If eyes are the window to the soul, Tripple X III has the prettiest windows on the block.
If the stallion’s startlingly bright amber eyes don’t catch yours in the stable aisle, his presence will. With 17 hands of horse under a glossy black coat with four white socks, “Hugo” is a Breyer model come to life, the embodiment of every child’s dream horse.
Canada’s Tiffany Foster is the lucky lady who pilots the 15-year-old Anglo European warmblood stallion (Namelus—Calve Z, Nissan Cantango Z). Hugo has been under the ownership of Artisan Farms since 2014 when the stallion came up for sale following a legal dispute between former owner Quainton Stud and rider Ben Maher. Maher bred the stallion and rode him for the British team to help capture the team bronze medal at the 2011 European Championships (Spain) before jumping to a team gold finish at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Since switching stables to Artisan Farms, Hugo and Foster have helped the Canadian team to victory in 2014 in the $300,000 BMO Nations Cup at the Spruce Meadows Masters (Calgary) and were on the silver medal Candian team at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Final (Spain). They also jumped on the Canadian team at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
We caught up with Hugo’s groom Caroline Holmberg in Wellington, Fla., to go behind the stall door with Hugo:
• Everyone has a type, and Hugo is no different.
“He’s crazy about chestnut mares, only chestnuts,” Holmberg said. “He will nicker at them and that’s the only time he acts up. We have two in here and they’re the only two horses I have to watch out that I don’t stand too close to.”
• There is a certain red-headed lady who Hugo is particularly smitten with.
“He recognizes horses very easily, like Showgirl,” Holmberg said, referring to the chestnut mare Canada’s Yann Candele rides. “She was on the same team as him and we traveled together, he was crazy about her. He still is. He recognizes her for sure.”
• When it comes to food, Hugo isn’t picky. He’ll eat just about anything, which he demonstrated while out grazing as he started snacking on the trees and bushes.
“I have to kind of keep his hay back a bit because he’s a big horse and if he eats too much he gets a bit of a hay belly,” Holmberg said.
• Given the choice, Hugo would rather enjoy the great indoor expanses of his stall than see what Mother Nature has to offer.
“He’s not great to turn-out. We turn him out a little bit in the stallion paddock with the high fence, and he’s fine, but he doesn’t like it for longer than a half hour,” Holmberg said. “He kind of grazes a little bit and then he gets impatient and starts pacing around and has a little rear and buck.”
Not to worry though, Hugo has an unusually large stall—it’s essentially two 15’x15′ stalls put together, a double wide if you will.
• Hugo is a star at horse shows, but he lacks a bit in the behavior department when traveling to them.
“Hes a very good flyer, he loves doing that, but the truck is not his thing,” Holmberg said. “He will load perfectly, never hesitates loading, but once he’s in there that’s when he starts kicking and bucking and screaming.”
Holmberg said it nearly scared her to death the first time they shipped him.
“They told us that from the beginning, they said he’s a little bit of a rowdy shipper, and we said, ‘Oh it can’t be that bad,’ ” Holmberg laughed. “We figured that out pretty quickly.”
There’s nothing to do but make sure Hugo’s trailer trips are as efficient as possible. Holmberg says for all his crazy antics in the moving box he doesn’t lose any sparkle when he unloads on the other end.
“He just does that and then walks off fresh as a daisy. If he got tired from it then it would be another thing,” Holmberg said. “But he doesn’t.”
When it comes to exploring the canal trails around Wellington, Hugo is more of a solo explorer than expedition party leader.
“He loves the trails, I go out on my own every day. You can canter on the canals and go out as far as you want,” Holmberg said. “He’s worse in a group, he gets wild and stallion. With other horses he gets angry and tries to be the leader, so I always go on my own.”
• Holmberg and Hugo have a little ritual whenever Hugo sheds a layer.
“When I take his blankets off he always wants me to scratch him on this hip,” Holmberg said, moving to scratch the top of Hugo’s left hip.
• Hugo can be a bit wild and wooly when being hand-walked, especially when being jogged at a competition, so he gets a chain lead shank and Holmberg carries a dressage whip with her.
“I usually carry a stick not because he would do anything really bad, but he likes to bite and if I just hold a stick in my hand he doesn’t even try,” Holmberg explained. “He is actually quiet. A lot of people think he’s like a dangerous beast but he’s not, he’s actually quite gentle as long as you’re aware of his reactions. Like sometimes he rears when I’m walking him, but he’s very slow doing it, so I know it’s going to happen. He’s not quick—a lot of stallions can be in the air in one second.”
• If they gave out degrees for flat work, Hugo would have a doctorate.
“He’s extremely well-schooled, he comes from a very good rider from the beginning so he’s been properly educated from Day 1,” Holmberg said. “He’s very fun to ride because he knows everything.”