High Times is the horse who made eventer Jennifer McFall’s four-star dreams come true when they completed the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** in 2014.
High Times, or “Billy,” with Jennifer McFall. All Photos by Amy Dragoo
McFall grew up riding Morgans but fell in love with eventing. Her first upper-level partner was the Morgan Dragonfire Kublakhan, who competed up to the advanced level. When she found High Times, or “Billy,” as a 5-year-old in 2013, she aimed him for her return to the top levels.
Billy is a U.S.-bred Holsteiner (Hunter—Gerda I, Tin Rocco) bred by Kirsten Strain. After three-star success, in 2014, McFall and Billy jumped around the Rolex Kentucky CCI****. “At the drop into the water, the screaming crowd distracted him, and he had a drive-by at the arrowhead, but now he loves the crowds,” Jennifer said.
Most recently, they completed the Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.) last fall.
According to McFall’s husband, Earl, Jennifer has been sympathetic to Billy’s quirks in looking to bring out his best. “The two of them have a neat bond because he isn’t the bravest horse,” Earl said. “Knowing him now we wouldn’t necessarily have picked him as a Rolex finisher. You wouldn’t think he was brave enough.”
“He’s very reasonable on the ground but very suspicious of things,” Jennifer said. “It took a long time—he would go up the levels and then back down because he would decide he didn’t like specific fence types. Now he thinks he is pretty awesome.”
You can follow Billy in Jennifer’s blogs for the Chronicle, and here’s what you need to know about this somewhat suspicious character:
- Jennifer and Earl’s daughter, Taylor, gives most of their horses their barn names, including Billy. “One of Earl’s horses was named for the boy Taylor had a crush on, but we don’t know what the inspiration of Billy is,” Jennifer said. “But it’s the perfect name for him because he is dorky and sweet.”
- Taylor also makes homemade treats for the horses, and Billy loves the molasses cookies she makes. They are called Billy Bites.
- Billy likes his routine. “He loves cross-country,” Jennifer said. “I can walk around warm-up on the buckle once, but when he decides it is time, if I don’t shorten up the reins and go, he will toss me. And I can’t stop during cross-country warm-up. He will take one walk break on the buckle, but that is it. He’s wild in the start box, but he’s better if I don’t try to hold him down.”
- Billy loves to roll. “He doesn’t want to be turned out more than one and half hours—he gives the girliest, most pathetic whinny when he wants to come in,” Jennifer said. But he always needs to roll and will do it in hand even when they’re on the road without turnout.
- You can hardly touch his face—very few people can do it. “He barely tolerates humans doing stuff to him,” Jennifer said. “He’s very quirky. He doesn’t like a lot of fussing; he’s very spooky.” Anything face-related requires Jennifer to stand on a stool.
It can take Jennifer an hour to put his fuzzy shipping halter on, and fly masks are not his favorite thing. “I usually put his regular halter on while hiding the shipping halter or his fly mask, then switch,” Jennifer said.
- He’s not a great drinker on the trailer, so they lay over every night. But he has to have fresh water. “If you only empty one bucket, he will only drink from the fresh one; they both have to be changed a couple times a day.”
- He holds a grudge. “He got a cold bath from a working student once and then refused to go back in the wash rack for her,” Jennifer said. “He’s not a pain, just opinionated.”
- He’s nearly true black and has dapples, but his coat fades in the summer, and he’s pretty brown by Rebecca Farm (Mont.) in July.
- He has a unique canter. “It’s his biggest asset but also a challenge at times,” Jennifer said. “He’s very extravagant with his front end, which is cool coming down to a jump, but it’s a lot of motion. And at the four-star level, you have to do collected stuff, which is more difficult for him.”
- Billy will nip someone if he’s really annoyed, but he’s kind at heart.
- His name is High Times because he has a very “sleepy” look. His eyes are different shapes, but when his eyes look normal that means he is jacked up.
- If he can see the cross-country course at all during dressage it hurts them. Jennifer recalled that at the 2015 Blenheim CCI*** (England), there was a portable cross-country fence in the ring where the dressage ring was set up. “Each time he came down the long side toward the flagged fence, he got crazy. He doesn’t care about anything else around the dressage ring, but he just can’t handle seeing jumps.”