Alix Szepesi still remembers the day Majco Thunder's Hattrick stepped off the trailer at her farm as a 5-year-old.
“When we first saw him, he was really narrow-chested and had a thin little pencil neck,” she said. “I remember they shipped him from the quarantine facility and they opened the door to have him walk off and he looked out and jumped out of the trailer like ‘Here I am everyone!’ He just always had this really big presence to him.”
And to this day, the now 13-year-old Knabstrupper gelding still commands everyone’s attention as he trots down centerline, covered in spots and with a soft pink muzzle. “People see him and say, ‘Oh what a cute little Appy,’ then he starts moving, and they’re like ‘Whoa,’” said Szepesi. “He thinks he’s the center of the universe and everybody should love him. When we go to a horse show, when we go into the warm up ring, he looks around and whinnies. If he sees a crowd, he puffs himself up. He really knows when it’s time to show.”
The pair have had a strong presence in the Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I ring this season at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, most recently winning the CDI*** Intermediaire I freestyle (68.54%) and finishing second in the CDI*** Prix St. Georges (68.20%) during Nations Cup week, Feb. 19-23 in Wellington, Fla.
Szepesi, Litchfield, Conn., picked out “Hattie” from a video with his co-owner Michelle Douchette that a breeder in Denmark sent them.
While neither were in the market for a horse, they couldn’t resist. “It was just that he was so unique,” said Szepesi. “They were having a hard time selling him because he had spots. He looked so different and he looked so happy in his work and easy.”
Hattie (Thunder Boy—Jasmin, Jahanir Ox) proved easy to train and did his first small tour classes when he was 8, but a week after that show, he foundered.
“He had developed some breathing issues when he came over and the vet suggested putting him on some steroids and we think the steroids triggered the laminitis,” Szepesi explained.
“I always believed in the horse because he has such a big heart and wants to work and he wants to be healthy, so even when people were saying ‘Oh this horse will never be sound, why are you going to bother with this, it’s going to take a long time to get him back,’ if you knew the horse and what his work ethic and his feelings, we never had any doubt that he would come back,” she said. “It’s been a long time, but we always had faith in him. Plus, he’s a special horse. He looks different because he has the spots, but his character is so unique. I’ve never quite met a horse like him who’s got so much character. You really feel like you know what he’s thinking and he knows what you’re thinking. When you take him to the ring and show, you feel like he’s always on the same page with you.”
After a year of stall rest, Szepesi thought she was back on track with Hattie, but little issues continued to crop up that required shoeing changes or time off.
Last season, Szepesi competed him at the AGDF at the Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I levels but he incurred a mild suspensory injury that required more time off.
Now that he’s back to full work, Szepesi is reaping the rewards and enjoying having her partner back.
“I really think all the judges look at him like he’s another horse,” she said. “Sometimes we come around the ring and you can see the judge is disinterested, but halfway through the test they’re sitting up at attention. When we go from the warm up to the start he’s whinnying and looking around. He makes you smile.”
Watch Szepesi and Hattie training at home, including on the beach!