Lucky Too Brought Good Fortune To A Generation Of Young Riders

Jun 26, 2011 - 7:00 PM
Tess Albright rides Lucky Too.

From orphan foal to four-time Devon champion, this medium pony molded countless careers.

The champion medium pony hunter who walks into Devon’s Gold Ring to accept the Lucky Too Perpetual Trophy follows in extraordinary footsteps. The trophy’s namesake dominated the pony ring at that show, retiring the previous award in 1999 and then returning to win her own trophy in 2002.

“There was never a time that pony wasn’t great,” said trainer Tom Wright. “She helped each of her riders rise above their level, her consistency was so strong. All of her riders turned out to be very confident, good riders, and what more can you ask for from a pony than that?”

Lucky Too carried a line of children to multiple tricolors at major shows across the country like Devon (Pa.), Pennsylvania National, Washington International (D.C.), Capital Challenge (Md.), Hampton Classic (N.Y.), Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) and Menlo Charity (Calif.).

Lucky Too was born with the odds stacked against her. When Pam Baker’s students Kay and Bill Alden finished showing Lucky Y Not, a hack-winning but willful Connemara-Thoroughbred cross, the trainer opted to send her to Marguerite Taylor-Jones. Taylor-Jones bred her to Cymraeg Rain Beau to produce the correct and talented Lucky Me, then tried the same combination again two years later.

That second attempt yielded a near carbon copy of Lucky Me in gray, but the dam died a few hours after giving birth. That left Taylor-Jones and her daughter Marianne Taylor with the daunting task of raising the foal by hand.

“She was a sweet filly,” said Taylor. “She was very independent from the beginning. Her older sister had a streak to her, but that orphan didn’t.”

They named the foal Just My Luck in honor of her tough beginning. Rather than suffer, the filly thrived at the Taylors’, transitioning quickly from bottle-feeding every two hours to drinking from a bucket.

When much of the farm packed up for the annual trip to Devon just three months after her birth, the Taylors also loaded their new filly on the trailer to keep a close eye on her. And they figured that as long as she was there, she might as well make her Devon debut; she ended up placing second in the crossbred pony foal class. She and Lucky Me also helped Lucky Y Not win second in the crossbred pony produce of dam class.

It was the first of many times the sisters would stand in the middle of the Gold Ring. The two took turns winning the medium pony hunter championship every year between 1994 to 1999.

“That pony had a great work ethic, and you could count on her not to let you down,” said Wright. “At home she could get a touch blasé, but step into the ring at Harrisburg, Washington or Devon, and she was extraordinary. She had incredible range: if she was getting there deep she’d just back herself up then walk down the line, or getting there long, she’d just stretch over it. She was a lesson pony at home and a fancy pony at the show. She helped all her riders rise above their level.”

The pony got her start in the show ring thanks to Eddie Horowitz. His student Tracy Loveless had Lucky Me, and he’d had her gray sister in the back of her mind since he’d seen her standing in a field at the Taylors’ as a yearling.

When he heard that she was coming up to auction at the Virginia Pony Breeders’ Select Sale, the precursor to the American Hunter Pony Classic Auction held in conjunction with USEF Pony Finals, Horowitz made the trip and didn’t stop bidding until he left with that unbroken 2-year-old in his trailer.

“We had to have that pony,” said Horowitz. “At 2 she was already 13.2 hands, and I’d expected she’d grow up to be a large, but I didn’t care. But that pony didn’t grow an inch; she was always just a pretty big medium.”

At Horowitz’s Ocala, Fla., farm the filly wandered into the pond up to her neck when it was hot, trotting to the gate when Horowitz called her name. After she started under saddle, they renamed her Lucky Too as a nod to her sister. But this filly eventually proved an easier charge; while Lucky Me was notoriously spunky, Lucky Too learned the basics seemingly overnight.

“That pony taught me a lot about my daughter,” said Christina Schlusemeyer, whose daughter Hillary Simpson (née Schlusemeyer) gave the pony miles early in her career. “Hillary was happy to ride whatever was in the barn, and she’d ridden ponies that were sold before. But when Lucky was sold she was absolutely devastated. I had no idea it would be that bad. After that we had a deal: nothing gets sold unless we all agree.”

Simpson wasn’t the only one to get attached. Her former riders lined the fence to watch when she went in the ring, especially longtime owner Rachael Herkowitz.

“I remember being at her last show and sitting with Rachael’s mom Jan watching the pony warm up and just bawling,” said Herkowitz’s trainer Heather Irvine. “We were sitting with Bob Crandall, and he just couldn’t under-stand why we were so upset! My main wish was just to have her back in our barn and eventually retire her. We were so lucky to get her back at the end of her career.”

Lucky’s legacy lives on in the Lucky Too Perpetual and the Lucky Too Challenge trophies, awarded to the winner of Devon’s small pony hunter stakes and the medium pony hunter champion, respectively. Lucky lives in Irvine’s back yard, ruling over her best friends, Joker the donkey and Butterscotch the miniature horse.

