No one could ever accuse In The Know of lacking character. In fact, when I asked his rider, Samantha Schaefer, to do this feature, she made a list of all his quirks to make sure she didn’t forget anything.
When you live with him every day it all starts to seem commonplace, but the reality is this horse exudes personality; it basically seeps out of his pores. “Spyder’s” complete list of idiosyncrasies would be difficult to find in one barn, much less all in one horse.
But the 11-year-old warmblood (Arkansas—Cavelle) owned by Maddie Schaefer and Take 3 LLC is as much of a talent as he is a goofball. His first USHJA International Hunter Derby victory came at the 2017 Upperville Colt & Horse Show (Virginia), and his win count just kept climbing with derby blues from Holidays And Horses (Florida) in 2018, and Upperville and the Princeton Summer Classic (New Jersey) in 2019. He finished fifth in the Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship (Kentucky) in 2018 and sixth in 2019.
He boasts high performance hunter championships from Washington International (District of Columbia) in 2017 and the National Horse Show (Kentucky) in 2020. At the National, he also topped the $50,000 National Horse Show Hunter Classic. Grace Debney tacked him up in 2020 for the Adequan/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships—East (Michigan) and was reserve in the large junior, 15 and under, section, and then they won the 15-year-old equitation “B” championship at Capital Challenge (Ohio). The new year has proved kind to Spyder, with back-to-back wins in $20,000 WEC Hunter Derbies (Florida).
Go behind the stall door with this loveable gelding to learn more about his massive personality.
• His size fits his character. At 18 hands, Spyder is easily the biggest horse at Shadow Ridge Farm, in Westminister, Maryland, and Ocala, Florida. And he’s not just tall—there’s literally nothing small about him. Feet? Big. Head? Gigantic. Tack? Well, let’s just say you won’t be borrowing anyone else’s in a pinch.
• Need to motivate him? Food’s your answer. He gets quite impatient if there’s not hay in front of him at all times. (Seriously guys, can’t you tell he’s wasting away?) He also loves to dunk his hay.
“He will not eat it unless it’s wet,” Sam said. “He makes a real mess of his water. He gets his water filled probably at least three times a day, two buckets, and he makes a puddle.”
• Anyone who feeds treats to Spyder must remember the rule we were all taught as children about using a flat hand. Otherwise, you’re likely to find your fingers in his mouth.
“I wouldn’t know [if he had a favorite treat] because he takes it all the same,” Sam said. “I gave him some watermelon [in Kentucky]; he loved that. He was really mad when it was out. He loves any sort of molasses treats. Carrots, apples. His one problem with apples is he likes to take the whole thing in his mouth. So I have to hold it and hang onto it when I feed it to him. I don’t think there’s ever been a thing that he doesn’t like.”
• Spyder’s oral fixation extends beyond food. You know how most horses will do anything to avoid oral pastes like wormer or Ulcergard? Not Spyder. He’ll stand there licking the tube. He also likes to chew on his tongue, and if Sam doesn’t have treats for him he’ll stick his tongue out at her.
• He could have a second career as a trick horse. In addition to sticking his tongue out on command, Sam can get him to lift his front leg to “beg,” and he’s learning how to bow. He also comes when called. With treats, you can convince him to do just about anything.
• While some horses like having stuffed animals in their stalls, Spyder is not one of them.
“We tried to give him a bear because we were like, ‘Oh maybe he wants a little friend in his stall.’ He ripped it up within like an hour, and he had part of it in his food pan, so we took that away,” said Sam.
• Spyder will not tolerate anything on his back legs.
“If you put wraps on, he’ll take them off,” Sam said. “If you leave him in his stall for five minutes they’re around his shoes.”
• He’s got a serious jealous streak. Whenever another horse has a great show and is getting extra attention, Spyder shows his displeasure by biting and kicking at the door. Doesn’t everyone know he’s the king of the barn?
Early on Spyder really didn’t get along with Sam’s old junior jumper Sugar Ray, whom he’s stalled next to at their farm in Maryland.
“I don’t know what they were saying back and forth, but they were having a lot of arguments,” she said. “For the longest time ‘Snoop’ was the Spyder in my barn, so he ruled the roost, and now Spyder wants him to know that this is his barn now. They get along now, but it took a little bit of time. They have an understanding.”
• Spyder loves his paddock time, and he has very little patience when he thinks it’s time to go outside. He pulls everything off the door and throws it into the aisle.
“The minute you turn around he looks at you like it wasn’t me,” Sam said. “Especially his fly sheet and fly mask, like clockwork. They feed at 7:30, and by 7:45 [his stuff is] on the ground. He’s like, ‘Excuse me. I’m ready to go outside now.’ ”
Once you get him dressed, Spyder doesn’t need an escort to his pasture; he knows exactly where he’s going and leads his groom directly to his destination.
• “He’s also an escape artist,” Sam said. “He can get pretty much out of anywhere, so we have to chain him in. When I chain him in he gets really mad.”
• Spyder naturally runs hot, so when all the other horses are wearing sheets, he’s generally left naked. If he gets too warm, he’ll make a valiant effort to remove the blanket himself.
• Spyder’s all about the big classes, but at the farm, he’s quite lazy.
“At home his work ethic isn’t the best,” Sam said. “[It’s like,] ‘What are we doing? This is not a horse show.’ If he gets too fat it’s a little bit hard to get the weight off because it’s not like he wants to go out and work for 45 minutes. He’s happy with a 10-minute flat on the buckle.”
But take him to a horse show, and the work ethic returns.
“He’s such a show horse,” Sam said. “He knows when it’s time to be serious because he’ll kind of joke around sometimes, and he’s just not that focused or acting sulky, and then the minute you walk in the ring he’s like, ‘OK I’m ready.’ He knows when it’s time to cut the nonsense and be serious.”
• His favorite person is his groom, Luis Diaz, who has taken care of him for his entire career. While Spyder can be downright obnoxious with everyone else, with Diaz, he’s as gentle as can be.
• In the jog he’s a bit of a menace. In fact, Sam says preventing him from knocking you down in the jog is probably the hardest thing about him.
“He likes to rub on you and lean into you in the jog,” she said. “Sometimes it gets to the point where he’s biting me. It has nothing to do with if he’s quiet or fresh, it’s just him.
“He always has to have something in his mouth, whether it’s your hands, his lead shank, the reins, the whip when you’re jogging,” she added. “Food. He just has to have something in his mouth, and then he’s happy.”