Young eventing professional Emily Hamel has made a name for herself with a sporty gray Holsteiner named Corvett.
Hamel, who is based at Phillip Dutton’s True Prospect Farm, in West Grove, Pennsylvania, grew up in Wisconsin. She eventually relocated to Lexington, Kentucky, and was offered a job at Dutton’s about five years ago, after campaigning her horse Ramsey at the advanced level. When Ramsey was sidelined with an injury, Hamel found Corvett, a 14-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Corrido—Tina XII, Clearway) who was imported from England and came to True Prospect with a young rider. That partnership didn’t work out, and the horse proved difficult to sell because he was “quirky,” so Hamel was able to purchase him for a good price.
Originally, her plan was to sell “Barry” and make a profit, but their partnership bloomed and, as the pair climbed the levels of eventing, it became obvious that he was a keeper. To keep the partnership going, she formed a syndicate called Black Flag Option.
Barry is a fan favorite on course because of his high flying jump. Barry’s flamboyant jumping style may have unseated a few other riders, but Hamel isn’t fazed by it. She’s learned to work with him instead of against him to bring out his best.
“He loves jumping and historically tends to overjump things,” she said. “He’s definitely leveled his jump out. Going faster and jumping bigger things has helped, but it’s like he’s jumping for joy and going, ‘Whee!’ It’s a unique style and seems to work for him, so we don’t mess with it a lot.”
Earlier this year, Hamel and Barry finished their first five-star together at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event with a clear cross-country jumping round. This week, they are back in Lexington, Kentucky, at the Kentucky Horse Park to compete in the $60,000 Adequan/USEA Advanced Final at the American Eventing Championships.
“Cross-country, I could not have asked for him to be better,” Hamel said of their Kentucky Three-Day Event experience. “He was on it, and it felt like what he was born to do; it felt well within his capabilities. He tried his heart out, he loves the job, and that’s a nice feeling galloping up to massive, scary obstacles. He was just like, ‘Let’s go.’
Take a look behind the stall door to find out what makes this partnership click.
• Barry is very opinionated and will let you know what he’s thinking if he likes you. He’s not afraid to tell you if he doesn’t.
“He likes things a certain way, or it’s not happening,” Hamel said. “He’s definitely a momma’s boy. He likes me and only wants me. He’s hard to catch, and when you turn him out, he spins and runs away. You definitely need a carrot to catch him.”
His behavior is playful rather than mean, she said.
“I think he thinks life is a game, and I think it’s endearing, but other people may not feel the same!” she said. “Yesterday, he pulled away from someone turning him out and was running around with his halter and lead rope on in the field, which really isn’t ideal with your newly minted five-star horse. She called me in a panic, but we easily got him sorted out.”
• As a gray horse, Corvett does enjoy being dirty. “He loves Hands-On grooming gloves, especially on his face and ears,” said Hamel. “He’s like a chinchilla; he finds the dirtiest spot in the field and rolls in it!”
• He has a collapsed jugular on the left side, which Hamel thinks he must have gotten when he was young.
“I almost didn’t buy him because of it, but touch wood he’s been fine,” she said. “He can’t get an IV on that side, only on the right. I’m a little paranoid about giving him shots and fluids, so I only let my trusted vet do that.”
• He has a few funny quirks.
“He loves his best friend, Hustler, who’s his pasturemate,” Hamel said. “I don’t typically like to turn upper-level horses out together, but they get along well and have a healthy relationship. They’re not overly attached, and they don’t throw a tantrum when they’re apart, but they will give a little nicker when they see each other. It’s kind of cute.”
• He has a pretty regular routine at home.
“I typically like to ride him first, so if anything happens that disrupts my schedule, at least he’s been ridden for the day,” she said. “He enjoys the attention. He also gets a little sour if I wait until the end of the day because he gets more pent-up energy.”
• He enjoys his travel but tends not to drink on the trailer and can sometimes go off his feed.
“Sometimes he comes off his feed, but it seems more like excitement, like he knows what’s coming,” she said. “We’ve had to play around with how we feed him; I’ll feed him less but more often at shows because if you give him too much he gets overwhelmed. He only eats his grain if it’s wet with warm water, it can’t be cold. I actually brought a kettle to Kentucky, and here at the barn there’s a sink with hot water.”
He doesn’t get a lot of grain, and he’s on a special diet and supplements because he had some issues tying up.
“It was a bit of trial and errors, but we’ve figured out what works best for him, and now it’s under control,” Hamel said. “It was tricky at first, though, because he’s a picky eater and doesn’t really like supplements. But we found the right combination, and we’re OK now: He gets potassium chloride, electrolyte-wise; and a vitamin E supplement, Nano-E, which is a liquid form; and this [Equistro] Myo-Power supplement to help with muscle recovery and that sort of thing.”
• Barry is pretty experienced at this point in his career, so Hamel spends a lot of time working on their dressage.
“Leading up to Kentucky, I started working with Lillian Heard, and she’s been very helpful,” she said. “Barry needs to like the instructor; he’s particular that way. You have to work with him. If you force him to do something he doesn’t want to do, he’s not cooperative, but if you can convince him it was his idea, he’s a lot better. He‘s a bit mare-ish in that way. I’ve also worked with James Burtwell, especially on running through the tests and getting feedback.”
• Richard Picken has helped tame Barry’s big jump and has known him since before Hamel bought him.
“Richard’s always like, ‘I can’t believe you have got him to do what you have, because he was always super quirky and difficult.’ I’ve always seen the potential, though, and Richard did, too. I’m persistent and patient, and we’ve figured it out, and I’m glad we did.
“I think because he has such a unique jumping style, it was hard for previous riders to stay with it and channel it. He had a ton of power and scope but not a ton of direction and tended to jump people out of the tack on a regular basis! He’s kind of fussy in the bridle, too. I had to learn to sit really quiet and ignore the head-tossing. He’s better in the bridle now. It’s almost like he sees the distance and says, ‘I know what I’m doing, let me at it!’ ”
• While Kentucky was a big accomplishment for Hamel this year, Barry seems to think it was no big deal.
“I was less emotional through the whole experience than I thought I’d be,” Hamel said. “I’d pictured myself crying tears of joy or something, but I didn’t feel anything extreme when we finished the competition. Then on Monday morning it all hit me, and I broke down, and he let me snuggle him and get it all out. It was a lot of emotions. He just kind of looked at me like, ‘What’s going on?’ He does this cute thing with his lip, moving it back and forth really fast, and he nuzzled me a bit. It’s pretty cute. I’m just really grateful that I found him, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner.”