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April 17, 2009

Free Rein With: Buck Davidson

As the grandson of foxhunting Grande Dame Nancy Penn Smith Hannum and son of eventing legend Bruce Davidson Sr., “Buck” Davidson has been in the saddle since infancy. Now a Rolex Kentucky regular, he can still easily recall how his first ride there, aboard The Wolf when he was just 17, didn’t go exactly as he’d hoped.
   
“It rained like I hadn’t seen rain before in my life,” he said. “I remember on roads and tracks, I looked over to the highway and the cars were pulled over on the side of the road. And in the show jumping, that was the first time that I thought, ‘Holy cow, there’s a lot of people in this stadium.’ I looked up and sort of panicked. I think I set the record for the most rails down ever.”
   
But Buck redeemed himself two years later when he returned with the talented Trans Am A Flirt. “I remember as I was walking down the chute to the ring, Mom said, ‘Just relax, Buck. It can’t be worse than last time!’ ” he said. The pair finished with a double-clear round, a fifth-placed ribbon and the USET Markham Trophy for top young rider.
   
Buck’s two entries this year, Ballynoe Castle RM and My Boy Bobby, have been nearly unbeatable at their spring warm-up events.

“Now every time I go into the show jumping in Kentucky, while everybody else is getting nervous, I think, ‘Been there, done that,’ ” he said, laughing. “I’ve had the worst round ever. It can only get better.“

Name: Bruce “Buck” Davidson Jr.                                 
Home Base: Riegelsville, Pa. and Ocala, Fla.                                
Age: 33

What is your earliest memory of Rolex Kentucky?
I was there when my dad won the World Championship in ’78. I guess I was underneath the stands playing with my tractors when he won the gold medal. Mom grabbed me up to go for the awards, and when we went back to look for the tractor it was gone. There were major tears. But I don’t remember that—I was 2.

Given the chance, what horse other than your own would you like to take a turn on?
When I was a kid, I used to ride in the [steeplechase] races, and there was a horse called Cancottage who won the Maryland Hunt Cup three times that I just thought was beautiful. That would have been a cool one. Then there was a horse who [won the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and] ran in the Kentucky Derby called Fly So Free. He was a beautiful horse to look at. I’d love to have a ride on him.

If you had to boil down your training philosophy into one word, what would it be?
Perseverance.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Probably my nervous cough.

What is the most frequently listed item on your credit card statement?

Entries or feed.

Jack Russells: yes or no?
Yes, one. Not multiple. One Jack Russell.

How many miles are on your truck and trailer?
A lot. Close to 100,000 on one truck and about 62,000 on the other. They’re only three years old, and they only go to events.

What word or phrase do you overuse?
Probably “At the end of the day...”

What is your drink of choice?
Water with lemon. I don’t drink alcohol.

What three things are most likely to be found in your refrigerator at all times?

Bottled water, steak and shredded cheese.

What was the last book you read?
Does the Chronicle count? I did read a book called Tiger Traits [by Dr. Nate Booth] about Tiger Woods.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the world today?

The economy.

What do you find to be the most ridiculous part of the horse world?

All the gossip and all the stories.

In retrospect, what has been the best decision you’ve made in life?
Going to play golf with [the owner of my current top mounts] Carl Segal, in 2005.

What is your greatest regret?
I don’t regret anything. You learn from everything. I guess I regret that I don’t have Trans Am A Flirt now, because he probably would have gone better. I wish I knew then what I know now.

What characteristic do you value most in a horse?
Work ethic.

In a human?
Same thing, and honesty. Horses and people are pretty much the same.

What is the best feeling in the world?
Getting off a rollercoaster knowing you’ve survived. Like at Busch Gardens, when you get off and you’ve conquered your fear.

Where will you be in 10 years?
Probably sitting on my four-wheeler at The Fork, just like I am right now.