She’s named after the Greek goddess of the harvest, but RF Demeter, show jumper-turned eventer Marilyn Little’s mount of four years and the winner of the Bromont CCI*** (Quebec) this past weekend, goes by Goldfish around the barn.
She’s nicknamed the Goldfish, The Fish, Fishie, or The Mighty Goldfish not just because of her narrow physique and golden color, but because she can take a lap around the dressage ring and then totally forget what she just did and be fresh for the next movement. Like a goldfish circling its bowl, “Demi” lives in the moment.
But fortunately, that mentality is what makes her such a formidable competitor and a mighty Goldfish. She added the Bromont CCI*** title to her impressive resume of strong placings at four-stars at home and abroad, including sixth at the 2014 Rolex Kentucky CCI**** and 20th at the Burghley CCI**** (England) that year as well. In 2013, they were seventh at Luhmuhlen CCI**** (Germany) and 13th at the Pau CCI**** (France).
Tackling some of the biggest four-stars in the world is the 13-year-old Oldenburg’s (Rubin-Royal—Patricia, Kanudos XX) most beloved activity. In fact, sometimes it’s hard to get her to take a break! Here’s what you might not know about The Goldfish:
- “Demi is a real creature of habit,” said Little. At Little’s family base, Raylyn Farms (Md.), she makes the calls and really lets you know what she’s ready for.
“She likes vacations, but not for very long. Sometimes I get a week out of her, sometimes I can get three weeks out of her. This past year after Burghley—she was ready for [the World Games], then she was ready for Burghley—it was just a big year and I got probably five weeks of quiet time out of her!
She tells you when she wants to go back into work because she gets in the paddock and then she just starts walking the fence. She goes 15 minutes eating grass and then it’s game over, so you know when she’s starting to walk the fence again, she’s ready to go back to work. She’ll stop eating if you don’t start working.”
- She’s a cribber. In typical Goldfish fashion, she can get a little absent-minded and hyper-focus on that for a while. And when Demi wants something, she’s pretty determined to make it happen.
“She loves her window; she tends to sit there and try to just suck on the door and stare out into space,” said Little. “She does wear a collar and it works, for the most part…”
- Demi’s personality is like an onion. Every day brings a different layer, and you really never know if she’ll give you the mare glare or cuddle in your lap.
“She has moments where she is a fire engine and is ‘chestnut mare, beware!’ and there are moments when she is just most peaceful, sleepy-eyed Pony Club horse,” said Little. “It really depends on the day.”
- If Demi were a person, she’d be the popular girl in high school because she’s likable and forms attachments with others quickly. “She attaches herself to everybody, and they attach themselves to her,” Little said.
- When it comes to a favorite treat, “Fishie” is a little indifferent.
- She most enjoys being called “Fishie” in a high-pitched, silly voice—her ears perk up and “she gets this dreamy look in her eye!” said Little. “We try to keep that dreamy look as much as possible, because the other look usually makes you a little nervous…”
- “She’s highly anorexic,” joked Little. “She doesn’t eat anything. She doesn’t have a huge appetite—she’s famously thin. I’ve had people say, ‘Gosh, why don’t you feed her more?’ And I say, ‘If you can get her to eat, go for it.’ ” She’s quite picky about grain and she lives with a hay net.
“She really is on the hunter feeding program, so a lot of hay and as many fat supplements as we can possibly give her in her grain!” said Little with a laugh.
- She loves her Equiotic, which is a probiotic paste, and it helps fill out her athletic, lean frame.
“I started giving her that right about Luhmuhlen time in 2010. She loves Equiotic and it’s done a huge amount of good for her physically, and it also gets her to eat. If you put it in her mouth, she immediately goes to her bucket, so that’s sort of a trick!”
- She loves living on straw, rather than shavings, and enjoys the occasionally lie-down in her stall.
“She’s got a very big stall at home—it’s a small paddock. I’m sure she feels a little bit cramped [at events]. They were all joking the other day, ‘I think you have an entire bale of hay in the hay net.’ But, it’s like, she might get hungry tonight! But she’s got a beautiful coat so we know she’s healthy and has more than enough energy! So we try not to panic about it.”
- She’s petrified of tractors, and has a quirky aversion to wide open spaces, but you wouldn’t know it when she’s blazing around the biggest cross-country tracks in the world, at which times her nickname is “the Flying Fish.”
“I think in her last life she died of a terrible tractor accident!” laughed Little. “And she doesn’t like open space, which is amazing for an eventer. We have to be careful when we go to an event and everybody’s warming up in a field for the dressage, I have to go find a little corner and stay there, or warm up in another dressage ring or put two trailers right near each other and warm up in between the trailers so it’s a small space. She just cannot handle open spaces.”
- When she’s not behaving under saddle and she’s living up to the chestnut mare stereotype, she’s called “The Salmon.”
- Demi is an insecure horse in a lot ways, and finds comfort in being around the people she knows, more so than other horses. But tack her up, and she’s ready to do battle.
“She really responds to the people that she knows,” said Little. “She’s not one of those horses that can have a ton of people taking care of her all the time. She really draws a lot of strength from that. When she’s on cross-country, she’s absolutely bold and she’s confident in herself and she’s one of those soldiers that would just run into battle because you said to do it. She’s confident in your decision for her.”
- Her favorite traveling companion is people. She doesn’t have a favorite accessory or toy, but loves a massage and acupuncture session after a big event.
“She’ll go to sleep, and as soon as she falls asleep, she’s a dreamer I’m sure, because the fish lips start going! Her eyes are closed, her ears are lopsided but her lips are still going! So that’s when we know she’s really relaxed,” Little said.
- She’s a professional traveler. “She’s probably flown back and forth to Europe 10 times and is really a great traveler, and we try to limit the number of miles she has to go because she is such a thin horse. We protect her pounds!
“Some horses at feeding time are like, ‘Please sir, may we have some more?’ And we’re like, ‘Please, Demi, can you eat some more?!’ [in a Cockney accent, of course]” laughed Little. Silly voices can sometimes get her to calm down and eat up.
- For a fish, she didn’t want to swim at first. “Initially, she had some very unusual entrances to the water complexes. She was like the kid at the pool that plugged her nose and was like, ‘But it’s going to be wet!’ She’d go into the water and land on all four feet for a while,” Little said. “And as soon as I stopped worrying about it, which was sometime last year, she became a really solid horse at the water. But I used to live in fear of the waters, mostly because of the way she was going to land it. She was going to get in, no question—it was just a matter if I was going to stick the landing on her!”
- Demi’s favorite cross-country jumps are the largest, forward-riding fences that require a big gallop. “She sets sail and becomes the Flying Fish!” said Little. “I can honestly say, I feel the most confident when I’m walking a course and other people are concerned about something and I know that it’s just not going to bother Demi,” she added.