Havanna 145 has been sporting blue ribbons and leading the lap of honor in Fédération Equestre Internationale dressage competition with Ashley Holzer over the last two years. With scores of 77.22 percent in the Grand Prix freestyle in Tryon, North Carolina, in April and 76.99 percent in the CDI3* freestyle at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida, this winter, the duo has become one of the strongest U.S. pairs on the circuit.
Most recently they helped the U.S. team earn a fourth-placed finish in the CDIO3* Nations Cup at the CSI Twente (the Netherlands), June 22-23.
The 12-year-old Hanoverian mare (Hochadel—Riviera, Rodgau) owned by Diane Fellows is known for her winning personality, but those who know her best say the sweet mare comes with just a touch of mean girl.
We went behind the stall door to learn more.
• Havanna is Miss Congeniality—with a twist.
“She just has the best personality of a horse,” said her groom, Nate Tucker. “She’s very sweet and funny and personable. She’s amazing.”
He said she’s affectionate when she wants to be, but she also likes her alone time.
• Her best frenemy is Valentine, Holzer’s 9-year-old Hanoverian mare (Sir Donnerhall—Renaissance, Ragazzo), who cleaned up on the FEI small tour this spring in Florida.
“They are best friends,” Tucker said. “One minute they are licking each other’s faces, and the next minute Havanna is biting Valentine. We always joke that there’s a feud going on. They have a big rivalry. When one goes out, the other will bite her on the butt. They know when one gets a treat or more treats than the other. They get very upset.”
Havanna is sneaky about picking on her gal pal, Valentine, aka Vali.
“Vali will be gnawing at her, gnawing at her, gnawing at her, and the second we turn around, she retaliates,” Holzer said. “It’s like she says, ‘Well, I heard that you were very good in the small tour CDI yesterday. Let me know when you grow up.’ ”
• Havanna watches what she eats and chooses organic, when possible.
Her favorite treat is organic brown sugar. “She loves Nate and apples and carrots—in that order,” Holzer said.
“I might be at the bottom,” countered Tucker.
• She also loves her owner, who can hop right on the Grand Prix mare and ride her with no problem.
• Havanna’s dignified and doesn’t joke around, but loyalty may elude her.
Holzer’s barn manager, Lila Chase, said that if Havanna were human, she’d have a steady boyfriend and a job and pay her bills on time. “And she’d be faithful, very faithful,” she added.
Holzer wasn’t sure she agreed with that statement. She hadn’t had a mare at the Grand Prix level before Havanna, and as just about every mare owner knows, they have to be treated differently than geldings.
“You ask them nicely to be carried,” she said. “It makes you, I think, a better rider, but you can’t demand things assertively. You’ve really got to partner up with them. It’s the best way I can describe it. You have to be their friend and to work together with them. And if you don’t choose that path, if they don’t want to do it, they won’t. So, with her, I have to make it her idea.
“When things bother her, she internalizes it,” Holzer continued. “She holds things personally. So if I kick her, she rats on me. She’d be like, ‘Oh wait, did everyone see that?’ She doesn’t let anything fly. She’d say, ‘Oh my God, we’ll talk about this later.’ Then, she’d tell everyone in the barn about it. She’s a gossip.”
Although Havanna and Holzer make a great pair, the rider knows that the mare would be fickle if the right offer presented itself.
“If someone came along who was lighter and had more food, it would be all over, and she’d drop me in a second,” Holzer said. “That’s what she’s like.”