Tracy Loveless (1987-1988)

I’d owned Lucky Me since she was 2 and got her started in her career when I was a young teenager, so I was really excited to get her full sister. I remember she was fat, dark gray dappled, hairy and adorable. She was very playful as a young pony, and I remember her biting me on the butt when I was picking out her feet once. We called her Gertie, because of course we already had a Lucky in the barn.

When I got her she had been ridden, but not that much. We showed her a little tiny bit, really just introducing her to the concept. She was good and easy from the beginning, where Lucky Me was difficult at the beginning.

Havens Schatt (1989)

When I was a junior they didn’t have the nice age rule they have now to keep older kids from showing small and medium ponies, so I showed Lucky in my last junior year when I was 18.

She was young, difficult, spooky and not the best of jumpers. I honestly didn’t see much of her potential at the time! I remember thinking every time I went to get on her, “Here’s a pony who’s going to pull me downhill, spook, chip and then jump, then hang her legs straight down.”

When I was riding her I’d try to stay back and hold her head up. But now, that’s my favorite kind of horse to show! I like them to take them a little bit to the jumps like she did.

Years later I was working [for the Lindner family], and there she was! All I could think was, “Oh my God, I’m going to ride her again?” But by then she was what she was: awesome.

E  Blake Lindner Thompson (1992-1993)

My mom and dad gave me Lucky for Christmas. I’d had other ponies before her like [Northfields] Apple Blossom and Shenandoah Sundowner, but they were older at the time. Lucky was the first younger fancy show pony I’d had.

I remember Tom [Wright] telling my parents, “She’s got a bit of spunk, but she’s very sweet natured, and she’s going to be amazing with some more training.” She certainly could be spunky—I remember Havens would have to get on her some mornings before the classes.

She was the first pony I really clicked with and the first pony that gave me insight into what a good distance was: if it was tight, she’d slow down, and if it was long, she’d speed up.

She loved Jolly Ranchers, so we used those to get her to jog, or in the model to get her to prick her ears. Even at that age she was very loving. She was the type you could send a 3-year-old to go brush and not worry that she might kick. I used to ride her bareback on the cross-country course at the Kentucky Horse Park.

My parents and I talk about it all the time: she’s the one pony we never should have sold. She made me a better rider and gave me confidence that I could win. I had other nice ponies, but she was my favorite. I got tall pretty quickly, so I didn’t stay in the ponies too long, but she was the instrumental piece in launching my riding career.

Rachael Herkowitz (1994-1999)

I ended up getting Lucky as a surprise for my birthday. I’d tried her one year earlier, when Heather [Irvine] had me jump a few crossrails on her, but I didn’t fathom that getting her was even a remote possibility.
When I got her, I was just out of the short stirrup. I’d just moved up to the mediums on Northfields Apple Blossom, who really taught me my initial skills. Lucky and I were both pretty green still, and at the start we’d get to the shows and swap and chip, and I’d be champion on Blossom because I was more used to her.

I’m not sure what the turning point was, but something clicked. One horse show we were champion, and then next thing you know we’re winning all the time. Once we got the hang of it, it took off in a very consistent fashion and we were champions every weekend.

She would eat anything, and she loved snow cones. We let her get a little spoiled. If she didn’t get a treat she’d head butt you, and she could lift you right off the ground—her neck was unbelievably strong. But she was very caring whether I was on her or off her, which really contributed to how special she was.

After I stopped riding her we still owned her, and I’d watch other kids ride her. At first it was hard, because I didn’t want to watch someone else ride my pony, but at the same time I wanted her to do well. As a teenager it’s easy to be selfish and think, “That’s my pony, I want to keep her forever,” but it worked out that I got to watch her go with so many kids and go so well with so many other riders.

In the end it was so nice to watch her when I could, knowing I had such great memories and she was bringing them to other kids.    

Christine Lindner (1999-2000)

When I was a kid, I used to watch Lucky go all the time. I was absolutely in love with that pony, and I dreamed about riding her one day. I was so excited when I got to ride her! Tom [Wright] knew her well and knew it would be a perfect fit.

When I got Lucky, I was still at the point where I made lots of mistakes, but she was always there to help me out. She was a great pony, very sweet.

I was lucky enough to have a lot of nice ponies, but she was definitely the best I’d had yet. By the time I got her she had a lot of experience, and she would do everything that I asked her to. My favorite memory of riding her was at Devon. We ended up grand champion, and it was incredibly exciting because it was the best I’d ever done. I’d always done well with her, but at the big shows I would get nervous and make a mistake. I was so excited when we were champion, then to be grand champion was amazing.

It was really hard to say goodbye to her when our time was up. I’d already really grown out of the mediums, but that didn’t make it any easier.

