In the beginning of May, I headed out to try three of our semi-finalists for the John Madden Sales Breeder’s Bridge to Performance contest. I was on my own trying these three, as John Madden was tied up in Fédération Equestre Internationale meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland, and Beezie Madden had to hold down the fort at home in Cazenovia, N.Y., riding all the horses.
I was excited to try these first three. It is so hard to judge a horse just on photos and video. I was hoping they lived up to our expectations.
My first stop was in Virginia at November Hill Farm outside of Charlottesville. It was a gorgeous day, and owner Rebecca Galbraith was very welcoming. I was able to ride Coral Key, the 5-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Coconut Grove—Kannieke). Coral Key was started in the summer of 2011 and spent three months in Florida over the winter, where in January she got her first show experience in the .85-meter jumpers.
When trying a horse, I try to keep in mind what I’ve seen John and Beezie do so many times in trial rides. They get a good feel for the horse on the ground and in the saddle, keeping a careful eye on temperament and aptitude. John always says, besides a lame horse, the second most disappointing type of horse is one that doesn’t have the aptitude to learn. With this type, you spend too much time retraining again and again because they just aren’t sharp enough to retain the lessons and move forward on their own.
I was very pleased with what I saw of Coral Key. She was a very sweet mare and clearly had a fabulous temperament. Her turnout was top notch, and I thought she had a very good mouth.
I started off with a variety of flat work, getting a good feel for her, while paying attention for any inconsistencies in her gaits. She was very willing under saddle and consistent. I moved on to jumping and found her jump to be good, and it seemed as though she were game for anything. There was no hesitation to the fences, and while I didn’t feel the need to push the fence heights, I have no doubt height will not be a concern for Coral Key.
Watch Callie jump Coral Key...
John always stresses that when trying a horse it is important to set them up for success. You want to see a horse at its best, not overface them. Mildly challenging a horse’s scope, carefulness, character, soundness and rideability is important, but it should be done in a limited enough way that it is realistic for the horse. With Coral Key, it was clear to me that she was fairly solid in all aspects, even with very limited testing.
After riding Coral Key, Rebecca gave me a tour of her fantastic farm. The facility was immaculate, and the farm was very peaceful. Rebecca took the time to show me some of their young stock, including three 2-year-olds they bred that are hopefully future jumper prospects. She also had one 2-week-old foal, a miniature horse and some retired horses living out their years at her farm. I was ready to take the mini horse home, but I think Rebecca wanted to keep that one!
After finishing with Coral Key, I headed next to Maryland to spend the night and be ready to try Constant Star the next morning.
She Got Better And Better
Constant Star was at Cornerstone Farm in Harwood, Md., under the management of trainer David Loman. Her owner, Kimberly Clark of Thoroughbred Placement Resources, Inc., was also there, as well as the rest of their team, Susanna Baskin and Erin Root.
Constant Star is a 5-year-old Thoroughbred (Fantasticat—RisenToTheStars) who had a brief career as a race horse but was retired from the track after four races when she showed no talent there.
Everyone at Cornerstone Farm was very enthusiastic and welcoming, and the facility had a great variety of Thoroughbreds. It was very encouraging to see a barn full of happy and healthy Thoroughbreds. As a Kentucky native, I have a real fondness for the Thoroughbreds.
I watched Constant Star be ridden lightly on the flat by Susanna Baskin first and then hopped on. She went in a little rubber snaffle, and although she was more used to going with a very light feel, she had a good attitude about accepting the level of contact I wanted. Over the course of our flatwork she was really accepting of a little more consistent feel.
Constant Star felt very athletic through the flatwork and that feeling continued as we started jumping. Kim and David told me she had just started jumping in November, which gave me a little further appreciation for her talent and the quality of the training she is receiving.
Jumping Constant Star gave me a little feeling like riding Beezie’s Pan American team gold medal ride, Coral Reef Via Volo. Both are small mares, but they are aggressive to the jumps, in a good way. Constant Star was rideable, but you could feel her want to get to the fences.
Watch Callie jump Constant Star...