He’s an international eventing star in a plain brown wrapper. He’s an equine version of The Dude from The Big Lebowski. He’s probably the sweetest, most unassuming horse you’ve ever met. But in the experienced hands of Buck Davidson, Sherrie Martin and Carl Segal’s 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Copper Beech (Radolin—Cloverballen) won his very first international competition eight years ago.
Since then, the pair has continued to rack up wins, including in recent years at the Rebecca Farm CCI4*-L (Montana) in 2016, and at the Chattahoochee Hills CCI4*-S (Georgia) and Plantation Field CCI4*-S (Pennsylvania) in 2017 before heading to Europe to tackle the Pau CCI5*-L.
They’ve completed the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event twice, earning their best result to date in 2018 with a 10th-placed finish. This fall they were fifth at the Ocala Jockey Club CCI4*-L (Florida).
Learn more about “Sean,” the horse Davidson calls his giant Labrador:
• Sean came into Davidson’s life because the horse they really wanted got away. “Carl thought it would be fun to get a horse from the Goresbridge Sale in Ireland,” Davidson remembered. “We were actually in California at Galway [Downs] at the time and bidding remotely on another horse at the sale, but we couldn’t get him for the price we wanted. So we gave up, and I went out to walk the course. But Carl was still really excited about the auction, and I knew Sean was coming up a few horses later, so I said to my wife [Andrea Davidson], ‘I bet we’re about to end up with a horse anyway.’ Sure enough a few minutes later my phone rings. So Sean came to us from the sale as a 5-year-old.”
• For Buck, it definitely wasn’t love at first sight. Even though the new pair found victory right off the bat at the Volvo Bromont CCI2*-L (Canada), and they easily made the move up to intermediate, Davidson still wasn’t a believer.
“I have to honestly say that I didn’t think he was going to make it to the top; he was just such a plain Jane,” he admitted. “Sean’s not a fancy mover, he’s not an amazing jumper, and he can be funny in the bridle. For the longest time, we literally couldn’t turn right. To this day I have to pay attention to that. But he’s a winner; I don’t know why or how. He’s just a Steady Eddie who tries his heart out and doesn’t do anything wrong. It’s a great underdog kind of story. He doesn’t pretend to be anything he isn’t and shows up for work every day. His trainability, reliability and durability have turned out to be much more important than natural ability.”
• While Sean may look fierce thundering around a cross-country course, the big gelding is the epitome of serenity around the barn and looks like he’d be just as happy giving pony rides at a little girl’s birthday party as jumping huge fences.
“He’s so sweet and calm, you just want to hug him and squeeze him,” said groom Sarah Hartmann. “I’d never been around five-star horses before working here for Buck, so when I met Sean I was so surprised at how laidback he is and wonderful to be around. He really is just the perfect horse and the easiest one in the barn to work with.”
• When visitors come to Buck’s barn, Sean is the first one to have his head hanging out of the stall guard wanting to know what’s going on, but politely waiting his turn for attention. “He is a character, that’s for sure,” said Buck. “He’s really as sweet as he looks, like a giant puppy dog. He’s a ham who loves to have his photo taken and adores everyone and is so darn likeable that he’s like a guy who would just hang out on the couch with a beer and watch some football with you.”
• Like any good couch potato, Sean does love food and as a result is often on a diet. “If he looks at grass, he gets fat,” Buck noted.
But when all else fails, Sean resorts to an irresistible trick to beg for treats—sticking out his tongue until he gets a response. “He’ll do it for hours,” Hartmann said with a laugh. “It’s the most precious thing.”
• Even now, after all their competitive accomplishments, Buck still chuckles and shakes his head when talking about Sean and their history together. Now, he’s finally a believer.
“Sean is such a pleasure to be around, but to this day I’m not sure I totally trust him nor does he totally trust me on course, but we make it work, and it’s gotten a lot better,” he said. “I know now that he’s going to jump the second fence on cross-country with his legs down and head straight up, every single time. It used to make me pretty nervous, but now I know that’s normal for him, and we just kick on. We’re lucky to have him.”