Jen Bliss (1999)

Christie Lindner had a wedding to attend the last day of Harrisburg, so she wasn’t able to ride Lucky in the stake class. Tom asked me if I could fill in early in the show, and I was so excited because she was such a superstar. I had two ponies of my own that were green and difficult, and I knew it would be such a pleasure to do her.
On my first pony, Believe In Magic, we were having a beautiful round in the stake, then we made a right turn to the in-and-out, and at the last second he ducked out. Obviously that was super disappointing, so I was excited to have Lucky to do to make up for it.

Walking into the ring I just was saying to myself, “Please, Jen, just find the jumps and don’t screw it up.” Here I am on this pony that I’ve been watching forever—it was a lot of pressure. But she was absolutely perfect. She knew her job 100 percent and was such a professional going around. Everything went perfectly, and we won the class.

It’s a really special memory, just one of those times when everything went perfectly. But more importantly,
it started a really important relationship for me in my riding career. I went on to ride Dreamboat and Life-
boat and Strapless for Tom and the Lindners, thanks to that one and only trip. It was an amazing oppor-

Tess Albrecht (2001-2002)

The first year we went to Devon it was absolutely pouring down rain. I knew the kids from back east were used to dealing with the elements, but I’m from California, where it doesn’t rain. Everyone was scratching because the weather was so bad, but [my trainer] Mark [Bone] said she’d be good.

So there’s me, who’s never ridden in the rain before, and this white pony running around absolutely covered in mud. We were past just being wet, and I was a little nervous because I didn’t want to slip. But she didn’t bat an eye, and it ended up being so much fun. She was reserve champion, and I ended up best child rider.

By the time I got her, she was really reliable. She was one of these animals who was smarter than she was supposed to be, and she really had everything down. Even if I made a mistake, she would take good care of me.
The two of us were really compatible. It got to the point where we’d barely even warm up, we’d just get on and jump one or two fences before we went in the ring, and then she’d be perfect. We ended up being the ones to beat most places we went, and I ended up with a room full of ribbons and prizes from her. But best of all she was really great to hang out with. I’d just go and sit in her stall with her. She was always calm, never wild or anything.

Christina Chapman (2003-2004)

I’d had a lot of nice ponies before I got Lucky, but she was just the best.

My biggest memory of riding Lucky was winning the medium pony hunter championship at Harrisburg and tying for the grand pony hunter championship with Jessica Springsteen and Newsworthy. I’ll never forget that moment when Jessica and I walked into the middle of that ring together.

I hadn’t even wanted to go to Harrisburg because I had a school trip to the mountains in Virginia. I was boy-crazy at the time, and I wanted to stay on the trip to hang out with my friends. But my mom said, “Christina, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. You have an amazing pony, and you’ve been riding really well. You need to go to Harrisburg.” She was right! It was my first and only time going, and it couldn’t have gone better. Lucky was absolutely perfect. Jogging into the ring in first after winning over fences was the most incredible feeling.

That pony was amazing to ride. You could see any distance, and she’d be there for you.

Alliy Moyer (2005-2007)

I got Lucky when I was about 11, just before my first time going to the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.). It was my first year showing very seriously. The very first show of circuit I was champion on her, and it was such a big moment.

I knew she was very special when I got her, but it really started to sink in at the horse shows. A lot of random people would walk up to us and say, “Oh hi Lucky!” That was weird at first, then I realized how famous she was. Everyone knew her and loved her. The whole time we were going to shows Rachel [Herkowitz] and Heather [Irvine] were there cheering us on too. It was great having them a part of it.

She was really comfortable to ride and gave me a fantastic feeling going over the jump. When I started with her I was still at the point where I was chipping some and making a lot of mistakes but starting to get better. Lucky took me to indoors for the first time. We didn’t do very well together, but she helped me get comfortable there.
Lucky really taught me a lot. For the most part she was really patient, but there were some days where she didn’t want anything to do with you. She had a little attitude: she knew that she was perfect, and she wanted to make sure everyone knew that too! She had the drive to win that a good pony needs.

Sophie Yzerman (2007-2008)

Lucky was my first pony. Before that I’d just ridden school horses. She took me from my very first horse show—where I did walk-trot over poles and was reserve champion—to the short stirrup. She taught me so much: how to keep going when your horse wants to trot, how to jump, how to find your distances—just how to be a good rider.

Lucky was really good in the barn too. You didn’t even need to hook her to the crossties. Her favorite treats are bananas. I remember being at a show, and my trainer Heather had a banana peel in her pocket, and as we were about to walk into the ring Lucky pulled it out.

When Lucky and I were done together it was a little sad, but not that bad, because she just went to Heather’s house, and I still get to see her. Last time I went to see her I brought her treats and gave her a bath. She’s always liked her baths, and she always needed them because she got so dirty.

I loved riding Lucky, and she was always really easygoing no matter what we were doing. It was so great getting to learn so much on a pony as experienced as she was. 

Category: Juniors
Tag: Ponies

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