When the Chronicle posted a photo of Lisa Goldman and Centurion B winning the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix on its Facebook page, the comments about the chestnut’s clip job almost outnumbered the congratulations.
It’s rare to find a horse at a prestigious winter hunter/jumper circuit with a partial clip, but Goldman has her horse’s comfort as her first priority. In the beginning of the week, Centurion B still had his winter coat on his legs and the top half of his body, with just a very conservative trace clip. “It was -40 degrees at home!” said Goldman, who shipped her horses from her Hawthorn Woods, Ill., home base to HITS Ocala the weekend of Jan 11-12.
“And it’s been cold [in Ocala]; there’s been frost on the ground and there aren’t heated barns in Florida! We clip enough to let him cool off while he’s working. When it’s warm, the bugs are bad and he’s sensitive, so having the hair on his legs keeps the bugs off him a bit. If it starts to get really hot here, we’ll finish clipping him. I’d rather do what makes him comfortable than worry what people want to look at.”
A little extra hair certainly didn’t slow Centurion B down at all. Not only did he and Goldman top the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix on Jan. 17 of the first week of HITS Ocala, but they also won the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix on Jan. 19. For that class, Centurion B’s clipped coat had spread; just his head, legs and belly were left hairy.
We caught up with Goldman, who has ridden the U.S.-bred Centurion B for 10 years, to find out more about the horse that can both get dressed up for a Fourth of July parade and win at grand prix. Centurion B, a Belgian Warmblood (Rebel Z—Paloma G), was bred by Bannockburn Farm of Indiana. Goldman, 24, rides and trains out of her mother Mary’s Red Coat Farm in the suburb of Chicago.
Did you expect HITS Ocala to get off to such a great start?
You always hope, but I wasn’t even sure I was going to do the grand prixs because my horses got most of the winter off. I was waiting for them to tell me if we’d start off slowly or with a bang!
Centurion won the prix at his last show in October, then he got his shoes taken off and got to be a horse for two months. He turned out and just relaxed. He got put into light work in December and then had a month of work before we went to Ocala.
The last week at home, it was -40 degrees for a few days and below 0 for a good chunk of the week. They all live in a heated barn, but they didn't go outside in that weather. It was pretty miserable and we couldn’t ride for a few days. We brought 19 horses to Ocala and I think they were all just excited to be in the warmer weather and outside. Everyone was wild and fresh.
After I showed [Centurion B and Zacantos Z] on Wednesday in the 1.30-meter class and they were both perfect and happy to be here, I thought about entered the grand prixs. They both jumped double-clean and amazing in the 1.30-meter. They came out of the ring totally ready to go and that was an indicator to me that they could handle the prixs. We said ‘Why not!’ I went in and entered the grand prixs and I couldn’t be happier with the results!
Why do you give your horses a winter vacation?
I graduated from college in May 2012. When I was in school, my horses always showed a lot in the summer and then got most of the winter off. I’d horse show here and there in the winter, but they got a big break.
Last year was the first winter they’ve shown the whole Florida circuit, so we wanted to make sure they still got their break and down time to let them relax and be horses. That’s so important for them. They’re your partners.
What’s your plan for Centurion B for the HITS Ocala circuit?
I’m a firm believer in going with what the horse needs, so we’ll play it by ear when he shows during Ocala. I don’t plan on showing every week, so if he’s ready to go, we’ll go, and if he’s ready for a break, that’s OK too. If things keep going well, I’d like to do the [Great American $1 Million Grand Prix on March 24].
I know you jumped in the Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix in Saugerties, N.Y., last September. How did that go?
They were gigantic jumps! I had a heart attack walking that course. It was only the third 1.60-meter class I’d done and he’s the only one I’ve ever jumped a 1.60-meter course on. It was my first outdoor 1.60-meter class, too, and against top people and for quite a bit of money! I was very happy with how we did. [Goldman and Centurion B finished with 15 faults.]
After that, everything else looks a bit easier!
What does Centurion B mean to you?
He’s done everything for me. He jumped his first cross-rail with me and we’ve just grown up together. I won my first grand prix on him, I did my first 1.60-meter class with him.
He loves his job. He turns fast and he has a huge stride, but he can collect, too. He’s careful; he doesn’t want to hit the jumps. And bottom line, he loves what he does.
What’s Centurion B like?
He’s a pet at home. He’ll follow me around like a dog. We go trail riding and he does anything, really. We’ll dress him up for Fourth of July parades and he'll go in them. His barn name is Leo and he’s been a lion for Halloween before. He’s a real family horse as well as being a grand prix horse. I can ride him bareback and backwards. I can do pretty much do anything with him!
What’s the bit that he goes in?
It’s a straight-bar Happy Mouth Pelham with a drop noseband. It only has one rein. At home every day, I’ll ride him around in a snaffle, but in the ring he gets really strong. I’ve tried 1,000 bits on him and switched it up a lot, but this is what works and what he likes.