Behind The Stall Door With: Enjoy Louis

Apr 30, 2020 - 7:59 AM

At the close of the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, Catherine Tyree was headed to the airport when her trainer Missy Clark called and told her to turn around.

Up until that point, Tyree had yet to find a replacement for her top grand prix horse Sandor De La Pomme, whom she had sold at the beginning of the year. But Clark’s call brought attention to a potential candidate in Enjoy Louis, the now-16-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding who was formerly owned by Axel Verlooy and ridden by Harrie Smolders.

“I ended up trying [Enjoy Louis] the next day—twice, which Missy will never let me live down,” said Tyree, 26, who bases between Vermont and Florida. “It was pretty obvious that he was the horse for me to everyone but myself. I didn’t quite know what I was sitting on and just wanted to go again to make absolutely sure he was the one, and he was amazing. From there, the rest is history. He’s done more than I could have ever dreamt of in the time that I’ve had him.”

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Catherine Tyree and Enjoy Louis. Tori Repole Photo

In their five years together, “Louis” (Coriano—Altesse Louise, Kannan) has helped bring Tyree to the top tier of sport. In 2016, the pair finished second in the HITS Saugerties $1 Million Grand Prix (New York). The following year they placed third in the $130,000 Longines FEI World Cup President’s Cup Grand Prix at the Washington International Horse Show (District of Columbia). More recently, they secured a top-10 finish during the $500,000 Saugerties Grand Prix (New York) in September 2019.

“I’ve been watching a lot of old videos, and every time I click on a new one, I think, ‘Wow, I can’t believe we did that,’ ” said Tyree. “He has jumped a lot of clear rounds for me; it’s really unbelievable in my mind especially given the point I was at in my riding when I first got him. From the beginning, he made me feel comfortable and capable at the highest level; everything seemed so easy.

“The partnership we’ve formed over the last five years is indescribable,” she added. “It extends way beyond our time in the ring together. It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with him. He’s the one I find myself spending the most time with, whether it be grazing, trail riding or in his stall. I can call to him in the barn, and he answers me, or he’ll follow me around. It’s the little things that make our relationship special.”

On April 15, Tyree announced Louis’ retirement.

“Given his history of injuries, I always knew that the moment he should be retired was looming in the distance,” she said. “I almost retired him in February of last year, but there were instances where Louis was telling me that he wasn’t quite ready to be done. To be honest, getting to show him this past season was something that I didn’t believe was possible, but he defied all odds. He felt better than ever and was jumping as if he were 8 years old throughout indoors and the winter circuit. A few days ago, he wasn’t quite himself when I got on, and that’s when I knew. I didn’t have to think twice about it. It was time to give him the retirement he deserves. Louis owes me absolutely nothing, and I owe him everything.”

Go behind the stall door with Enjoy Louis.

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Photo Courtesy Of Catherine Tyree

• There are two sides to Louis.

“At home, he’s really lazy,” said Tyree. “He’s super sweet; he knows that he’s good, and he’s very spoiled, which is a little bit of my own fault. But then you get into the ring, and this other side comes out. He’s strong, and he gets really into his job. He loves what he does.”

• When Tyree first partnered with Louis, she struggled with the rideability.

“I’m not naturally the strongest when it comes to the horses that really pull against me, and he’s a little bit dead to the leg, but he taught me how to deal with it,” said Tyree. “With a lot of time and repetition of good flatwork and really getting him to be on my side, I’d say he’s done a complete 180, and he’s much nicer to ride now. He’s still a little bit strong, but it’s nowhere near where it used to be. I have to give a lot of credit to John [Brennan] and Missy because I bought him when I was in school, so I really just showed up at the shows and would ride him then. His progression was because of them.”

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“You smile. I eat.” Tori Repole Photo

• Louis loves bananas, and he isn’t afraid to show it.

“He can’t get enough of them,” said Tyree. “When you bring one out, he attacks you. He is very spoiled, but I may have had something to do with that. He loves any kind of treat you give him, but I’d definitely say bananas are his favorite.

• Louis sustained a near career-ending injury in 2018.

