Sunday, Apr. 14, 2024

Baxter’s Luck Lights Up At Galway


The seventh day of the seventh month of 2007 turned into a very lucky day for Andrea Baxter. The stars aligned for her and Estrella at Galway Downs Summer Horse Trials in Temecula, Calif., July 5-7.

While she didn’t expect to win the advanced division, even less did she foresee her 4-year-old Thoroughbred, Rolex IV, earning top honors for the event’s inaugural Young Event Horse division.
PUBLISHED

ADVERTISEMENT


The seventh day of the seventh month of 2007 turned into a very lucky day for Andrea Baxter. The stars aligned for her and Estrella at Galway Downs Summer Horse Trials in Temecula, Calif., July 5-7.

While she didn’t expect to win the advanced division, even less did she foresee her 4-year-old Thoroughbred, Rolex IV, earning top honors for the event’s inaugural Young Event Horse division.

Baxter, 24, and her mother Connie, who owns Twin Rivers Ranch (Calif.), spent $700 on Estrella’s dam, Say Grace, at a Thoroughbred auction. The mare was in foal, had a foal at her side, and included a free breeding back to her stallion. Baxter sold two of them and competed the other through intermediate.

She later won a stallion service auction to the late Starman, 1988 Olympic individual show jumping silver medalist, and bred Say Grace again. Estrella was the result.

“She was big and beautiful when she was born,” Baxter remembered. “But when she hit 3 and 4, she just looked like a big, fat pony. She had short legs, a fat belly and a short neck, and I thought, ‘What am I going to do with this?’ ”

But she can laugh now in hindsight. “By the time she was 5, she grew into herself,” Baxter said. “She didn’t quite look like an event horse, but she was well put together.”

Estrella lived up to her name when she became the star of her first show. She won the circuit championship for adult amateur jumpers at the HITS Desert Circuit Indio, Calif., in her sixth year. Check books flipped open, and offers flew at Baxter. But as the bids increased, Baxter decided Estrella was worth more to her than any buyer would offer.

ADVERTISEMENT

She still wasn’t quite sure if her springy Westphalian would have the speed for eventing, however. “I wanted to spend a lot of time at preliminary to make sure she understood the concept of cross-country and jumping flatter across her fences,” Baxter explained.

Soon enough, Estrella graduated through intermediate as well and became a full-fledged advanced horse with speed to boot.

“The first minute of my course she shot out of the start box like a blistering bullet,” Baxter said. “And there’s no use arguing with her in that first minute about how fast she’s going. Her mother was the same way.”

Once Estrella found her rhythm, “I could have been doing a hand stand, and she would have gone around,” Baxter said with a laugh. They crossed the finish line at 6:28, 6 seconds slower than the optimum time, but also the second fastest of the division.

Summer Schedule
This particular horse trials at Galway normally happens in May. Coordinator Robert Kellerhouse ran the show mid-summer instead this year on “siesta schedule.” Four divisions ran until noon while the other two waited until the afternoon cool-down at 4 p.m. Baxter used the mid-day break to walk the course and refresh with a quick trip across the Slip And Slides Kellerhouse had rented.

Show jumping day is normally a very confident day for Baxter, and Galway was no exception. Throughout her preliminary and intermediate career, hardly a rail fell under Estrella’s hooves. Now that she’s jumping bigger advanced fences, it happens more often, Baxter admitted, but not this time. They were the only pair to post a double clear. Adding only 2.4 faults from their cross-country phase, they finished well ahead of the pack on 41.2.

Even Estrella’s dressage was on track. “I don’t think she ever broke [a score of] 40 at preliminary,” Baxter said, “but now that I’ve got her going advanced she’s breaking into the 30s. I think the extra workload is making her focus a little more. I just recently started taking lessons with Bea di Grazia, and she’s really whipping me into shape in dressage.”

ADVERTISEMENT

A Horse To Watch
While Rolex IV might not have been the most impressive 4-year-old on the flat, he surprised everyone, including Baxter, with his jumping ability.

Baxter also bought this Thoroughbred’s dam, Destined To Be, at an auction while she was in foal with him. The little plain bay was born on Rolex Kentucky cross-country day in 2003, thus his name.

Baxter said he doesn’t look like much, especially compared to his younger Holsteiner-cross brother, Athens (named for his birth during the 2004 Olympic Games). But fortunately, looks weren’t the only criteria for the judging.

He seemed rather calm the day before his tests, and Baxter thought he’d be fine without a longe. Lucky for her, about 10 minutes before she was supposed to get on she ended up having her mother longe him. “He put on quite the show too—running, bucking, screaming and kicking up dirt clods that flew 20 feet through the air,” she said.

But apparently he got all his aggressions out and managed to hold his own. “All the other horses in the class were trotting around looking like fancy dressage horses, and here I was on my Thoroughbred,” Baxter said.

Rolex earned average scores in conformation and dressage, but he couldn’t be touched in the jumping phase. He powered over every fence and galloped like a seasoned pro. Since the performance section was weighed heaviest, his 9.07 earned the victory at 78.11, 8 points better than his closest competition.

“When they called my name in first I was shocked,” Baxter admitted. “I just didn’t realize how good he would be at jumping!”

Baxter wants to take Estrella to Rebecca Farm (Mont.) and to the Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.) in the fall while Rolex IV will continue in Young Event Horse divisions.

Joshua A. Walker

Categories:

ADVERTISEMENT

EXPLORE MORE

Follow us on

Sections

Copyright © 2024 The Chronicle of the Horse