When McLain Ward first watched Noche De Ronda ringside in December of 2018, he was impressed, but the mare was a bit expensive.
A month later, Marilla van Beuren approached him, offering to buy Ward a grand prix horse. “Ronda” popped into his head, and he suggested her. She’d been competing in national grand prix classes with Manuel Lecuona.
“We discussed it, and in connection with Maarten Huygens, we put the deal together,” said Ward. “We hoped, but we didn’t anticipate that we were going to have what we have.”
Since then, the 11-year-old Oldenburg mare (Quintender 2—Ritschina Ratschione, Lovis Corinth) has racked up several grand prix wins and top placings with Ward, of Brewster, New York.
Ward and Ronda rode to double-clear rounds in their 2019 Aachen CSIO5* Nations Cup (Germany) debut, only to win the five-star Allianz Prize two days later. Then came a five-star win during the CSIO5* week at the Dublin Horse Show (Ireland) in August, followed by victory in the $384,000 Gary Sinise Foundation Grand Prix CSI5* at Tryon (North Carolina), near the close of their 2019 season.
This year, Ward and Ronda scored back-to-back victories in Florida with the $401,000 Fidelity Investments CSI5* Grand Prix during Week 5 at the Winter Equestrian Festival and the $213,300 Longines Grand Prix during the Palm Beach Masters at Deeridge Farm.
With perspective from Ward and groom Corey Gallais, get to know Noche De Ronda.
• Fitness was Ward’s top priority when he partnered with Ronda.
“Manuel Lecuona and his wife had done a beautiful job producing the horse, but—and he’ll tell you this—it was their baby,” said Ward. “When I first started with the horse, she was significantly overweight. I would say she’s probably lost 200 pounds since this time last year. He had brought her along very slowly and very cautiously and done a beautiful job but maybe babied her a little bit. But frankly, she was also prepared mentally to take the pressure of a pretty aggressive trajectory in the sport.
“We really, at first, just worked on her fitness and getting some of that weight off of her,” Ward added. “She wasn’t very happy with us at first with not getting quite as much food, but I think she’s happier now. She came along pretty quickly.”
• It’s a bit of a balancing act to maintain that fitness.
“She’s a big mare; she would lean towards being heavy,” said Ward. “It’s easy for her to be overweight, so we really try to keep an eye on that, and the lighter she is, the better she is, which is always a fine line between energy and muscle. You’ve got to feed all of those things, so it’s a little two steps forward, one step back, but now I think she’s in a good place.”
• Ronda had strong opinions when she joined Ward’s barn.
“She was very mare-ish at this period,” said Gallais, who began caring for Ronda after the 2019 winter circuit. “Not bad, but you couldn’t spray her, clip her; it was impossible. Now she’s perfect; she’s good.”
• You, too, might enjoy Ronda’s favorite treats.
“Donuts, sugar cookies, fruits and sugar,” said Gallais.
• Gallais got Ronda customized teddy bears.
“I just got her a rabbit and a teddy bear,” he said. “The rabbit is a Superwoman, and the teddy bear is Wonder Woman. Build your teddy bear at the mall—just for her.”
• Ronda’s weekly routine includes rides from Ward, Lee McKeever and Gallais.
“Before a show week, she’ll do a little gymnastics; once or twice, it depends,” said Gallais. “Otherwise, Lee flats her, and maybe I trail ride her to make her happy. Lee flats the rest of the week, and McLain flats once or twice and jumps her a little bit. After McLain [rides her], she’s so light. I ride her once a week, twice if I’m lucky. I love her; she’s perfect. She’s so brave.”
• If Ronda were a celebrity, Gallais thinks she’d be Italian actress Monica Bellucci.
“A woman of character,” said Gallais. “Beautiful, talented, smart.”