Capitol H I M has climbed the eventing ranks over the past four years with rider Hannah Sue Hollberg, most recently putting his name in lights as the highest-placed U.S. finisher at the Mars Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill in October. But there’s still one thing people—horse show announcers, in particular—never get right about the gelding, and it’s that very thing in lights.
“Nobody ever gets his name, the H-I-M,” owner Christa Schmidt said, laughing. “They would call him ‘Capitol Him,’ which would just send me over the edge!”
The unusual name, spelling aside, is in fact a nod to the lyrics of the Lady Gaga song “Born This Way”: “It doesn’t matter if you love him or capital H-I-M.”
The now-16-year-old Holsteiner (Con Air 7—O-Heraldika, Heraldik) was given the name—and his nickname “Chito” (pronounced “Cheeto,” like the cheese puffs)—in the Netherlands, where Karen O’Connor found him in 2017, competing at the equivalent of novice with his owner Madeleine Brugman, who was losing her eyesight.
“He would care of her, take her around, and he would be her eyes for her,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt initially competed the 17.1-hand gelding at training level, but he’s horse shy and had a tendency to spin in warm-up, sometimes spinning Schmidt right off, so she decided to give the ride to Hollberg in 2019, to evaluate him to sell or keep as a mount for herself.
Hollberg fell for the “unassuming, plain bay” with the big, kind eyes. Together, the pair has increased his confidence to the five-star level, most recently demonstrated at the Maryland 5 Star, where they jumped clean cross-country and finished in fourth.
Watching her horse climb to the top of the sport has been a pleasure for Schmidt, even if she’s not the one in the tack. While Schmidt doesn’t ride Chito anymore, she does look forward to “going on old-lady hacks” when he retires from the upper levels.
“I always hope all the horses have five-star potential,” she said. “He definitely has blossomed [with Hollberg]. He wants to please, and he wants to do the best he can do for you.
“He has the biggest heart,” she added, “and it’s all about the heart.”
Go behind the stall door to get to know Chito at Hollberg’s home base in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
• Chito is horse shy.
Schmidt and Hollberg think that his protectiveness for his rider whose vision was impaired might have lead to his dislike of horses moving in front of him.
“He is horse shy and spins regularly in warm-ups when other horses come toward him—which is unnerving even for me—and it’s something that Christa and I always talk about,” Hollberg said. “She always asks how he was in warm-up because she’s experienced him spinning out from under her before. He’s not being mean in any way—he’s just afraid. Even though he’s a really big horse, he gets scared of smaller horses coming at him for some reason.”
Hollberg credited her husband, German show jumper Matthias Hollberg, for helping to settle the gelding.
“ ‘Matt’ has helped with this a lot as well, by competing him for me and giving him confidence in the warm-up,” she said. “Matt is so cool and calm, which is such a confidence-booster for the horses.”
Still, Hannah Sue said, Chito seems to attract the most out-of-control horses in the ring to ride right at him.
“Even if they are just walking past directly in front of him, he’s gonna run,” Hollberg said. “In warm-up, I start screaming at people, ‘Get away from me; this is not the way I want to fall off.’ I’m going to get a billboard [on him]: ‘Leave Me Alone.’ ”
• He has a winning personality, but not exactly a winning smile.
Chito is missing his front teeth. Schmidt and Hannah Sue don’t know if he was—to borrow a line from his namesake—“born this way” or if he lost them in some kind of accident, but is doesn’t affect his grazing or grain consumption.
• Other than his horse phobia, he’s unusually chill for a five-star eventer.
“He’s one of the only upper-level horses I know that’s extremely stable, emotionally and mentally together,” Hannah Sue said. “A lot of those horses at the upper levels are a bit looney, and he’s just really calm and sweet, and he goes really well. He gallops around super fast and jumps all the jumps and then is like, ‘I’m done.’ He’s super polite.”
That stability is a quality Hannah Sue treasures when tackling cross-country.
“He has made me love it again,” she said. “He is so reliable. If something goes wrong, it’s because I told him wrong. He goes exactly where I tell him to go, at the speed I ask him. It’s pretty cool, but also a lot of pressure, because I don’t want to lie to him on course and make him doubt himself. It’s a nice pressure have though.”
• No, that’s not dirt on his neck.
Chito’s only white hairs are a dusting on the upper right side of his neck.
“People have mistaken it for mud,” Hannah Sue said. “I can assure you, it’s not.”
• He’s a “pretty hungry guy” who doesn’t let his missing teeth get in the way of a meal.
Chito’s lack of front teeth doesn’t slow him down when it comes to meals and treats. He enjoys his grain mixed with homemade apple sauce from his groom Katherine Maroko’s mom. There are “about 100 jars” in the tack room.
“You do have to come in from the side with carrots and apples and find the teeth,” Schmidt said with a laugh. “He does tend to suck your fingers into his mouth.”
Hannah Sue has also recently discovered he has an affinity for Skittles. “It is a recent discovery,” she said, “so I don’t know yet if he has a favorite color.”
• He has good taste in pasturemates.
Chito is “in love” with Harbour Pilot, Hannah Sue’s previous five-star partner, and the pair turn out together when they are in the same barn.
“It’s really funny when ‘William’ is silly and Chito isn’t feeling it, because Chito just stands there and watches him,” Hannah Sue said. “You can almost hear him mocking William ‘til he stops. He’s been a great leveler for William.”
But William currently is living at Schmidt’s barn as her dressage schoolmaster, so Hannah Sue’s four-star horse Carsonstown (also owned by Schmidt) has moved in as Chito’s turnout buddy instead.
“Chito is the boss, which is surprising because he is calm,” Hannah Sue said. “In the off-season in Florida, when they were out chilling in the field, they would grab a big stick and gallop around together both holding it. They are like dogs—it was so funny.”