“He had some fraying along the edges of a tendon in both front legs,” Tyree said. “It caused inflammation that was quite bothersome, so he went to Kentucky in August and had the surgery done at Lexington Equine Surgery and Sports Medicine. It was actually a much simpler and shorter procedure than I had originally thought. It was done arthroscopically and took about an hour or two. After the surgery, he stayed in Kentucky and rehabbed at [Kentucky Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center] until it was time to go to Florida.

“It was a little bit touch-and-go in the beginning,” Tyree added. “I took my time and really listened to his body in an effort to do everything the right way. He’s really special to me, so when I would feel like something maybe wasn’t quite how I’d expect it or wanted it to be, the idea of not being able to bring him back would float around in the back of my mind. But I was lucky enough to have a group of really great people to help with the process. I’ve been working with Melissa Welker, my vet, for the last eight years; she’s amazing. She loves Louis as much as I do, so she was as invested in his recovery as I was. Melissa, John and Missy were really on top of his recovery the entire way.”

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Not much excites the mellow Enjoy Louis. Until you bring out a banana, that is. Photo Courtesy Of Catherine Tyree

Tyree was unsure what might happen, but those around her advised her. “I was about ready to say, ‘OK, he doesn’t owe me anything; maybe this is it,’ ” she said. “But John and Missy were the ones who said, ‘No, we don’t think he’s done yet,’ so we kept going. I took him to his first horse show in May [2019] and did the 1.0-meter jumpers, and we worked our way up from there. At the end of July, I brought him to [the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (Michigan)] and jumped two three-star grand prixs, and he was double clear both times, so it turned out to be so much better than I had expected. I can’t really put into words what it [felt] like to be able to show him at that level again.”

• Tyree’s partnership with Louis helped mold her into the rider she is today.

“When I first got him, I was young,” she said. “I was 21 years old and just stepping up to the big grand prix classes. I did my first World Cup qualifier and my first five-star grand prix on him. He always did everything so easily that it gave me a false sense of security. I’d think, ‘Oh, this isn’t so bad.’ It wasn’t until he was sidelined for a few weeks that I had a reality check that it’s really not as easy as he makes it feel and seem. I always knew he was special, but what I didn’t realize at the time is how rare it is to find a horse like him. I am so lucky to have him and to have such a great partnership and relationship with him. We’ve done so much together, and I’m very confident no matter what class I walk into with him. I know he can jump every time.”

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Ready for my close-up! Tori Repole Photo

• Louis will happily let himself out of his stall, all in the name of food.

“He’s incredibly food motivated,” said Tyree. “He’s always hungry. If he’s walking by a bale of hay or patch of grass, he has to stop for a bite. When I was at the five-star show at [the 2019 HITS Saugerties Championship (New York)], there was a bale of hay across from his stall, which he couldn’t ignore. He broke through his stall guard multiple times and tried to sneak out to steal a bite or two.”

• Louis isn’t very picky, but he has one peculiar pet peeve.

“Funny enough, he hates gray horses, and of course, the other three in my string are gray,” said Tyree. “He used to be fine about other horses, but then he was sidelined for a few weeks, which happened to coincide with when I was third in a five-star grand prix with Bokai at WEF [Florida] and jumped on my first Nations Cup team. Bokai stepped into the spotlight a bit then. A few weeks later, Louis was back in work and suddenly hated all gray horses. He wanted nothing to do with them and still doesn’t. The timing sounds crazy, but he really doesn’t like them. He goes into attack mode and tries to bite them whenever they come close. He knows that he’s king of the barn. He’s just trying to keep everyone in their place.”

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“He owes me nothing, and he’s going to be a part of my family until the very end.” Tori Repole Photo.

• Now that Louis is retired, Tyree will most miss having him at the shows.

“No matter the class or the venue, he is always the same and always tries his hardest,” she said. “Even though he has always gone in his own style, the feeling he gives me each time is amazing. It has always been effortless for him. I’ll miss walking into the biggest classes at the biggest shows without him, but having the chance to do that with him in my career has been the biggest honor and privilege.”

• Tyree will make sure Louis gets his dream retirement.

“So far, no definitive plans have been made as to where he’ll retire,” she said. “Because of his previous injuries and surgery, he hasn’t been turning out for a year and a half. The first step will be reintroducing him to time in the paddock, which I know he’ll be happy to do again. When the summer comes around, he’ll be ready to retire in the biggest field I can find like I’ve always promised him.”

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