Hannah Taylor fell in love with Ship Shape at first sight, but she got a quick reality check when she started riding him. She promptly asked her mother to return him.
“When I first rode him, he was horrible. He was bucking and spooking. I wanted to get rid of him,” said Taylor. “I begged my mom to send him back and she told me to give him two weeks. So I gave him two weeks and rode him some more and just fell in love with him. He has his little moments, but that’s what makes him ‘Arthur.’”
When Taylor first met Ship Shape (My Prince Charming—Rojedda Mine, Roberto Reason) five years ago, she thought he was the prettiest thing she had ever laid eyes on. She automatically fell in love with the 16-hand, chestnut Thoroughbred gelding. Ship Shape’s Jockey Club name is Prince Of Sport, but his record says he was unraced.
Ship Shape had been broken quite late. “I think he was 6,” said Taylor, 16, of Lovettsville, Va. “When we saw him, he was 8. He was super green.”
To make sure she and “Arthur” were working in the right direction, Taylor turned to trainer Miranda Scott to help bring along the talented but green gelding. “Quite frankly, he just needed to get broke,” Scott said.
“When I first started working with him, he really needed to learn to accept the bit like any warmblood, or Thoroughbred, or any horse,” said Scott. “I had to say to Hannah ‘Stick with this a while, it may seem like it’s going backwards for a little bit.’ Hannah was very tolerant and patient.
“There was a learning curve there for a while, where I said, ‘I know he looks like he’s kicking and farting and hating my leg, but I promise you when we get through this that you will have a really nice horse to ride,’” said Scott. “Once we put some traditionally solid flatwork on him, we put him all together. He was easier to ride because it changed his balance a little bit.”
As Arthur developed, Taylor bonded with him. “He’s definitely taught me to trust [him],” Taylor said. “I take him out and ride him bareback for fun.”
As a small, chestnut Thoroughbred, Arthur stands out in a junior hunter warm-up ring full of bay warmbloods. “When I was at [the Pennsylvania National] and Washington, there would be times when I would be in the schooling ring at like 4 a.m. I would be looking around at all the warmbloods, I remember being a little jealous because they’re so pretty and I felt like an outcast because I was on this little Thoroughbred,” Taylor said. “But I realized when I watched his videos that he goes around just like the other warmbloods and it shouldn’t matter because he did just as well.”
Taylor and Arthur showed in the Maryland and Virginia area, with a brief foray to the Vermont Summer Festival, throughout 2013, adding some USHJA National Hunter Derbies to their schedule of large junior hunter, 16-17 classes. They earned the large junior hunter championship at the Keswick Hunt Club (Va.) in May and at Roanoke Valley (Va.) and Maryland Horse & Pony. Even without a Florida season, they qualified for the Pennsylvania National and Washington International indoor shows.
At Harrisburg and Washington, they got a few ribbons. “I was just ecstatic to even do the jog,” Taylor said. “I definitely reached a goal with that.” She ended the year with the large junior championship and a junior hunter classic win at the RMI Raleigh Benefit in November.
Throughout the year, Taylor and Arthur also competed in the Take 2 Thoroughbred divisions when they were offered and earned champion or reserve consistently. Take 2 championships at the Lexington Spring Premiere (Va.), Brandywine Valley Summer Series (Pa.) along with reserves at two other shows put them in the running for the Take 2 year-end award. Victory in the Take 2 division at the Culpeper Finals (Va.) clinched the Take 2 Thoroughbred Hunter year-end high score award for them.
“He’s just a really, really nice horse,” said Taylor. “He’s the nicest horse I’ve ever had and I would never sell him.”