Pawlow is a funny horse. On cross-country, “Ernie” doesn’t blink an eye at anything. “I can walk the course and think: ‘Oh gosh, look at those duck jumps in the water. I wonder what the horses will think of those?’ Ernie just jumps in and says, ‘Huh, they have ducks in the water this year. Cool,’ ” said Will Faudree.
But turn a set of clippers on anywhere near the bay gelding, and you’re taking your life into your hands. Ernie might be a cool customer on course, but in the barn, he’s a puzzle of quirks and eccentricities. Faudree and his team, including barn manager Natalie Varcoe-Cocks, have taken the time to sort through Ernie’s neuroses and build a strong bond of trust with him. That effort has paid off, as Ernie is poised to compete at the Luhmuhlen CCI**** in Germany on June 16-19.
Faudree and Varcoe-Cocks shipped over to Germany on June 7, and you can read all about their adventures in Varcoe-Cocks’ blogs. Faudree will ride Ernie in the CCI**** at Luhmuhlen, and stablemate Andromaque in the CIC***. After Luhmuhlen, two younger horses—DHI Colour Candy and Riesling de Bussy—will fly to join Faudree in England, and he’ll spend the summer competing and training there. Ernie’s fall goal is the Burghley CCI****.
“I’ve dreamt of doing stuff like this my whole life and to be able to actually do this… I’m a little bit gobsmacked that it’s actually happening,” Faudree said. “I’m really looking forward to the educational side of it.”
The four horses are owned by Faudree’s sponsor, Jennifer Mosing. “I feel like I’m one of the luckiest people in the world. I get to ride amazing horses, and I have amazing support and a great friend in Jennifer Mosing,” said Faudree.
Traveling halfway around the world to compete in a four-star wasn’t quite what Faudree envisioned when he first bought Ernie in the summer of 2007. The bay Irish Thoroughbred gelding had competed to the one-star level in Ireland before being imported to the United States. Robyn Fisher was riding him at the preliminary level in California when Faudree decided to take him on. Ernie was talented under saddle, but he'd gained a reputation for being a nightmare to deal with in the barn.
Pawlow, or “Ernie,” was distrustful and wary when he arrived in Faudree’s barn in the summer of 2007. Turning clippers on anywhere in Ernie’s vicinity elicited a dramatically violent reaction. He would have meltdowns over everyday sorts of activities. But once Faudree was in the saddle, Ernie was a very different kind of horse—a sensible, talented individual. So, Faudree and Varcoe-Cocks learned to work around Ernie’s quirks in the barn.
Faudree campaigned Ernie through the levels in 2007 and 2008, but he was actively offering him for sale. He even tried marketing him as an equitation horse. Faudree needed funds; he’d bought a farm in Hoffman, N.C. And the year 2008 was trying for personal reasons as well. Faudree’s sister, Kristen, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and passed away in November. And the horse that brought Faudree from Texas to the top level of the sport, Antigua, retired from competition. But in the winter of 2008, Faudree taught a clinic at Mosing’s farm in Youngsville, La. Impressed with Faudree, Mosing offered to become an owner. Since Ernie was about to make his advanced level debut, he was the obvious choice. Faudree’s luck was turning.
Since then, Mosing has helped Faudree build a string of talented horses, led by Ernie. In his first Rolex Kentucky CCI**** in 2010, Ernie placed 15th; after that, he was in contention for a spot on the team for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. A minor injury at the final selection trials kept Ernie out of the WEG mix, however. And since his conditioning schedule was delayed, Faudree decided that Luhmuhlen in June would be a better 2011 goal than Rolex again in April. Faudree and Ernie won the CIC*** at Jersey Fresh in May.
Watch Faudree and Ernie's show jumping round—the only double-clear of the CIC*** and CCI*** divisions...
As reactive and wary as Ernie is to deal with in the barn, he’s a totally different horse under tack. In fact, Ernie is downright lazy and unimpressed by pretty much anything. “Not a whole lot fazes him. Angles, ditches, water, his reaction to whatever I put in front of him is ‘Eh, all in a day,’ ” Faudree said.
“Every day I get on him, and I know he’s going to be behind my leg. I know we’re going to have a discussion about it. I can say to him, ‘Really, we have to go through this every day?’ And I’m sure he’s just chuckling at me. He’s always the same, which is great in some respects, because I know when I get to a competition, the atmosphere doesn’t bother him; it actually helps get him a bit up. But also, there’s not a whole lot he gets excited about.”
Ernie was bred in Ireland (Marcuzzi—BC Illusion, Levantos) by a Polish breeder named Ernst Pawlowski. So, his show name—Pawlow—comes from his breeder's last name, and his barn name—Ernie—from his breeder's first name. And "Pawlow" is pronunced like "Pavlov" in the true Polish pronunciation, but many in the United States pronounce it more like "Pawl-lo." Faudree doesn't mind either.
The contradiction that is Ernie is even more evident on the cross-country phase. The cross-country warm-up is the only place his nerves come into play, and walking is something Ernie doesn’t do much of there. “Sometimes he does decide he’ll walk, but if not, I can’t get him to. I don’t fight him about it. It’s like an old marriage. I’m going to choose my battles. If he wants to trot, we’ll trot. Then, he’s pretty terrible around the start box. Probably 90 percent of the time when I leave the start box with him, I say ‘Really, you’re going to dance around the start box and then the minute they say ‘Go,’ you want to walk?’ "