “He definitely has a big fan club, and I really hope he comes back as good as he was before, because he is fun to ride and take to the ring. He’s one of those horses that no matter who is watching, when he has a good round it’s fun to watch.”
Here’s what you need to know about this quirky, charismatic, gorgeous horse:
- Bacardi may wish to come back in another life as a Thoroughbred—this is a horse that likes to run!
“He’s quite a character when it comes time for turn-out. He likes to bolt off as fast as he can, sometimes when you’re still leading him,” Schatt said with a laugh. “He gets a little excited, so we have to really watch that, because he’s gotten loose a couple of times on the way to the paddock.
“He does the same thing when it’s time to get lunged,” Schatt continued. “He doesn’t lunge a lot, usually when he’s showing he’ll lunge on Monday or Tuesday and be good for the week, but it’s the same thing. It’s almost like he’s anticipating freedom, so he winds himself up. There was a time when I was the only one who could turn him out—you had to not let him loose right away, otherwise he was like, ‘I gotta go, I gotta go!’ ”
He looks innocent, but he has his moments.
- Bacardi may have started out his life as a dark dappled gray, but he’s looking more like Snow White as he enters middle age.
“I have so many pictures of him in my house. His owner got me some really great pictures where he’s jumping big as a young horse, and he is much darker,” said Daniel Gomez, who has groomed Bacardi for the gelding’s entire career with Schatt.
“He’s so white now!” Schatt said. “Definitely losing his gray spots. But for a white horse, he stays pretty clean. We have a couple other gray ones that are just filthy.”
His dark gray dapples are gone and now he’s a brilliant white.
- Bacardi rules the roost at Schatt’s Georgetown, Ky., stable—his corner stall is the first on the right as visitors walk down the aisle, and Bacardi is the official Milestone Farm greeter.
“He’ll whinny at you when you walk in the barn, and his facial expressions are very ‘What are you doing? What’s going on?’ ” Schatt said.
Bacardi’s fun personality has made him a farm favorite.
- His primo stable real estate got Bacardi in a bit of trouble earlier this year, and is the reason one wall of his stall is now decked out with thick black padding.
“When the horses go to the horse show, the trucks pull up and all the horses load right there at his door,” Schatt said. “And when we went to Devon this year, he went crazy. We left about 5 in the morning and they called me at 6:45 and he had stuck his leg through one of those wooden stall slats. He obviously had gotten very worked up that the truck and had come and we left him there.”
- He can be a wild child in his paddock, but in his stall Bacardi is usually a cool customer.
“My kids can go in the stall with him,” Gomez said. “He can be a lot in the ring, but he’s great with them.”
Bacardi’s stall has a little extra padding after an “incident.”
- Bacardi is lucky he’s such a natural talent, because he doesn’t take direction well.
“If you saw his antics at home when I try to jump him at home,” Schatt said with a laugh. “Even as a first year horse he was kind of behind the eight-ball a little bit, even as much as he won, because he’s really hard to school at home. He’s so spooky, and really not fun at home.
“When it was time to go in the ring and show he was good. He could even be bad in the schooling area and sometimes I’d be like ‘OK, I’m just going in the ring,’ and he’d score an 89,” Schatt continued. “He’s really a show horse.”
Bacardi likes things a certain way, and his people have learned to accomodate his preferences.
- Schatt recalled a particular incident hacking Bacardi at the Kentucky Horse Park as a young horse.
“I was in the schooling area and he was cantering, and a horse came by him on the inside and he just took an abrupt right turn and ran out of the gate, out of nowhere. I just started laughing and brought him back in,” Schatt said. “He just has so much personality, and if you ever got after him it got worse, so it wasn’t even worth it to get after him. There were many days as a young horse where I would get on him and try to do something and be like OK, never mind, we’ll do it tomorrow.”
- Friends? Bacardi doesn’t need horse friends. He has his entourage of humans, and that’s enough for him.
“He’s kind of a loner that way, he doesn’t really care too much who’s around him,” Schatt said. “Sometimes I think he knows he’s Bacardi, and is like, ‘Yeah whatever you’re doing over there, I don’t care.’ He’s definitely spoiled and we’re probably part of the reason.”
Bacardi and Daniel Gomez.