Every rider needs a good plan B, and when the pony that Abby Steffee had planned to show in the Chagrin Valley Hunter/Jumper unrated local weekend on July 6-8 wasn’t up to showing, she had a pretty unusual option in the barn.
Steffee, 11, pulled out her mother’s former grand prix horse, Idole Du Chateau, to show in the walk-trot-canter crossrail division. And she ended up reserve champion, winning one of the over-fences classes and the flat class.
Idole Du Chateau, or “Duly,” started his U.S. show career in 2001 in the amateur-owner jumper division with David Steffee. In 2003, Laura Bowden Steffee started showing him in grand prix classes. After she had Abby and her twin, Sydney, 11 years ago, Laura regained her amateur status and showed Duly in the amateur classes until the summer of 2012, when they retired him.
Duly stayed a big part of the Steffee’s life at their After Hours Farm in Lexington, Ky., and Wellington, Fla., being ridden. And in 2013, when Laura’s mother asked her to show a horse in the USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Chagrin Valley Hunter Jumper Classic (Ohio), she got Duly braided and he jumped around to a top-10 finish in the class. “He’s such a special horse. He has no idea how old he is; I tell everyone he’s 25 and they can’t believe it,” Laura said.
Abby and Sydney both ride, but Abby is a bit less interested that Sydney. “She kind of dabbles in it; she’s not really competitive,” Laura said. Abby had shown Duly once before, in 2014, in walk-trot classes. “It was funny because Sydney is much taller than Abby, so it was the tall sister riding this little tiny pony and the smaller sister riding this huge horse,” Laura said.
Duly seemed like a good option to show at the Chagrin Valley local weekend, but Laura wasn’t sure how it might go. “Abby had ridden Duly at home because he’s a great horse and like a family member. She really wanted to do the crossrails, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” Laura said. “Even though Duly is 25 years old, he’s like ‘Game on!’ She rode him in the ring in the morning and I was on the ground. When we were walking back to the barn, Duly was jigging and so excited.
“The next morning, I showed him in a schooling jumper class, just for fun. I haven’t ridden Duly in years. We jumped around and he was good, so she took him in the crossrails class. He hadn’t shown in a long time. In the first class, he jumped up the first line and added a stride like he was supposed to, and then around the end of the ring, he got going a bit and then did the horse strides down the next line of these 12″ little crossrails. After that he settled in and figured it out. He was like, ‘OK, I’ve got to take care of this kid.’ It was adorable.”
Then came the under-saddle—Duly had never been in an under-saddle class. “I think the only thing he could relate it to was the victory gallop,” Laura said. “You could see him think, ‘This is what we do when we go in the ring with other horses. We get our ribbon and then we gallop.’ And it looked hysterical—all these kids with their little crossrail ponies, and here he is, huge and storming around, and in a frame. But it didn’t take him long, he figured it out. He said, ‘I get it, we’re just trotting and cantering.’ ”