She’s captured the hearts of dressage fans across the country over the last few years with her distinctive coloring and fun freestyles, but now Jim Koford’s Grand Prix partner Adiah HP will start a new chapter as a schoolmaster with amateur rider Ashley Maul.
Bred and owned by Sherry Koella, the 14-year-old Friesian-Dutch Warmblood mare (Nico—Marije Ant, Anton 343) was partnered with Koford for six years. The pair were regular competitors on the Florida Grand Prix circuit starting in 2018, and they’ve earned three U.S. Dressage Finals (Kentucky) Grand Prix championships. She’s even been made into a Breyer horse. Koford and Adiah competed at Dressage At Devon (Pennsylvania) several times and did a dressage demo at the 2019 Washington International Horse Show (District of Columbia).
Koford said it was a difficult decision, but after he underwent three operations relating to a hernia in 2020, it was time to let her teach someone else while she was at her peak. He’s still working on recovering his own fitness, although Adiah was the only horse he rode during his recovery without pain.
“The third surgery in November hit me the hardest,” he said. “I was so off my game, and I was not allowed to ride. One of the girls at the barn was having difficulty with her horse, so I put her up on Adiah so she could have a fun ride. I watched in amazement as Adiah sparkled. Her eyes were bright, and her ears were up, and she was so earnestly just dancing. [The girl is] 12, and I thought, ‘Oh, maybe she’ll do some leg-yields or some shoulder-in,’ but by the end [Adiah’s] going around doing world-class piaffe and passage with this 12-year-old who hasn’t done anything like that in her entire life. I thought, ‘What an amazing, amazing thing.’ I loved her even more at that point—just how genuine she is.
“That sort of put the spark—I was feeling a little bit guilty,” he continued. “Like, I love her for me because she is my absolute buddy, and she’s helping me rehab through it in a difficult year, but I felt like maybe she was in a different chapter of her life.”
Koford, 58, also noted that Adiah preferred nighttime performances, and with the pandemic putting a damper on the Adequan Global Dressage Festival’s Friday Night Freestyles, he knew it would be tough on the cold-blooded mare to do a full season in Florida’s heat and for him to compete in front of world-class judges when he wasn’t physically at his best.
Maul, Columbus, Ohio, is a small animal veterinarian and a U.S. Dressage Federation gold medalist. She’s known Adiah over the years from working with Koford and has enjoyed watching their partnership flourish.
She approached Koford a few months ago about buying Adiah when she was looking for a schoolmaster.
Adiah will stay in Wellington, Florida, with Koford until the spring. Maul’s been able to ride her for a few weeks so far, and she’s hoping to do some local shows later this year.
“I think everyone knows her so well, and her personality really comes out as soon as you meet her,” said Maul. “She has such a fun, but really caring and sweet personality, so I think that’s why she is so beloved. You can just see it. The moment you see her, just how excited and happy and kind she is. I think that is what really drew me to her. I was really surprised and happy how much she seemed interested in teaching someone. She’s like, ‘OK, yes dear, this is how we do it.’ She seems to want to try to take me under her wing. She’s the life of the party. She just lights up a room.”
While Koford is sad to end his partnership with Adiah, he’s thrilled to watch her with Maul, who trains with Jennifer Roth at home.
“I think this mare has so many good years,” he said. “She’s just now starting to come into her peak. She’s getting better and better. All the things that kept our scores lower than they should be, I feel like we’ve got a handle on now. I’ve never seen a horse so kind and generous and who tries so hard. She’s just an amazing horse. I’m so glad we found the right person who will not take advantage of her kindness and generosity. We fell into the perfect home. Of course I’m sad, but I’m also so thrilled that I know she has a home for life and will forever be protected and cherished. It is possible that someone else can love your horse as much as you do.
“Someone just sent me a TikTok video of her just busting out her moves at CDIs at night,” he continued. “Watching her do what she does, it just cracks me up. I can’t even look at her with a straight face. She’ll have a big mouthful of hay, look at me, and I laugh. She just makes me laugh every day. I just love being part of her life, and I’m glad I still get to be part of her life because I think she’s unique and special and funny, and I’m glad someone else can appreciate those things.”
Be sure to check out the March 8 issue of the Chronicle for more from Jim Koford as he reflects on his career with Adiah HP.