For Canadian Olympian Kyle Carter, breeding his own horses has always been a “labor of love.”
His patience and persistence in bringing along one special homebred, FR’s Trust Fund, is finally paying off, as the gelding completed his first advanced events last fall and is set to tackle this weekend’s Wellington Eventing Showcase in Wellington, Fla.
But it wasn’t always an easy journey with “Finn.” Carter has had to figure out how to get the best out of the quirky and intelligent 10-year-old gelding over his career, which included an injury in 2013 that almost resulted in putting him down.
“He’s every bit as spooky as [his mother] was, but he is such an interesting mindset because he’s so into the game,” said Carter. “He goes to the competitions and just sets up and rises at a competition more than any other horse I’ve ever had. It’s really unbelievable. He goes to a show and gets a kick out of it. It’s a puzzle to him. He really enjoys that. He’s not the bravest, but he’s got a good record, and it’s only because he’s interested in what he’s doing.”
Carter and his wife Jennifer have always enjoyed breeding, usually between one and three foals a year. Jennifer’s 2002 Rolex Kentucky CCI**** partner Leaps And Bounds (Fils du Lilly—A Splash of Chass) was one of their first homebreds, and they’ve continued to breed a small group of Thoroughbred mares who’ve all gone advanced.
Kyle found Finn’s dam, Rumors, as a 4-year-old at a broodmare auction.
“I brought her on to sell her, but she was a chestnut mare, so she was a bit hard to sell,” he said. “She just kept hanging around, and I ended up going to Rolex on her in 1994. I sold her for the down payment on our farm a couple of years later.”
Kyle bought her back when she was 15 and kept her as a broodmare. Now 30, she’s enjoying retirement at the Carter’s Ocala, Fla., farm. “She was incredible on the flat. She could hold her own against the warmbloods, but she was a bit of a spook and a bit of a chicken,” Kyle said.
He paired her with the advanced eventing stallion Ringfort Tinkatoo (now gelded) twice and got Finn and eventually his brother, the 6-year-old FR’s Commarshall, who hasn’t shown yet.
Kyle named Finn after a joke he has with his daughters Riley, 9, and Trista, 4.
“I gave half of him to my eldest daughter when he was born,” he said. “Now both my daughters own an equal share in him. I always told them as children of a horse person they were never going to have a trust fund, so when he sells we’ll split the money up and half will be divided amongst them. Then it will be a college fund or whatever. To be honest, he’s going to be a hard one to sell because of how I feel about him, but I also can’t be selfish. There’s more to this than my riding. I’ve got a family to support and do this with.”
Finn came up through the levels easily and completed his first CCI** in 2013 at Ocala (Fla.), placing sixth. He was on track to contest an advanced horse trial later that fall when he began showing intermittent severe lameness under saddle.
“He would all of a sudden throw in these enormous lame steps, and it progressed to where he wouldn’t put any weight on that right front leg,” said Kyle. After 10 weeks or diagnostics and treatments, Finn wasn’t getting any better and Carter was getting frustrated.
“To see him in that state was really heart-wrenching,” he said. “He’s been a part of the family. We’d had a lot of hopes for him, and then it looked like it was all drying up on the tree.
“We probably had 10 vets on the case and lots of investigating and diagnostics,” he continued. “The week of my birthday in January, I thought he’d have seven days left. I couldn’t see making him last longer than that. He lost weight; he didn’t want to eat. It was terrible. I thought my birthday present to myself that year was that I was going to have to put him down.”
But with the help of Dr. Jill Copenhagen, Dr. Christiana Ober and Dr. Chris Newton, it was discovered that Finn had a pinched nerve in his neck. DMSO administered intravenously helped the gelding improved dramatically, along with other therapies like mesotherapy and acupuncture.
“He came right from it pretty quickly after being in a really bad state,” said Kyle.
Kyle gave Finn an easy 2014 and they came back out strong in 2015, placing third in the CCI** at Ocala. They moved up to advanced in the late summer and completed the CIC*** at Poplar Place (Ga.) in September.
Kyle has learned to make competitions like games for Finn.
“The big thing is it’s got to be fun for him or you won’t be going forward with him. That’s something I learned through having his mother and riding an older sister of his and then an older brother of his,” he said. “If it’s not entertaining to them, then they’re not going to do it.
“I’m obviously not subtle in how I ride, but I really encourage him and I really try to help him around a course and keep him up in front of the leg. If he can just look at each question as a puzzle, he works on solving it like no other horse. It’s a very interesting challenge, but he’s one of the most rewarding horses I’ve ever had to ride because he communicates so much with you, and he’s such a personality.”
He would love to make a bid for the Canadian Olympic team this year, but knows he’d need to qualify, and he’s not in a rush with Finn considering his age.
“He’s 10 years old—it’s not like he needs to be going to the Olympics. He needs to be at this level I think right now, and he’ll tell me through the spring what he’s thinking, because the one thing with him is he’s not shy to let you know,” he said.
“I’m excited to see him in the atmosphere down there,” he said of Wellington. “He’s been in bigger shows, but he’s never been in anything like what he’s going to see this weekend. I’m really excited about it and so thankful I got invited. I hope to do more of these in the future.”
Follow along at www.coth.com on Friday and Saturday for coverage from the Wellington Eventing Showcase and live streaming.