A year ago, Booli Selmayr walked the advanced cross-country course at the Pine Top Horse Trials (Ga.) and felt a little uneasy.
It was her first advanced with Jaeda, and while she’d competed to the level before on another horse, the tables just looked so wide.
But Selmayr set her fears aside, put her “get it done” attitude to work and set out with the off-the-track Thoroughbred mare.
It worked. They jumped clear with some time to finish ninth out of 32 combinations.
“Over the second fence, a flat table, I could feel her stretch her elbows and was like, ‘Yes!’ She was so excited about it. She was just incredible,” Selmayr recalled. “As we did the course she got stronger and stronger and attacked everything. That’s why I think she’s such a great cross-country horse. She sees a fence, and she wants to go at it.”
Now Selmayr is returning to Pine Top with a year of advanced experience to contest the CIC*** on Friday, and the Chronicle will be on-site to report all of the action.
Selmayr’s forward-thinking cross-country riding comes from her extensive foxhunting background.
Growing up in West Chester, N.Y., her childhood Pony Club, Golden’s Bridge Hounds Pony Club, was affiliated with the local Golden’s Bridge Hounds, so Selmayr attended junior days and got hooked. She kept her event horse at the hunt club and worked in the barn in exchange for board.
When Selmayr graduated high school, she knew she wanted to be a professional rider, so she spent six months working for Mark and Tanya Kyle in England.
“It was an amazing experience. They had a huge operation with sale horses and event horses at every level and foxhunting. It was non-stop,” she said. “It’s so much more open, [with] farmland and hedges and drainage ditches. You definitely have the sense that you can gallop all day. They had a whole second horses routine where you start on one horse and swap to another one and you’d be coming home at dark.”
Selmayr came home and got a job at the Millbrook Hunt (N.Y.) and served as whipper-in for seven years. She kept an event horse on the side, Castle Diamond, who would take her to her first advanced.
“The foxhunting is why I feel the most at home on cross-country, out galloping at solid things. You’re on the horse for so long, and eventually you have to be like, ‘I trust that this thing does not want to fall down, so I’m just going to figure out my balance, get a good rhythm and off you go.’ I think out hunting, the moment you start second guessing, just like if you do cross-country riding, that’s when things go wrong. You’ve just got to think forward and trust that your horse will get his legs out of the way!” she said.
Castle Diamond took Selmayr further than she’d expected. She thought she’d sell him when he got to the one-star level, but a clinic with Boyd Martin in 2012 changed her mind.
“He was like, ‘What? Why are you going to sell him?’” she said. Martin thought the Irish Sport Horse gelding could make it to advanced.
“I do have to thank Boyd Martin for having me not sell my horse because it was the wisest thing I ever did! And I had somebody who wanted to buy him,” she said.
The pair went on to compete at several two-stars and advanced horse trials before he became a schoolmaster for Selmayr’s students.
With newfound confidence in her eventing skills, Selmayr bit the bullet and decided to give eventing as a career a go in 2014.
Around that time, fellow eventer Kerry Millikin was getting out of coaching and handed some of her students to Selmayr, including amateur rider Kelly Morgan.
Morgan had bought Jaeda, who’d competed to the two-star level with Canadian rider Samantha St. Jacques, as a schoolmaster, but she didn’t want to canter around the lower levels.
Selmayr suggested she compete the mare in order to sell her.
“Jaeda’s not really that type of horse. She’s very athletic and awesome to work with, but she’s definitely not an adult amateur horse. She’s just too hot. She likes to have her person,” she said. “Even now with the working students I have, I can only let them trot her. She doesn’t like lots of people on her. I think that was the problem. She was getting frustrated having me on her, then somebody else on her, then Kelly on her. Kelly was very generous and very supportive and lets me compete this awesome horse.”
As Selmayr got the Canadian-bred mare (Persian Star—Sweet Jennifer, Kentucky Cookin) to preliminary and then a one-star, she and Morgan realized they had something special and decided to keep going with her.
They finished on their dressage score at the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI** (Md.) in 2015 in 18th place, and last year completed two CIC***s with no cross-country jumping penalties.
They also jumped around with just 2.8 time penalties in their first CCI*** at Fair Hill, but withdrew before show jumping.
Known as the “Dragon Princess” around the barn, Jaeda is not a cuddler according to Selmayr, 29.
“She’s actually quite sweet, but she’s not going to come up to you and cuddle. She likes to observe you and go, ‘Thank you for your time, move on now.’ She’s a very workmanlike horse, so like, grooming is part of the job. She’ll stand there and be groomed, but she doesn’t want to be fussed with. She wants everything done because she’s on the job all the time,” she said.
Jaeda went by My Strawberry Angel on the track, where she raced until she was 4; Selmayr jokes that the name is not accurate.
“That is so not you! I love you to pieces honey, but you’re no angel,” she said.
Based in Millbrook for most of the year and Aiken, S.C., for January through April, Selmayr’s been getting help from Martin and Richard Picken, but credits Lendon Gray and Mikki Kuchta for help when she’s home. She still has a handful of foxhunting clients, but mostly works with adult amateurs.
She’s hoping to go to the Jaguar Land Rover Bromont CCI*** (Quebec) in June, but for now, her goal at Pine Top is to have three good tests.
“It’s hard to ride other things after riding a Thoroughbred like her especially, because their heart is unstoppable. One of the greatest things is being able to be on a Thoroughbred galloping out there and jumping. She’s a classy Thoroughbred, and I’m just so happy I get to ride her,” she said.
When asked if Jaeda foxhunts, Selmayr said with a laugh, “Oh God, I don’t think so! I think she’d probably kill people. She’s a loner. I think that’s why she loves the cross-country. It’s her and me. That’s what’s really fun about working with a mare as well, it’s different than the relationship I had with Castle Diamond and my new horse. They’re geldings, and they’re so sweet; they’re bros. And with her, you’re really a teammate. There’s that womanly respect for one another, and it’s cool. When she starts to have her fit, you just have to be supportive. It’s a really intellectual relationship when you’re on a mare.”
Watch Selmayr and Jaeda at the Millbrook Horse Trials last year via RNS Video.