Many horsemen can spout a million cautionary tales about making sure to look a gift horse in the mouth. But when Katherine Wiedmann took on a free lease of Touchdown, a 14-year-old Welsh-Quarter Horse cross, she ended up with the ultimate pony to help finish her junior career with style.
A member of the Radnor Hunt Pony Club and aspiring eventer, Wiedmann found “Lexus” in 2010 through the Chronicle’s online forums on a forum dedicated to posting animals free to good homes. His owner at the time, Jamie Frees, was planning an extended trip abroad and wanted to find the gelding a happy home while she was away.
“When I started looking for a horse, I just wanted something affordable that I would be able to take novice in eventing and move up the rating system in Pony Club,” explained Wiedmann, 18. “Lexus was really sweet and affectionate right off the bat.”
At the end of summer 2010, Wiedmann, of Wayne, Penn., tried Lexus and took him to his new stall at Linger Longer Farm in Malvern and found out just what she had gotten herself into.
“Lexus is one of the funniest ponies I have ever met,” she said. “More than once I’ve found him rummaging through my grooming box looking for treats, and at shows he always tries to steal hay from the horse next to him.”
Although Wiedmann was immediately enchanted by Lexus’ personality, things didn’t immediately go as
|Katherine Weidmann took the time to get to|
know Lexus and he repaid her with much
success in the pony jumper division.
planned in the saddle. Although she had hoped to compete the pony in eventing, he clearly didn’t enjoy the work.
“When it became clear that Lexus did not enjoy eventing like I had hoped, I faced a rather tough decision,” she said. “I could continue to try and force him to become an eventer because that’s what I wanted to do, or I could find something that he liked.”
Wiedmann opted for a happy middle ground and started doing more jumping in the ring. Through 2011, they focused on Pony Club and lessons and rarely competed. However, Wiedmann decided that for her final two years as a junior, she wanted to give the pony jumper division a try.
“I had always enjoyed watching the pony jumpers at Devon [Horse Show and Country Fair (Pa.)] so I figured I might as well give it a shot,” she said.
But they still had a few obstacles to jump, so to speak, and those, literally, got a bit higher. They had been schooling 3’ fences, but at shows they would be required to conquer 3’3” to 3’7”. With the help of long-time trainer Gillian Beale King, Wiedmann and Lexus spent the winter of 2012 schooling before making their pony jumper debut in April 2012.
“When I first decided I wanted to do the pony jumpers, my only goal was to qualify and compete at Devon, but as I learned more about the division and jumpers, my goals grew to include more,” Weidmann said.
In addition to competing at Devon in 2013, she and Lexus finished ninth in the individual finals at U.S. Pony Finals, sixth at the North American League Pony Jumper Finals at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show and fifth at Zone 2 Pony Jumper Finals at the Devon Fall Classic. Lexus finished the year as the Zone 2 Pony Jumper Horse of the Year and in second in the U.S. Equestrian Federation national standings.
“When I started, I never imagined we would have all the success we did,” Weidmann said.
Now that Weidmann is done with her junior career, Lexus is taking a well-deserved break. Wiedmann isn’t sure what the future holds, but she is continuing leasing Lexus while she makes new plans for after she graduates high school in May.
Although getting a free horse can be full of surprises, Wiedmann said she thinks the right attitude can go a long way toward making it a positive experience.
“I think people really need to take a look at the horse and see if it would work for them and their goals, and not just decide to pick it up because it’s cheap,” Wiedmann said. “Don’t underestimate the ability of an inexpensive lease. With the right rider and a lot of work, any horse can become successful at something, even if it takes a little time to find what it is.”
Even Lexus, with his sweet personality, always made sure Wiedmann stayed on her toes.
“He is not the easiest ride, but that’s one of the reasons I like him—he challenges me every time and keeps it interesting,” she said. “Lexus is lazy, spooky and has a lot of attitude. And if he’s feeling fresh, he puts on a show of scoots, bucks, leaps and sometimes mini-rears.
“But Lexus’ most defining characteristic is probably his heart. He is extremely honest and tries harder than any horse I have ever ridden.”