Yes, you read that correctly—today, it is the Chronicle’s distinct pleasure to take you behind the stall door with a horse known by perhaps the most awesome name we have had the pleasure of running across: The Flying Ham.
Up front, we’re going to cop to really wanting to do this Behind Stall Door almost solely for the amazing horse name, but Eric Navet’s show jumping speed specialist “Ham” ended up being so much more than a hilarious title!
“It’s not only the name that is special on him; it’s his look, his dapples, his ears, and his quality. He’s such a winner,” Navet said.
Navet has been riding the 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Boudeaux VDL—Surprise, Heartbreaker) for owner Karl Cook for more than a year. Cook bought Ham in 2015 and showed the horse in 2015 in 1.45-meter classes before deciding to pass the reins to trainer Navet.
“Karl is taller than me, and [Ham] is tiny, so he was a little bit small for Karl, so that’s why Karl had me ride him,” Navet said.
Navet has shown Ham at the three- and four-star level, particularly targeting the speed classes that the horse seems to shine in. Navet and Ham won a 1.40-meter speed class at the Lexington National (Ky.) in May during the Split Rock Jumping Tour. Most recently, Ham was second and third in 1.35-meter speed classes at the Las Vegas National CSI****.
Navet and Cook didn’t see any reason to change the Ham’s unusual name when they bought him from previous owner Tiffany Sullivan, who bestowed the hilarious moniker. Ham was bred in Belgium by Schoonaa de Schouter-Wouters and was originally named Florestan, but Sullivan chose to dub him The Flying Ham instead to match the bay gelding’s stature and personality.
“He is small, and he has a tendency to be fat. He likes to eat…he loves to eat,” Navet said with a laugh. “He’s always a little bit overweight, but he still flies; he still jumps amazing.”
We met up with the Ham, Navet and Ham’s groom Rudolfo Marquez at Tryon International Equestrian Center to get a behind-the-scenes look at The Flying Ham!
• The Chronicle takes its investigative reporting very seriously, and this reporter searched diligently for a sign that Ham even had a ribcage under that belly. We cannot confirm that he does.
“We try! He eats nothing, barely nothing to eat,” Navet said with a laugh. “When he sees something he likes, he gains weight, just by seeing it. In the winter when they don’t show he gets so fat.”
• Ham’s name grabs your attention, and his adorable ears hold it. It’s the first thing you notice about the horse when he’s walking toward you, because they are a very odd shape.
“If he looks at something, if he’s interested in something, his ears go like this,” Navet said, pointing at Ham’s curved ears. “Almost like Arabian ears—I don’t know any other warmblood horse that does that.”
• Ham seems an extremely curious horse—he spent his entire photo shoot looking eagerly from one thing to the next, and when the photographer crouched down to get a better angle on his voluptuous physique, he tilted his head to the side like a dog saying, “What are you doing that for?”
• Turn out makes the Ham nervous, so instead Navet makes sure he gets lots of hand walks, tack walks, and other forms of exercise.
“He’s ridden normally every day. They have a day off during the week, one day a week,” Navet said. “Also during the week we do some longes as well. We like to keep them happy and fit; we like to change activities so they don’t get bored doing the same thing every day.”
• Ham’s groom Rudolfo Marquez reports the Ham is very clean in his stall, and as you can see Ham clearly enjoys spending time with Marquez.
“He’s very good, very nice,” Marquez said. “He’s the best.”
• People are great to the Ham. Other horses, he could take or leave.
“He will put his ears back and say don’t; he likes to protect his space,” Navet said. “He’s not so nice with other horses.”
• Don’t let his laid-back nature or extra pounds fool you—this is a blue ribbon Ham.
“He’s a really funny horse. He’s very competitive, so much fun to ride,” Navet said. “He really is the specialist for the speed classes. You wouldn’t think given his weight, he’s big and fat, but he’s so quick. He’s small, but he moves his legs so fast. When he’s clear he’s the fastest horse.”