He’s not the friendliest horse on the shedrow at horse shows. In fact, Vandiver spent the first few minutes of our interview with Doug Payne and his groom, Courtney Carson, doing his best to ignore us. But once lured by the crinkle of peppermint wrappers, we were able to learn more about Payne’s three-star winning partner.
Payne and Vandiver have placed second multiple times since Payne took over the ride from Werner Geven in 2015, including last year at the Pine Top CIC*** (Georgia), The Fork CIC*** (North Carolina) and the USEA American Eventing Championships (North Carolina). But the pair finally earned the blue ribbon at the Cloud 11-Gavilan North LLC Carolina International CIC***, and the Chronicle was able to catch up with him there.
• Vandiver (Windfall—Visions Of Grandeur, Mystic Replica xx), or “Quinn” is a 14-year-old Trakehner gelding. He was bred by Debi Crowley, who still owns him along with Payne and his wife, Jessica.
• Quinn is known for his steady disposition under saddle and genuine way of going. Doug called him the ultimate trier, but he does have “Trakehner moments.”
“He’s really good to work around; he’s sensitive in a good way, not a bull at all,” Doug said. “But he just has moments.” He and Carson likened Vandiver to a distressed Chihuahua in such moments.
“Sometimes it’s like his head goes straight up in the air, and you can just see the whites of his eyes. He never does anything; he just gets that wild look in his eyes,” Carson explained.
• At Doug’s home base in Aiken, South Carolina, Quinn is best friends with Jessica’s horse PJ. His cool exterior and strong performances in the ring suggest a horse that has his life together, but Quinn does have some quirks about being left behind.
“He’s out at night. He loves his turnout as long as his friend is next to him,” Doug said. “He’s definitely a little bit emotional. He has [PJ as] his support animal at home. He’s stalled and turned out next to PJ, and if they’re not he’ll be screaming.”
“He has to go out first,” Carson added. “If his friend goes out before he does, he’s afraid he’s getting left. He has to come in first. If his friend comes in before him, you can’t catch him.”
• Quinn sometimes channels that emotion into his food. He can be a picky eater, but Carson is trying to change that.
“Courtney’s been trying her best to get him to like peppermints,” Doug said as Carson produced a handful of hard peppermints from her pocket.
“He likes the soft ones best, so it’s really sad when I can’t find them,” Carson added, offering Quinn a mint that he considered for several seconds before taking.
• Mealtimes for Quinn are tricky too. He’s shy and doesn’t like eating before he’s worked or if the atmosphere at a show is hectic.
“I can only really give him a handful of grain in the morning, but once it’s quiet in the afternoon I can give him three meals worth, and he’ll eat it all,” Carson said. “He just likes to wait until nobody’s watching.”
• Quinn’s favorite treat though? His hay net.
“He won’t eat hay off the ground, or, he will, but he prefers to drag it all over his stall and pretend it’s poison,” Carson said. “So he’s the only horse in the barn with a haynet. I don’t think he’d play with toys, but he’ll stand there and eat out of his haynet all day long. Bombs could drop, and he wouldn’t care.”
• Doug incorporates plenty of walking and hacking into Quinn’s program. He’s a machine on cross-country courses, but he could moonlight as an amateur’s trail horse.
“If I don’t have time to do it then the girls fight over who gets to ride him,” Doug said. “He’ll hack around on the buckle; he’s totally chill. He’s very well aware of everything around him, and he’s never going to get himself in trouble.”
• Quinn isn’t a huge fan of traditional brushes, but Carson found grooming mitts with burlap on one side that suit him perfectly. She’s also careful to pay attention to his ears.
“He loves to roll, so he gets a lot of sand in his ears in Aiken—they’re really big, they’re like shovels,” Carson said.
• Like many top athletes, Quinn gets the best treatment possible to keep him fit and happy.
“He loves the Sportz-Vibe blanket from Horseware and the Theraplate,” Carson said. “His favorite thing in the world is to get the blanket on and stand on the Theraplate and have me feed him cookies. It’s the best 20 minutes of his life, and if I run out of cookies it’s a bad deal.
“I’m so wrapped around his finger,” Carson added with a laugh. “I’ll walk into the barn, and he’ll just be standing there. I’m like, ‘Oh, you’re a good boy! You want a cookie?’ And all the other horses are like, ‘We want food too!’ ”