From the start, Chablis understood the horse show game, and that’s exactly what drew amateur rider Kelly Tropin to him.
While Tropin mostly shows in the adult jumpers, when she first met Chablis at her trainer Peter Lutz’s farm, she knew the gelding would be a perfect partner in the hunters.
“I fell in love with how smart he was,” she said. “Doing the hunters, I would only want to do it on a hunter who understands the game, and it’s not too much work to get them to the ring. From when he was a young horse, he understood perfectly what he was supposed to do. He picked it up really quickly. He seemed to have a natural affinity for the hunters.”
Lutz and his partner Mary Manfredi bought the now 13-year-old Wurttemberger by Camparino as a 4-year-old and competed him in the baby greens, and Tropin bought him when he was 6.
Since then, Tropin and the gelding have been champion at multiple indoor shows in the 3’6” amateur-owner division, including the 2019 Washington International Horse Show (District of Columbia) and the 2019 Pennsylvania National Horse Show. This year Chablis is receiving the WCHR Hunter of the Year title, which will be presented during the $50,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular on Feb. 20 during Week 6 of the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida.
“When we’re at a horse show, I feel like I know what he’s thinking, and he knows what I’m thinking,” said Tropin. “It’s just a really special thing to experience with a horse—that level of connection. That’s what makes it so fun. I love the feeling when I go in the ring. It’s that connection that I really crave and enjoy and love about riding him that makes it so special.”
Go behind the stall door with Chablis, Tropin and his groom of five years, Israel Gomez.
• Chablis is strongwilled and opinionated, but he’s easy to show, according to Tropin. A busy amateur rider with a job as an economist for a hedge fund, she relies on Gomez to know how the gelding is feeling at the horse shows.
“Israel knows everything about Chablis. When he brings him to the ring, I say, ‘How is he today?’ and Israel knows every single time,” she said.
“For me, he’s an amazing horse. He’s so smart. He’s one of the best horses I’ve taken care of. He doesn’t need much work; he knows his job. He’s so easy,” said Gomez. “I know when he’s wild and when he’s tired. I know him very well. I stay with him every day.”
• At home in Bedford, New York, Chablis enjoys paddock time in the morning before Lutz schools him. Tropin rides on weekends and some weeknights if she can.
• Chablis enjoys a good hack, but don’t let your guard down.
“He gets excited on the trails because when he was a baby, Peter used to take him on the cross-country course at a farm that we boarded at back in North Salem,” said Tropin. “The Tuesday trail ride is pretty exciting! But by the weekend he’s usually quite good on the trails.”
• No spoiling allowed!
“He can be really naughty if you give him too many treats, and I try not to make Israel’s life miserable, so I don’t give him treats—only in his stall in a bucket, and only max once a week,” said Tropin. “ If you saw him in the barn, you’d think I feed him treats all day every day, but I can’t because then he would be completely monstrous!”
Gomez agreed. “I can’t spoil him. If I spoil him he gets so naughty, so bad.”
• He knows he’s king of the barn. “Walking around the stable, he’s always waiting for someone to pay attention to him,” said Tropin. “He always has his ears forward and is looking for the next person to pet him. We do a good job of trying to keep his ego in check by not spoiling him too much, but he definitely knows that he’s the special one.”
• He loves to show off for the camera. “He knows who the photographers are, and he starts to hear the cameras clicking and spins his head around whenever he hears them,” said Tropin.
• He’s blessed in the forelock department.
“He has the biggest, fluffiest forelock you’ve ever seen in your life,” said Tropin. “When Israel clips him, he has to put it in a ponytail, and he has a weird unicorn horn. You can barely see his face behind his forelock.”
Gomez says Chablis likes to rub his forelock braid on his haynet, and the braiders often have to fix it twice a day.
“There was one time his forelock fell out at WEF at the hunter ring, and Peter had to call on his skills from Pony Club, and he took a number string and rebraided Chablis’ forelock at the ring,” said Tropin.